Lou Prucha WWII Service
Lumir J. “Lou” Prucha
enlisted as a private in the Army of the
The NARA Electronic Army
Serial Number Merged File entry for Lou shows he enlisted at “ALLIANCE AAF
Basic and Clerical Training
Unfortunately, little information exists on Lou’s first 8 months of service.
According to the “Military Occupational Assignments” section of his Separation Qualification Record, Private Prucha was in Basic Drill Instruction for 3 months, with a Military Occupational Specialty (MOS) of “Duty NCO” (MOS code 566). (Brown, 2010) No information is available about exactly where and when he attended Basic Drill Instruction, but it was probably between December 12, 1941 and early-to-mid-March, 1942.
After Basic, Lou was in
Lou remained stationed at
Mary Brennan’s diary entry of
August 14, 1942 states “Lou left
Lou was promoted to Aviation Cadet (A/C) on August 15, 1942. His Military Occupational Specialty during his 9 months as Aviation Cadet remained “Student” (MOS 629).
He then completed each of the following 8 week Pilot training programs:
Training at Maxwell Field,
August 15, 1942 to October 17, 1942.
Training at Souther Field, Americus, Georgia
October 21, 1942 to December 27, 1942.
December 27, 1942 to February 27, 1943.
Advanced TE Pilot
Training at George Army Air Field,
February 28, 1943 to April 29, 1943.
of the greatest accomplishments of the U.S. Army Air Forces during World War II
was the training of hundreds of thousands of flying and ground personnel for
its armada. Coming from all walks of life, they were molded into the most
formidable Air Force the world had ever seen. Before the war, few of them had
had more than a casual acquaintanceship with aviation but by VJ-Day in 1945,
Preflight Pilot Training
Preflight Pilot Training, the
first course of Aviation Cadet Training, “is devoted to fundamentals involving
general military training and preliminary ground work.” Lou was stationed at the South East Army Air
Field Training Center (SEAAFTC) at Maxwell Field (now Maxwell AFB), 3 miles NW
On September 11, 1942, Mary Brennan made the following entry in her diary: “I’ve been hearing from Lou every day. He’s been made Group Ajutant [sic] (?). I’m sure proud of him.”; and on October 22, 1942 “Lou sent me his warrant of his commission. I’m sure proud of him for sticking it out. I hope he continues to do so well. I wish he'’ get a furlough for our dance but I guess there’s no use hoping.”
Primary Pilot Training
At the time of his transfer
to Primary Training, Lou was a member of Squadron C,
The civilian schools used Stearman, Ryan and Fairchild trainers owned by the USAAF; their flight instructors were civilian employees. Each cadet was given 60 hours of flight training in nine weeks before moving on the basic flight school.”
Lou had an adventurous time in Primary training. His first training flight was in Stearman PT-17 Plane No. 89, on October 23, 1942, two days after arriving at Souther Field. He soloed for the first time just two weeks later on November 5, 1942 in Plane No. 64, and flew his final primary training flight in Plane No. 35 on December 18, 1942, at which time he had fulfilled his 60 hour flying time quota.
Mary Brennan had these entries in her diary during Lou’s time in Primary Pilot Training:
This Primary Pilot Training
was obviously not easy since Lou had two accidents during his time at Souther
Field. The first on November 16, 1942 occurred
when, according to his Training Pilots Flight Log book Memoranda entry, he “Ground Looped at Souther
Mary Brennan’s diary entry of December 12, 1942 shows “I got most of my Christmas shopping done. That’s a pretty good feeling. It’s been a year today since Lou left. I wish I could see him even if it’s only for a few minutes.”
Basic Pilot Training
Lou’s Basic Pilot Training,
from December 27, 1942 to February 27, 1943, was at Greenville Army Flying
School (GAFS), Greenville Army Air Field (AAFld) (now Mid Delta Regional), 6
miles NE of Greenville, Washington County,
Basic Pilot Training as
described at the
“During basic flight training, a cadet received approximately 70 hours in the air during a nine-week period. The basic cadet made military pilots of those who had learned only the fundamentals of flight in primary school. In addition to operating an airplane of greater weight, horsepower and speed, such as the BT-9 or BT-13, the cadet was taught how to fly at night, by instruments, in formation and on cross-country from one point to another. Also, for the first time, he was operating an airplane equipped with a two-way radio and a two-pitch propeller. This was the point in his career where it was decided whether he would go to single-engine or twin-engine advanced flying school.”
During Basic Pilot Training,
Lou flew the Vultee Class 35 BT-13A 'Valiant' type aircraft with a single 450
horse power Pratt & Whitney engine.
Lou’s first orientation ride in a BT-13A was on December 30, 1942 (Plane
No. 713), first solo was January 23, 1943 (Plane No. 710) and his last basic
pilot training flight with a BT-13A was on February 25, 1943. At the end of this stage of training, Lou had
flown 32:55 dual hours, 37:00 solo hours and 15:00 Link Trainer instruction
hours. Little additional information is currently
available on Lou’s Basic Pilot Training.
Advanced Pilot Training
Advanced TE [Twin-Engine]
Pilot Training at George Army Air Field, (now Lawrenceville Vincennes Intl), 3
miles NE of Lawrenceville,
According to the
“Advanced flying school was to prepare a cadet for the kind of airplane he was to fly in combat, either single- or multi-engine.
Those who went to single-engine school flew AT-6s for the first 70 hours during a nine-week period, learning aerial gunnery and combat maneuvers and increasing their skills in navigation, formation and instrument flying.
Cadets assigned to twin-engine school received the same number of flying hours but did not practice combat aerobatics or gunnery. Using the AT-9, AT-10 or AT-17, they directed their efforts toward increasing their ability to fly on instruments, at night and in formation after first having mastered the art of flying a plane with more than one engine.”
Mary Brennan’s March 1, 1943
diary entry reads "The past couple
of months have been hell on earth for both Lou and I. I thought I was in love with Jim and told Lou
about it. I’m glad I realize now how
wrong I was. Lou has been transferred to
March 5, 1943 marked Lou’s initial 1 hour and 15 minute orientation flight in the AT-10. His first AT-10 solo was on March 17th and final training flight was April 27, 1943, two days before graduation. Advanced training involved both day and night cross-country and formation flying.
April 29, 1943 was a monumental day. On this day Lou graduated his pilot’s training program as a member of Training Squadron 4 of Class SE-43-D, received his silver "wings", was rated Pilot, officially appointed 2nd Lieutenant (Serial Number O-802219) and ordered to Active Duty, relieved from the Aviation Cadet Detachment and assigned to the 30th Two-Engine (TE) Flying Training Group at George Army Air Field, and celebrated his 26th birthday.
According to information concerning the Pilot Class 43-D Association, “Class 43-D was one of the largest to enter training, 9,896 started, and 5,275 graduated from 29 training fiels [sic], plus Tuskeegee [sic] Institute.“ (Dutko, 2000)
For additional information on Pilot training, it is well worth reading Jim Phillips’ accounts of his military experiences, including early training. His self-published book is titled Pillars in the Sky, World War II from the Air. (Phillips, 1982) Robert H. Berly Jr. also wrote about his personal military career, including descriptions of his pilot training experiences and has posted it on the Internet at http://www.psln.com/pete/pow_berly_1.htm. (Berly Jr., 2006)
“The successful completion of pilot training was a difficult and dangerous task. During the four-and-a-half year period of January 1941 until August 1945, there were 191,654 cadets who were awarded pilot wings. But there were also 132,993 who "washed out," or were killed during training, a loss rate of approximately 40 percent due to accidents, academic or physical problems, and other causes.
Those who graduated from flying school were usually assigned to transition training in the type of plane they were to fly in combat. Some were assigned to specific squadrons already scheduled for overseas duty while others were assigned to replacement training units for subsequent assignment to squadrons already overseas. Regardless, it required two months of additional training before a pilot was considered ready for combat.”
Lou remained stationed at George Field, Illinois, assigned to the 30th Two-Engine Flying Training Group, and began transition training, still flying AT-10’s from May 3rd through the 18th.
On May 28, 1943, Lou was reassigned
to the 46th Bomb Group stationed at Will Rogers Field in
During this leave, he
Lou reported back to duty on June 9, 1943 at Will Rogers Field, OK and continued training at various bases stateside until his transfer overseas in August 1944. These bases included:
assignment to Alachua Army Air Field,
assignment to Barksdale Field,
Upon his arrival on June 9, 1943 at Will Rogers Field, (now Will Rogers World), located 8 miles SW of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma County, Oklahoma, Lou was assigned to the 3rd Air Force, 3rd Air Squadron (AS) Command, 56th Bombardment Wing, 46th Bomb Group (L), 53rd Bomb Squadron (L). (Murdock, 1998) During June and the first three days of July, Lou began training flights in Douglas RDB-7B (“restricted” variation of the A-20 ‘Havoc’) and North American B-25 ‘Mitchell’ (C model) aircraft.
Just one month after arriving
at Will Rogers, Lou was assigned a 30 day temporary duty (TD) at Army Air
Forces School of Applied Tactics (AAFSAT),
“Its function was to teach combat operations under simulated field conditions to cadres of Air Force aircrews as the cores around which new combat groups would be formed.
With a ground school in Orlando, Florida, presenting a two-week academic course, AAFSAT also taught a two-week field course utilizing eleven training airfields in Florida representing all conditions likely to be found in combat, from bare fields to prepared bomber airbases having 10,000-foot runways:”
During this training, Lou
flew only the first three days in August from Alachua AAFld, (now Gainesville
Regional), 3 miles NE of Gainesville,
While on his temporary duty assignment, Lou received Special Order # 191 on July 22, 1943 transferring him to the 646th Bombardment Squadron (L) of the newly formed 410th Bombardment Group (L), effective July 1, 1943. The 410th Bomb Gp. (L) was constituted on June 16, 1943 and activated July 1, 1943 at Will Rogers Field, Oklahoma and was part of the 3rd Air Force, 3rd Bomb Command, 56th Bombardment Training Wing. (Maurer, 1983) At the time of its formation, the 410th was initially setup as an Operational Training Unit (OTU) to train all members to work together as a cohesive fighting unit.
On August 13, 1943, Lou received Special Orders # 77 temporarily assigning him to the 335th Bomb Gp (M), 475th Bomb Sq. (M) at Barksdale Field, (now Barksdale AFB), 4 miles E of Shreveport, Caddo County, Louisiana to pursue a course in flying transition in B-26. This T/D assignment started August 17th and was not to exceed 15 days. On 26 August 1943, Lou was certified as Co-pilot on the B-26 airplane. (Murdock, 1998) Lou continued training on both B-26B and A-20 aircraft flying from Will Rogers and Barksdale fields during the first half of September.
The 410th Bomb Gp.
received a temporary change of station to Muskogee Army Air Field (AAFld), (now
Davis Field), 6 miles S of Muskogee,
During part of the time in
On January 9, 1944, the 410th
Bomb Gp. transferred to Laurel AAFld, (now Hesler-Noble Field), 2 miles SW of
In a letter to his wife on 1 Feb, 1944, Lou described his pistol qualification testing:
“ My ears were sore and I kept my left hand over the ear closest to the gun and couldn’t hit anything. Coddington and Salmen were out there too, and finally qualified with Coddington at 185 points and Salmen 200 points out of a possible 250.
After they left, it was getting dark, sweets, but I and another fellow still had to stay and qualify or we wouldn’t get our guns. The range officer noticed I kept holding my ear and asked me if it hurt. I told him it was still tender from the day before and he gave me some cotton. Honey, right after that I qualified with 217. I made marksman and just a point short of expert. I have two medals to wear now, sweets, and I think I can do a little better if it hadn’t got so dark. I’ve qualified as expert in carbine and marksman in the pistol.”
The 410th moved to
Lakeland AAFld, (now Lakeland Linder Regional), 4 miles SW of Lakeland,
Bombardment Group was transferred overseas to
“I talked to the Colonel here on the post [CAABR] to-day and he said I could have any ship that I’d trained in. I didn’t know whether to take that new B25 that is here or go to another field for an A20. They’re both so nice to fly but I finally decided to stay with my A20 as I have more time in it.
Honey the reason I left the Group was that Coddington had me flying so damned much I was getting jumpy. I finally had to refuse to fly and told him if he tried to make me then I’d go and get myself grounded. I guess Major Parrett heard about it and he asked me if I wanted to change. I told him I thought it would be better. He let me come up here as the Colonel here used to be at Will Rogers. I’m sorry about it, honey, but it would have been the same in Combat and it might not have worked out so easy.”
He was granted 10 days leave
on March 15, 1944 to allow him to travel back to
Lou had no flying time in
March, 1944 and only one 4 hour 20 minute flight in April as co-pilot in a
Special Orders Number 134,
dated 13 May 1944, relieved Lou from his assignment at Section R, 329th
AAF Base Unit, Columbia Army Air Base and transferred him to Morris Field
Replacement Training Unit (RTU) (LB), effective May 14, 1944. Morris Field, (now Charlotte/Douglas
International), is 5 miles W of Charlotte,
According to Lou’s May 16th
letter, he received his orders about 8:30 on the morning of May 14, 1944, was
on a bus by 11:30, arrived at
Lou began frequent flights again on May 23, 1944, mostly in A-20 aircraft, and continued through mid July. Lou began training with his gunners Sgt. Leland C. Ferguson and T. Sgt. Glenn C. Wilson on May 24th. Lou noted that “the pilots here that are training us have all been overseas. We’re really picking up a lot of good knowledge here, baby, and it will help a lot.” Lou’s training was intense with night flights every second or third night along with the normal day bombing missions, chemical missions, aerial gunnery practice, training the gunners how to inspect, start and taxi around the planes, along with being assigned as Airdrome Officer (A.O.) a several times. Lou noted in one letter that he and his gunners are “getting to be a pretty good team to-gether” and hopes “they don’t bust this one up for me.”
Lou landed in the hospital
again for four days between about June 17 and 21, 1944 due to heat exhaustion
because he was not taking salt tablets.
On July 2nd, Lou was in
On or about July 16, 1944,
Lou was transferred to Squadron S, Morris Field RTU (LB), 3rd Bomb
Command, 3rd Air Force and then was granted 11 days leave from July
17-27, 1944 so he could get back to
On July 27, 1944, Special Orders No. 180 transferred Lou, Lee and Glenn as Crew 11 to Hunter Field, GA for assignment to Project AF JY-42 (A-20G crews), to arrive not later than 31 July 1944. Hunter Field, which is now Hunter AAF, lies 5 miles SW of Savannah, Chatham County, Georgia. (Murdock, 1998) Two days leave was granted to Lou on 6 Aug 1944. During his assignment to the 302nd Army Air Force Base Unit (BU) Staging Wing (SW) of the 3rd Air Force at Hunter Field, Lou only flew two days, August 18 and 19, 1944.
See “Tour of Duty” for remaining information.