What was it like being an Army Aviation Cadet early in World War II? There were four stages of training — preflight, primary, basic and advanced. There was no flying in preflight. The program required about eight months.
We were based at several air and military bases throughout Georgia. Everything was very military. The upper class with us had the right to discipline the lower class, and surprisingly to haze the lower class too. I experienced the most hazing of any cadet in my class. My “Yankee” personality apparently irritated the upper class leader.
He began a routine of meeting me at the exit of The Mess Hall after every supper. He always posed the same question. “Yankee, who won the Civil War?” I always gave the same answer. “I can’t change history, the North won.” The same answer always came back. “You darn Yankee, run around this building until I tell you to stop.” The “stop” was always slow in coming.
Finally, it was the last night before the upper class moved on to Primary Flight Training School. I dreaded what might come from my tormentor. However, when I came out after supper, two other upper classmen were waiting for me. They overwhelmed me with difficult questions, and began writing demerits.
Suddenly, my chief tormentor appeared. He said, “What’s going on here?”
They replied that I couldn’t answer their key questions and so they had recorded a number of demerits for punishment. My tormentor grabbed the demerits and said, “Leave him to me.” After they left, he tore the demerits up and ordered, “Get out of here Diblin!”
We were within a day of finishing preflight on a Sunday. War began at noon our time that day, but that was unknown to us until late that afternoon. We were permitted to go to church. While there, a middle aged couple invited me to a noon meal at their home. I was due back to our base by 5 o’clock. My hosts brought me back on time. At the gate of our air base, a military guard with a rifle put me under arrest saying, “We have been at war since noon our time. You are under arrest for not reporting here promptly.”
The next day I was released for guard duty.
Joseph A. Diblin, of Northumberland, was a four-engine pilot during World War II and has worked as a test pilot and civilian flight instructor. He is also seaplane rated. If you are a veteran — Vietnam, Korea, Iraq, World War, etc. — and would like to share your story, please contact him at 570-473-2594.