McHenry & Becchetti Individual Training


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McHenry Joins Up. When the war began in 1939, I was 16 and delivering the Huntington Herald Press Newspaper to sixty customers every night on the west side of Markle, Indiana.

On December 7, 1941, when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, I was in my last year of high school. First, the Indiana National Guard called up all Markle Guardsmen. The draft went into effect the next spring, and I registered at age 18. After graduation I managed the White Rose Filling Station in Markle, and in the fall I hauled milk from farms into the Central Dairy in Fort Wayne, Indiana. I did this work until I received my draft call in March 1943.

On the basis of my tests I was offered my choice of the services, and I chose the Army Air Corps, which sent me to Clearwater, Florida, for basic training. We lived in the Clearwater Hotel and trained on the beaches. I was then sent to St. Petersburg, Florida, called "Tent City" at that time, for more testing and further field training.

McHenry in Radio School. I was offered training in radio, which I accepted. I was sent to a school in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. The course consisted of 36 weeks of Morse code, theory and field training. We spent the last two weeks operating electronic equipment in airplanes parked in wooded areas and did code blinker messages from several towers on the edge of the woods.

McHenry in Gunnery School. After graduation from radio school and a short home leave in Markle, I took a train to Laredo, Texas, right on the Mexican border, for gunnery school. This was a 12-week course in which we learned to fire .30 and .50 caliber machine guns at moving targets. We spent the first few weeks on an oval track firing shot guns from the back of a moving truck at clay pigeons which other students launched from bunkers just outside the oval track. We would fire about 100 shot gun rounds from the truck and then switch places with the students in the clay pigeon bunkers. The work in the bunkers was extremely unpleasant. They usually had water and mud in them, trash and even snakes.

We did our target practice the last two weeks from the rear cockpit of an AY-6 aircraft, firing at a sleeve target towed by another aircraft. This was more fun than work, but our hits on the target were counted, so we had to fire with seriousness.

But there was real danger in gunnery school, too. At Laredo, there was a midair collision of two planes which killed the two pilots and two students.

After gunnery school I went home to Markle for another short leave and then took the train all the way across the United States to Salt Lake City, Utah, where I was assigned to B-24 bomber crew No. 2366.

FRED BECCHETTI               E-Mail Address>

Becchetti Joins Up. On Sunday, December 7, 1941, at the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, I was in high school and at my part-time job as dishwasher in the kitchen of the Alvarado Hotel in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The next year, my last year of high school, I was planning to attend the University of New Mexico on a scholarship in the fall.

On my 18th birthday in March 1942, I registered for the draft, but in November 1942 I enlisted in the Army Air Corps with my eye on the Air Cadet Program.

My life as a civilian ended on January 29, 1943, when I boarded a bus for Santa Fe, New Mexico, for a fast physical examination and a trip by troop train to Wichita Falls, Texas, for basic training at Sheppard Field, the "hell hole" against which I would measure every phase of my military experience.

Becchetti at Wichita University. The original plan had been that we would go directly into the air cadet program from Sheppard Field, but the Air Corps sent us to a College Training Detachment at Wichita University, Kansas, where we attended college classes and joined women students in campus activities while pursuing military training, too. Part of the program there was a ten-hour course in flying Piper Cubs, which I failed miserably.

Becchetti Becomes a Cadet. We were transferred to San Antonio, Texas, where I succeeded in passing a grueling battery of tests, so that I was accepted into the Cadets, to become a bombardier. I went first to pre-flight instruction at Ellington Field in Houston, Texas, where we studied code, math, maps, charts and physics without ever flying.

After three months in Houston I graduated to advanced bombardier training in Big Spring, Texas. In Big Spring we became experts in the use of the Norden bombsight in ground training and in flights over the plains of Texas, where we dropped hundreds of smoke-filled bombs onto targets scraped into the earth.

On November 13, 1943, I graduated as an Air Corps officer with my bombardier's wings That same winter, I went to Salt Lake City, where I was assigned as the bombardier for Crew 2366.