Tuesday, April 3, 2012

School Days in Corpus Christi

Vultee SNV-1 tail number 12947 gets ready to taxi. Note the jaunty angle
to the marshaller's cap....
Today we feature a small collection of 8x10 glossies from the WWII era when the training of Naval Aviators was going full swing at NAS Corpus Christi, the Navy's largest flight training station. Through the war years, around 35,000 navy pilots earned their gold wings here.

A congressional study in 1938 found that the lack of training capacity in the Navy constituted an emergency, and so additional funds were allocated to establish additional Naval Air Stations that were focused on pilot training. The first class of pilots started their instruction at NAS Corpus Christi on May 5, 1941. One of the members of the third graduating class was a young aviator who would go on to garner fame as a torpedo bomber pilot, George H. W. Bush. Oh, and he became the Commander-in-Chief, too.

New Navy pilots went through a three-phase training process. They started in either the Boeing N2S Stearman or the NAF N3N basic trainer, then progressed to the Vultee SNV, which was the Navy's version of the USAAC's BT-13 Valiant (the pilots who flew them preferred the name "Vibrator"). Pictured above is an SNV-1, the equivalent to the BT-13A; 1,350 of these had been transferred from the Army Air Corps to the Navy.

In the third stage of training, the pilots transitioned to the North American SNJ, the Naval version of the AT-6 Texan. The ones in our photo are SNJ-5s, which is what the Navy called the 1,573 AT-6Ds that were transferred from the Army.

To put the first two photos in perspective, check out this aerial view of the same hangars.

Anyone recognize any of the sailors or Naval Aviators shown in these class photos? Unfortunately, no one at the time thought to hold up a sign indicating which graduating class was being shown. (And, yes, I've looked carefully to see if George Bush is in the images...if he is, I didn't recognize him!)

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