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Squadron 3 - Primary Flight Training

Chapter 3 - Primary Flight Training - The First Solo/Marriage

With pre-flight completed, our engagement was made official and tentative marriage plans set the usual family questions had been raised `What if the worst occurred.’ Somehow in our youthful naivete we ignored these questions and continued onward. The next order of business was to focus on the second training phase which was ten weeks of flight training in a Stearman PT-17 biplane trainer.

I was shipped to Carlstrom for Primary flight training at the end of August 1943. This school was a civilian pilot training field under contract to the Air Corps. It was located in the heart of cattle raising country which surprised me since I had always considered the mid west our primary cattle raising area. Many more experiences, occurred, some broadening, some negative, some positive; all interesting and in a way this initial flight phase was the beginning of the rites of passage for many of us. It was for me as Doris and I were married toward the conclusion of this training period at Carlstrom Field. The extreme daily pressure of the military flight routine heightened my perception of these experiences.

My first solo flight during this phase of flying was most memorable.The excitement and joy I experienced when my instructor stepped out of the aircraft and said `You got it’ is really difficult to describe. The taxiing out, the lift off with only my hands on the controls, the square pattern around the field and finally the subsequent three landings will never be forgotten. Even the traditional pool dunking was joyful. Then the pride in wearing your goggles in the proper head position, forward, when marching back from the flight line, not dangling to the rear left you floating and is still with me today.

Another memorable incident which could have been potentially disastrous occurred during my last check ride. It was a dreaded ground loop on landing. Ground looping was not unusual because of the narrow landing gear but as hot pilots this wasn’t supposed to happen. The plane suddenly was 90 degrees from where it should have been, the wing tip skimming the ground. I made an instant recovery. Upon the inspection of the wing we found grass marks on the dust coating. What a relief it was when my instructor’s only comment was 'Good recovery Levine'.

The necessity of recovering my cot from the roof, placed there by my room mates after my return from town, visiting Doris, had a humorous twist, although not appreciated at that time. I guess they were jealous of my good fortune.

Excerpts from my continuous correspondence with Doris follow which supply some more details about the training routine and our thoughts during this phase of our lives, prior to our marriage in October 1943.


September 1943 Primary flight training Carlstrom Field Arcadia Florida

Hello Darling,

Back from classes and DRILL. God, drill is the most asinine procedure we are subjected to here. We are supposed to be airmen and marching in ranks get more and more ridiculous as we advance in our training "Hup-Hup-Hup-four-right flank march, left flank march, right oblique, column left" Out in the blinding sun, covered with sweat you wonder whether its worth it all, after four weeks at basic training you don’t learn a damn thing new. The fact that the drill sergeant is worse off than you, shouting until he is hoarse makes you feel better.

Spent the afternoon meeting our instructor and I feel confident that if anyone can get me thru, he will. He’s an old WWI pilot, knows his stuff and inspires confidence. He spent all afternoon pounding traffic patterns and landing procedures into our skulls. Also drew our parachutes - an item of utmost importance.

Pleasant dreams sweetheart





September 1943 Primary flight training Arcadia, Florida

Dear Doris,

Well, I had forty minutes up there sweety, and all I can say is `whoopee’. The first thing that strikes your eye once your wheels leave the ground are the amount of planes in the air. They swoop and dive like a swarm of bees and you constantly have to be on the alert to avoid trouble (rubbernecking). From 1000 feet the air field and country lies spread out before you. Its all swamp and praries. Off in the distance you see the Gulf of Mexico. Not much time for the scenery as you are constantly making turns, banks and coordination exercises. Then the instructor pointed out 6 or 7 auxiliary fields which your supposed to remember. I’ll be darned if I could even remember the names. Trusting thru the maze of planes the instructor made a beautiful landing. Its an eerie feeling seeing the ground rushing up at you; then your down.




September 1943 Primary flight training Arcadia, Florida

Hello Darling,

Today we were practicing landings and takeoffs at an auxiliary field in preparation for my first solo. I now have 4 hours and 50 minutes at air time and hope to solo soon.

By the way I never mentioned that of the 6 men in my room 4 of them stand at 6 foot 2 inches. Usually gives the inspecting officer a good laugh to see these giants and then the two mighty mites peeking out from under their armpits.





September 1943 Primary flight training Arcadia, Florida

Dear Doris,

Well, I’ve seen Arcadia- all of it, reminds me of a typical small New England town except for the palm trees lining the streets. Not a bad little town but after Brooklyn, leaves much to be desired, especially after visiting its only movie house and two soda fountains in one afternoon. As I ambled down the main street I noticed a USO sign and stepped inside, picked up a mystery novel and settled back. Suddenly I was handed a hymn book by a nice old lady. Looking around I then noticed the sign `Vesper sing 5 P.M." It was two minutes too. Down went the hymn book slam went my novel and I headed for the door just in time to be caught in the stampede of other cadets also abandoning the premises.

All my love

P.S. That photo you sent was super. Don’t we both look sweet and innocent.



September 1943 Primary flight training Arcadia, Florida

Hello sweetheart,

Because of the rain flying was suspended this morning so we all got together for some ‘hanger flying.’ Rather humorous seeing a cadet going thru the intricacies of a spin and the recovery; he’s going round like a top concentrating with his instructor shouting `Hard right rudder, forward stick, throttle’. Good practice.

It cleared up in the afternoon so out we went for an hour of machine gun drill, without a break given by our tactical officer. Lt. Aguast (Ignatz) to us, a 90 day wonder, commissioned after 90 days of officers candidates school (OCS). Then a five mile run, anybody falling out had to report to the flight surgeon.




At this point, after many phone calls and letters we finally decided to set our marriage date at October 14 while still at Primary as this would allow us 3 weeks together before I would be shipped to the next flight phase, called Basic flying. It would also allow some time in Florida for Doris’s mother who fancied herself a chaperone. My flight training was proceeding. The first solo had been accomplished successfully then more maneuvers, stalls spins, aerobatics (slow rolls, chandelles, snap rolls etc) The following letter to Doris will illustrate some of the routine and pressures of this period.


September 1943 Primary flight training Arcadia, Florida

Hello Darling,

Monday morning, dark and gloomy the kind you want to roll over on and sleep away. I like to think of the war as a perpetual Monday morning. Hopefully a brighter Tuesday will come soon.

Down at the flight line there was bad news waiting for two of the five cadets my instructor had. They had been washed out. Either couldn’t land the ship or were not progressing fast enough. Hope I can stay on the ball.

I’m quite tired after an hour of dual instruction shooting cross wind landings with and without the instructor then another hour of solo; joy riding, doing anything I wanted, going where I pleased. I suppose it was a reward for doing well on the cross wind landings.

Its been a month since I left Brooklyn and 3 weeks to your arrival and the fatal plunge.

Looking forward to seeing you.




Well, Doris and her mother arrived finally and since I was up to my ears in the training routine she was faced with the task of arranging a date with the town judge who would perform the wedding ceremony. In addition, she took over the task of procuring her own wedding ring which was greatly simplified since there was only one jewelry store in town and this a concession in the back of a liquor store. The wedding was to be held on Sunday but was unavoidably postponed to the following Thursday night since the judge had been called out of town. I managed to get a special four hour pass for the ceremony which was held at the judges office with Doris mother and his wife as witnesses. I’ll never forget looking at the open window and for a brief moment my thoughts were elsewhere so when the judge got to ‘Will you take etc’ I was rather surprised when I heard myself say "of course’ which brought smiles to the attendees faces and a flush to mine. Afterwards it was ice cream sodas at the drugstore and then back to the base for me. The following is a letter from Doris to my folks describing the above and her thoughts at that time.


Oct 15, 1943 From Arcadia to Brooklyn

Here comes the Bride

Hello mom and dad,

How have you been? Well now you have another daughter. We were married last night. Ray and mother looked exceptionally well. Of course we were all slightly nervous. When the judge asked Ray if he would love, honor and cherish me in sickness and in health etc, instead of saying ‘I do’ he shouted "Why certainly’ Even the judge had to laugh. I hope that when we are able to have a Jewish ceremony at your house we wont be as nervous.

Arcadia is a beautiful place with the palm trees looking so artificial and the walks shaded by them. The Spanish moss looks so pretty hanging down. Its a sight to behold.

Wish you all the happiness I am having.



The following is my letter to my folks a few days later letting them know that it was now official.


Dear Folks,

Surprise ! Doris and I were married last Thursday night. We found that the judge would not be in town Sunday so I got a special pass and he performed the ceremony at the court house. It was a simple ceremony the memory of which I wil cherish forever.

I can scarcely describe my feelings. We’ve a lifetime together ahead of us, I know it will be a happy one.

Right now I have 43 hours of flight time. When I have 65 hours I will be leaving for the next phase probably about October 30th.

Let me emphasize the fact that there is no need for worry about me. You encounter as much danger when crossing the street as I do in the air.

All the best from Doris
Your son




Needless to say Doris’s mother was shipped back to New York as soon as it were possible without hurting her feelings. There we were in the midst of a war with an overwhelming desire to live life to the fullest, as the cliche goes and we did. We spent every possible moment absorbed in each other, touching, knowing that our time together was limited. Much time was spent strolling the streets of Arcadia, arm in arm, listening to the Salvation Army Band ("Put a nickel in the drum and you’ll be saved") and gawking at the colorfully dressed Seminole Indians shopping in town.

Doris was able to visit the field twice a week in the evening. A bus was made available by the Air Corps for the wives living in town. She was struck by the thoughtfulness of the bus driver who stopped to pick up and drop off walkers. In addition, she was amazed by the cows having the right of way, the bus sitting still until they decided to move across. It was a long way from Brooklyn ! She was also struck by the length of our evening meal which was completed in 15 minutes including the reading of the orders of the day. We usually finished the meal at the canteen eating chocolate bars.

Finally the money ran out with no work to be had in town so it was necessary for Doris to head back to New York with just a few coins and a train ticket left for the trip back. The agony of the parting has never been forgotten although as time progressed during the war there were many more painful partings.

The following letter to my folks is interesting as after a long day of flying , athletics and classes it was started by me and completed by Doris after I fell asleep while writing.


25, October Arcadia, Florida

Dear Folks,

I’ve been living the life of Riley, only flying every other day with time to read, sleep and eat.

I’ve got 65 flight hours now and I’m having a swell time flying this ship. I’m in town now after a quick shower and shave. Doris said it would be steak for supper. Guess we’ll see a show afterward or go to the carnival now in town.


Ray fell asleep without finishing this letter so I’ll take the opportunity to say a few words.

Yes, I did have a delicious meal ready. It wasn’t steak but lamb chops. After eating we went to the carnival. Ray got airsick on the rides. We ate the usual pop corn, soda’s and jellied apples. Of course it was a far cry from Coney Island.

We then strolled the main street had ice cream and went on to sit on the beach overlooking the lake outside of town. It was very beautiful and peaceful with the sound of water lapping on the beach rocks. After it got chilly home we went.

This morning I will be going to the field to spend a couple of hours with Ray.

Take care of yourselves and regards to all.




After Doris left for New York I was naturally quite lonely and eager to move on to my next training phase which would be called Basic flying during which we were to fly single winged BT 13s which were higher powered and of metal construction thru out, thus starting to resemble a combat aircraft. The following letters to Doris reflect my state of mind and some of the realities of army life.

October 1943 Primary flight training Arcadia, Florida

My dear Wife,

Or Should I just say ‘Hello’ Seriously though that salutations conjures up visions of you-me-us-and the future.

I’ve some news which is good news. First we are being shipped to Gunter Field, Montgomery, Alabama, Thursday for Basic Flight training. Secondly an order came thru that aviation cadets can make out dependency allotments. This means getting $75 a month. I can then take out $22 and have the government pay $28 to make $50 which will be sent to you. You will have to supply evidence of our marriage. Speed is essential as payments do not start until you send the evidence to Washington.

All my love and love me a little



October 1943 Primary flight training Arcadia, Florida

Hello Sweetheart,

Well, all the forms I spoke of are in and all I need is the copy of the marriage certificate.

How was the trip home, how did you find New York, the folks etc?

Leaving you that night was difficult. I looked back and you seemed so small and white. Damn those goodbyes. You've taken my heart back with you - take care of it- forever.

Enclosed is that $10 for your mother and some extra for yourself.

Were wearing ODs for the shipment; as luck will have it the suns out and I feel itchy and hot.

Got paid $141 and had $77 taken out for room and board to Embry-Riddle, $17 to you $23 to the folks, $24 left for me (broke again). Wish I could send more but even these small amounts make me feel so much better.

So long,
Ray(remember?-your husband)



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