OVER THE SEA TO ENGLAND
After training, we received orders sending us to England by way of the northern route. We flew from Walla Walla to Grand Island, Nebraska; to Syracuse, New York; to Presque Isle, Maine; to Goose Bay, Newfoundland (Labrador); to Greenland; to Reykjavik, Iceland; to Stornaway, Ireland; and finally to Prestwick, Scotland.
When leaving Grand Island, Nebraska, the pilot would not accept my heading. He wanted to fly by radio navigation so I went to sleep. Later, the radio navigation system went out and he asked me for a heading to Syracuse. I told him that I had no idea where we were, I had been asleep. He said the system was out and he needed a heading. I figured from pilotage that we were somewhere over Lake Erie, so I calculated a heading, which fortunately turned out to be correct.
When we left Syracuse, the pilot wanted to fly over his hometown of Worcester, Massachusetts, then head due north to Presque Isle, Maine. Once again, he wanted to use the radio to navigate--which failed--and he was lost. I was lucky enough to bail him out again.
We left Presque Isle to go to Greenland and ran into a storm over the North Atlantic that we couldnt climb above. We were forced to go to the deck and fly for about 45 minutes to an hour at about 100 feet above the waves. It was excellent flying on his part. When we could, we regained altitude, and made Blue West Three (BW3) about 10 miles up a fjord on the southern tip of Greenland. We liked Greenland. So, the pilot complained of a collapsed oleo strut in the tail-wheel. This gave us a chance to stay over for three days and explore the area around BW3.
Back in Syracuse, some of the veterans had told us the thing airmen in England craved most was bourbon. So we had bought a case, which practically depleted the crew's funds. We intended to sell it at a big profit in England. Well, to get this three-day layover in Greenland, we sold the whiskey to the crew chief at BW3 for what we thought was a good profit. It turned out to have been about half of what we would have gotten in England.
I walked to a glacier and explored it. I climbed a mountain alongside a waterfall to see the lake that was the waterfall's source. I went snowshoe rabbit hunting unsuccessfully with .30 caliber carbines.
We flew from there to Reykjavik, Iceland where we were told not to associate with the natives. In fact, we couldnt leave the base. Prior to our arrival, a group of marines had been stationed there. The Icelanders believed in pre-marital sex. The Marines took advantage of this. Later the marines pulled out, but not really, because they left behind a lot of pregnant women. Since that time, the locals had taken a dim view of all Americans.
We stayed overnight, refueled, and left for Strornaway. Again, the pilot decided he would go on radio navigation; he didnt need the help of a navigator. Over the Atlantic, the radio went out for the third time. And he was lost. This time I refused to help. I told him England was off to the east somewhere, "You can find it." He got very angry and we had quite an argument. Finally I gave him a course and we hit Stornaway dead on. These three recoveries, coupled with finishing first in the class, made the pilot respect me as a navigator.
At Prestwick, we had final navigation training on how to navigate in England. The person who made the highest score on this training could choose the bomb group that he wanted. My pilot had already checked this out and the 91st Bomb Group had the fewest losses. I was first in the class so we picked the 91st Bomb Group.