B-17 Nine-O-Nine

Feb 192013
 

Class BookI’m often asked if the AAF Collection has information on a specific person.  The collection does have hundreds of training class books.  These are like high school year books, except they were produced for a training class at a particular Army Air Field or other training facility.  Classes lasted anywhere from four to ten, or even twenty, weeks.  Separate classes sometimes overlapped their training at the same base.

Thus at a particular facility, there may have been dozens of class books produced during a given year.  Once a class graduated, cadets were generally stationed at another Army Air Field to begin their next class.  For example pilots underwent pre-flight, then Primary Flight, then Basic Flight, and then Advanced Flight classes, all at separate Air Fields.

Unfortunately I do not have additional information or records about individual cadets or instructors beyond what you see in the class books.  At one time I wanted to index the names and hometowns of those pictured in the class books.  That would now be a monumental undertaking, but I may do so in the coming years.

How Do I Find a Particular Person?

To find your parent, grandparent, or relative in a class book, you need to know approximately when they trained and where they were stationed.  Hopefully you will have the veteran’s discharge certificate.  On the back of that document is the Enlisted Record and Report of Separation which gives the date of induction or enlistment and a brief military career summary.  This may also list bases at which they were stationed.

You may also have a Certificate of Service, which lists dates, bases assigned, military occupational specialties, and citations earned.  If you are really lucky, you’ll have the veteran’s Separation Qualification Record.  This form lists all training classes and base locations.

If you don’t have discharge paperwork from the veteran’s estate, check the county where they resided when they were discharged.  They were usually required to file these papers at their county courthouse.

Some veterans saved their 201 File.  This would be a folder that contains the  military orders applicable to them, as well as certifications and flight time records.  The cadet usually saved the pages that listed their name from any general or special orders of the commanding officer.  These often listed their next unit and base assignment, and promotions.

Check photograph albums.  If the veteran took snapshots, an album may indicate dates and locations.

You can also check the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA).  They have a Veteran’s Service Records page where you can request services records via their eVetRecs facility.  Most Army Air Force records were destroyed by a fire years ago.  However, they may have some records, or they may be able to piece together fragments of records from many sources.  Usually, they will ask you to provide a copy of any discharge paperwork you have.

Once you know the dates and locations, you can make an educated guess as to which class they may have been assigned.  Remember to add eight to ten weeks from their induction or enlistment date for regular army basic training, prior to starting the Army Air Forces training program.  Class numbers usually signified the year in which the cadet graduated from that class.  So class 44-A generally started training near the end of 1943 and graduated in early 1944.

Pilot classes were usually lettered A, B, C while navigator and bombardier classes were numbered 1, 2, 3.  I found no correlation between the letter (or number) and the month of graduation.  Thus it cannot be said that class 44-D or 44-4 graduated in April 1944.  It depends on the number of weeks in the class and whether separate classes were taught concurrently at the facility.

You can browse the AAF Collection for class books from a particular Army Air Field, then look for a particular time period.  For example early 1944 might include classes 44-A, 44-B, 44-C and so on.  You’ll have to look through each class book.  Often, but not always, cadets were assigned to units and squadrons alphabetically by surname.  Cadets may therefore be pictured in roughly alphabetical order.  Be sure to look at pages at the end of each squadron.  Sometimes there were last minute additions after the other pages were laid out.

With a little luck, you may discover your relative’s picture in a class book!  If not, remember to check back, as more class books are added to the collection.

  12 Responses to “How-To: Find An Individual”

  1. Does the full page photograph on page 64 of CAVU 1943B showing an Airforce cadet with the Pledge of Allegiance as the caption
    appear in other yearbooks? Is there any way to ID the soldier? I’m wondering who that is, he looks a bit like my dad.

    • Many class books from different Air Fields often used the same stock photos. If the photo was from a particular Air Field, it was often used in a number of class books from that field. However, the picture you mention looks like a snapshot from that class. I have not seen it before. Unfortunately there is no way to determine who the cadet is. You will have to use your judgement. I tend to compare the chin, the line of the nose, corners of the mouth, cheekbones and spacing of the eyes. I admit it looks like a good match to your father when the photos are compared side-by-side. There seems to be a little up-turn at the end of the nose though, that I cannot compare in the face-on view. One nose seems a little bulbous and the other a little pointed, but that’s something only you will be able to recognize.

      If it is your father, perhaps he was given a copy of the photo and it might be with his other papers. Perhaps he made a notation in his copy of the book if you can still read it.

  2. Mike, My Dad was at Sioux Falls Radio School from August to November, 1944 (my best guess is from August 20 to November 20). Where can I find the Class Books that were published during that time period. My Dad’s name was Gerard Hickel. I”d love to see his picture and who is classmates were.

    Thanks !!

    Gerry Hickel

    • Hi Gerry,

      Sioux Falls is one of the most popular and most requested bases on this site. Some people have several class books in their personal collections and will probably do a look-up for you. The best thing to do is leave a comment under one of the Technical School class books (as I see you’ve already done).

      • Thank you, Mike, for responding. I’m still having a little difficulty trying to determine exactly what my Dad’s “path” was that got him to Sioux Falls and the time frame for the training he would have received there. I’ve read everything I could find but I still am not sure of this period of service. He was at Dickinson College in the AAF Training Detachment there and when that was terminated the next thing I can determine he did was to go to Radio School in Sioux Falls. From there he went to Las Vegas for Gunnery School, then to Lincoln AAF in Nebraska (for what I don’t know) then back to Harlingen,Texas for B29 Gunnery School. I’ve read that air crews would be trained on radio and gunnery and maybe mechanics. I just can’t fit these all these pieces together so I can feel comfortable that I have reasonably determined his service activity. Any help you could provide me in this regard, would be very much appreciated. Thanks, again ! Ger

        • Heelo..I live in Sioux Falls and have collected a lot of the clss books from the radio school.
          I will look up your ncestor.
          Meanwhile about radio gunners.
          Almost all radio school grad went on to one of several gunnery schools because while over the targets in Europe radio operators had nothing to do..so..they made them gunners.
          My stepfather went to radio school in Sioux Falls (I have his book) then to Kingman, AZ gunnery school.
          In my collection I have course dertificates for several soldiers radio and gunnery schools.
          Hope that helps.

      • Mike, Just today I found out from Dickinson College that my Father was there from October 25, 1943 to March 18, 1944. Is there anyway I can find out when he started his radio school at Sioux Falls and when it ended?

        Ger

        • He probably started at Sioux Falls one or two months after his CTD at Dickinson. He probably went to a classification center, where they gave him a battery of tests to determine if he could be a pilot, bombardier, navigator, or radio operator. In my dad’s case that took a month. So I would look through any Sioux Falls class books starting April or May 1944. Unfortunately the radio school books don’t usually list classes by dates, but you can get an idea by reading the comments for one of the Technical School class books.

  3. Mike,

    I have been collecting AAF Class Books since 1976 and I think I have 95% of them including the Blue and Brown Series printed in Baton Rouge, LA.

    I mentioned my collection only to a few inner circle researchers, I have all originals and nothing digital.

    Just thought you wanted to know.

    Harold Jansen
    446th Bomb Group Historian

    • Hi Harold,

      It sounds like a huge collection. I hope you can preserve it all for future generations. It would be a lot of work to digitize them.

  4. Mike,

    My father is a member of Class 45-B of the Thunderbird Field, Phoenix, AZ. I tried to find the specific class book from your collection and noticed that you don’t have any class book from the Thunderbird Field. Did they ever issue their class books?

    By the way, my father was a Chinese Air Force cadet (of Chinese Detachment #10) trained in the Thunderbird, Mazera, San Antonio, and other AAF’s between 1944 and 1945.

    • Hi Jack,

      I have a few books from Luke Field, but not Thunderbird Field. I’m not sure of the history of those fields, or if Thunderbird issued class books. If they did, no one has contributed any to the collection. Maybe some day though.

      There are also a few class books that list Chinese cadets. You can browse the collection for “Special Features,” then choose “Chinese Cadets.”

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