Here is my growing collection of aircraft nose art. These are planes I’ve visited on tour, or in museums.
I enjoyed watching the recent 60 Minutes story on Marfa, Texas.1 Apparently this isolated, rural town is attracting lots of different people today. In the story, they briefly mentioned the remnants of an old army base there.
Actually it was the Marfa Army Air Field, a twin-engine advanced pilot training school. Hundreds of Army Air Force pilots earned their silver wings at Marfa. So, the town must have been a hub of activity about 1943 before slipping back into obscurity, then rediscovery.
The AAF Collection has a few pilot class books from Marfa.
- CBS News, 60 Minutes, “Marfa Texas: The Capital of Quirkiness,” aired April 14, 2013.
I’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?
Thanks to the generosity of over 50 contributors, the AAF Collection has grown to 400 items! Started back in November 2006, the AAF Collection offers historical documents about the United States Army Air Forces during World War II.
You will now find hundreds of class books with pictures of thousands of cadets as they trained to be pilots, bombardiers, navigators, gunners and radio operators. See the actual training manuals they used. Discover what life was like as an air cadet on dozens of Army Air Fields across the United States.
As the AAF Collection continues to grow, I hope you’ll consider contributing items from your own collection, or that of your parents’, or grandparents’ legacy. Many people enjoy learning about this era in our history.
Thank you, Thank you, Thank you
Thanks to all those who have taken the time and effort to contribute to the collection. Ben Guttery, aviation collector extraordinaire, contributed over half the items you see in the collection. Larry Caldwell contributed many items and he supported this site from its beginning. Stephen Quint and Bronson Gardner have each contributed over ten items.
Thanks to the visitors to this site. I always enjoy hearing that you found a parent, grandparent or relative pictured in an item from the collection. Or, that you found a rare document you were unable to find anywhere else.
A special thanks to all World War II veterans, and the veterans who left a comment here about their experiences during the war.
The Navigator’s Information File has a description of the Astro Compass (or Astrocompass) . This device was used by navigators to determine the true heading of the airplane, to steer a true heading, to identify a star, or as a pelorus, a device without magnetic needles used to read bearings.
It is unclear to me if, or how often, this device was actually used. I ran across an Astro Compass while visiting the United States Air Force Armament Museum at Eglin Air Force Base, near Fort Walton Beach, Florida.
Please note a couple new features of the collection. You can now save a copy of the Item Detail page for your records.
There are two ways to do this. You can either print the Item Detail page, or you can have it sent to you as an e-mail.
This is handy for several reasons. Suppose you download an item in the collection to your computer. You can now save the Item Detail page that corresponds to that item. Or, suppose you find one or more items in the collection that interest you and you want to save the details for later reference. Or, you want to share an item you found with a friend or colleague who might be interested in it as well.
The AAF Collection website has switched to a different Internet hosting provider, HostGator. This should help the availability and reliability of the site. If you notice something that’s not quite right during this transition, please notify the curator.
Some past visitors have incorrectly shared links to the AAF Collection. These links are usually posted on message boards, forums and blogs. Since they were incorrectly copied, they will now result in an error message. If so, simply click on View Items and browse for the item you want to see.
Attention contributors! The user name and password has changed for those who want to upload contributions to the collection. Please notify the curator to request a new user name and password.
Are you interested in starting your own website? I recommend HostGator. Use the special coupon code ARMYAIRFORCES for a 25% discount off your own hosting account. You will also be helping to support this site.
There have been many interesting comments posted by visitors to the AAF Collection. Some were posted by actual veterans who reminisced about their time during World War II. Some were posted by relatives of veterans who were excited to find a picture of their loved one. These comments are becoming a useful resource in and of themselves.
To make them easier to share and read through, you can now see comments in the item list.
Like pilots, cadets who trained to be bombardiers and navigators were assigned to different air fields for different phases of their training. They had preflight, gunnery and either bombardier or navigator training, or both.
Here are the phases of bombardier and navigator training as they were in 1944, adapted from The Official Guide to the Army Air Forces (New York: Pocket Books, Inc., May 1944).