At this location, after indoctrination we were presented with a brand, spanking new four- engine B17G Bomber. It was a beauty. Our job was to wring it out and be sure that everything was working and in proper condition. This was the plane we were going to fly across the Atlantic Ocean. Being in this aircraft was a real pleasure, in that it performed beautifully and everything worked to perfection. My job was to check out the compasses. The plane had two compasses, one, a magnetic compass, which was mounted on a board near my desk in the nose. The other one was a “flux-gate” compass also mounted over my desk. The actual compass (of the “flux-gate”) was located out in the wing to get away, as nearly as possible, from any interference. The method that was used to “swing” these compasses was to start everything in the plane, with all engines running, all electrical systems on. On the parking ramp where the plane was parked, they had gone out and painted large yellow and white stripes on the concrete with the compass reading on each of these lines. I would sit in the nose and talk to the pilot to line up the ship as near as we could with these lines. Then I would check at our compasses to be sure that they were reading, within some tolerable limits, the compass designation that was shown on the concrete. In addition, we had a unit called a “celestial compass”. This was a little gadget that you hung in the plastic dome on top of the nose, inside of course. I would look in the sun tables and get the azimuth and elevation of the sun at that particular place and time. A shadow would run down a marked area on this little sun compass. This shadow would mark, very accurately, the direction in which the plane was headed. However, I found that my compasses were almost on the money and there was no need to do any adjustment. Whatever adjustment was done was done to the “flux-gate” compass. It had a compensating switch, that I could correct the compass to exact bearings.
We did not fly every day and we had some time off. One night this friend of mine, a fellow navigator, invited me to come to Omaha to double date with him and his newly- found girlfriend. We caught the train and went to Omaha. The young lady of his choice was a very attractive brunette and was from a fine, respectable and affluent family. They were nice people who lived in a big three-story house in Omaha. The family was just lovely. My date was a young lady, also from a fine, affluent family in Omaha. We hit it off real well together. We decided that the first thing we would do was go into downtown Omaha and have a drink. Someone,(I forget who) drove us and we went into a bar in one of the best hotels in Omaha. We were sitting in the cocktail lounge having a drink when in walked two plain- clothes men who turned out to be detectives.
One of the detectives asked our dates to produce their identification. The information showed that the two girls were under the legal drinking age! Since my buddy and I, were part of the party, we were considered to be the guilty parties that were supplying the “booze”. (Probably, the legal drinking age was twenty-one years. Both of our dates were over the age of nineteen years. Neither buddy nor I had any idea that the girls had any such age problem!)
The other man walked up to us and said, ”You’re all under arrest, come on.” They put us into a squad car and took us to jail. These officers not only took us to jail, but they put us in a locked cell. When we arrived at the jail, the ladies were separated from us and put in a civilian area of the jail. My buddy and I were put in a cell in the military area and the door was locked. After about an hour, the jailer came. He opened the door and motioned for me to follow him. He escorted me to the desk where the head jailer was sitting. The head jailer was a sergeant in the military police. Standing in the front of the desk, the sergeant addressed me somewhat as follows, “Lieutenant, you and your companion are in rather bad trouble. Let me see your pass.” Up to that time I had not paid particular attention to the pass, but as I pulled it out to hand it to him, I noticed on the face of the pass, in big red letters, was the word COMBAT. Handing the pass to the sergeant, he blinked, then looked straight at me and said, “We can’t hold you. Get out of here. You’re dismissed.” However, I was interested in the welfare of the two young ladies, but was advised by the sergeant that I could not see them, talk to them, or have anything to do with them. Their families would be notified and there was nothing I could do. The best thing I could do was get out of there! On questioning, he said that my buddy would be released, if he had a similar pass. I took his suggestion and as rapidly as possible, got out of there, went to the train station and returned to the air base in Lincoln.
It was some twenty-four to forty-eight hours after this episode before I was able to meet with my jail buddy again. On this occasion, we were walking out to the airplanes to get to our next destination. It was a dark night, very cold, and as we walked along, he was telling me what had transpired. It seems that the families did get the young ladies out of jail. They were not mad at us for what happened. As a matter of fact, some of the family thought it was funny! All’s well that ends well!
After shaking hands and wishing each other good luck, we promised that at our next stop we would get together, have a couple of drinks and go over the entire episode in detail. We then separated and went to our respective airplanes and took off. I never saw him again.
I would bet that if he survived the war, that he went back to Omaha and married his young lady. Their relationship was that serious.
Our next stop is. ...(next chapter)