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Samuel M. Findley "Tex", Engineer/Tail Gunner, 323rd BG, 453rd BS

Samuel M. Findley (Tex)
Engineer/Tail Gunner
323rd BG, 453rd BS


Most of my time at Sheppard Field was spent learning close order drill. After breakfast and about 30-45 minutes of calisthenics, it was close order drill for the rest of the day with thousands of other soldiers. It was Hup, Two, Three, Four; to the left flank March, to the right flank March. The days in May and June were beginning to get hot up in the day and the water you drank was out of rubber bags suspended on tripods around the perimeter of the drill field. Before getting a drink of water each soldier was made to swallow a salt tablet and this made lots of the soldiers sick and you could see them throwing up almost anywhere you looked. After about six weeks of this close order drill routine I was getting pretty fed up ----after all I wasn’t in the Infantry----I was in the Air Corps and besides there was a war that needed to be won..

One day a corporal called several of us together and announced that the Air Corps was looking for volunteers to train as aerial gunners and did anyone want to volunteer. I saw this as an opportunity to be through with this close order drill and to go fight those damned Japs so I volunteered. I was told where to report for a physical and I went there immediately. One soldier just coming out of the examination room told me that they wouldn’t accept him because he was too tall. He said you could not be taller than 5 ft. 10 inches or weigh more than 150 lbs. I only weighed about 130 lbs. but I was almost 6 ft. tall. When they measured my height I bent my knees enough to get below the 5 ft 10 inch limit. Within about two weeks I was sent on a train to the Harlingen Army Gunnery School in Harlingen, TX.


It was hot and sultry in Harlingen and we started gunnery training immediately. They started us out with B-B guns and then rifles, firing at stationary targets. We then began firing shot guns at clay targets on the skeet range, which was a lot of fun. Next we began shooting 30 caliber machine guns, first at stationary targets and then at a sail attached to a sled which was towed by an Army truck. Later we fired at a sail attached to a remote controlled rail car that ran on a circular track behind a bank of dirt so that only the sail was exposed. This device was broke down most of the time. Instruction was also given in the disassembly, cleaning assembly and adjustment of both the 30 and 50 caliber machine guns.

Finally we reached the most crucial part of the gunnery course----Air -to-Air firing. One T-6 aircraft towed a fabric sleeve and gunner trainees standing in the open cockpits of three other T-6 aircraft in the flight would alternately fire 100 rounds of 30-caliber ammunition at the sleeve. The projectiles in each trainee’s ammunition belt were coated with a different color of paint. After each flight completed firing, the aircraft returned to the field and the sleeve was dropped and the hits scored by each trainee were tabulated. In order to graduate from the Gunnery School a trainee was required to score an average of 20% hits during the Air-to-Air firing. The pilots of the T-6 aircraft were flying sergeants.

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