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A LOOK BACK AT WORLD WAR II AIR CADET TRAINING IN SOUTH CENTRAL FLORIDA Presented at Jewish Family & Children’s Service (JFCS) by Tod Roberts, Editor October.

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Presentation on theme: "A LOOK BACK AT WORLD WAR II AIR CADET TRAINING IN SOUTH CENTRAL FLORIDA Presented at Jewish Family & Children’s Service (JFCS) by Tod Roberts, Editor October."— Presentation transcript:

1 A LOOK BACK AT WORLD WAR II AIR CADET TRAINING IN SOUTH CENTRAL FLORIDA Presented at Jewish Family & Children’s Service (JFCS) by Tod Roberts, Editor October 21, 2009

2 RAF Wings Over Florida 21 Oct 2009 Slide 1 of 13 How the Book Came About Will Largent attended Arcadia FL Memorial Day service in remembrance of aviation cadets in 1990 Will had flown as a crew member aboard bombers which were sometimes escorted by British fighters He interviewed numerous cadets, instructors, and others associated with the training bases in Arcadia and Clewiston and began his manuscript in 1991 After Will passed away in 1998, I worked on completing the book and finding a publisher The book was published by Purdue University Press in October 2000

3 RAF Wings Over Florida 21 Oct 2009 Slide 2 of 13 Will Largent’s Service in WW II Radioman/gunner (Technical Sergeant) in 320th Bomb Group flying Martin Marauder B-26 serving in North Africa, Italy, and France Shot down 13 Aug 1944 while on mission to bomb Nazi gun positions near Toulon, France Initially helped by French Resistance fighters but later turned over to Germans because of severe wounds sustained while landing in rugged Alpine terrain Ollioulles Gorge as seen today (very different when Will parachuted near there 65 years ago) Will Largent in US Army Air Corps flight equipment

4 RAF Wings Over Florida 21 Oct 2009 Slide 3 of 13 Will’s WW II Service (continued) Held as POW in Aix-en-Provence Nazi medical unit commanded by German Admiral (Dr.) Karl Eyerich; Admiral Eyerich was the chief medical officer of the German naval base in Marseille Received surrender of Admiral Eyerich on 26 Aug 1944 as Allied troops advanced (the Admiral feared for hostile treatment of himself and his German subordinates at the hands of French partisans) As part of the official surrender, Admiral Eyerich presented his ceremonial officer’s dagger to Will This is likely one of the few instances in all of World War II in which an Allied non-commissioned officer received the surrender of a high-ranking enemy military commander Actual dagger is today in Crile Archives and Center for History Education at Cuyahoga Community College, a facility dedicated to U.S. WW II prisoners of war who were treated at the Crile Hospital (which later evolved into the world- renowned Cleveland Clinic in Cleveland, Ohio) Typical ceremonial dagger carried as part of formal uniform of WW II German Navy (Kriegsmarine) officers

5 RAF Wings Over Florida 21 Oct 2009 Slide 4 of 13 Content of the Book Historical background on U.S. involvement with British flight training (Lend-Lease Program) and on Arcadia and Clewiston as sites for flight training No. 5 BFTS in Clewiston began 23 Aug 1941; it was one of six British Flying Training Schools in the U.S. (other locations included Mesa AZ; Lancaster CA; Miami OK; Ponca City OK; and Terrell TX); training in Arcadia FL was set up through the Arnold Scheme (not RAF) The book contains profiles of 19 cadets, several flight instructors, and civilian support staff; more than 1400 cadets became pilots through the program from 1941 to 1945 Each 20-week course included 10 weeks of primary training (usually in the Stearman PT-17 biplane) and 10 weeks of advanced in the Harvard AT-6 monoplane Affectionate and often humorous accounts about the everyday lives of cadets and U.S. civilians, along with sad tales of those who did not return from war As a long-time journalist, Will understood how to tell an entertaining story

6 RAF Wings Over Florida 21 Oct 2009 Slide 5 of 13 Reception of the Book Cadets and their families embraced the project from the beginning -- many remain in touch with me today RAF and other veterans’ groups helped publicize the book Local recognition was provided through the Sarasota Herald- Tribune, Venice Gondolier, Florida Aviation Historical Society, local libraries, and historians Mark Baker, a PBS producer at WPBT in Miami, used the book as a resource in his documentary “The Flying Days of Riddle Field,” a video that was well received by PBS viewers around the U.S. a few years ago (this program is now available online) The book’s printing is now sold out, but copies may still be available from www.amazon.com and similar sources One can also download the book as an electronic file from the Purdue University library web site

7 RAF Wings Over Florida 21 Oct 2009 Slide 6 of 13 Everyday Cadet Life in 1941-45

8 RAF Wings Over Florida 21 Oct 2009 Slide 7 of 13 Everyday Life (continued)

9 RAF Wings Over Florida 21 Oct 2009 Slide 8 of 13 Everyday Life (continued)

10 RAF Wings Over Florida 21 Oct 2009 Slide 9 of 13 Everyday Life (continued)

11 RAF Wings Over Florida 21 Oct 2009 Slide 10 of 13 The High Price of War From 1939 to 1945, almost 71,000 RAF fliers were killed or reported missing in action; most of these (48,000) were bomber crews; 8,400 bomber aircrew were killed in accidents In the Battle of Britain (Aug. 13 to Oct. 31, 1940), an estimated 915 to 1,017 aircraft were lost by RAF Fighter Command and around 118 by Bomber Command However, Nazi Germany suffered its first major loss since mounting the Blitzkrieg against Poland in 1939 Prime Minister Winston Churchill’s famous quote sums up the bravery and sacrifice of the young RAF crews: “Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.”

12 RAF Wings Over Florida 21 Oct 2009 Slide 11 of 13 Local Sites of Interest In the British Plot of Oak Ridge Cemetery in Arcadia (about 50 miles from Sarasota, and the site of the Carlstrom Field air cadet school) lie the remains of 23 cadets who died from illness or accident while in training; here also is the grave of John Paul Riddle (1901- 1989), a pioneer in aviation history The Arcadia Rotary Club hosts an annual Memorial Day ceremony at the Plot, often attended by relatives of the RAF cadets from the British Isles and elsewhere My family planted an oak tree in memory of Will near the British Plot at this cemetery in 1998

13 RAF Wings Over Florida 21 Oct 2009 Slide 12 of 13 Local Sites (continued) The Municipal Museum in Clewiston FL (southern end of Lake Okeechobee, about 130 miles from Sarasota) contains several artifacts, photos, publications, and memorabilia associated with the 5BFTS (Number Five British Flying Training School) This was the site of Riddle Field, but almost no physical reminder of that facility remains today Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach (http://www.erau.edu/) carries on the tradition of founder John Paul Riddle, who is buried with the cadets at Oak Ridge Cemetery in Arcadiahttp://www.erau.edu/

14 RAF Wings Over Florida 21 Oct 2009 Slide 13 of 13 Additional Information MY PERSONAL WEB PAGE ON RAF WINGS http://home.comcast.net/~thorsdag/WINGS.html http://home.comcast.net/~thorsdag/WINGS.html LINK FOR DOWNLOADING RAF WINGS FROM PURDUE UNIV LIBRARY http://docs.lib.purdue.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1010&context=press_ ebooks http://docs.lib.purdue.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1010&context=press_ ebooks NY HERALD-TRIBUNE ARTICLE ABOUT WILL’S POW ADVENTURES http://home.comcast.net/~thorsdag/aug_1944_article.html http://home.comcast.net/~thorsdag/aug_1944_article.html CLEWISTON MUSEUM http://www.clewistonmuseum.org/ http://www.clewistonmuseum.org/ UNIV. OF FLORIDA PHOTOS OF 5BFTS AT CLEWISTON http://ufdc.ufl.edu/?s=clew&m=hrbh&t=british+flight http://ufdc.ufl.edu/?s=clew&m=hrbh&t=british+flight THE FLYING DAYS OF RIDDLE FIELD (PBS video; now available online) http://www.channel2.org/riddlefield/program.html http://www.channel2.org/riddlefield/program.html RAF MUSEUM WEB PAGE IN ENGLAND http://www.rafmuseum.org.uk/ http://www.rafmuseum.org.uk/ MY EMAIL ADDRESS (please write if you’d like more information) thorsdag@comcast.net thorsdag@comcast.net


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