Tuesday, February 7, 2023

September 12, 1944

Cadet Beckmann's photos are dated later than any of the other hairy men in my St. Mary's Flight School collection.  That leaves me wondering if older men were inducted into the program early in the war, with later recruits entering as they reached draft age.



  1. That would be logical. It also has to be remembered that the USA's air force when war broke out in Europe was small to the point of being embryonic. Things were so dire in Britain that the Free Poles and Czechs were practising flight formations on bicycles. When public opinion had shifted sufficiently, there was also the Lend-Lease Act which threatened to contravene the successive Neutrality Acts. The British trained a lot of their pilots in Canada. The Americans would fly planes to the Canadian border, land, and push them into Canadian territory in order not to break the law. The upshot was that until the USA entered the war, American industry was working flat-out in order to produce enough planes for flight cadets to learn to fly. It seems that the USA Fleet Air Arm initially took commercial pilots and those with basic training first.

    1. If I may, I would like to commemorate those men who flew in the Battle of Britain - Winston Churchill's "Few". Without that victory, it is indisputable that the war would have been lost. Those eligible for inclusion in the "Few" were those who flew in a unit of RAF Fighter Command, Coastal Command or The Fleet Air Arm, as a pilot or aircrew, between July 10 and October 31, 1940. They numbered 2,917 Allied men in 71 squadrons. 544 were killed and a further 794 were killed before the war’s end. Those countries participating were:

      Great Britain: 2,333
      Poland: 145
      New Zealand: 126
      Canada: 98
      Czechoslovakia: 88
      Australia: 33
      Belgium: 29
      South Africa: 25
      France: 13
      USA: 11
      Ireland: 10
      Rhodesia: 3
      Israel: 1
      Jamaica: 1
      Newfoundland: 1

      "Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few." - Winston Churchill, August 16, 1940.

    2. The US Air Force was part of the Army until the late 1940s. A friend once took me to a lovely memorial for the Polish RAF flyers in West London.

    3. Yes, that's at Ruislip. The Polish community centre is on the Chiswick High Road and many of the Poles who could not return home after the war congregated in Ealing. West London at one time had one of the highest Polish populations outside Poland.