David Hayward, a pilot in the U.S. Army Air Corps, takes the reader through his adventures and challenges as a young man serving his country in World War II. Would he "wash out" of flying school? Would he survive the dangers and fears of flying 53 combat missions as pilot of a B-25 medium bomber in the China-Burma-India Theater of operations? You will experience the thrill of his solo flight, the frightening day when a Japanese fighter plane flew alongside, an awesome flight over the highest mountains of Tibet, searching for an enemy transmitter luring friendly cargo planes off course, attacking enemy supply lines in Burma and along the east coast of China, and the sorrow of losing close friends. David Hayward tells of serving at Air Force Headquarters in Washington, DC, transporting VIPs on their inspection tours, and as courier to Chief of Staff General George C. Marshall. The reader will join Hayward in developing a veterans association and gathering at annual reunions, and making six return trips to China to relive the pleasant and the sorrowful. This story is illustrated with 119 images and conveys the thoughts and concerns of David Hayward through his most unusual experience.
Did the recording of my thoughts as I experienced World War II bring out lessons that would be useful later in life?
As I, David K. Hayward, author of “A Young Man in the Wild Blue Yonder,” progressed through the intensity of pilot training, the dangers and fears of combat overseas and the responsibilities of transporting high-level military and civilian personnel on their official tours of inspection, I encountered many difficult situations. Looking back on it some 70 years later, I see that some valuable lessons were learned:
1. On my first combat mission, when our airplane was straggling behind the rest of our formation, and a Japanese Zero appeared alongside our airplane, I thought to myself: Some problems in life are worth worrying about and some are not. This definitely is one that is worth worrying about. I resolved that I would never again worry about lesser ones.
2. The rigors of flight training taught us that if a task is worthwhile pursuing, one should do so with all his determination. If he does, he will have a greater chance of prevailing.
3. We were taught, when procedures go wrong for a pilot, they usually can be attributed to pilot error. So we became in the habit of making an instant analysis of the situation to determine where we went wrong, which was appropriate. But over the long term, such self-analysis could lead to unnecessary feelings of guilt and loss of self-confidence. A pilot had to resist that.
4. Pilot training can be so completely consuming of a person’s attention that, when he finds himself in a social gathering, unless others present are of a like occupation, he may introduce subjects of conversation that are of very little interest to his listeners.
5. Some phases of flying are highly routine, even boring at times. After takeoff and setting course for the destination, there is often very little for the pilot to do until it comes time for landing. Over the long term, after so many uneventful hours, the pilot can become complacent. I have observed retired airline pilots “letting off steam” by involving themselves and others in dangerous flying situations. A pilot must avoid that.
6. Flying in multi-engine aircraft teaches the pilot to be conscious of the welfare of other people riding in the plane. A fighter pilot may be primarily concerned only about himself and his airplane, but the multi-engine pilot must consider not only himself and the airplane, but the safety of the members of his crew who are completely dependent upon his decisions.
Military programs threw a great amount of responsibility on the shoulders of very young men. It was a great process for learning and maturing as we progressed along the way. And we learned to be humble in respect for companions who did not make it through the war.