Personal Stories

Getting Organized

Early in January 1941 the Army Air Corps wheels began to turn and a few days later when “the smoke had cleared” a new Pursuit Group had been formed. This unit, then called the Fifty-Seventh Pursuit Group, was destined to play a leading and unique role in the history of the United States Army Air Forces.

The activation took place at Mitchell Field, New York on January 15, and the personnel were taken from several sources.

They came from the 8th and 33rd Pursuit Group and from many Army Air Corps training schools. Many groups were activated that day so each group obtained only a few experienced personnel on whom fell the task of developing an effective organization.

At Windsor Locks, Connecticut - halfway between Hartford and Springfield, Massachusetts – a new airfield was being constructed to vase the Fifty-Seventh Group. It was to be built in the tobacco section of Connecticut – a revolutionary idea in several respects. The landing strips, hangers, and installations were cleverly camouflaged, and from the air the entire area resembled one of the many surrounding tobacco farms. In August the Group moved into its new home, and after receiving additional basic personnel was ready to go to work.

The Sixty-Sixth Squadron had the grand total of four aircraft, three P-40’s and one two-place trainer, and the other squadrons were equally short. In those peaceful days aircraft gasoline and ammunition were scarce and flights were made for training and gunnery – far from an intense schedule. The big question in everyone’s mind was, “When are we going to get some aircraft?” and the general opinion was that all P-40’s being built were being shipped to China for General Chennault’s “Flying Tigers.”

Life on the base was dull and monotonous but the two cities of Hartford and Springfield became a lure to everyone during off-duty hours. The numerous insurance firms in Hartford employed thousands of girls, and most of the men in the Squadron were wined and dined nightly by the up-to-then lonely queens. On several occasions, dances sponsored by the various insurance companies were held in the exclusive Hartford Club and the Fifty-Seventh Group virtually held the key to the city.

There was serious work to do: Staffing with personnel, assigning them to duties, training “in house” or sending men to existing groups for training. A typical order was “Special Orders #104, Paragraph 11 of Air Base Headquarters on May 1. On the same day, duty assignments were affected by Special Orders #41 of the Group. A typical order of Aug. 7, 1941 related to training. A guard duty order identifies some of the EM’s of the time.