Pictured below is my maternal grandmother, Melba with her husband, my grandfather, David Warren Wilds. I'm not sure of the date of the photo, 1942 perhaps. At the time I originally published this, I wasn't sure where the photo was taken. My aunt (his sister) told me it was taken in Southern California, while he began training as a cadet pilot in the Army Air Corps (precursor to the U.S. Air Force).
David (or "Chubby" as he was known to his friends and my grandmother), was born in 1920 in San Benito, TX and grew up in nearby Rio Hondo, a neighboring town across the Arroyo Colorado from Harlingen. He married my grandmother August 20, 1939 and he was the love of her life. His best friend, Paul McMurtry, was a Navy Cross recipient for heroism on the USS Nevada during the Pearl Harbor attack. "Chubby" enlisted in the AAC in February 1942, by August, he headed out for flight training to Southern California, first, for primary training at Ryan Field in Hemet, CA, then to Minter Airfield, which was located in Shafter, CA, near Bakersfield.
Beginning with primary trainers at Ryan, such as the PT-22 Recruit, he graduated to basic trainers at Minter, like the BT-13 Valiant (or "vibrator," as it was nicknamed by the pilots due to how it vibrated in flight). In one of his last letters to my grandmother, he wrote about a rough landing on a muddy airfield which splattered mud inside the cockpit and onto his goggles.
BT-13A Valiant, assigned to Minter Airfield.
Minter, known originally as Lerdo Field (due to the highway nearby), was one of the largest training facilities on the West Coast. Where my grandfather would have gone to next was anyone's guess, as pilots were trained for fighting fighters as well as bombers. My grandmother did mention to me one time that his squadron ended up being assigned to the Pacific, where they flew P-38 Lightning fighter planes.
Condolence Letter from Gen. George C. Marshall
Among the heroes we remember on Memorial Day, I also remember my grandfather, a man I never knew but felt his presence though my grandmother, his mother, brother, sister, and also his best friend and fellow veteran.
To all who have given their lives while in the service of our military, thank you, for your sacrifice and your service. We will never forget you.