Cadet Life

January 1942 - August 1943

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Betty Lou's memoirs: January 6, 1942.
The shadows over the land gathered and finally fell. First, the notification of Rarey's low draft number; secondly - wham! - Pearl Harbor; and, finally, Rarey's notice to report to a Greenwich Village induction center at 6:00 A.M. on a bleak winter day. And report he did, carrying his toothbrush and shaving gear in a shabby little brown pouch, a sketchbook under his arm, his pockets bulging with pipes, tobacco, pencils, and brushes.

Envelope Art
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Betty Lou's memoirs: January, 1942.
The envelopes of Rarey's letters were always a delight to the mailman. Generally in the upper right-hand corner (where all servicemen were instructed to write "free" in place of a stamp) he drew a little cadet saying "Thanks." And there were always airplanes zooming over the flap, parachutes in wild descent, and befuddled birds trying to find an empty piece of sky. Of course he was called upon to decorate the envelopes of other cadets, and the bird became so popular it was ultimately dubbed the Rarey Bird and became a permanent trademark.

First Trip to the Flight Line
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Rarey's letter: Primary Flying School, Ocala, Florida.
In the afternoon we went down to the hangars, about three-quarters of a mile from the barracks, for our first flight instruction. Each instructor has five students that he instructs through the whole period. After a few minutes of instructions regarding controls, he took us up one at a time. I happened to be the first of our five, so I hardly knew what to expect. It was quite a surprise when immediately after the take-off, he yelled back, "It's all yours." After several gruesome moments of experimentation with trial and error (mostly error) the ship finally leveled off at about 500 feet and I felt for the first time that we were out of the tree tops.

The Wedding
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Betty Lou's memoirs: June 6, 1942.
The class of 42J was the first aviation cadet class allowed to marry, although the cadets were required to live on base with off-base weekend privileges only if their grades were okay.

Formation of the 379th Fighter Squadron
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Damon Rarey: March, 1943.
Click on this detail to see one of my father's finest drawings of the P-47. In it you can see his pride in the newly formed squadron.

On to Volume I