Pilots flew and fought with infantry
I got married (to his late wife Margaret) when I was flying in
civilian pilot training. I soloed the weekend we got married. We had
the weekend together and I went into the Army. She went to Lindsey,
Okla. and started as a clerk for broomcorn buyers.
Vanatta joined the Army Air Corps glider school and found himself back
in class learning powered flight again on the PT-19 trainer. He was
stationed near Reese Air Force Base, Lubbock, Texas while in his primary
The old glider pilots are dying off too fast and Texas Tech has
a school to train museum curators. So they agreed to take the glider
museum and run for perpetuity, Vannatta explained. I was
warranted by congress as a flight officer and wasnt a G.I. long
enough to even get the Good Conduct Medal, Vannatta laughed. Flying
the combat glider was like trying to fly a boxcar, Vannatta remembered.
Vannatta went to North Carolina for advanced flight training and as
a pilot accustomed to flying in the left hand seat found himself flying
as copilot. We were flying into a pea patch in North Carolina.
There were tree stumps on one side and the airport on the other. He
(the pilot) was an inexperienced flyer, Vannatta said. My
old co-pilot was flying off our right wing. Our plane was sandbagged,
but he had a 105 MM howitzer on board. Hed never flown with a
load. When he cut the tow cable, he was coming right at us, Vannatta
I took the controls and jerked our plane right up, performed
a schondell maneuver to avoid the collision. That was a no-no in traffic
formation. Then I had the pilot rack the plane around and sideslip it
in for a landing. When we got on the ground, I saw the C.O. coming for
the pilot, but I went to the other plane. My copilot admitted hed
made a mistake; you damn sure did I said; then I went back to the plane.
The C.O. was still chewing on the pilot about doing a schondell in traffic.
I looked at him (the C.O.) and asked him; which do you want two planes
destroyed and four men dead or a schondell in a traffic pattern?
By March of 1945 Vannatta was in Europe, first at an air field just
down the river from Paris and then in England.
Vannattas flights corresponded with General Pattons dash
across Europe to stop the Germans effort to break out during what
would be called The Battle of The Bulge.
We just stacked the fuselage of the airplane, a C-47 with jerry
cans full of gasoline. Then wed fly up and land in a cow pasture.
Each plane had a nurse that flew with us. Wed off-load the gasoline
and pickup wounded, Vannatta recalled. After Germanys surrender
in the early summer of 1945, Vannatta and others like him were selected
for the expected invasion of Japan.
But they dropped the bomb first, so you know I really appreciated
the bomb, Vannatta said. Vannatta gave up ideas of engineering
and flight, returned to Cimarron County and took over the family farm.
My life didnt present itself as needing to get a college degree, Vannatta said. I would have liked to have owned a plane, but I couldnt afford that, he smiled
Boise City News