Sunday, February 04, 2007

Torpedo Squadron 8: Part Three

continued from previous post. The third part of an eight part series.


Ensign George H. (“Tex”) Gay hailed from Houston and had spent three-and one-half years at Texas A. & M., where any student can tell you the number of officers his institution has sent to the armed forces. In true Texas A. & M. tradition, Tex Gay quit school in 1940 to join the Army Air Corps, but the Air Corps medical officers decided that his heart did not score high enough in the Schneider test. They told him he had apparently spent too much time at a desk. After six months of work in the field with a construction gang he took another examination, but he was told he would never make a pilot. A year later, however, the Navy decided he was pilot-officer material and he entered the Navy’s flying school at Miami. In October 1941 he was commissioned, and a month later he joined Torpedo 8.

Such were the flying members of Torpedo 8. The Skipper, as they invariably called Lieut. Commander Waldron, treated them like a father and, in turn, they gave him everything they had. They used to say of him that he apparently had been flying torpedo planes while the Wright brothers were still “batting the breeze.” When he yelled at them, “Don’t sit there fat, dumb and happy—do something,” they moved. He made them fly four hours in the morning and four hours in the afternoon and had them on four hours of duty after that. He never failed to impress upon them that there was a job to be done and little time to do it in. When things went bad, he and his lively brunette wife, Adelaide, would throw a tremendous binge for them. If they had to get into Norfolk and lacked transportation, they could use the Skipper’s Lincoln Zephyr. When the Skipper spoke of severe difficulties in his last message to them, the boys knew what he meant. He meant red tape, delays, insufficient equipment, lack of ammunition and even torpedoes to practice with. He meant the farmers of the Norfolk countryside who, thoughtless of what the boys were being trained for, complained that their low flying on practice torpedo run-ins was causing their cows to give sour milk, as though the sweet state of their milk had to be preserved along with democracy. Several months later, though, they put these petty annoyances behind them when they steamed off, ultimately to join the enemy in battle.

But in the timetable of war, schedules are flexible and Torpedo 8’s first taste of battle was still months away. Each dawn and each dusk they spent hours in the ready room aboard the carrier, hoping that the enemy would appear. The afternoons they spent at lectures, cramming in more tactical knowledge. They were ready, their planes were ready. Let the enemy show himself.

Life August 31, 1942

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