Ray's early years including military service
Contributor: afoley Created: 2 years ago Updated: 2 years ago
JOHN RAYMOND ANGUS 1922-1993
I was born Nov. 13, 1922, in Payson Utah. I am the fourth child of Bertha Hawkins Angus and John Ira Angus. I had older siblings Clifford Angus , and Lila Angus born in Lakeshore and then the family moved to the West Mountain area of Payson where Edwin Angus was born in 1920 and then I came along, and six years later Henry was born. My parents were pioneering along with other special families, the Freeman Birds, the John Hancocks, John Schoenfeld, the Mendenhalls, Wilsons and the Moores. My best friend was Grant Moore. He and I started first grade and had to ride the bus (wagon) to school in town. One day we decided to walk home, neglecting to tell anyone. It took quite some time for two little boys to wander thru the fields, with all the distractions of birds etc. When we got near we were met by anxious family members. Apparently everyone had been looking for us.
I took band class and learned to play the trumpet, I stayed with band on into Junior high School. It came in handy many years later, after I joined the service. I became the company bugler. Playing Reveille in the morning and taps in the evening. ....
In 1938 I entered High School. I really enjoyed the next three years. We had such good times at ball games and dances and parties. I was on the track team and enjoyed the competition and fun of Athletics. I was a Thespian, having one of the lead parts in the Senior play. I was Seminary class president in my Sophomore year and when I was a Junior I was on the Junior class council. As a senior I became Seminary Studentbody President. .
I graduated from Spanish Fork High School in May 1941 and the world was at war. There were no jobs around here and my family did not have the money to send me to college. My friend Ken Sheen was in the same situation so we decided we needed to learn a trade. Weber State College in Ogden was pioneering a new program that eventually became the Trade Tech college. It was part of the Lend Lease program. We worked half a day on government projects, and went to school the other half day and this way, paid for our education. We both applied and got in. We moved to Ogden right after graduation and lived in the dormitories at the college. In the mornings we attended classes learning auto body and fender repair. In the afternoons we worked on the construction of a school.
This was a new design and involved a lot of new building techniques to make it fireproof and involved steel door and door casings and etc. We were doing all phases of cement work , hod carrying for the brick masons , and anything that was needed. Ken and I finished a lot of cement and got very good at it. We also learned valuable building skills that helped us throughout our lives.
The dormitory blew down so we moved into Ogden and rented a room from a Mrs. Henderson. This was more fun than living at the dormitories. We were able to enjoy the time in town. We went to movies at the beautiful Egyptian Theater. We also qualified to work at Browning Buick for 2.00 an hour. We joined the Civil service and Dec. 7, 1941 the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor and on Monday Dec. 8th, Ken and I were called to work at Hill Field as aircraft Mechanics helpers. Our first project was working on repairing 1959 P-59 fighter planes to send to Russia for use against the Germans. We would finish them up, place the Red star on them and off they would go. Later we worked on B-17 bombers. For this we earned $50.00 a month. During this time we were working night shift so during the day we got a job at a cannery. We stood at the end of the belt and lifted the cans off . They really liked us because we could move more cans than anybody else. We were working hard but we had a lot of good times also.
I was called to Active Duty in Feb. 1943. I was sent to Buckley Field Colorado for 2 days of basic training???? This was all I ever had. We were issued our GI clothing, placing all of our own clothes in a bag. From this point on we wore only GI issue from the skin out. We also had our Aviation Cadet Physical which we had heard stories about before. That physical was the most intense examination I have ever had. They checked us completely from head to toe, inside and out. It was conducted in a huge hall with units of doctors and etc. at different locations. We soon discovered there was no place for modesty in the military. We had to stand in line and move from one location to another on command, wearing nothing...not even a smile. As the doctors would check us there was a person making notes on our charts and there was no talking. We only answered questions as asked and prayed we were answering right. They took our complete medical history as well as that of our families. They also quizzed us on personality traits, possible tendencies toward fear, boldness, anger, anxiety, calmness and a wide range of feelings. Then came the eye test. This was where a lot of the fellows washed out. Color blindness, lack of depth perception, Width and breadth of vision from eye to eye and etc. The last stop was the dentist. Some even washed out here because of bridges or whatever.. Anything that would distract ones attention, or cause pain , which could cause distraction which could lead to any sort of accident, could cost lives and airplanes.
March, April, May, June and July...1943
From here 500 of us were shipped to Springfield Missouri for schooling. We drew numbers 1-2-3-4-5..One hundred boys had l month of schooling, 100 had 2 months , 100 had 3 months, 100 had 4 months and I drew a 5 so I was one of the final 100 who received 5 months of training. On the train from Colorado to Missouri we had a chance to get acquainted a bit. I met James T. Akely from Coudersport Pennsylvania, Billy Bates from Dallas Texas and Daniel Boone from Littlerock Arkansas, along with a lot of other guys. The four of us became close friends from that day forward and spent all of our free time together. James, or Jim as we called him, had a special girlfriend back home. The rest of us were free and easy. We attended South West Missouri State Teachers College. Taking general education including a lot of math. This phase of our training was called pre-flight and discipline. We had heard stories about this also, but nothing, could have prepared us for the first five weeks here. We were immediately put in the care of the dreaded UPPER CLASSMEN. These were trainee cadets, just like us, who had just completed their five weeks as new cadets. We were directed to our quarters. Four men to a room. We were barely inside when we faced these stern cadets who barked orders at us from morning til night. We learned to make our beds so tightly that a coin would bounce, shine our shoes, hang our clothes in our lockers with all hangars in the same direction, all buttons buttoned, shoes perfectly placed with the laces tucked inside, books stacked perfectly, we walked the hallways within two feet of the wall, any deviation was reprimanded and demerits (or gigs) were issued. Demerits could result in extra duty on weekends or worse. Excessive demerits led to reassignment. We marched, ate, studied, and exercised with eyes always directly forward. We learned quickly to do as we were told. No questions or arguments because this only meant problems. These upper classmen were training us as they had been trained. It was tough but necessary ,and we would have to do the same for the next batch of cadets.
I found it easiest and wisest to do as I was asked. We were on an extremely tight schedule for this five weeks. We had to be up at 5 am, shaved, dressed and room clean, be in formation and march to the mess hall for breakfast at 6 am. We would then march back to the barracks and finish up our room, change uniform into athletic clothes and fall out for calisthenics at 7:30 am. We would then march back to our rooms, shower, clean the bathroom, get back into uniform and fall out, for a march to academic classes for a couple of hours . There were numerous times the entire group had to run laps around the parade ground because of some group infraction or other. I remember one night, after lights out, somebody rolled a bottle across the floor. We were all immediately ordered out of bed, at attention, and the culprit was asked to confess. There was no confession so we all ran laps, in our underwear. Sometimes it was ten laps, sometimes twenty.
We then marched back to the room to deposit our books, fall out and drill until lunch time, then back to the room for a few minutes and fall in to march to lunch. Meal time was another struggle. We had to keep eyes forward at all time. We marched into the mess hall, and forward ,until each man had a chair in front of him. Without looking down, we had to pull the chair out, slip into it without making any noise or bumping the man next to us, pull the chair forward and direct our eyes to our plate. While eating our eyes had to stay on the plate and our left hand must be under the table at all times. The food had to be eaten in "the square". Meaning the fork was lifted to the level of the mouth while still over the plate, then brought to, and placed in the mouth, at a right angle, then the fork ,returned to the plate in the same right angle.
The food was good and served family style but we could not enjoy it . We had to be careful ,to take , only the amount of food we thought we could eat, because, it was not acceptable to leave food on the plate, or to ask for more. It could be done, but one had to request permission, from the upperclassman in charge, and deal with the embarrassment, of his questions and commands. To do this I would say "Sir, Aviation Cadet Angus requests permission to speak, sir." The cadet officer at the head of the table would reply "Cadet Angus, you may speak, what do you wish?" my answer would be "Sir, Cadet Angus would like more potatos, please, sir." Then he would give the order, and the potatoes would be passed, unless...he decided to ask questions, like why I wanted more potatoes, and did I always over eat, and so on and so on. I really never did ask for more food. It wasn't worth it.
Then back to the barracks ,to brush the teeth, and fall in, to march to classes again. This was followed by more drill and exercises ,then back to evening mess hall. After the march back to the barracks we, were free from 7:00 pm to 10:00 pm ,when it was lights out. This three hours was ours ,to study or write letters. This five weeks was tough but it quickly taught us lessons, we would benefit by for the rest of our lives. I remember the first thing I did when it was over was get a really good look at everything around me. It had been so rigid ,that we had not even seen the base. Then, we had to be UPPER CLASSMEN. This was really not my favorite thing to do and I couldn't bring myself to hand out demerits, but I tried to teach the lessons that needed to be taught. From this point on our schedule was about the same but ,without the worry of demerits etc. Our training became more intense however ,and quite a few washed out at this time, because they could not meet the physical requirements. Also the academic classes took their toll.
Up until now, we had not even seen an airplane. We just kept wondering when we would start to learn to fly. Asking questions did not help as we got no answers. But finally we did start. April 2, 1943 I did my first flying in a Porterfield LP63..dual only. From then on we got all the flying we ever wanted. All summer long we trained in various types of planes.
August and September 1943..
From here we went to San Antonio Texas for two months. Here we took a lot of physical and mental tests to determine whether we would be a pilot, navigator or bombardier. Of course we all listed our preference, to be pilots. Then they separated us and we spent 2 months in aviation cadet center. Here 50 percent were washed out and went into the infantry. I was happy I did not..
October and November and December 1943..
Next we were sent to pilot training school in Tulsa Oklahoma for 2 months to learn to fly. We were training in Fairchild PT-19s. After 10 hours of dual training and ground schooling, I soloed on Nov. 18, 1943.
Jan 10, 1944 to March 1944
Then we were sent to Coffeyville Kansas for basic training. The day after I got there I received a telegram. It had been sent first to Tulsa and forwarded to Coffeyville. It said "Mother died Jan. 9th. Services Monday. Use your own judgment about coming home..Dad". I was shocked and sad. The guys in the outfit took up a collection for money to fly me home. I left the base by bus to go to the airport. I bought a ticket on a commercial flight. I got as far as Omaha Nebraska and got bumped. (a common practice during the war, if there was someone with higher rank or greater need.) I checked with the army planes and caught an Army C-47 flight . The pilot was really not supposed to let me fly with him but he winked at me when he said it, so I just went out to the plane and climbed on, then went back into the tail end until after the plane was in the air. When I finally walked up to the cockpit, he said, "I'm really glad to see you. I was beginning to think you hadn't made it aboard." The flight was supposed to land at Hill Field but it was too foggy so we had to land at Denver. The pilot was really nice to me. He took me to dinner and paid for a motel room.
The next day I cashed my airline ticket in and bought a train ticket to Salt Lake. Then I rode the Orem (Red Heifer) to Spanish Fork. Somebody gave me a ride to Benjamin. I knew I had missed the funeral. By now it was over and the family would be at the cemetery. I walked down the lane and into the house and came face to face with Mother!!!!! The telegram had been sent to Tulsa and since I had left for Kansas, it had been relayed there and in the process, the name had been changed from Father (being my grandfather) to Mother. Quite a shock. Mother had not been feeling well so she did not go to the cemetery with the others. I stayed a couple of days and then rode the train back to Coffeyville Kansas...for two months.
Here I had Basic Flying Training in BT-13's (nicknamed the Vultee Vibrator because it shook so bad.) This was the most scary part of my training because the BT-13 was a dangerous plane. After 10 hours of dual flying I had to take the plane up alone and do Spins, Schoendels (fly level then roll up to the top of a loop and roll over and land). We spent 2 months at this base then went to Victoria Texas. Leaving on March 10th 1944.
March, April, May and June 1944
Victoria Texas for advanced training in AT-6's. They had 2 seats and 600 horsepower. A nice plane except the landing wheels were so close together it was easy to ground loop (spin after landing). I spent 3 months here. Two months at Victoria and 1 month at Matagorda Island Air Force base in the Gulf of Mexico for gunnery school. This island was barely long enough for a runway, to simulate landing on an aircraft carrier. We lost several planes in the water.
We shot live ammunition, 30 caliber machine guns, two on each wing. We flew mostly single engine and Tactical Reconnaissance planes. During this time we had to get night flying time in. Here I graduated and got my wings on May 23, 1944, also my commission as an officer in the United States Air Corps. I was 21 and a half years old by now. From here we had a 10 day leave and reported back to Tallahassee Florida. While he was home, Jim Akley got married and brought Gloria, his new wife back with him. We were immediatedly transferred to Meridian Mississippi.
July 25 to Jan 1945
Meridian Mississippi. Here we were flying P-51s. 1750 Horsepower. We were doing night flying and a lot of gunnery and camera work. We would fly out over the gulf and fire on tow targets..8X16 banners being pulled by another plane. We had to take turns flying the tow plane. Each pilot had a different color bullet and with the tow target below and we above...we would peel off and fly down and fire at the target. We had four guns and 50 mm bullets. The colored bullets made it possible to determine percentage of hits by each pilot. One time I got about 70%. This was high. We also had ground gunnery. The hardest was firing at water targets because it was so hard to judge distance on water. Sometimes, diving at the water I got the plane wet from the splash of the bullets. We were at this base for 7 months and Jim and Gloria had an apartment in town. This made it real nice for Billy Bates , Dan Boone and I , because they included us, and our foursome became five. Some weekends we would stay in town with them. We would all help with the cooking and it surely beat staying at the base.
February 1945 to March.1945..
After six months at Meridian Miss, we had our overseas examinations and I had a bone obstruction in my nose. The main group shipped over and I had to stay behind to have nose surgery. My surgery was not serious and I was soon well and bored. I became a go-fer for the commanding officer , plus I was available for whatever else was needed. One time they had me test fly a brand new ship, a P-51D, right off the assembly line. They wanted me to take it as high as it would go. Seems like I got to about 50,000 feet. I remember I could see the curvature of the earth. This is about 10 miles . A really great experience.
One day the CO called me in and asked me to fly to Hammond Louisiana to pick up some strawberries and some liquor for a party he was having. He had managed to get a BT-13..Vultee Vibrator, for the trip. The flight down took about 3 1/2 hours. I called the tower and told them what I wanted. They had the berries and liquor for me. I loaded it on, gassed the plane and was about to take off when I was told I needed to get instrument clearance, because there was bad weather ahead. I got clearance and took off, and flew right into a cloud bank. Soon there was heavy rain. I thought, it probably won't last long, so I flew on about 15 minutes. I was still in bad storm but by now it was too late to turn back. I was really relying on my instruments and about then the rain, leaking into the old plane , got to my radio and it shorted out. I was scared but there was nothing to do but keep on flying, and praying. I knew it would take about 3 1\2 hours and I watched my instruments closely, making sure I stayed on course. When the time was up I was still in the clouds and my radio was still out. I put the plane in a bank and made a mile or 2 mile wide circle. About the 2nd time around, I heard static on my radio and it came back. I got what we called a homing station, not either airport, but it gave out certain signals. I finally made verbal contact. I didn't know who with, or where, but they asked me to tell them where I was, I said I thought I must be above the Meridian Airfield. He said he would try to help me. About then I spotted an opening in the clouds. I dived for it and there was the Meridian runway, right below me. I immediately made radio contact with them and they were frantic. Where had I been? The CO was in a panic. When I landed, he was right there in a jeep to pick up the berries and booze. I taxied on into the hanger. After that the colonel was very nice to me. If I had crashed or had any other problem he would have been in big trouble, so he was very grateful to me. I was supposed to pull some night duty ,but after that I had only the best.
April 4, 1945 ... through September 1945....my overseas experience...
We left Key Field in Meridian for Savannah Georgia then to New Jersey, then New York where we boarded a troop ship. I was one month behind my group. It took 22 days to cross to Europe. We were in a convoy of 25 ships and the war was really intense. We did a lot of heavy zig-zagging to avoid submarine attacks if possible. We landed at LaHarve France and part of the troops got off. We then crossed the channel to England. On the way ,our convoy was attacked by German U-boats. They didn't get any of us but we were told that our destroyer escorts, got a German Submarine, with depth charges. I was on the deck at this point. When the charges would explode, every soldier was on deck...
We landed in England on April 26, 1945 and went to Stone England to get assignments. I was reassigned to my original group, the 161st Tactical Reconnisance Group, 9th Airforce. I flew six combat missions from England. We were following the bombers over Germany to take our photographs of the damage. On May 6, 1945 as the war in Europe ended, we were going through London on a train, heading for an airfield just outside the city, where we were to leave for Paris the next morning. A bunch of us decided to jump off the train and go to town for the celebration. The streets were packed with excited screaming people. We made our way to Picadilly Circus and just went along with the crowd. You had no other choice. About midnight we headed out to the base. However, there was absolutely no transportation available. Everything was at a standstill. Knowing our plane was to leave in the morning we had to get back. We started to walk, finally a GI truck picked us up but we got to the base 2 hours late. We knew we were in big trouble. Technically we were AWOL. About then we spotted our transport plane sitting at the far end of the runway. We climbed the fence and raced out to it. Our loyal buddies had persuaded the pilot to have engine trouble...for two hours....
May 6, 1945
We spent a week in Paris and then May 11, 1945 went to Magnaburg Germany which was near Berlin, as part of the army of occupation. We stayed in an elegant old Chalet, kind of like a castle, where some wealthy family had lived. The German army had used it for officers quarters so we just moved them out and we moved in. However it was in Russian territory so we did not stay too long. On May 17 we went to Braunsweig Germany. We were based at a German airfield and this is where I caught up with my squadron. It was great to see Jim and Billy and Dan. We were only here a few days then we were moved to Weisbaden Germany on May 19, 1945.
The trip from Brunsweig to Weisbaden was through very pretty country and although much of it was along the super highway it was still a headache to our Transportation section.
Weisbaden Germany is on the River Main. Here we were at another permanent German base. It had nice, two story brick barracks. Our entire squadron was moved here. This consisted of 20 officers (pilots) and about 70 enlisted men. These were cooks, security, maintenance and etc. We were there for two months. During this time we had a lot of freedom. We also did a lot of flying, but not under combat conditions. No one trying to shoot you down. I flew over Berlin and as I approached I could see the buildings and lots of trees and such and it really did not look too badly damaged......until I got above it. None of those buildings had any roofs or windows. Flying over the Rhur Valley, which had been their industrial area, was even more amazing. Where there had been factories and cities, there was nothing but piles of brown bricks. There were a few brown walls standing here and there. Frankfurt was the same as Berlin, except the big cathedral was still standing. Also flying over Heidleberg was interesting. All of the bridges over the Rhine River were gone but very little damage was evident elsewhere. This is a famous old German city that had a huge university and on one hillside was the ruins of Heidelberg castle . I really thought Germany was a beautiful country. It reminded me more of Utah than any other place I had been since leaving home.
At one point Jim Akely and I , confiscated two motorcycles from some Germans ,and had them for about two weeks, and then someone stole them from us. Also at this time, mother wrote to tell me that Clyde Hansen, a friend from high school , was stationed near where I was. I wrote him a note and tied it in a handkerchief parachute, and flew over his base. I made a low pass and dropped the hanky on the parade ground. He tells the story that it landed almost at his feet. I flew off, doubting that he would ever get it. Also during this time I knew Ken Sheen was at Alkenbury near Cambridge in England. I flew in and landed my little P-51 and had a nice visit with him, right there on the landing strip. He took some pictures of my plane then I was off again.
Weisbaden was a pretty place and not too badly bombed. There were some hot springs and Spas that we were able to go to. The weather was nice and the food fairly good. We were getting a little more variety in our diet now the fighting had stopped. We spent a lot of time playing baseball, volleyball, basketball and just plain jogging. Anything to keep us in shape and out of mischief.
July 1, 1945
We moved to Rheims France. Again we had a lot of freedom and were able to fly a lot. Also during this time, the combined armed forces had a big salute to Eisenhour over Frankfurt Germany. They called for every plane that could fly ,to be in the air that day. We were part of the 161st Tactical Reconnaisance Squadron. Three flights with 15 pilots in each. The planes were kind of beat up by now but 12 or 13 from our unit went up. Our commanding officer Col Rose said, "Now, let's fly close." We did...the guy next to the CO put his wing tip through the COs fuselage. Others had engine trouble. Some had oil on their windshield and etc. One by one they had to land. Of the 13 who went up, only five finished the flight. I was one who did.
After a time, we were told that we were being shipped to Japan. Our planes were to be disassembled and shipped ahead. I was trying to get my flying time in ,before the planes were sent. We would just climb in any plane and fly it until the gas was low, then land and jump in another one. I was in the air one day and the tower called to tell me I had a visitor, Clyde Hansen. I came in for a landing and as I did, my plane sputtered and died...out of gas. Thank heaven for Clydes visit.
That was July 4, 1945 and it was the last time I flew a P-51. The planes were disassembled and shipped to Japan. We had moved to Rheims France by now and we boarded a ship in Marseilles ,to follow the planes to the Asiatic Theater. We were being sent to Burma. We were heading across the Mediterranean sea towards the Suez canal. Aug 1945, the A-bomb was dropped and the war in Japan was over. Our ship made a U-turn and went out past the Rock of Gibralter and back to New Port News, Virginia, arriving there in Mid September. I was given a 30 day leave ,and arrived home at Benjamin Utah on Friday Sept 19, 1945. Two days later on Sunday I rode to Payson with friends and they introduced me to Fay Louise Daniels. Rex was a Civil Air Patrol pilot and had access to an airplane so we went for an airplane ride. I was a little nervous in that little flimsy plane after flying the powerful 51.
September 21, 1945
Fay and I liked each other instantly and spent as much time together as possible. When I first got home I was thinking some of re-enlisting. The Air Force really wanted me to stay in and offered some really good incentives but after being at home awhile I decided I wanted to get out and get on with my life. I had to report to Drew Field Tampa Florida. I left by train and arrived there on November 13, my 23rd birthday. I hoped to get released soon but time dragged and I wanted to be home for Christmas so I was able to get a 10 day leave and flew home for the Holidays. I decided to drive my car back to Florida, thinking I could sell it at quite a profit down there. However this was not the case. I needed a few more points for my discharge so I tried to be patient and finally on Feb. 12, 1945 I was discharged and became a civilian again. I loaded my few belongings in my car and headed back to good old Utah. By now I knew I wanted to marry Fay and settle down. She felt the same way so on Easter, April 23, 1946 I proposed and she accepted. We planned to marry in August. She still needed to finish high school.
(Note...in regards to my three years in the military. It was a hard time in many ways but it was also a good time in others. I hated being away from home and family and never knowing from day to day what was going to happen and it was something I would never want to do again....however...It was also an experience I would not trade for any other. The people I met and the things I learned and saw and did, will be part of me forever. I have always been grateful, I was never in a circumstance when I needed to harm anyone, but was still able to serve my country as I was asked to do. My plane was equipped with guns as well as cameras but the guns were to be used only in self defense. I was fortunate that the war ended when it did. I loved flying that little P-51. It was the fastest most sophisticated plane produced up to then. In later years I flew in many kinds of planes but never saw one that could replace the P-51 in my memories. Its powerful Rolls Royce engine produced a sound that would turn heads any day. It was said the enemy peoples knew and feared that sound. Facing the future and knowing you are going to have to help fight a war is not something anyone loved doing but to be a pilot was as good as it got. Those of us in planes did not have to face the dangers and horror of face to face combat. We were relatively safe in the air. We flew under the flak and over the light arms fire. Enemy aircraft were no problem when you were flying a P-51. Our job was worthwhile and we formed great friendships. Any one who flies a plane now, envies those of us who flew the 51's. We lost very few ships. And we came home to a country that treated us like heros. We had the GI Bill to fund our education and help us buy homes. And there were plenty of jobs available. About my buddies. Jim Akely stayed in the Reserves and was recalled for the Korean war. He became an instructor and one of his students froze at the stick and they went into a spin and crashed. We still exchange Christmas cards with Gloria. I never could find Billy Bates. He didn't write me and all of my cards came back. I visited with Dan Boone in Arkansas in 1996.)
By now my brothers Eddie and Clifford were both back home. Mom and dad were happy to have their family home again. My younger brother Henry was still in High School and I settled down at home in Benjamin as well.