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Civil Air Patrol
Oral History Interview

WNHC 30.86-1

MR.

WILLIAM M. GANTT

N AT I O N A L H I S TO R I C A L C O M M I T T E E
Headquarters CAP

C I V I L A I R PAT R O L
ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM

Interview

Mr. William M. Gantt

Col. Lester E. Hopper, CAP

Date: 22 January 1986
Location: Sea Island, Georgia

KNOW ALL MEN BY THESE PRESENTS:

That I, ~%/~ L L! ~'~ ~- -~7~/u7-7-- , have this day participated
in

an

oral-magnetic-taped

interview

with

~/,Z.E.~&~/~/'~/-~__

covering my best recollections of evnnts and experiences which may
b e

o f

h i s t o r i c a l

s i g n i fi c a n c e

t o

t h e

C i v i l

A i r

P a t r o l .

I understand that the tape(s) and the transcribed manuscript
resulting

therefrom

H i s t o r i c a l
I

do

will

H o l d i n g s .

hereby

I n

voluntarily

be

accessioned

t h e

b e s t

give,

into

i n t e r e s t

transfer,

o f

the

Civil Air

t h e

convey,

C i v i l

and

Patrol's

A i r

assign

P a t r o l ,
all

right,

title, and interest in the memoirs and remembrances contained in the
aforementioned magnetic tapes and manuscript to the Civil Air Patrol,
to have and to hold the same forever, hereby relinquishing for myself,
my

executors,

title,
of

and

strict

administrators,

interest

therein

observance

of

the

to

heirs,
the

and

donne

following

assigns

expressly

all

ownership,

on

the

right,

condition

restrictions:

)i [7

'd ~//" -~, ~

/ ~

' / ' ~ : ~ -

¢7
Dated

/
Accepted

on

behalf

of

the

Civil Air

Patrol

by
co

(-

D O N O R

C I V I L A I R PAT R O L O R A L H I S T O R Y I N T E R V I E W S

Civil Air
early

Patrol

1982

Patrol's

by

Lt

Col

National

o f

t h e s e

of

selected

The

Oral

Lester

Historical

i n t e r v i e w s

i s

members

principal

History

goal

of

of

t o

interviews
E.

Hopper,

these

C A P,

Committee.

r e c o r d

the

were

f o r

Civil Air

histories

The

initiated
of

the

Civil Air

overall

p o s t e r i t y

in

t h e

purpose
a c t i v i t i e s

Patrol.

is

to

increase

the

base

of knowledge relating to the early accomplishments of Civil
Air Patrol members who in their own unique way contributed to
the

defense

of

our

great

country.

Certainly

not

of

a

secondary nature is the preservation of the contributions of
individuals

as

Civil Air

Patrol

continues

its

growth.

FOREWORD

The

following

is

the

transcript

of

an

oral

history

interview

recorded on magnetic tape. Since only minor emendations have
been made, the reader should consistently bear in mind that he
is

reading

w o r d .

a

transcript

A d d i t i o n a l l y,

n o

of

the

spoken

a t t e m p t

t o

rather

c o n fi r m

than

t h e

the

written

h i s t o r i c a l

accuracy of the statements has been made. As a result, the
transcript
of

a

reflects

situation

as

the
he

interviewee's

remembered

it

personal
at

the

recollections

time

of

the

interview.

Editorial notes and additions made by CAP historians are
e n c l o s e d

i n

titles

also

are

b r a c k e t s .

I f

f e a s i b l e ,

provided. Any

fi r s t

additions,

n a m e s ,

r a n k s ,

deletions

o r

and

changes subsequently made to the transcript by the interviewee
are

not

actual

indicated.
interview

Researchers

tape

prior

to

may

citing

wish
the

to

listen

to

transcript.

the

S U M M A RY O F C O N T E N T S

In

this

oral

history

interview

Mr.

William

M.

Gantt

recounts his experiences while serving as an observer with the
Civil Air

Patrol

C a r o l i n a .

Coastal

S t a r t i n g

Patrol

w i t h

h i s

Base

e a r l y

16

at

fl i g h t

Manteo,

t r a i n i n g

North
i n

C A P,

h e

goes on to describe the day to day operations of the base.
His

evaluations

of

living

conditions,

activities,

and

the

command structure, augmented by his own feelings, provide
valuable

insight

active-duty

into

Civil Air

the

lives

Patrol

and

missions

personnel.

of

World

War

II

GUIDE TO CONTENTS

Page
1

E a r l y

I n t e r e s t

i n

Av i a t i o n

1 Joining CAP
1

Dealings with Draft Board

2 Assignment to Coastal Patrol Base 16
2 Entering £he Army Air Corps
2

Description

of

Base

16

3 Allen Watkins, Base Commander
4 Food Service
4 Living Arrangements
4

Transportation

5

P a y

6

Flight Planning

6 Position Reporting and Coordination
7

P a t r o l

7

Base

16

Patrol

8

Type

of

Operation

9
I0

D u r a t i o n
Units

In-Service Training
Flying Companions

II Recovery of Remains of CAP Personnel
12 Crash in Summer of 1943
13 Forced Landing at Buxton
15 Safety Equipment

16

Reason for Joining CAP

17

Radio Equipment

18

Corsair Crash at Base

19

Recreation

20

Evaluation of Base and Equipment

21

Volunteer Help

22

Evaluation of Watkins as a Commander

23

Evaluation of Operations

23

Arming

24

B o m b R e l e a s e Te c h n i q u e s

26

CAP Guard Patch

26

Home-Made Wings

27

Landing in High Winds

29

Carrier Incident

of Aircraft

CAP ORAL HISTORY INTERVIEW

Number WNHC 30.86-1
Ta p e d I n t e r v i e w w i t h :
Date of Interview:
Location:
Conducted by:

H :

B i l l ,

j u s t

t o

perspective,

g e t

how

William M. Gantt
22 January 1986
Sea Island, Georgia
Col. Lester E. Hopper, CAP

t h i n g s

about

s t a r t e d

giving

us

a n d

a

i n

little

p r o p e r
introduction

into

how you got into aviation in general?

G:

I

guess

o v e r.
Air

I

at

age

w a n t e d

Patrol

six,

t o

when

fl y

the

I

ran

a l l

war

outdoors

m y

l i f e .

started.

I

I

when

an

f o u n d

went

up

airplane

o u t

a b o u t

from

my

flew
C i v i l

home

in

Albemarle, North Carolina, to Concord and joined Civil Air
P a t r o l

a n d

l e a r n e d

t o

fl y,

a t

$ 5 0

f o r

t h e

fi r s t

That was in 1942, spring or summer of '42.
t o - -

w e l l ,

and

joined

the Army Air

the

fall

'42

call

I

of

me,

but

draft

board

said,

show

said

that

h a d

a

or

the

they
and

us

l i t t l e

said

summer

I

no

I

don't

of

'43.

swear

have

were

b a c k g r o u n d

Corps,

wouldn't

you

makes

m o r e

me

joined

sworn

difference

in.

in.

So

t h a n

t h a t .

when,

told
I

with

wasn't
us.

w e n t

probably

in

they

would

went

back

to

Corps.

sworn

Yo u ' r e

I

me

the Army Air
I

h o u r s .

I wanted to go

know

They

e i g h t

in.

not

the

They

They

going

to

the Army Air Corps, you're going to the Army, unless you can
do
A i r

something.
P a t r o l ,

Then

t h e y ' d

I

found

l e a v e

m e

out

that

a l o n e

if

I

u n t i l

went
I

g o t

with

the

c a l l e d .

to apply to go to CAP at Manteo, Base 16. They had no

Civil
I went

Gantt

openings for anybody to fly, but they would take me down there
as

H:

a

guard.

I

went

down

there

originally

in

December

of

'43--

It would be '42.

G: December of '42, yes, and stayed on with them as a guard
until somebody quit and went home, for one reason or another.
I

g o t

H:

G :

t o

s t a r t

fl y i n g

a l o n g

a b o u t

A p r i l .

That would be April '43.

O . K .

F l i g h t

I

fl e w

r i g h t

O f fi c e r.

I

s e a t .

s t a y e d

I

w a s

t h e r e

n o t

a

u n t i l

p i l o t ,

s h e

I

w a s

c l o s e d .

c a l l e d

T h e y

a

s t i l l

hadn't called me when she closed. I went home and went to the
draft

board

and

said

I'm

back,

and

they

said,

well,

we'll

get

you. But within a week I got my notice in September--October
9th I was sworn in to Army Air Corps and away I went, so I did
m i s s

H :

t h e

Yo u

i n f a n t r y

g o t

t o

a n d

fl y !

I

g o t

L e t ' s

t o

fl y.

r e g r e s s

a

l i t t l e

b i t

a n d

t a l k

a

little about Base 16 at Manteo. How big a place was that?

G:

The

base?

We

were

on,

I'm

going

to

guess

the

south

side

of the Navy base there at Manteo. We had, probably in the
flying

troops,

twenty

to

twenty-five

of

us,

and

we

probably

had a dozen airplanes, including--the basic airplane was the
Stinson S-10A, but we also had a Curtiss Robin, Martin

Gantt

Bernstein from Greensboro had a Curtiss Robin. I made several
flights
We

with

had

a

him

on

Rearwin

patrol,

and

Cloudster.

scared

I

got

in

to
it

death
a

of

couple

that
of

thing.

times.

We had a cabin Waco, and then Allen Watkins had his Fleet or
Fleetwing, whatever that was called.

H:

G:

F l e e t

It

Tr a v e l a i r e ,

might

a i r p l a n e .

H:

G :

have
T h a t

I

t h i n k .

been

the

d i d n ' t

fl y

Fleet
o n

Travelaire,

but

that

was

his

p a t r o l .

Nobody flew that except him.

R i g h t .

H:

He

G:

Oh,

still

owns

great.

We

it,

by

had

a

the

way.

maintenance

section.

I remember the

maintenance chief was Blackie.

H:

G:

Remember Blackie's last name?

No,

I

sure

don't.

Names

are

hard

to

remember.

I

remember

the base commander was Watkins. He was a captain when I got
there,

and

got

promoted

to

major

shortly

thereafter.

Then

we

had a guy named Beeson, Raymond Beeson was his adjutant. I've
got a lot of these names somewhere.

Gantt

H:

Well,

if

you

could

round

them

up,

that

would

be

fine.

about your food and lodging and things of that nature?

G:

No

food

on

the

base,

out

where

we

were.

We

were

in

tar

paper shacks, that the wind could blow through, and you
brought
bring

your

food

what

I

food

out

learned

fifty-gallon

with

there
in

drum

the

in

you.

Yo u ' d

paper

winter

stove

is,

go

sacks
time

you

is

put

to

the

for

drug

your

meals.

that--you

wood

in.

store

know

Yo u

I

and

know

what

can

a

take

a

pimiento cheese sandwich and wax paper. If you lay that wax
paper on top of that red hot stove with a cheese sandwich on
i t ,

i t ' l l

that

t o a s t

a n d
up

sandwich

i t
the

w o n ' t

b u r n ,

paper

b u t

catches

t h e
on

m i n u t e

fire.

So

y o u

you've

p i c k
got

to

move paper and sandwich off at the same time, turn it over,
put

H :

it

back

To a s t

some

G :

I

on

t h e

day.

l i v e d

and

o t h e r

Where

i n

it'll

toast

s i d e .

did

M a n t e o

you

that

sandwich.

( L a u g h t e r ) .
live

i t s e l f .

during

Va r i o u s

Yo u

n e e d

period

that

m i g h t

of

p e o p l e

t o o k

t h a t

time?

i n

boarders, and I lived in the home of Mrs. Theodore Meekins,
one

of

h o u s e .

the
I

oldest

l i v e d

u p

residents
o n

t h e

there.

t o p ,

t o p

She

had

fl o o r.

I t

a

three

h a d

t w o

story
b e d r o o m s

in it, and out front was a Captain's Walk, where you could
overlook the ocean. And you got back and forth the best way
you could. There were some cars among the crowd and you would

Gantt

hitch

H:

a

ride

back

and

forth.

Now who else lived there? Did some others live there?

G : Ye s . T h e r e w e r e t h r e e b e d r o o m s o f u s - f o u r b e d r o o m s ,
with two to a bedroom, so we had eight in that house, that
w e r e a l l C A P.

H:

Now, were you paid or anything during that period?

G:

(Laughter).

Spasmodically!

H:

Spasmodically!

G: We were to get $8 a day, and the pay checks came
about--well, when they got ready to come, no regular pay.
When the word got out the pay checks were here, everybody
scrambled for them. The month's pay check could come any time
during

the

next

month,

up

to

the

last

day,

but

there

was

not

regular pay day.

H:
for

Let's
you?

go

to

the

What--

operations

you

got

up

in

side.
the

What

was

morning,

a

and,

normal
like

day

you

say,

you hitch-hiked or got out to the base the best way you could.

G: We had a kitchen--we had a dining room, hooked on to that
screened in porch, day-room type thing, where they had coffee

a

Gantt

a n d

d r i n k s .

never
,a
of

can

A n d

i f

y o u ' d

forget,

that's

of

for

figs

figs

for

the

g e t
first

o u t

t h e r e

time

I

breakfast. Allen

breakfast,

and

I

i n

ever

saw

Watkins

always

t h e

wanted

m o r n i n g - - I ' l l

anybody

was

eating

some.

He

eating
a

can

offered

me some, but I wouldn't take them. He was that kind of guy.
H e

s a w

years

m e

later

breakfast,
that

l o o k i n g

dawn

and
and

a t

didn't
you'd

patrol,

i t .

I

like
get

and

a t e

them.

out

you

fi g s

But

there

took

f o r

off

b r e a k f a s t

you'd

bring

t w e n t y
your

before

daylight

if

you

before

daylight. And

had

you

would try to get to whoever you were escorting right at dawn.
We u s e d t h e o l d M a r k V I I C o m p u t e r. Yo u p u t t h e w i n d i n .
Well, we didn't know the wind, so we had a road on the beach
that

we

knew

the

heading

for

that

road.

Yo u ' d

go

and

fly

that

road and see what you had to hold on the compass to stay on
that road, and then you'd put your stuff in backwards.

H:

That was your correction.

G : Ye s , a n d t h e n y o u ' d e n d u p w i t h y o u r w i n d .

And you had

your wind down on your computer, and this was the job of the
right seat guy.

H:

G:

That's the observer.

So

you'd

then

have

a

wind

to

work

with.

Yo u

had

to

in your position of course, every half hour, maybe hour,
anyhow.

Yo u

couldn't

hear

each

other.

There

was

no

call

Gantt

conversation between the airplanes.

We couldn't hear each

other.

Yo u ' r e

H:

G :

Ye s .

talking

W e

fl e w

about--you

i n

g r o u p s

always

o f

t w o .

flew

in

T h a t

groups

e x p l a i n s

of

a

two.

l o t .

I

couldn't hear the other airplane, and so you'd each back your
own wind in. There was no coordination between us as to what
you found when you flew up that road. And many a time the
radio operator would call back and tell us our reports were
fifty

miles

apart,

did

we

see

each

other.

But

we

could

bust

those buoys, you know you hit buoys out there, so you'd go
from

buoy

to

buoy,

and

we'd

hit

them

a

lot

of

times,

but

I

always thought we made a lot of mistakes. I never was a good
clean navigator.

H:

What

but

a given patrol lasted how long?

G:

Well,

think

we

normally

was

we

your

had

had
we

a

total

an

extra

range

had,

I

patrol

of

gas
a

think,

time,

tank

little
a

four

in

not

the

better
hour

total

over

the

water,

Stinsons,

and

I

than
patrol.

four

hours,

That

so

was

normal, especially if you had to go all the way down to Cape
Hatteras to pick them up. We patrolled from Cape Henry,
Virginia, to Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, that was our area.

H:

Basically,

you

were

doing

patrol

work

and

just

looking

for

Gantt

submarines?

G :

E s c o r t .

E s c o r t .

We l l ,

o n

t h e

t e l e t y p e

t h a t

n i g h t ,

w o u l d

come in, the freighter Santa Anna will be in your area at 0800
tomorrow morning, approximately twenty miles off Cape Henry.
So

that's

we'd

where

circle

it,

we

and

were,
we'd

and

circle

we'd
it

find

until

that
we

freighter,

knew

we

and

had

enough

gas to go back home, and about that time the next bunch would
come out, the next two airplanes would come out.

H:

G:

Yo u w e r e r e a l l y d o i n g e s c o r t .

Escort.

Yo u

were

more

a

deterrent

than

you

were

anything

else, because if a submarine saw you, he didn't know what you
could do to him. We knew we couldn't do nothing to him, but
he didn't know that.

H:

Yo u k n e w y o u c o u l d d r o p a b o m b i n t h e s a m e o c e a n .

G:

In the same ocean--that's about it.

H:

Did

you

make

one

flight

a

day,

or

two

flights

a

day?

G : Yo u k n o w I d o n ' t r e m e m b e r t h e s c h e d u l e . We w e r e o n s o
many days and off so many days. If you were off you had
n o w h e r e t o g o a n y h o w. Yo u ' d g o o u t t h e r e a n d h a n g a r o u n d .
Yo u ' d m a k e o n e a d a y, b u t I d o n ' t k n o w w h a t t h e d a y s o n w e r e .

Gantt

But I know they took all of us on the windiest day you could
find

and

soloed

all

of

us

in

those

Stinsons,

to

make

sure

all

of us guys, who had soloed, in the right seat--to make sure
all

of

have
that

us

guys

private
to

us

could

pilot's

while

I

land

that

licenses,

was

down

particular

airplane.

to

job,

get

there

the

as

a

and

guard.

We

had

they

did

They

had

to

a

school and they got a guy to come down and give us a test, and
we all passed our private written, and then I went back home
to Charlotte and got my private license there and came back.
When the opening came I had to have a license. But I don't
remember how many days we flew in a row.

H:

Did

you

stay

in

the

right

seat

the

whole

time

you

were

there?

G:

Ye s .

I

never

went

over

to

the

left

seat

the

whole

time

was

there.

H:

I

Who did you fly with more frequently than anybody else?

G: O.K. There was a guy named Hank Fenner, and you know, I
ran

into

him

after

the

war.

I

got

on

a

bus

and

he

was

the

bus

driver.

H:

S t i l l

d r i v i n g !

G:

Still driving. (Laughter). Hank Fenner, and Thompson, and

Gantt

I

don't

know

his

first

name,

'cause

all

Thompsons

are

called

To m m y - - To m m y T h o m p s o n , a n d H a n k F e n n e r a n d M a r t i n B e r n s t e i n ,
who was a young fellow, who owned a chain of jewelry stores
called

the

Jewel

Box,

in

Greensboro.

I

think

that's

the

main

ones, except Milton Arnett was another one. These are the
g u y s ,
a

t h e

nosey

m a i n

kid.

I

o n e s
was

I

t h i n k

young,

I

and

fl e w
I

w i t h .

know

I

I

w a s

made

p r e t t y

the

m u c h

mistake

o f

a

lot

of youth does. I asked too many questions, and I talked when
I

s h o u l d

but

I

got

h a v e
on

b e e n

good

l i s t e n i n g .

with

these

I

r e a l i z e d

guys.

I

just

t h i s

a s

imagine

I

g o t

that

o l d e r,
I

was

sort of abrasive to some of them, because they asked for who
they wanted, and the same guys usually asked for me.

H:

While

in

any

you

were

flying

significant

these

things--see

patrols,
any

did

you

sinkings,

get

chase

involved
any

submarines?

G: No, the only thing I really saw, we came upon a good ocean
full

of

ship.

H:

G :

wreckage,
Nothing

floating

that

we

wreckage.

could

Crates,

pinpoint.

We

boxes,

reported

pieces

of

that.

Do you recall when and where?

N o .

I

k n o w

i t

w a s

i n

t h e

n o r t h e r n

h a l f

o f

t h e

t e r r i t o r y,

so it was between Manteo and Cape Henry. I know that. That's
all I can remember.

Gantt

H:

Now,

to

put

things

in

perspective,

timewise,

I

think

earlier, before we started, you mentioned that you actually
got to fly when a vacancy was created in December of '42?

G :

N o .

waiting,

I

t h i n k
as

a

i t

w a s

guard,

a l o n g
going

in

a b o u t
at

A p r i l .

night

and

I

s t a y e d
sitting

t h e r e ,
there

all

night.

H:

Yo u m e n t i o n e d t h a t t h e r e ' d b e e n a c r a s h o r s o m e t h i n g .

G:

Ye s , b u t w e h a d t h a t b e f o r e I g o t t h e r e , s o m e b o d y h a d g o n e

in,

in the wintertime, and drowned, two people in an airplane.

H:

Do you recall the names?

G :

I

d o n ' t ,

a n d

I

d o n ' t

h a v e

a n y

p l a c e

I

c o u l d

g e t

t h e i r

names.

H:

That would have been in December?

G: November. Could have been November, could have been
December.

I was on guard duty one night. That's how I

remember this teletype came in. "We have found two bodies off
of the South Carolina coast, on a South Carolina beach, and no
heads, but they're wearing life jackets with your numbers on
them, and the numbers are so-and-so and so-and-so." [These
would have been the bodies of Lieutenants Frank M. Cook and

Gantt

Julian L. Cooper, who crashed at sea on December 21, 1942.]
So I immediately got a hold of whoever my officer was on that
night, and he got a hold of Watkins and they checked their
logs, and sure enough it was the two guys that had gone in.
Right after that happened everybody started carrying Bowie
knives

with

a i r p l a n e .
sank

too

them

T h e s e
quick,

something,

they

to

cut

g u y s
for

your

way

c o u l d n ' t

some

couldn't

out

g e t

reason.
get

out

of

o u t

The
of

the
o f

top

t h e

So

that

a i r p l a n e .

attitude

it.

of

they

hit

everybody

I t
or

started

carrying a Bowie knife. There was a big sale on Bowie knives.
Somebody

went

to

Norfolk

and

bought

the

store

out.

It's

a

fabric airplane, and they taught us where you could just cut
that

fabric

and

come

right

out

of

the

top.

Then

we

had

another one go down, and I know that J. C.--I don't know
whether it was J. C. Gwynn or J. C. Ford, but I know Gwynn,
last name Gwynn, went in, in the summertime, and they got them
out.

H:

G :

That would have been the summer of '43?

Ye s ,

have

I ' d

been

s a y

J u n e .

earlier

than

T h e y
that.

g o t
It

t h o s e
was

b o y s

warm

o u t .

I t

weather.

c o u l d
That

could

have been one of the vacancies, because he went on back home.
He

H:

didn't

stay.

That was Gwynn and Shields?

Gantt

G :

S h i e l d s .

i n

o r

n o t .

S h i e l d s

S h i e l d s

i s

t h e

w e n t

o n e .

i n .

I

T h e y

d o n ' t
w e r e

k n o w

i f

G w y n n

t o g e t h e r.

T h e y

w e n t
c a m e

in together and they left together. [Subsequent research
indicates

that

although

I/Lt

G.

H.

Shields

crashed

at

sea,

the

mentioned Gwynn did not.]

H:

But

that's

kind

of

what

discouraged

them,

after

they

went

swimming they went home?

G :

Ye s .

I

d o n ' t

k n o w

i f

h e

h a d

o t h e r

t h i n g s

t o

d o

o r

n o t .

never heard of him again.

H :

We l l ,

t h a t ' s

a

m a t t e r

o f

r e c o r d .

I just wanted your

version.

G: Somebody landed on, at Buxton, down close to Diamond
Shoals, Cape Hatteras. Somebody landed at Buxton, with a
forced landing, and the Waco, and left the airplane on the
beach, and the next day the wing was on the beach, the wheels
had washed plum down under that thing. I remember that.
Sometimes I'll remember things.

H:

Well,

duty

than

that's
it

good.

was

So

actual

your

routine

searching.

was

Yo u

more

recall

of

escort

anybody

reporting submarine sightings or anything of that nature?

G:

I

recall

nobody

at

the

time

I

was

there,

I

recall

nobody

Gantt

s i g h t i n g
really

a

s u b .

weren't

I t ' s

s o

h a r d

looking,

other

t o

s p o t

than

s t u ff

for

the

i n

t h e

shape

w a t e r.
of

a

submarine under the water, that you could see. We weren't
looking for a periscope.

H:

How

about

survivors,

or

anything

like

that?

Were

you

all

involved in spotting any of them?

G: Never spotted any survivors, but one morning there was a
dozen bodies washed up on the beach.

H:

G:

At Manteo?

Well

several

the

beach

bodies

was

washed

over
up.

at
I

Kitty

went

Hawk. And

over

to

look,

there

were

and

looked

I

from a distance. But some of the guys got some money off of
them,

coins

what,

it

H:

G :

as

was

a

souvenirs.
foreign

I

don't

know

if

they

were

Dutch

or

coin.

That was found on the beach, not by somebody flying over.

N o .

I don't know of any bodies that were found by while

fl y i n g .

H :

Ta l k i n g

a b o u t

fl y i n g

o v e r

t h e

w a t e r

a n d

t h i n g s

what kind of safety equipment did you all have?

l i k e

t h a t ,

Gantt

G :

We

h a d

a n

i n fl a t a b l e

l i f e

r a f t ,

t h a t

w a s

i n

a

c a s e ,

a n d

you had a strap on it and you hooked that to your belt, so
that

if

you

crawled

out

of

the

airplane,

it

was

going

to

come

w i t h y o u . Yo u h a d a M a e We s t , a n d w e h a d a r e d l i g h t t h a t
would float that you'd twist and the battery comes on, and we
had

a

dye

b e l i e v e d

marker.
i t ,

t o o .

They
I t

told

us

w o u l d n ' t

it

was

r e p e l

shark

a

repellant,

s h a r k .

T h a t ' s

and

w h a t

we
i t

was, and I don't know, I made this statement to the CAP
meeting I went to over in Brunswick, we were too young to know
that it was dangerous.

H :

T h a t ' s

like

a

g o o d

providing

p o i n t .

tracking

D i d
for

y o u

any

a l l

d o

boats,

a n y

or

s p e c i a l

anything

p r o j e c t s ,

like

that?

To w t a r g e t s ?

G:

No.

H:

We l l ,

bit

o f h e l p , t h e n , f r o m t h e C A P, i s w h a t y o u s a i d .

G :

I

Ye s ,

don't

know

b a s i c a l l y,

I

d i d .

I

that

i n

we

y o u r

w o u l d n ' t

had

any

fl y i n g

t a k e

requests

t r a i n i n g ,

a n y t h i n g

for

y o u

f o r

i t ,

it.

g o t

a n d

q u i t e

I

a

w i s h

we had a more--I wish I had a camera. I wish I'd have made
pictures, and I'm encouraging my boy today to make pictures of
h i s

l i f e

a s

taught

me

did

in

go

h e

g o e s

military

o n .

T h e r e

courtesy,

the Army Air

Corps,

w a s

it

a

l o t

taught

the

only

me

C A P

d i d

things

people

f o r
that

that

u s .

I t

when

were

I

ahead

of me were the guys that had gone to the Citadel. Now they

Gantt

really had it. I was somewhere well above the average
clod-hopper and slightly below the Citadel guy, because I had
some knowledge and the CAP gave it to me.

Just

H:

G:

the

Because

h a d

t o

fi l e
be

off

a

I

of

wanted

r e g i s t e r
fl i g h t

top

documented.

to

e v e r y

p l a n

head.

fly.

If

fl i g h t

w i t h
The

your

t h e

war

Why

you

a t

scare

you

remember

t h e

F B O ,

did

l o c a l

on,

back

a i r p o r t .

b e c a u s e
was

join

e v e r y

and

I

CAP?

then,
Yo u

fl i g h t

felt

like

the

time

you
h a d

h a d
I

t o
t o

could

fly more if I had the CAP membership.

H:

Earlier,

I

think

you

mentioned

that

during

you

were at Manteo, you flew about a hundred hours.

G :

Ye s .

fifty-two

l o o k e d
minutes

t h a t
as

u p .

I

signed

fl e w
off

a

h u n d r e d

by Allen

I

wouldn't

mind

a

copy

of

some

of

a n d

Watkins.

the

a list of the NC numbers you flew.

G:

h o u r s

Yo u s t i l l h a v e y o u r l o g b o o k ?

H:

H:

I

I ' l l

d o

t h a t .

I ' l l

s e n d

t h a t

t o

y o u .

pages,

primarily,

or

Gantt

H:

Let

me

ask

equipment,
what

G :

you

We l l ,

you

you

and

said

i t

It

you

w a s

was

briefly

radios

repeated,

again.

something.

l i k e

you
low

were

t h e

say

talked

about

touched

on

not

reliable

o l d

it

We

real

m o v i e s ,

again,

frequency,

radios.

t h e

without

and

we

survival
I

at

o l d

that

a

it

from

time.

fl y i n g

being

had

take

m o v i e s ,

asked

trailing

to

say

it

wire,

copper wire with a leather cover, that you unreeled a hundred
feet of wire, and then you were talking with low frequency
with the home base. I know we were called WXDD, that was the
call symbol, WXDD. Now, the airplanes were called DD, DD8.
Well,

that

aircraft
any

got

to

be

Dirty

calI--WXDD,

formal

training

this

in

Dog
is

radio

8,

so

XD8.

they

Well,

work,

so

changed

we

we

didn't

didn't

it

to

ever

call

it

XD,

so

have
that

way. We'd call in: XD8 calling WXDD, and Carl Swaim would
come

back

on

the

radio

and

say:

Slow

it

down,

Bill,

I

can't

keep up with you. The radios were affected by atmospheric
conditions, and sometimes you had a real hard time, but we had
a grid that would go over the map, that they gave us a grid
every

day.

would

be

r e p o r t .

The

left

side

would

alphabet,

and

that's

S o m e t i m e s

y o u

j u s t

be

numbers

how

you'd

c o u l d n ' t

and

call

g e t

i t

the

in

a l l

top

your
t o

lines

position

t h e m ,

o r

they couldn't understand you. The phonetic alphabet needed
some work done on it, and you can see it was done. Then you
h a d

t o

r e e l

i n

t h i s

skinny

guy,

who's

h u n d r e d

f e e t

right-handed,

o f

w i r e .

using

his

A n d

f o r

a

left

hand

l i t t l e
to

reel

a hundred feet Of wire, that would get me winded sometimes,

in

Gantt

and

H :

the

K i n d

d r a g

G :

pilot

o f

o f

would

h a r d

t o

t h a t

c u p

p u l l

l i t t l e

T h a t

Ye s .

take

over

i n

and

finish

it

up.

t h a t

w i r e ,

e s p e c i a l l y

o u t

e a s y,

b u t ,

w i t h

t h e

c o n e .

w o u l d

g o

b o y,

i t

d i d n ' t

w a n t

to come back in.

Were there any

H : Yo u t a l k e d a b o u t t h e t w o c r a s h e s a t s e a .
others

there

G :

w h i l e

N o t

crashes.

The

that

I

you

w a s

only

recall?

t h e r e .
other

I

d o n ' t

crash

was

r e c a l l
a

a n y

Corsair

o t h e r
right

C A P
in

front

edge

of

of

Headquarters.

Coming in to land at the Naval Station?

H:

G:

Pulling

a

carrier

type

landing,

and

he

hit

the

the

runway, and blew both tires and started walking and then
flipped over and burned, and he had ammunition on board, a
fi f t y

c a l i b e r

s t a r t e d

p o p p i n g .

I t

w a s

q u i t e

a n

a ff a i r.

H:

Quite interesting.

G:

But I know of no other CAP--

H:

We talked about your housing and food. How about

Gantt

recreation.

G :

P l a y e d

What

did

s o f t b a l l .

you

I ' m

all

do

in

t e l l i n g

your

y o u ,

spare

w e r e

w e

time?

r e a l l y

h o t .

'Cause that's all we had to do.

H:

How

about

drill

G:

They

didn't

do

and

it

military,

there.

We

and

had

it

things

at

the

like

CAP

that?

meetings

at

home, but as best I can remember we had absolutely no military
d r i l l

t y p e

Yo u r

H:

G :

I

i n

l i f e

t r a i n i n g

j o b

g u e s s

w a s

t o

t h a t ' s

t h a t

a t

t h e

fl y

t h e

t h e r e ' s

b a s e .

a i r p l a n e s ,

w a y

n o

t h e y

n o t

f e l t ,

s u b s t i t u t e

t o

p l a y

a l t h o u g h

f o r

f o o t

I

m i l i t a r y

s o l d i e r.

l e a r n e d
d r i l l .

l a t e r

I t ' s

important.

H:

How

about

pilotage.

Did

your

professional

training

they

hold

for

classes

for

navigation

and

you?

G: The only classes they had was when they ran through, when
we

wanted

to

get

our

private

written. And

then

they

offered

the commercial written, and then they offered the instrument
w r i t t e n ,
you

were

s o
off

t h i s

w a s

duty,

t h e

you

l i m i t

either

o n

t h e

played

in on one of those cots and slept.

t r a i n i n g .
softball

or

R e a l l y
you

w h e n

crawled

Gantt

H: When you finished your tour, you know when the base closed
down, what did you do?

G: Well, I went back home, and the Air Corps called me within
a week, and away I went to Aviation Cadets. I've always
thought

about

the

C A P.

I

wanted

to

get

back

active

in

it

here, but I never have.

H:

Yo u o u g h t t o . A p p a r e n t l y, y o u d r o p p e d o u t o f C A P, t h e n

you

just

never

Never

did

G:

time

H :

to

d o

opinion. As
t h i n k

i t

come

back

come

back.

I

but

never

got

time,

L e t ' s

did

a

l i t t l e

far

w a s ?

I

as

to

saw

it

several

back

e v a l u a t i o n ,

the

base

C o n s i d e r i n g

after

into

j u s t

itself,
t h e

of

war.

the

old

crowd

from

it.

t o

how

f a c t

the

c o l l e c t
well

t h a t

i t

y o u r

equipped
w a s

a

do

you

c i v i l i a n

operation doing a military job, you know, with whatever they
had.

G :
the

We l l ,

l e t ' s

s t a r t

headquarters

w i t h

w h a t

building.

We

I

k n o w,

had

a

fi r s t h a n d ,

leaky

w o u l d

building,

an

b e
air

leaky building, because when the wind blew the dust came
inside. We had teletype, telephones, and the teletype was
constantly in use with ship movements. The guards all brought
their own 38 pistols, but they didn't know how to shoot them
and there was no arrangement made for target practice or

Gantt

shooting

practice

or

anything

of

that

nature.

They

had

several of the old townspeople that were working there too,
filling

in.

One

of

them

was

the

guy

who

sent

the

telegram

that the Wright Brothers had flown. Later he was on a TV show
about the Wright Brothers in the '50s.
[ N o t e : Ta p e c h a n g e o c c u r r e d d u r i n g t h i s s e n t e n c e . C o n t e n t
confirmed with Mr. Gantt by phone on January 25th.]

H:

G :

Some townspeople just came in and volunteered to help?

I

g u e s s

payroll

or

people

out

t h e y

d i d .

I

volunteers,
there.

d o n ' t
but

This

k n o w

i f

t h e y

there

were

was

retired

guy

two

w e r e
or

o n

three

Coast

t h e
of

Guard,

those
and

the

Coast Guard gave him a truck. He had a pick-up truck he drove
around in.

H:

How about your aircraft, were they in pretty good shape?

G: I think this guy Blackie was a good mechanic, because we
never--the only problem we had out of the whole time was those
two airplanes that went down with engine trouble, and the dirt
b l e w
the

i n

t h o s e

sand

wasn't

t h i n g s

blowing.

the

a l l

That's

greatest,

and

t h e

t i m e .

a

terrible

it

had

a

M a n ,

y o u ' d

problem.

lot

of

hours

t a k e

The
on

o ff

w i t h

equipment
it,

and

they

must have done a good job, because they always--they worked
long hours, I remember that.

Gantt

H: How well do you think it was managed--command?

I guess

we're saying, how good a job did Watkins do?

G :

I

t h i n k

h e

d i d

responsibility.
there
there,

had

his

and

he

a

He

g r e a t

j o b .

H e

was

a

himself

ear.

Because

would

talk

at

to

d e l e g a t e d

gentleman.

one

me,

time

any

I

a

The

was

time.

l o t

the

I'll

o f

lowest

guy

lowest

guy

always

remember what a nice guy he was. Some of the people under him
w e r e n ' t
didn't

t h a t

g r e a t ,

understand

i n

m y

e s t i m a t i o n

discipline

like

I

do

a t

t h a t

now.

t i m e ,

That

b u t

I

s t i l l

judgment

came later.

H: Well--quick background. Things had smoothed over after he
got there. There was some turmoil at Manteo before he came
down there.

G:

When I came, he was there. So, I didn't know about that.

H:

I heard there was.

G:

I

had

a

buddy

that

was

there

before,

at

the

old

place,

he indicated that it had some problems.

H: How about operations?
effective

and

carried

off

Do you feel like they were
on

schedule,

s t u ff . Yo u m e t m o s t o f y o u r s c h e d u l e s ?

and

all

that

good

and

Gantt

G:

Ye s .

We

It

really

had

anything
t i m e .

I

What's

be

schedules.
IFR

that,

t h i n k
we

our

to

like

effective

H:

met

we

to

were.

your

There

personal

didn't

us.

stop

kept

o p e r a t i o n s

Weather

winds,

going

d i d

High
and

r e a l

was

no

opinion

the

g o o d .
way

of

us

dirt

d o n ' t

much.

blowing,

airplanes

I

to

stop

got

k n o w

off

on

h o w

tell.

the

overall

effectiveness?

What good were you doing with a little old single engine
airplane out there against a submarine?

G :

I

t h i n k

p s y c h o l o g i c a l l y

w e

d i d

a

l o t

o f

g o o d .

We

k e p t

them under the water during that period of time that we didn't
have

people

in

the

regular

Navy

and Air

Force

to

do

it.

If

you keep them below the water, they don't have but so many
torpedoes and they'd love to get on the top and shell a
defenseless
kept

them

ship.

under

They

the

can

water,

handle
we

did

that,
our

so

job.

I

think

They

if

we

didn't

just

know

what we could do.

H:

Yo u r

G :

A f t e r

aircraft

I

g o t

were

t h e r e ,

armed

b u t

at

t h e y

the

time

w e r e n ' t

you

a r m e d

were

i n

flying?

t h e

beginning. They armed them sometime, I don't know, three or
four

months

after

I

got

there.

They

sent

two Army

guys

in.

One of them had a BAR--automatic rifle, that's their weapon,
and they did the bomb bit. They put them on and took them
off.

Gantt

H: Who operated that god-awful bombsight, the right-hand seat
or the left-hand seat?

G:

The

right-hand

seat.

But

we

never

had

a

real

bombsight.

We had a home-made thing.

H:

Well, that was what it was--a hand-made prism.

G:

Everybody made their own.

H:

Oh, they did?

G :

Ye s ,

rear.

I

m a d e

Well

you

m y

had

o w n .
an

I

s t i l l

arming

c o u l d n ' t

pin.

Yo u

h i t

had

a

a

b u l l

i n

propeller

t h e
on

the

nose of that bomb, that when she dropped, that would spin that
propeller,
explode,
a

w i r e

and
and

w i t h

it
you

t h a t

would
had

a

c o t t e r

fall

off

cotter
k e y

and

then

key

she

sticking

c o m i n g

i n t o

was

in

t h e

it,

ready
and

to

you

c o c k p i t .

had

We l l ,

i f

you accidentally dropped that bomb, the wire all went, and so
she

never

armed

herself.

But

if

you

were

going

to

drop

it

in

anger, you grabbed a hold of the wire and looped it around a
stub

on

bomb

the

fell

it

right

hand

pulled

that

side

of

the

airplane,

cotter

key

out

and

so

the

that

when

spinner

the

spun

off and she was ready to go.

H:

Yo u a c t u a l l y r e l e a s e d t h e b o m b w i t h a n o t h e r r o p e i n s i d e

Gantt

the

aircraft.

G:

Right. We had another trigger to release the bomb.

H: Do you recall whether or not anybody ever wrote a base
history

or

G :

N e v e r

N o .

anything

like

t h o u g h t

that?

a b o u t

i t .

I f

a n y b o d y

w o u l d

h a v e ,

t h e

two girls that worked there would have. They probably had
more sense than the rest of us as far as common sense is
c o n c e r n e d . N o b o d y e v e r t h o u g h t a b o u t h i s t o r y. To m o r r o w w o u l d
never come. Remember the song?

H:

Ye s . T h a t ' s w h y w e ' r e w o r k i n g s o h a r d t o d a y.

G:

That's

H:

How

about

insignia?

G:

right.

Like

No. And

been

nice.

commercial

if
We

base
a

I'd

insignia.

crazy

artist,

a

then

guy

this

you

have

any

special

duck?

known

had

Did

that

guy

what
was

was

a

I
an

know

now,

artist,

sign

I

painter

it

would

mean

have

a

artist. And

he

painted anything we wanted on our sheathes that we carried our
knives or on the handle. We could have had this guy painting
something on the airplanes, but we never had any of that kind
o f

s t u ff .

Gantt

H:

One

of

the

special

features

we

are

looking

for--there

is

in existance a thing called the CAP Guard Patch, which is
r o u g h l y

a

b l u e

c i r c l e

w i t h

a

p a i r

o f

c r o s s e d

i n f a n t r y

r i fl e s

and the letters CAPG around it. Did you ever see or wear
anything

H :

O . K .

like

that?

I t ' s

t h e

C i v i l

A i r

P a t r o l

G u a r d ,

w a s

w h a t

i t

w a s .

It was allegedly used by the guards at the bases, and since
you were a guard--?

G :

N o .

did

I

n e v e r

when

didn't

we

like

i n

a

o b s e r v e r.
sold

a

got

the

everybody
s o l d

s a w
to

s t o r e

half

go

of

N o w,

I

went

to

issued.

a

that

in

to

Norfolk

p a i r

a

h a d

they

d i d .

Everybody

flying.

wings

would

I t

t h a t - - n e v e r

o f

p i l o t ' s

c i r c l e
wing,

i n

t h e

too,

They
to

their
f o r,

m i d d l e ,

probably

a

as

y o u

w h a t

Norfolk.

looked

buy

w i n g s

t e l l

I

We

rinky-dink,
wings.
t h i n k

r o u n d
an

w e

so

They

a n

h o l e .

observer

T h e y
on

a

balloon or something, and we'd go buy those and come back and
that sign painter artist would take the CAP three-bladed prop
and

would

that's

cut

what

that

thing

everybody

out

had

and

for

solder

wings.

it

in

That's

those
the

wings,

only

thing

and
we

did that was sort of ingenious, was home-made wings.

H:

Nobody

liked

those.

I've

always

surmised

that

the

reason

Gantt

you all didn't like those wings was they looked too much like
the German wings of the period.

G :

Ye s .

T h a t ' s

a b o u t

w h a t

i t

They just weren't

w a s .

attractive.

H :

We l l ,

l i k e

a l l

g o o d

t h i n g s ,

t h e

fi e l d

w o n ,

b e c a u s e

t h o s e

wings went out, of course, and they did develop a better
looking

G :

set

Ye s .

of

wings

T h i s

i s

later

a l l

on.

p s y c h o l o g i c a l ,

a n d

t h a t ' s

p a r t

o f

preparing the troops.

H: Have you got any special anecdotes, any funny things that
h a p p e n e d t o y o u w h i l e y o u w e r e t h e r e ? Yo u k n o w, a n y t h i n g
happened to you on the way to work this morning or?

G :

T h i s

i s

h a r d

t o

j u s t

d r e d g e

u p .

I

t h i n k

I

t o l d

y o u

t h i s

morning, I guess one thing that sticks in my mind more than
anything is landing in those high winds, where they had to
have somebody standing there to grab the wing strut.

H:
it

Why
on

don't

record.

you

tell

That's

a

that
good

tale

one

more

time

so

we

can

get

one.

G: We had no grass on the airport, so when we had these high
winds,

and

I

didn't

know

in

those

days

what

they

were.

I'm

Gantt

going to guess now they must have been thirty-five knots to
f o r t y.
r i g h t

I t ' d

b l o w

o v e r

t h e

t h a t

s a n d

a i r p o r t .

u p

I t ' d

t o

a

t h o u s a n d

c o v e r

t h e

f e e t

w h o l e

i n

a i r p o r t ,

t h e

a i r

a n d

a s

far as forty miles out to sea you could see the column of sand
sticking

up

in

the

air

a

thousand

feet

high,

and

you

didn't

have to navigate home, you just pointed toward that sand.
Well, when you landed, they lined up eight guys, four on each
side

of

the

airplane,

right

at

the

end

of

the

runway.

Yo u

weren't going far. And whoever happened to be standing beside
the airplane when she quit rolling would jump up and grab the
wing strut, up next to the wing, and would just wrap his arms
and legs around it and ride there on each side to keep the
wind from blowing you over. And they'd stay on those wing
struts
and

H:

until

then

Of

you

they'd

course,

taxied
come

over

off

10-A was

a

to
it.

of

the

That

good

old

tie

down

was

tail

and

quite

got

tied

down

exciting.

dragger,

and

they

liked to weathervane anyway.

G :

I t

h a d

a

b i g

o l d

t a i l

o n

t h a t

t h i n g ,

a n d

a

b i g

f u s e l a g e ,

and the wind would really push you around. Funny things that
might have happened, well, not CAP-related. Well, we were at
the end of a runway, well, I'm going to guess, Manteo runways,
we were probably at the end of runway 16. One day a Grumman
Hellcat shot a long landing and decided to go around, and
didn't,

and

he

came

past

us

about

ten

feet

in

the

air

and

right down through the woods he went, this bang, crash, bang,

Gantt

down into those woods on the other side of our headquarters
building,

and

a

dozen

of

us

started

running

over

there,

just

sure he was dead, and the guy meets us walking out, shaking
like

a

leaf,

wanting

to

know

if

anybody

had

a

cigarette.

His

airplane was smashed up good down in the woods. But I don't
know of any CAP-related happenings.

H :

L e t

s t o r y.

m e

a s k

T h e r e ' s

y o u
a

a

s p e c i fi c ,

s t o r y

t h a t

j u s t

fl o a t s

t o

s e e

a r o u n d

i f

a t

I

c a n

fi l l

M a n t e o ,

o u t

a

t h a t ,

an--I'm going to call him an Englishman or a Canadian, or
something, was flying Coastal Patrol with you all down there,
and he lost an engine while he was either escorting or a
carrier happened to be near, and the carrier had been damaged
in

the

Pacific

and

was

on

its

way

back

to

the

shipyard

to

be

repaired, and he made an emergency landing on the carrier. Do
you recall anything about that story?

G :

N o .

N o ,

happen.

H:

G :

Well,

I t ' s

those
in

I

d o n ' t

just

it's

can't

just

p o s s i b l e .
carrier

the

They

I

tracking

or

one

people

us

they

bring

I t ' s

beginning.

tracked

r e c a l l .

of

B u t

that

didn't

every
didn't

one

those

p o s s i b l e

They

t h a t

d o e s n ' t

heard

t o

d e g r e e ,

like

us

flying

some

their

guns

on

time,

they

were

either

us.

d i d n ' t

us

place.

t h e n

around

kept

trust

i t

up.

I've

a

m e a n

all

a g a i n ,

their
the

just

ships

time.

practicing

Gantt

H:

O r

a

G:

Ye s .

l i t t l e

But

o f

the

b o t h .

word

was

stay

away,

don't

mess

with

the

carriers.

H:

That may have been because this incident happened earlier,

and

they swore they'd shoot you down next time.

G:

Well,

H :

we

O . K .

time,

were

Yo u ' d

so

let

short

of

carriers

m e n t i o n e d

me

just

give

t h a t
you

at

that

y o u ' r e

one

a

more

time

l i t t l e

shot.

too.

b i t

Yo u

s h o r t

got

o f

anything

else you'd like to add?

G :
to

I

d o n ' t

find

you're
I've

e v e n

some

things.

smart,

got

to

k n o w

you

get

w h a t

Yo u

just

the

I ' v e

know,

throw

suitcase

s a i d
as

n o w.

you

go

everything
out,

open

I ' l l

m a k e

through
into

up,

a

and

a n

life,

e ff o r t
if

suitcase,
haul

all

so

that

junk out.

H:

We

sincerely

interview
t o u c h .

A s

with
I

review on it.

appreciate

you,

s a y,

and

w e ' l l

if

the

you

opportunity
think

e v e n t u a l l y

of

g i v e

to

do

the

anything,

we'll

i t

a n d

t o

y o u

be
g e t

in
y o u r