Tales from a WWII Flight Instructor

Because Charles Blaker was a much-needed engineer back in 1943, he didn't have to go to war. But he decided to join the Air Corps anyway. He doesn't regret it.

"This thing really was a killer aircraft," said Blaker pointing at a photograph in an album of an AT-9 plane.

"It was rough. But, man alive, it was great to fly," he added.

He was 24-years-old when he signed on. He was rushed through six months of beginner and intermediate flight training on AT-9s and AT-10s.

"They figured this guy really is too old to put into combat flying. Let's just go ahead and use him in the training command. So they made an instructor of me," said Blaker about his graduation from the Air Corps.

He became a 2nd Lieutenant and taught more than 50 young men the basics of flying. He was based at Blytheville Army Airfield in Blytheville, Arkansas.

He loved it. One of the many bonuses was that flight instructors could fly anywhere on weekends as long as they returned Monday morning. He says he was a little embarrassed by how much fun it was.

"We were burning fuel like mad when people at home were limited to -- what was it? -- four gallons of gasoline a week I think. We were just burning everything up and having a ball doing it."

He was even allowed to take his wife up with him once.

"We felt kind of guilty because actually a lot of it was fun and other guys were going overseas," said Beth Blaker.

Charles said some of his trainees were killed in action.

"When you know somebody that well and have worked with him knowing that he is killed in the thing you trained him how to do is difficult to stand."

Blaker lives in Columbus with his wife. They've been married 60 years.

by Alicia Smith