Amazing War Stories from Air Force Cadets

John Jack Bertram, born during the dying days of the Woodrow Wilson Administration, spent almost two hours with a group of Air Force cadets from the ROTC at the University of Virginia, recently. John Jack Bertram reminded the cadets that the Army exists today for the same reason it did over 70 years ago: To defend this nation. John Jack Bertram’s Minds Sailed Back In Time, Bertram recalls some of the experiences he had during the Second World War to the cadets. While John Jack Bertram advised the cadets they were entering an Air Corps much more scientific and technologically advanced than it was back then, Bertram said attitude was what mattered. For his services, Bertram received the European Campaign Medal, the Victory Medal in World War II, the Normandy invasion medal, an Air Medal with five Oak Leaf Clusters, a Distinguished Flying Cross medal, and a French Legion of Honour medal.

The impressive accomplishments of the Tuskegee Airmen earned them over 150 Distinguished Flying Crosses, and helped to spur eventual integration into the United States Armed Forces. Trained at the Tuskegee Army Airfield in Alabama, the Tuskegee Airmen flew over 15,000 separate missions over Europe and North Africa in World War II. The 477th trained pilots that would go on to be legendary WWII aviators known as the Tuskegee Airmen.

A number of the Tuskegee Airmen would go on to have lengthy careers in the Army, including Davis, who would be the first Black general in the newly integrated United States Air Force; George C. Spanky Roberts, who became the first black commander of a racially integrated Air Force unit before retiring as a colonel; and Daniel Chappy James, Jr., who in 1975 would be the nations first black four-star general. In total, 66 Tuskegee-trained airmen were killed in combat in World War II, and 32 others were captured as prisoners of war after being shot down.

For the training facility, the war department chose Tuskegee Army Airfield, located in Tuskegee, Alabama, which was under construction at the time. There were pilots, present and past, on site to demonstrate to civilians and ROTC airmen alike the inner workings of every aircraft made available for viewing.

There were several other experiences that UGA AFROTC cadets had a chance to partake in, with the cadets allowed to shadow the entire security detail, from large, uniformed men who secured the entrances at Robins Air Force Base, to the dedicated officers who worked to coordinate all of the complex safety tasks that came along with the airshow, which featured active duty military aircraft such as F-16s, F-22s, and C-17s. He noted the workaday U.S. Air Force Academy environment immerses the cadets in the sights and sounds of military aircraft landings and taking off all day. He appreciated the structure that came with joining the Air Force ROTC, but also the unpredictability of being a brand-new cadet.

Formal flight training has to wait until after the cadet graduates from U.S. Air Force Academy and goes into active service. After the class of 1959s second year, 59ers assumed their roles as senior classmen for the incoming cadets, while Air Training Officers left the Academy.

In the summer following cadets second year, cadets took field trips to the air training command base, where they were given 10-hours of basic instruction on stick-and-rudder control. On a more hands-on level, the cadets took a sailing course, which, when completed, allowed them to proudly don a conventional air force navigation shoulder patch.

When the United States entered World War II, it became clear just how vital the distinct branch of aviation was to the Army, since aerial combat became an even larger and more significant aspect of war.

In addition to flying combat missions, the United States Air Force also defends the United States against cyberwarfare, with the entire United States Air Forces cyberwarfare combat wing devoted to protecting the systems and software that are crucial for Air Force operations and to U.S. operations. Notably, almost a third of all service members are women in the Air Force, compared with 22% of men. The Air Force womens ranks have almost doubled during my active-duty career, he noted, and now every career field that was formerly exclusively for men is fully accessible to women.

Retired Air Force General Janet K. Wolfenbarger graduated from the Air Force Academy in 1980, as one of the charter class of 157 women out of about 1,500 female cadets.

She recalls her father, a Air Force pilot, coming home from work one day to tell her that then-President Gerald R. Ford had signed legislation that allowed women to attend military academies for the first time in history. It is an amazing real-life story of a young womans struggles in becoming a female air force cadet. Chuck Yeager was already a skilled fighter pilot, having served in WWII during that time; he would later go on to break a few more records, flying more than 360 different types of planes, as well as serving in both the Korean War and Vietnam War during his 34 years in service.

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