"Hello, my name is Edward M. Steidler and I was in training at the NAS Fort Lauderdale in WW2. I volunteered for the Navy at the age of 17 and applied for the V-6 program which was the Aircrew. Got accepted, then on October 5, 1944 I was shipped to Millington, Tennessee by train. This was the Naval Air Technical Training Center where we took our boots and learned how to take code, etc. The next step was Air Gunnery School at Miami, Florida. Finally, we went to NAS Fort Lauderdale to Air operations where we were assigned a Pilot and became an Aircrew. Here we combined all the skills including torpedoeing ships, ditching procedures, etc. I was assigned to pilot Harry Allen III, from Richmond, VA. I became the belly gunner, and John Payne was the turret gunner.
I thought our training was inconsistent, in that operating the radio gear was skimpy. The TBM had a radio setup called GP which had several coils that you plugged into the radio to set your frequency. Most of us felt that particular session was not very thorough. All during this training, John Payne was chronically airsick and would throw up. Usually on me. I didn't complain because he was the only support for his mother and she needed his flight pay.
Remembering Flight 19 incident: On 5 December 1945, the Flight 19 incident occurred. The day was warm, clear, and beautiful. About supper time, a front came through and it became bitterly cold. We were told the lost flight would be in the water about 7pm. I remember how sorry I felt for them ditching in the dark, and even if they got into their rafts they would be soaking wet and freezing cold. Our crew took part in the search. As I remember, the total search was 5 days, and our crew flew 3 of the 5 days. Never saw a trace of them.
Hurricane Incident: I don't remember the dates, but a hurricane struck south Florida and destroyed a Blimp Hanger I believe, located in Hollywood. The personnel at the blimp base was set free and NAS Fort Lauderdale was to furnish guards, and we were asked to volunteer. I said I'm not volunteering for anything, but I was watching a movie when an SP came in and selected 12 of us for something. We were put in a dump truck and taken to the blimp base. The local officials put all their equipment in this immense hanger which was destroyed and burned up. The metal equipment was melted. All the food at the blimp base was spoiling, so the mess cooks set the grandest table of all time. From steak to lobster, but we couldn't even make a dent. On the way back to NAS Fort Lauderdale after several days, we were driven through a black district. The people were sitting in chairs out in their yards, their houses were gone, and the mosquitoes were coming out.
Transfer out: My pilot transferred to dive bombers which were a two-place aircraft. He kept me and let Payne go. We went into training near Virginia Beach, VA. We were assigned to Bomber Squadron 3, which was on the USS Yorktown. It was proposed to replace the SBD Dauntless dive-bombers with the newer SB2C Helldiver dive-bomber, but the Yorktown got sunk at Midway before the transfer was accomplished. The VB-3 planes were scattered over the surviving carriers, so VB-3 disappeared. We never got another carrier assignment so we stayed in training until discharge.
I have included my picture where I look awful young. I am 86 now and in fair health. I have been happily married for 65 years."
Aviation Radioman 3C