WWII Letter from Fighter Pilot Training in Yuma, Arizona

The following is a transcript of a letter that my father (Gus Watts Allen III) wrote to his father from pilot training at Yuma Arizona in the early 1940's. Dad had dropped out of school, and was all of 16 years old when he volunteered for the Army shortly before Pearl Harbor. He set his sites on becoming a pilot, and in spite of the plane crash this letter describes, he became a mighty good pilot. He flew 121 missions in the ETO as a member of the Pioneer Mustangs (354th Fighter Group, 355th Fighter Squadron). 

You'll see some of the annoyance of the teenager informing his dad that it was not good form for a parent to request a leave for his son! And I'm sure that his mother (Annie Leona Cox Allen) wouldn't have approved of his language, but she had died some years before. I don't know if he was "trying out" his swear words on his father, or if he'd already tested those waters before.

There is no date on the letter, but the stationary indicates that it was written at the Yuma Air Force Base in Arizona.


Dear Dad,

        I'm going to write a letter that will answer all your questions now that I have time. 

I'll begin with my crash. I was ground strafing on the gunnery range. I dove my plane from 1500 feet to shoot the target. I was trying to get too close and I flew into the ground at about 160-170 mph. The plane hit flat on its belly, ripped the bottom out and started to cartwheel end over end. It tore the engine, wings and tail off.  I rolled about 150 yards and stopped.

       "God damn," I thought, "I'll have a hell of a time talking my way out of this." 

Then I tried to get out through the bottom which was torn out. I couldn't turn around so I lay back (upside down) and thought, "They'll have to cut me out with a can opener."

I felt the blood on my face and thought, "I'll bleed to death before these slow bastards get here." I pounded the glass side out and crawled out. They had taken one look at the plane with the wings off and the engine 50 yards away and reported me dead.

They got there expecting to pull a corpse out and I walked up and said, "Pardon me, sir, I'd like a ride back to camp." He almost fell over himself getting out of the front seat. My face was a mess. 

The Colonel gave me hell for tearing up a plane and I was in the hospital for two days under observation, but besides 9 or 10 stitches on my face I'm the same as ever.

P. S. I'm (illegible) aerial gunner so I don't feel bad.

I graduate and get my wings on the 20th. I don't know where I'll go or whether I'll get a leave. I doubt it though.

I cashed my bonds to help pay for my uniform. It has cost $205.00 so far and I'm not through yet.

I got the $5.00 you sent me and I'll send it to you as soon as I can get this check cashed.

It wouldn't do any good for you to ask for me a furlough. It's not proper etiquette to do that. I'll behave if possible.

I have asked for combat duty. I hate this kind of life with a bunch of yellow bastards afraid of a gun. However, there's no telling what they'll do with me.

I hope to see you soon.

Your son,



Live Bait!
WWII Memoir by Clayton Kelly Gross of the354th Fighter Group, 355th Fighter Squadron!

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