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JohnnyGottaKeyboard
07-07-2012, 11:54 AM
What is the lowest non-commed rank that a person could have, during wartime, and be a navigator on a bomber?

Actually, my story takes place during WW2--and, yes, I know the US Air Force did not technically exist back then, but I assume the ranks would be similar.

So I have a character who enlisted as a private, but worked his way up to being a bomber navigator. Any idea of how high he would have needed to be promoted? I'd like him to have the lowest rank possible and still be a navigator.

Right now I have him as corporal, tho just in my notes, his rank hasn't come up in the ms yet.

Trebor1415
07-07-2012, 12:51 PM
You said "US Air Force" so that's what I'll discuss. Some of the details can be different for U.S. Navy, the RAF, etc, so don't assume all this applies to those organizations as well.

The B-17 and B-24 were considered "heavy bombers" in that they had four engines and could carry a relatively heavy bomb load.

The B-17 had 10 crew members. I believe the B-24 had either 9 or 10 (can't recall right now).

For the B-17 the Pilot, Co-pilot, Navigator and (usually) the Bombadier were officers. They would start as 2nd Lt.'s and eventually, if they lived, be promoted to 1st Lt.

(To get higher than that would be unusual as most wouldn't have completed enough missions before being killed/captured/ending their tour or having the war end)

(There were also higher ranking pilots who were also squadron CO's, bomber group CO's, etc, but I'm talking about the "typical" pilot who was only in charge of his own aircraft).

A Navigator would typically be a 2nd Lt at first and eventually be eligible for promotion to 1st Lt. after a minimum time in rank with good service. These are the two lowest officer ranks in the army.

The problem you will have is getting your character from being a private or corporal to becoming flight crew. He'd have to go from being enlisted, to becoming an "aviation cadet." That program turned men into officers and then into either pilots, navigators, or bombadiers. (Or they washed out)

Here's a great discussion that is too large to repost here. Read it carefully as they discuss both aviation cadets who were in the pipeline to become aircrew and those who were slated for "ground duty trainining" as non-aircrew specialists.

http://www.ibiblio.org/hyperwar/AAF/VI/AAF-VI-15.html

Here's some other good links

http://www.303rdbg.com/crew-duties.html

http://www.azcaf.org/pages/crew.html

http://forum.armyairforces.com/B17-crew-member-selection-m220688.aspx

http://www.398th.org/Research/398th_Links.html

http://en.allexperts.com/q/Military-History-669/2010/9/WWII-Bomber-Flight-Crews.htm

http://liberatorcrew.com/01_Home.htm

JohnnyGottaKeyboard
07-07-2012, 01:25 PM
Thank you so much for the detailed response. This part especially has pointed me in the direction I will clearly need to research
The problem you will have is getting your character from being a private or corporal to becoming flight crew. He'd have to go from being enlisted, to becoming an "aviation cadet." That program turned men into officers and then into either pilots, navigators, or bombadiers. (Or they washed out)
And your links appear to be a great place to start. The "aviation cadet" program actually sounds like it will fit perfectly--at least to my cursory understanding so far--and may even help overcome another (unrelated) minor logical hiccup that has been plaguing the plot.

Again, many thanks!

Trebor1415
07-07-2012, 01:32 PM
Reading through the stuff at the first link it looks like your character could have signed up as an Aviation Cadet, but might have been required to serve temporarily as an enlisted man while waiting for a spot in training. (I don't think it would be long enough for him to earn a promotion to Corporal though).

Here's some relevant passages from that first link:

"The examining boards had also accepted and appointed as aviation cadets many qualified candidates who, because of the inability of the training centers to receive them, had been granted furloughs in accordance with the post-Pearl Harbor instructions. Under existing regulations, aviation cadets as soon as they received their appointments were entitled to receive $75 a month, plus a daily ration allowance of $1.00. Since no immediate services were being performed by cadets on a furlough
* The exceptions included applications from 1) colored men, 2) those who had been citizens for less than ten years, and 3) those who might need review by higher authority.
--492--
status, such a costly procedure could not long be justified. In an attempt to reduce this needless expense, TAG directed that aviation cadet recruiting officials adhere to the following procedure: either 1) assign aviation cadets immediately to training, or 2) have them sign an agreement to serve temporarily as Air Corps enlisted men, or 3) place them on furlough as privates. Furloughed men, when called to active duty, reported at assembly points designated by corps area commanders. There, before shipment, they were appointed as aviation cadets."

and

"Other steps to increase the procurement potential included the lowering of the age limit for cadet training from twenty to eighteen years, a move authorized on 5 January 1942. This made available for flying training an age bracket which was not liable to the draft. Recruitment for aircrew training from the ranks of the Army, although limited to military personnel stationed in the United States, was also substantially increased after the war broke out.16 (http://www.ibiblio.org/hyperwar/AAF/VI/AAF-VI-15.html#fn16) The most important step taken to increase the procurement of aviation cadets, however, was granting authority to establish the Air Corps Enlisted Reserve."

And then the whole section on the Air Corps Enlisted Reserve is relevant.

JohnnyGottaKeyboard
07-08-2012, 02:17 AM
I also found this one: http://air-boyne.com/the-aviation-cadet-programs-1917-1965/
which discusses the AC program during WW2 (about 1/3 to 1/2 way down).

My thinking at the moment is that my guy was enlisted in the infantry and then recommended for the AC by his CO during 43. It fits lots of little historical details and manages to describe certain character attributes as well.

Thanks again.

MaryMumsy
07-08-2012, 02:57 AM
My Dad was a bombardier during WW2. He was in the 5th Airforce, 90th Bomb Group in the Pacific. They flew B-24s. His rank at the end of the war was 'flight officer'. At that time it was still the Army Air Corps. When he went back on active duty in 1952 it was as a 2nd Lt. He then went through pilot training. If you want info from someone who 'was there, did that', I can ask him questions.

MM

Trebor1415
07-08-2012, 12:27 PM
My thinking at the moment is that my guy was enlisted in the infantry and then recommended for the AC by his CO during 43. It fits lots of little historical details and manages to describe certain character attributes as well.

Thanks again.

I actually think that would be very unlikely. By 1943 the infantry needed more bodies and once you were in the infantry, pretty much that's where you stayed. Also, a CO isn't going to know a Private or Corporal well enough to recommend them for a transfer. (Unless you are talking about his Platoon Leader, a 2nd Lt, who isn't going to want to let a good man go *and* is so low in rank himself that his recommendation isn't going to carry much weight).

Also, why would an Infantry CO even care about recommending someone for another branch? And why would he specifically recommend someone for the Aviation Cadet program, when he probably isn't that familiar with it, and would have little idea if the character was suited for that.

I think having the character follow the progression described as more "normal" for an aviation cadet would serve you better, at least in terms of "how it more likely would have happened" and "suspension of disbelief."

He could be one of the men who signed up to be an Aviation Cadet, and was put "on hold" due to the lack of training facilities, and was then told he could (or "should")enlist as an enlisted man while he waited for a spot to open. That would get him into the military, give him a chance to go through some basic training, and give you an opportunity to show how well he adopted to military life (or not).

Heck, you could probably get away with him being temporarily assigned to an infantry unit, with their knowledge that he was waiting for a Aviation Cadet spot to open up, if you really want him to be in the infantry. (It might not have happened that way, but it's closer to "real life" and definitely SEEMS more reasonable than a straight up "transfer from infantry Private to Aviation Cadet on someone's recommendation" scenario).

In that scenario he may also have to "sweat it out" as whether he will be assigned a spot as an Aviation Cadet before something happens that would get him "stuck" in the infantry unit. (Like the Aviation Cadet program closing, or his unit deploying overseas before he gets his transfer orders, etc).

Another thought is that he could join the Aviation Cadet program, be told there are no spots available yet, and be requested to enlist as enlisted so he's "in the system" when a spot becomes available, and then, after he's gone through basic training, be held back as an instructor in some area (not a full fledged Drill Instructor, more like an adjunt instructor in some speciality) because of his proven ability in that area.

I have heard stories of guys who qualified as Expert on the rifle range being held back after basic training to act as assistant rifle marksmanship instructors for the next class, especially when there is a big surge in recruits, new training centers being opened, etc, which caused a related shortage in experienced instructors.

I've read of the same sort of thing in the specialized schools: Guys who did really well on radio theory (pre-war HAM operators usually) who were held back as instructors in that area or pilots being held back as basic flight instructors after graduation, etc.

JohnnyGottaKeyboard
07-08-2012, 01:02 PM
Actually there is no reason he needs to have NOT been in the Aviation program from the beginning...It was more my personal choice of him wanting to have a wider experience.

(I should also point out--at this late point--that the story actually takes place in 1947, so the war is over and his military service is just background that he discusses. He also lies a lot--he tells one guy he was an MP and a woman he was a mess sergeant and to another guy he even claims to have been one of the marines at Suribachi. However, despite his unreliability, I want to have his story clear in my head--and it does come out at the end that he took part in the bombing of Dresden--which is why I wanted him to start elsewhere as Dresden came very late and what was he doing for the few years leading up to it? He would have been 27 at the time.)

According the link I posted they were short of aviation candidates late in 43, which is why I was thinking a math savant might have been "recommended" to switch.

jaksen
07-08-2012, 05:13 PM
My father was an ordinary private, then a corporal and made a sergeant at Normandy for the simple reason that they needed officers as so many had been killed on the beach.

(I realize 'sergeant' is a noncommisioned officer.)

Okay, this is not relevant in some ways, but keep in mind that when the officers were all gone, dead, captured, etc., those in command needed capable men to replace them. My father was nineteen when he was put in command of a group of men, many older than himself.

I bet you could find examples of other men placed in officer positions - men who proved themselves capable - simply because those higher up had no choice.

Trebor1415
07-09-2012, 12:40 AM
According the link I posted they were short of aviation candidates late in 43, which is why I was thinking a math savant might have been "recommended" to switch.

A math savant would be a good canidate for navigator training in the Aviation Cadet program, that's for sure. Navigator training was considered more difficult than pilot training by most, due to the math involved.