In 1942, Shaw attempts to enlist 500 mechanics

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One of the most innovative programs initiated at Shaw Field during the early stages of its development involved Shaw's need for aircraft mechanics. The Shaw staff realized that with the arrival of increasing numbers of aircraft, maintenance and repair would become a pressing concern. Mechanics, skilled in a variety of areas, were in high demand and difficult to locate.

"The Army Air Corps were offering men between the ages of 18 and 50 who want to take advantage of this final opportunity to not only enlist in the Army Air Corps but to pick their own field for on-the-job training; (they) should apply immediately at the recruitment office located in the headquarters building at Shaw Field."

Shortly after the inception of the program three brothers from Great Falls enlisted at Shaw Field, pushing the total number above the 200 mark. Cecil, Cyral and Joel Crosby were inducted joining their brother-in-law, George Parker, also from Great Falls. They, like the hundreds before them, were engaged in on-the-job training at the base. "Among those returning the Shaw Field for active duty were three Sumter boys, Chalmers R. Ardis, Alfred J. Williams and James P. Yates. In the latter part of 1942 William Davis Simmons of Darlington made his decision to join the Army Air Forces, becoming the 400th South Carolinian to be enlisted at Shaw Field during its special drive for aircraft mechanics and radiomen.

"Col. Burton M. Hovey Jr., Commander, wanted to be the first to congratulate the young enlistee. Simmons, who was formerly employed as an auto mechanic with the South Carolina State Highway Department, was born in Spartanburg, and attended school there."

One of the interesting stories related to this program involved a father and son who were both serving as aircraft mechanics, "Pvt. Alfred B. Capell, at 51, was seeing his second World War as a member of America's armed forces -with his son at his side. Here at the basic flying school in the swirling but systematized scramble to get hundreds of new pilots trained for combat, the Charlotte father and his 19-year old son are helping to 'keep 'em flying' (and) are enjoying the unique privilege of working side by side on important jobs."

The older Capell was assigned as a mechanic on the line, and was charged with the responsibility of seeing that planes which are used by the aviation cadets in training flights were fit for service. His son, Maxwell C. Capell, works both as a mechanic and as a dispatcher, with the two jobs equally important. As a dispatcher, he helps keep the flight plans in smooth operation, governing take-offs and landings to ensure safety in both operations.

THE PROGRAM PROVED SUCCESSFUL

"On April 10, 1943, Shaw Field graduated its first class of aircraft mechanics, according to Lt. Yates S. Howell, base engineering officer. Twenty-six enlisted men representing every flying training squadron on the field completed the six weeks' course of theoretical and practical training under Lt. Howell's supervision."

"With few exceptions, the students showed an eagerness to learn and an enthusiastic interest in aircraft mechanics," Lt. Howell said. "Their knowledge and skill will be an asset to Shaw Field's flight line." During the first four weeks of the course, the students were occupied with theoretical phases of aircraft mechanics, while the last two weeks were devoted to engine changes and 100-hour inspections. Lt Howell said that the inspections were made without supervisions and that when the work was inspected by the base technical inspector, no major discrepancies were found.

On Nov. 2, 1942, it was announced that William H. Dangerfield of Charleston became Shaw Field's 1,000th recruit. Lt. Eugene C. Pressler, director of Shaw's drive for mechanics and radiomen, was successful in doubling its quota of recruits prior to Nov.mber 1, the established cutoff date.

The information used to prepare this article was taken from the Item archives, as were many of the photos.

Reach Item Archivist Sammy Way at waysammy@yahoo.com or (803) 774-1294.