Journal Hiatus:
Spring, 1942 – Summer, 1943

Calling card

at home in HoustonDuring this time period Billy made no Journal entries. But between letters, orders and other documentation, we can construct at least an outline of his activities, when he was occupied with various kinds of training as an Aviation Cadet and subsequently as an officer in the Army Air Force.

He undertook Preflight Navigation Training at Ellington Field, just outside of Houston, from April until July of 1942, at which time he was transferred to Kelly Field, in San Antonio. (He refers to Kelly in one of his letters, where they "broke [his] heart" by making him a navigator instead of a pilot.)

The picture on the left of Billy, June, and her parents, Ed and Pearl Greenstein (Popoo and Momoo) was taken in 1942 in front of the Greenstein home at 2314 Watson Street in Houston, Texas. The month was not indicated on the photo, but it could have been taken during the section of his training which took place at Ellington Field.

He ended up at Hondo, near San Antonio, for Advanced Navigation Training. The picture above is his "graduation" photo from the Navigator School in Hondo where he was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant on October 17. From Hondo he was sent to Florida for advanced training and it was here that he joined up with the crew in whose company he would eventually fly to Europe.

navigation school graduation announcement
Billy 1942

To see more photos and other artifacts (diploma, "yearbook," graduation ring, etc.) from Billy's time in Hondo, click here.

We have only a few letters written by Billy while he was in the San Antonio area, but there are many more from Florida, mostly from the training base at Avon Park. He spent quite a long period there, participating in training flights, taking leaves with his buddies in Miami and on the beach, and being bored while waiting for an oft-postponed shipping out to the war.

Other information about this period in his military service can be seen in copies of the orders which we found, and on page 3 of Billy's Qualification Record, where you can find the most detail about squadron numbers and hours spent in various kinds of navigation training. We also have copies of some papers he used while in this training (these are PDF files):

postcard from Tampa

Here is a postcard Billy sent June soon after arriving in Florida, in October of 1942, before he started writing letters from Avon Park.

note on Tampa postcard

Click here for a gallery showing all the postcards Billy sent home.


We found this Florida highway map, the portion at the right indicating the region where Billy's training took place. There are many letters from Avon Park, and a few from Ft. Myers. None were postmarked from Lakeland, but he must have spent some time there as well. In addition to its being circled on the map, June mentioned Lakeland as being where she remembered him being stationed. The map was found in a box of photos marked "1950's," and for that reason it was not included in the original "edition" of the Journal.

Note the stamp at the bottom of the map at the left. I doubt if they had saving it for 60+ years in mind, but we're glad it was!

Front of Florida map Detail of Florida map


Mrs. Eleanor McKenna (wife of "Mick") loaned these four photos, which were taken at Palm Beach and dated June 20, 1943, on the reverse. They show Billy with some of his Avon Park mates, men with whom he would eventually fly to Europe. At bottom left is Billy; in the center picture, Mick is on the left and Billy on the right, with Fred Becker, who was a "Sergeant threatening an officer," in the words of Mick's caption, in the center. At the bottom right, Billy is standing with Fred Partridge (who would pilot their plane to England). [1] The picture at the top right features, left to right, Becker (who was also on the crew for the England flight), Partridge, and McKenna.

Billy at Palm Beach group at the beach
Billy and Partridge


Here are a couple of snapshots that June had of Billy relaxing on the Florida beaches:


These pictures attest to the fact that the young airmen did enjoy their time off at the beach, and at what might be a nice-looking Officer's Club. Billy is buried in sand at the left and is then pulled out from under it below, and I think that might be him in front of the building at right:

Billy? in Florida


Mick (Sourpuss)

Billy at Avon Park

These three pictures, loaned by Mrs. McKenna, were taken June 10, 1943, at Avon Park. At left is Mick (his own caption for this picture is "Sourpuss"). Billy is above and Billy and Mick are at the right.

Billy and Mick

The guys had to eat, too, of course. Here is a mess card that Billy saved from December of 1942:

mess card
mess card reverse

Here are three pictures Billy sent from Florida. Unfortunately he wasn't as good about labelling his photos as Mick was, so we do not know who the buddy is with him in the middle picture, but that's Billy posing with palm trees in both the other shots: [2]

Billy on the beach
Billy and unidentified buddy
Billy on the beach

More unlabelled scenes of Florida:

Beach scene
Buddy on bus
Florida scene

Here are a couple of postcards Billy sent June, showing some of the places he visited while on leave in Florida:

postcard from Miami postcard from Palm Springs
Click here if you want to see larger images of these cards plus the notes on the reverse.

[1] I am very pleased to have heard from relatives of Partridge, known to his family as "Ray." Sadly, he was shot down in Korea in 1952, when he was only 29. He had just made flight commander, and was flying an RF-51D Mustang night fighter with the 45th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron, 67th Tactical Reconnaissance Wing. His plane went down in Korea on August 10, 1952 while strafing enemy trucks on a highway.  He got a direct hit, and couldn't make the mountains into our territory. His sister reports that he was highly decorated in Korea.

Ray was the oldest of three children and got married when he was 19, before he shipped out. His sister, 9 years younger, gave me the following information about her brother, as well as the information about his Korea service above. He attended Gulf Coast Military Academy in Gulfport, Mississippi and was captain of his company the year he graduated. He received an appointment to West Point, but he didn't want to do that.  He wanted to join the Air Force, which he did.  When he was in advanced training while on a training flight, his instructor was threatening to "wash him out" when they got back to base.  Ray said, "Well Sir, you might do that, but first I am going to take you for a ride."  And he did everything he could think of to do, snap rolls, slow rolls, stalls, etc.  And the instructor said, "Partridge, anyone who can fly like that deserves to be a pilot."

His sister fondly remembers spending summers while she was a teenager with Ray and his wife, and she remembers him talking about his war buddies as close friends. It's such a shame that they can't get together now and talk over old times, but the next best thing is for their families to stay in touch, which, thanks to the internet, we are doing!

[2] These pictures might have been included in this letter Billy sent to Una from Ft. Myers, in November of 1942:


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