October 1944 - February 1945
Pyote Army Air Field - Pyote, TX
The flat, arid land in western Texas was ideal for long runways that were required for B-17 and B-29 training flights. The terrain was also prime habitat for rattlesnakes, leading to the base’s nickname “Rattlesnake Bomber Base.”
Training programs at the base started soon after New Years Day 1943, rapidly turning out crews proficient in hitting targets from the B-17 and B-29. Within four months of its opening, the Pyote Army Air Field had become the largest bomber installation in the country. Pyote trained B-17 Flying Fortress air crews in precision bombing tactics until the summer of 1944, when training switched to the B-29 Superfortress.
Despite morale problems caused by isolation and the shortage of off-base recreation, Pyote AAF achieved a distinguished record in molding inexperienced individuals into effective bomber crews. Time served at the base was bittersweet for the air crews, as it was their last stop before they headed off to war.
John arrived at Pyote AAF in October 1944. From a letter dated January 29, 1945: “Just flew a training mission, conducting camera bombing missions on San Antonio, Houston and Galveston, then landed in Dallas. Then flew 8 hours over water to train over Cuba.”