What Knowledge is Useful? > People
George Lombard on the "Umpteenth Fighter Squadron"
Well, when I went to Hanscom, they left, what is now Hanscom, they left me completely alone and I just—the School, the faculty left me alone. I spent quite a bit of time out there until I thought I had a story that was—I didn’t know if it was interesting of not. And I brought it back. I always admired Ed. He said, “Look, if you’ve got this, this is important.” And he said, “Here, look. You take my secretary and get that stuff ready for the next program.” . . . .
This was the “Umpteenth Fighter Squadron.” What I saw was, what I was able to get was an organization chart showing who was responsible to whom and where the major tensions in the organization were. And to simplify it, again, but to put it up the way I would. One was the squadron commander and the orders from Washington to keep the planes in the air. Because they were one of three basis that were supposed to keep airplanes over Hyde Park, Roosevelt’s, you know, summer home. . . . .
What it was, was a fighter strip in a cornfield, literally. The tents were up on a hill at the edge of a field. And then they just plowed out some of the cornfield and made two fighter strips, one north-south and the other east-west.
And against that keep the planes in the air was the adjutant and the old guard of the Army, the National Guard people, who thought it was awfully important to know who was on-hand, to have everybody lined up for drill in the morning. And to make sure that they carried their gas masks wherever they went. And, you know, you couldn’t keep your planes flying and do that other thing, too. . . . .
And I’d go around to the adjutant on his inspections and the colorful incident one time when we found a private out in the cornfield building a little fire and trying to heat some water in an old tin can. And the adjutant asked what he was doing and he said he was trying to get some hot water to wash his socks. And the adjutant said, “Well, why aren’t you on duty?” And the private said, “Well, I don’t have any assignment.”
And, of course, to the adjutant this was a terrible thing to have. He probably had tens of people around who reported in to the top sergeant. But the thing was sufficiently new and unorganized and the rapidity with which it expanded, that they didn’t have any assignments for them. And you couldn’t stop everything, bring all your planes down and line everybody up and count them off. . . . .
Because he had half of his top sergeants and a good many of his junior officers off on specialized training courses. And he had new ones coming in all the times. And sometimes their orders would come in a week later. So it was quite a problem. . . . .
I wrote this thing up just as I saw it. And it wasn’t until sometime later that someone took it down to Washington. But I well remember the day when a general called up Ed and said, “I want to know wrote all this up. I want him to come to Washington; we are going to have to court martial the commanding officer of the squadron.” And Ed had to turn that one off, which he succeeded in doing, all right.