Excerpt from “Chapter 4 – Biloxi”

The Jolly Roger: An Airman’s Tale of Survival in World War II by William C. Atkinson

Excerpt from “Chapter 4 – Biloxi”:

Soon after the New Year of 1943, Pvt. Atkinson, dressed in his new uniform and carrying his barracks bag, boarded the GM&O railroad in Scooba and rode south to Meridian. There, he boarded a troop train filled to capacity with brand new soldiers and continued south to Keesler Field located in Biloxi, Mississippi.

Keesler Field was a new military facility built in 1941 and opened in early 1942. The Biloxi city authorities had offered the necessary acreage in a prime location for the base, and the Army Air Force accepted their offer over those of other locations around the country. The U.S. Government then directed the Army Corps of Engineers to build a state-of-the-art base on the site. Training bases were popping up all over the country, and the local economies of the selected locations boomed. Biloxi was no exception.

In addition to offering a Basic Training program, Keesler served as an Army Air Force Aircrew Classification Center. It was this Classification Center to which Pvt. Atkinson was headed. Also, the facility housed a B- 24 bomber Aircraft Mechanics School and kept six of the four-engine beasts on site for the mechanic’s training regimen. By the standards of the day, the B-24 was a huge airplane, and with its high wing and boxy fuselage, it had an unconventional appearance. This would be Pvt. Atkinson’s first glimpse of the behemoth, and he hoped he would not end up flying such a cumbersome-looking aircraft.