Spectacular color photos capture WWII air cadets in training

One year before the outbreak of World War II, a U.S. congressional board found that the Navy had insufficient training facilities to deal with a potential emergency demand for new pilots.

With the consultation of Texas Representative Lyndon B. Johnson, the Navy commissioned a new air training station on Corpus Christi Bay in March 1941.

That year, 800 flight instructors were brought to Corpus Christi and put to work training 300 cadets each month. After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, that rate nearly doubled.

28 PHOTOS
World War II air cadets in training
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World War II air cadets in training

Aviation Cadet Thanas inspects an airplane engine.

(Photo via Library of Congress)

Navy N2S primary land planes.

(Photo via Library of Congress)

A sailor tries on a new type of protective clothing and gas mask for use in chemical warfare.

(Photo via Library of Congress)

Virginia Davis, a riveter in the assembly and repair department of the Naval Air Base, supervises Charles Potter, a NYA trainee from Michigan.

(Photo via Library of Congress)

Jesse Rhodes Waller, A.O.M., third class, tries out a 30-caliber machine gun he has just installed in a Navy plane.

(Photo via Library of Congress)

Working inside the nose of a PBY, Elmer J. Pace learns the construction of Navy planes. As an NYA trainee at the Naval Air Base, he gets practical experience. After about eight weeks, he will go into civil service as a sheet metal worker.

(Photo via Library of Congress)

Learning to work a cutting machine, two NYA employees receive training to fit them for important work. After eight weeks they will be eligible for civil service jobs at the Naval Air Base.

(Photo via Library of Congress)

Doris Duke works on reconditioning spark plugs in the Assembly and Repair Department.

(Photo via Library of Congress)

Jesse Rhodes Waller, A.O.M., third class, tries out a .30-caliber machine gun he has just installed on a Navy plane.

(Photo via Library of Congress)

Mildred Webb, an NYA trainee at the base, learns to operate a cutting machine in the Assembly and Repair Department.

(Photo via Library of Congress)

Cadet L. Deitz boards a plane.

(Photo via Library of Congress)

Cowler Lorena Craig works on the tail of a plane.

(Photo via Library of Congress)

Virginia Young, right, a Pearl Harbor widow, is a supervisor in the Assembly and Repairs Department of the Naval Air Base. Her job is to find convenient and comfortable living quarters for women workers from out of the state, like Ethel Mann, who operates an electric drill.

(Photo via Library of Congress)

Eloise J. Ellis is a senior supervisor in the Assembly and Repairs Department. She buoys morale in her department by arranging suitable living conditions for out-of-state employees and by helping them with their personal problems.

(Photo via Library of Congress)

Ensign Noressey and Cadet Thenics.

(Photo via Library of Congress)

J.D. Estes loads munitions into a plane.

(Photo via Library of Congress)

Aviation Ordnance Mate Jesse Rhodes Waller prepares to install a .30-caliber machine gun in a Navy PBY plane.

(Photo via Library of Congress)

J.D. Estes, a seven-year veteran of the Navy, hefts a machine gun to be installed in a plane.

(Photo via Library of Congress)

J.D. Estes tests the sights on a newly installed machine gun.

(Photo via Library of Congress)

Irma Lee McElroy, a former office worker, paints an insignia on an airplane wing.

(Photo via Library of Congress)

Aviation cadets in training.

(Photo via Library of Congress)

Assembly and Repairs Dept. mechanic Mary Josephine Farley works on a Wright Whirlwind motor.

(Photo via Library of Congress)

Oyida Peaks rivets as part of her NYA training to become a mechanic in the Assembly and Repair Department.

(Photo via Library of Congress)

Sailor mechanics refuel an SNC advanced training plane.

(Photo via Library of Congress)

Cadet L. Deitz boards a plane.

(Photo via Library of Congress)

A PBY flying boat undergoes engine testing.

(Photo via Library of Congress)

Eloise J. Ellis, senior supervisor in the Assembly and Repairs Dept., speaks with a colleague.

(Photo via Library of Congress)

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More than 35,000 aviators earned their wings at NAS Corpus Christi before the end of the war, including future President George H.W. Bush, who graduated in 1943 just days before his 19th birthday.

In 1942, Office of War Information photographer Howard R. Hollem visited the air station and documented Navy cadets and members of the National Youth Administration as they assembled, repaired, and trained with a variety of aircraft destined for distant theaters of war.

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