By Jennifer Martin - email
JACKSON, MS (WLBT) - Maurice Duvic, or Vic, as he was known to his friends, had plans to be a pilot well before he joined the service.
"Before the country got involved in the war, they had a civilian pilot training program that I participated in. Got about 40 hours and a private pilots license. Then I started to correspond with a general in Atlanta about becoming a flying cadet and become a pilot for the Air Corps."
He was waiting to schedule a physical exam when he received an unexpected letter.
"I'd say in May of '41 or so, I got a notice to report for the draft."
He got a short deferment, while he kept waiting on the exam for the Air Corps, but his time ran out. He was sent to Camp Shelby.
"The corporal that was taking my information... I told him I had a pilot's license. He ends up classifying me as a pilot. I tried to explain to him I wasn't a pilot in the army's classification, but he insisted."
He was assigned to MacDill field, in the Air Corps. He spent some time keeping supply records. But it wasn't until after the attack on Pearl Harbor he finally got inside a plane.
"December 7th came along. It was a Sunday. We had a beach club out at St. Petersburg and we were out there and we took a walk along the beach. And some lady came up, 'Have y'all heard about Pearl Harbor?'
We all said a prayer for the people that were involved."
He quickly passed a physical and an exam to become a flying cadet. He finally got the training he had been waiting for --and finished as a 2nd Lt. He would be a B26 pilot.
"We got to sale, which was near Algiers, Algeria. A fighter outfit had been at this field before we got there. They had left. There was no maintenance when we got there. So April 15th, the plane had been sabotaged. Of course, we didn't know that. We took off down the runway and I was copilot, and it veered a little to the left. The next thing you knew, we went all the way to the left.
We were going 100mph probably... tore the engine out of the right wing. Caught on fire. I can remember opening the hatch and standing up. I saw the radio operator jump off the wing. I saw the pilot was struggling. He couldn't get the seatbelt unhooked. Well, we got out."
No one was hurt. But everything inside the plane was destroyed, including money Duvic was carrying as a finance officer. He and the other men who were on the plane would have to stay in sale more than a month, for inquiries into the fire and loss of that money.
Finally, they were assigned to the 17th Bomber Group. That's when things really started to heat up.
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