Western Nebraska Observer - Observations all along the line - Kimball & the Southern Panhandle First

Veterans History Project

Daniel E. Kinnison Private First Class US Army Air Forces WWII


By March 1944, World War II was being fought on many fronts, costing thousands of lives and even more injuries. There was progress being made in Europe as well as in the islands in the Pacific. Less than six months before, Roosevelt, Churchill, and Stalin met to coordinate plans to smash German forces and their nasty leader. The Russians had driven the German Forces out of Leningrad. Big things were in the works.

Daniel E. Kinnison (Dan) was a strapping twenty year old man who knew that the Selective Service System was active in the northern Colorado area, near Keota. He had been contacted by the Draft Board. He was granted him a deferment so he could stay home and help his ailing father with the farming operation. When his father’s health situation improved, Dan met his obligation by volunteering for the Army Air Forces. He was ready to go. The recruiter in Greely, CO set a date for him (and others in the area) to report to Fort Logan, CO.

At this point in time, Fort Logan was a full service installation. Here Dan got his standard issue haircut, new clothes, an arm-full of shots, and lots of new friends. His wish was to be around airplanes, especially hoping to fly them. Within a few days, he was sent to Amarillo Army Air Field, about ten miles east of Amarillo, in the panhandle of Texas.

This was a good-sized training site. It was a comparatively new place in that it was less than two years old. The original plan was to use it for training young men how to work on airplanes, as mechanics. It wasn’t long before they added basic training to the list of capabilities.

The new trainees were assembled and formed into a group and marched to a tenting area where they would stay their first night –before the cadre could figure out where to house them. As the night went on, a serious rain storm blew into the area. The tent that was designed to protect the guys from the elements collapsed. They received an unplanned soaking. The sun did come out the next day.

There was some aptitude testing that went on early in his early days there. The best outcome was to synchronize the man’s skills with his plans, if at all possible. Dan passed the test for becoming a pilot. Perfect.

He was notified that he had been accepted as an aviation cadet. He was to receive $75.00 per month plus $1.00 per day for subsistence throughout the training period. He had benefits and a 36 week training period established for he and others in the same category.

The basic training piece was a bit over two months. Since he had been accepted into the flying program, he had no rank. He finished it and was soon on a train headed for Gardner Army Air Field, near Taft, CA. (On the train, the young men were under the command of a 1st Lieutenant (1LT). The 1LT directed that there would be no gambling. Then the 1LT managed to get into a card game himself and was relieved of most of his money!)

The military needed additional training facilities to increase its pilot training rate so they could meet the expected wartime demands. Gardner was the selected site and had been in operation for about three years. The aircraft being used there was a BT-13. This plane was powered by a 450 horsepower radial engine made by Vultee. The guys called it a “Vultee vibrator”. The new cadets were arranged in classes called “flights”. This group of men would live and train together until they graduated. As their start time approached, the events of World War II were moving. Dan and his flight were changed to a holding status. They weren’t to move on into flying, but couldn’t revert to a different stage either.

The cadets were then moved around to different bases in the US so they could be used in some capacity. Dan was ordered to Kingman Army Airfield, near Kingman, AZ. This was a major training site for aerial gunnery. Personnel being schooled there worked in the B-17 (Flying Fortress) platform. There were several positions taught including work on the chin gun, waist guns, turret guns, belly guns and tail gun. All brave men undergoing this training.

Dan and his group were under the command of a lieutenant but worked with a Master Sergeant (MSGT) who happened to be Native American. As Dan worked with the MSGT on B-17 electrical problems, his proficiency was noted and he was picked to work exclusively with the MSGT. Oddly, the MSGT was re-assigned to another base and Dan received a field promotion to “electrician”. At first, Dan was reluctant but the LT told him to just “get out there and learn”.

Dan found that the generators on the aircrafts were problematic. They were made by either Ford or General Electric. Dan checked first which manufacturer the bad generator was made by. The characteristics of each maker were unique and once Dan knew that, he could replace them right away. One generator was so difficult to get to that it took seven hours to get off the danged engine. The repairman had to stand on an airplane’s tire, reach into the generator housing, and loosen the stubborn bolts.

Dan received a letter (dated the 7th of May 1945) from the Commander of the Army Air Forces Training Command. It informed Dan and many others in a similar situation that due to the resounding success of our Nation’s Armed Forces in the European Theater of Operations, a new appraisal of the needs of the military had been completed. Since the war in Europe was going to end, there were plenty of trained pilots now and additional training of new ones wasn’t necessary. Dan was to be withdrawn from the aircrew training and diverted to other assignments that would contribute to defeating the Japanese. The Commander knew this was going to be a “keen disappointment” to the men.

Dan was next sent on to Williams Air Field near Chandler, AZ. This was a training field for crews learning the B-24 “Liberator”. Dan and a buddy were assigned as “dampers”. When a windstorm blew into the area, the ailerons on the B-24 could be caught in such a way that the plane’s wings would flop around like a piece of cloth. The ailerons had to be dampened to prevent that potential damage.

During all this training and movement around the SW area of the Country, Dan kept in touch with home by writing letters. He didn’t get into any of the poker games that were going on. The food at most Air Fields was fairly good if one liked mutton. At one place, a variety of lamb meat was served every day. In a short time, a candy bar was a better option.

Dan acquired a Harley Davidson motorcycle (the Big Twin 74) from a fellow soldier. He rode it around the area of north Texas and made a trip home on it. When he was leaving, a rain storm had come through the area. Water crossing the road caused him to crash, damaging the motorcycle. He got a friend to fix most of it, except the brakes. He still rode the motorcycle to northern Colorado. No brakes!

While at this installation, the bombs had been dropped on Japan. The peace accords were signed soon after. In early October 1945, Dan and his other compatriots received another letter. This one was also from the Commander of the Army Air Forces Training Command. The holding pattern that he and sixteen thousand other young men were in was coming to an end. They were given some options.

Dan got an opportunity to go back to Amarillo Army Airfield where he would learn to be a flight engineer on the B-29 (the Super Fortress). While the schooling was in progress, the students were called to a formation and their discharges were handed to them.

Dan returned to farming. He used the GI Bill to finance his yearning to fly an airplane. In time, he moved his family to Kimball, NE. There he developed several businesses and created inventions which he patented. He was president of the Chamber of Commerce there, and is a Charter member of the Kimball Rotary. He is also a tremendously skilled woodworker.

PFC Dan Kinnison, good job! Thank you for your service!


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