IF MY HEART HAD WINGS – Book Excerpt #3 – Chapter 2 “Fly Boy”

Shortly after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Lyndon, like so many others, rushed off to a local recruiting center to sign up. With his heart set on becoming a pilot, he joined the Army Air Forces Aviation Cadet program, entering basic training a few weeks later. His wartime letters, some of which were written during that time, were discovered by Nadine decades later.

Through his scribbled observations, explanations, requests, and jokes, a portrait of the young pilot who married my mother slowly began to emerge.

There was the lonesome boy far from home:

… this has been a rather lonely day. Easter Sunday has always been a busy day with candy and flowers and new hats and suits for some. But it’s just another day around here …

There was the serious, determined student who reported from primary training:

Got a 97 in Navigation test, 95 in a Math test, but a 60 in an Airplane Structure test. That one I didn’t do so well in was a surprise test, but I’ll be ready for him next time.

There was the annoyed, possessive older brother:

… I do not want Willis to get ahold of either my suit or this coat because he’d misuse it for sure.

There was the chastened soldier:

I had to “walk the ramp” for ½ hour last Sunday … because of dusty bed springs, dust above the door frame, and [a] crooked lamp shade. This Sunday I have to “walk” about 2 hours for an error on a report …

And there was the proud cadet:

The cadet is the envy of most of the soldiers around here because of the quality and neatness of our uniforms, pay, life we lead here and the way the “girls go for cadets.” Then he added modestly, “I haven’t noticed any of the last item as far as I’m concerned, however — probably mostly because I don’t think I’m as interested in others as I used to be.

This last bit, so casually tossed off, was one of several he made about his growing feelings toward Mom. Surprisingly, he didn’t seem to get really serious about her until after he left home. Then, just six weeks into his training, he sent this request to his parents along with a money order:

Sometime in the near future have Nina and possibly her folks over for a dinner and use this to buy some more ice cream and make it a pretty good meal … If I were home now, I’d do it myself, but when I was home I didn’t think as I do now …

Ten days later, in another letter to his parents, he included this rather cryptic announcement:

Even though I couldn’t be there last Sunday, I wanted you all to know now, more or less officially, that there’s someone else I miss not seeing. I didn’t realize I would until I got out here, and now it’ll be quite a while before I get back and can make up for some of the time I wasted.

Absence had definitely made his heart grow fonder — and more serious. In the letters that follow, Lyndon strongly encouraged his parents to get to know his girlfriend better, beginning with:

Nina has several pictures that I’ve sent her … why don’t you ask her to stop in some afternoon or evening with them?

In another, he gently nudged:

She’s been gone on a choir trip but should be home now.

In a third, he hinted:

She’s a little shy and bashful probably but now that it’s quiet around there … maybe it’ll be a little easier to get better acquainted.

The guy was pushing hard to forge a connection between his parents and his girlfriend — and the sooner the better.

If you enjoyed this excerpt, you’ll love If My Heart Had Wings: A World War II Love Story — the true story of the life and death of a WWII pilot and the tumultuous life of the young widow he left behind. Click below to buy it today!