"Ransom Rideout" Avstry #10a

Ransom a World War II pilot serving in the Pacific Theater, tells us about his early days of flying, in the United States.

Published Date: Wed, 17 Oct 2012

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Show Notes

Ransom Rideout: Name is Ransom Rideout, R-I-D-E-O-U-T. I was born in October 12, 1920. I'm almost 92 years old. I was with the class of 42E with the Aviation Cadet Program. I went into the program. Before the war I was a senior at San Jose State. At that time all hell was breaking loose all over the world. Mussolini was killing the Ethiopians. Germany was killing all the Jews. The Japanese were killing all of the Chinese, and I just couldn't concentrate on my studies anymore. I was a senior but I dropped out and joined the Aviation Cadet Corps, and Jimmy Stewart swore me in at Moffett Field along with about 10 other San Jose State students, and we were assured we would be training together. It was kind of a fraternal thing, however, that didn't work out. Only one of that original group stayed with me, and in basic training he was killed, so I guess I could say I'm one of the last of that group of people that Jimmy Stewart swore in at Moffett Field that day.

J.R. Warmkessel: Was he already in the service at that time?

Ransom Rideout: Oh, yes. He was a corporal, and of course he wound up a general. But he was a wonderful, unassuming guy. It was a pleasure to meet him, and we sat there by those huge doors at Moffett Field. They were opened a crack and he had a little desk just inside the doors and we cadets filed in and raised our right hand and were sworn in the service, and not too long later we were called to active duty as aviation cadets. In those days an aviation cadet, this is before the war of course, so if you washed out for any reason, you were reverted back to your civilian status. You were not expected, or required, to remain in the service. You were reverted to your civilian status. And so we trained at Ryan Field in San Diego for primary, and that was a wonderful experience. It was, we called it the country club, and we stayed, lived in a motel two blocks from the airfield, which was consolidated at that time. They built a huge aircraft construction site on the field, was consolidated and they built the B-24s and the Catalinas, so as youngsters not quite flying military aircraft, we were always enthralled to see those great, big, four engine 24s come in and land and takeoff, and it was very exciting for us.

J.R. Warmkessel: So what were you flying in your...?

Ransom Rideout: Oh, we were flying the Ryan PT-23, and it was a beautiful little low wing open cockpit plane, minimum instruments. My instructor was just a wonderful guy. Never got excited. Never got angry with me. Let's see, Ryan, of course, is known more for building Lindberg's airplane and that's where it was constructed. Ryan Aircraft Company, which was across the field, and then things changed dramatically one Sunday. I invited my roommate, George Wool, from San Jose, and my friend, who was killed in basic, and I asked if he'd like to go sailing on this particular Sunday. It was a beautiful day and he said sure, so we went down to Balboa Island and near the Coronado Hotel there was a little boat rental service, sail boat rental service. And so we rented a little sail boat and we took off and sailed. We were having a great time and suddenly there was no wind at all, but in the meantime we had noticed that there was a lot of activity on the island, long island, the Navy base there. Oh, my god. The loudspeakers were blaring and planes were taking off and landing, and we noticed particularly the bombs. They were are all loaded with bombs, which was unusual for us to see loaded planes taking off from the field there, and as the wind quit completely we were at the mercy of the tide. We were drifting down, out the channel and drifting down on a huge aircraft carrier, huge for us in those days, just not huge by today's standards at all, but this was the Hornet and we kept drifting down and getting closer and closer to it. And George finally said to me you know Ransom, "Take a look up there at that aircraft carrier. I think every gun is pointed at us," and I looked up there and, sure enough, every single gun on that ship was zeroed in on our little drifting sail boat. And about that time a loudspeaker on the aircraft carrier said, "All right, sailboat. Approach no closer. I repeat. Do not approach any closer," and of course we just threw up our hands. There was nothing we could do. We had no oars, no motor to put-put away and there was no wind so we kept drifting down. About that time a little naval landing craft came around the stern of the Hornet and he had a water cooled machine gun pointed right smack at us and, man, we thought we were going to get blown out of the water. Fortunately for us, the owner of the little rattle boat-rental service came around with an outboard and just took us in tow and towed us back, and that was Pearl Harbor day, December 7, 1941, and that was where I was on Pearl Harbor day. And then after graduating from Ryan School of Aeronautics, I went to basic, and we were the second class at Lemoore, California, and we were introduced to the BT-13s.

J.R. Warmkessel: What was that like to fly?

Ransom Rideout: It was great. It was just a great airplane, such big roomy cockpit, and I used to, on my solo flights, loved to come over to the coast and fly along the edge of the alluvial plains on the east side of the Santa Lucia Mountains, which were planted in lush green, and the bright orange winds and blue fuselage of our Valtee Bombers, as we used to call them, it was a magnificent feeling. You just felt so in contrast with the air and the land and everything. So that was a good experience. It was also my first experience of witnessing death in the service. I saw, as we were in a traffic pattern, one of the planes ahead of us, on its final approach turning into its final approach, had it's nose too high and he stalled out and spun in with this instructor and killed them both, and that was terrible for us. Just youngsters to, it was our first witness of death by in a military aircraft. I was to see many, many more later on, of course, and following basic at Lemoore, we were sent to advanced fighter school at Luke Field, Arizona. Now that was wonderful. We got to fly the AT-6, which is a beautiful flying North American, they've very popular even today. Increased horsepower, more instruments. So I graduated from Luke. I got to fly the, after I completed my training, I hadn't been assigned to a station there, but I was allowed to fly the P-36 which was an early version of the P-40. It was really a P-40 with a radial engine in it, and it had been assigned to the Norwegian Air Force and the instruments were all in kilometers and stuff and centimiles per hour. So, it was quite an experience to fly that. Flew that over the Grand Canyon and buzzed it a few times. And then I was assigned to Salinas, California with an observation squadron. And that was great because my home was in San Jose and I was very familiar with all the region, Monterey Bay and the coastline. I'd sailed the coast up and down a couple of times; I knew every cove. We were assigned submarine patrol and we were flying L-1s, O-46s and O-47s. We did have some other aircraft that we flew, but those were our primary aircraft that we flew for submarine patrol. And we always felt it would be tragic if we ever saw anything because they would have blown us out of the sky. We had one little 30 caliber and no bombs, nothing else. We couldn't have hurt anything. Never did see a sub, although at that time there was a Japanese sub that sank the Chevron or the centered oil tanker there at Cayucos, just this side of Morro Bay, California. And we could always tell when we were over Morro Bay because the fog, of course, just like today, would come in thick as could be. And we'd be chugging along on top of the fog waiting for a clearing to see what was below and we could always tell when we were over Morro Bay because we'd see the antenna sticking up through the fog. And they were on top of Morro Rock, which is about 600 feet elevation. It was quite a sight to be on top of the fog and see these antennas poking up. We flew there for over a few months. It was tricky because of the fog closing in. Getting home, you're concerned all the time about whether or not you'd have visibility because of the fog. If you didn't, what we used to do was head out to sea and lower ourselves slowly, slowly, slowly. There was usually about two or three hundred feet between the top, the bottom of the fog, and the ocean. So, we'd break through and then we would fly along the coast until we saw the Salinas River, and then we would just follow that. That would take us right to our base. I had a hernia operation and they sent me to the hospital. And after the operation I was sent on rest and recuperative leave, and of course I lived in San Jose so it was great. I just went to my house there. While I was gone, my unit was sent down to the desert, and they got P-39s, which was a great little airplane. I would learn later on how to fly the 39 and I probably had hundreds of hours in that little aircraft. Because I missed that transfer down to the desert and those P-39s, I was transferred out of the outfit. And I was transferred to the 118th, I think it was the 118th, observation squadron in Los Angeles area, actually out in Claremont in the grapevines fields. We just had a strip. I think there were only three aircraft on the whole field and it was an old National Guard outfit, which was interesting because those guys, for years they had been mobile. And that was part of their training was to be able to pack up and leave in an instant's notice. And we were waiting as a unit to be reassigned. But we did still fly the anti-submarine missions out of the LA area. Our assignment at that time was from Point Conception to the Mexico border, whereas before it was from Half Moon Bay down to Point Conception. That was the anti-submarine area that we were to cover. It was a good experience there in Claremont. I remember coming back in an O-47. An O-47 was an aircraft that was way ahead of its time. I think ours were built in 1936 or 1937. It had a right-cyclone, three-bladed prop. It was mid-wing. It had an elevator in the middle for an observer and he could lower himself to the bottom belly of the O-47 and it was all glass. And he could stretch out and he was the observer of whatever we were observing. He also had radio, and the radio antenna was about 11-12 pounds, a big lead weight and you lowered it. You had to remember to bring it back up before you came back home because it would wipe out all clotheslines or whatever. And that was one of the unfortunate things that I did not do one time. When I came back, we didn't rewind the antenna but when we landed we knew we didn't have a weight on the antenna. So it had to have hit somebody's house or car or something, and we never did read anything about it in the paper. It was interesting, when you fly over Los Angeles in those days, the Van Nuys was the Lockheed factory. And when you flew over it, it looked just like a while city, the whole place: streets, shadows, cars. But it was all camouflaged. You couldn't see it as an aircraft factory or a landing strip at all. It was beautifully camouflaged. And then one day we got our orders to move to Laurel, Mississippi, the heart of the black belt. We were to open up a brand new airfield there. I was still a rather brand new second lieutenant, and damn if they didn't make me the troop captain or something. Anyway, I was in charge of that train with all of our equipment and so forth, all the way to Laurel, Mississippi. And this was were I was introduced to prisoners. And I'd have to go through the galley where the cooks were on our troop train, and I was just a kid. I was only 21, 22, and I'd see these rather tough-looking guys peeling potatoes and I'd get up next to the rail, which was just a rail keeping you from flying out of the kitchen car, and so that really had me fairly well intimidated. And later I'd find out these guys, they'd just been AWOL. They were absent without leave. They weren't tough prisoners, or murderers, or stuff like that. It was a simple little thing, but I didn't find out about that until later on.

J.R. Warmkessel: What year was this? Was this '43?

Ransom Rideout: '42.

J.R. Warmkessel: '42. Okay.

Ransom Rideout: And, yes. It was December of '42. It was a long, long train ride and my first exposure to many states, Texas, Arizona, New Mexico. I just suddenly realized how big a country we had, and as a result of my being troop commander, I'm sure that was why I was promoted right away to first Lieutenant, which was kind of nice, and we got to Laurel, Mississippi and we didn't have much to fly. We had an O-47, a couple of L1s, and L3Bs, and O-52s, and the O-52 was a Curtiss. I believe it had been for the Navy, the first Navy for the aircraft carriers, and the way we used to kid ourselves you could always tell an O-52 pilot by the blisters on the palm of his right hand because we didn't have an electrical hydraulic system. It was a hand pump. You pump these hydraulic levers to get your landing gear up and get your flaps down, and so forth, so we joked about that. And it was also the first aircraft I flew that did not have an inertia starter system. What you had was a 37 millimeter blank shell that you put into the breach, right between your legs, and when you were ready to fire up you pulled the pin and, kapoom, that 37 millimeter shell would let loose and it would fill that whole cockpit up with smoke and just about choke you to death, but it would fire up the rotation of the engine, and usually it caught right away. I had several experiences there in Laural, Mississippi that were rather interesting. We had a lot of our enlisted personnel had volunteered for flying school, or applied for flying school, so we wanted to make sure they were successful, so we would take them up in our L3Bs and give them stick time and teach them all we knew so they would be hot pilots when they were cadets. Well I had this one student up one day. It was in February and first time in the South where I had witnessed these kinds of winter conditions. The air was clear and it was sunshiny and I put my...i sat up. I sat in the back and let my student fly the aircraft from the front. I took off and landed of course, but he, I put him through different maneuvers. He'd follow through not the stick and rudder pedals with me, and finally he was just doing great and I suggested that we do some stalls, and a stall is what you do, when an aircraft stalls what you've done, you have taken away the lift from the wings and you do by going too slow, bringing your nose up slightly and she'll shudder a little bit, and you know that's the stall, and I showed him how to recover. But on this one, I said, "Well, let's try a power off stall this time." So he pulled the nose up, reduced the power, and did a beautiful job, but the engine quit. Well these were brand-new airplanes. They were tough. They were hard. They just hadn't been broken in, and you see, you just put the nose down little, get up a little speed, and it'll windmill and fire up again, but this time I redlined it, put the nose straight down to the ground, and, boy, I couldn't get that prop to budge so I knew I was in real trouble. And this is all forest land over there. It's that part of of Mississippi, and I spotted a little field, a little corn field, or a cotton field, and so anyone that I could see. I thought well, "See if I can make it," so I approached it and there was a barn at one end for which I had to drop down over to get it onto the cotton field, and so I put it in a real steep side, what do we call it?

J.R. Warmkessel: Slip?

Ransom Rideout: Side slip, and I dropped it right down to the cotton field, just on the other side of the barn, but I was going pretty hot. I had way too much speed, but I had landed it with the furrows, which was great, and, oh, that noise as the cotton bushes hit the bungie cords on that L3, and It slowed down, slowed down, and there was a little rise in this cotton field, and I got to the top of it and my tail was still high because I was still hot as a fox. I couldn't slow her down, but I was going the way the furrows were, which was safe, but as soon as I started on the other side of this little rise, the furrows went 90 degrees, so at that time the wheels were hitting each furrow, "boom, boom, boom, boom," and the trail was getting higher, and higher, and higher, and when she came to a stop we hung in the mound, and I thought, "Ah, we got it made." But she went over on her back. So that was kind of interesting. We laughed and it was interesting to me at that time to see the reaction. I had never experienced this or even thought about it, but the blacks, they came but they stayed way away, and they were looking at us from behind trees and they didn't know what to do. They knew we were white men and then knew we'd wrecked the airplane, but they were so intimidated by us that the didn't approach us at all. I called on the radio and told them we were doing at about where I thought we were and they sent out a truck and stuff, and the plane was totaled and they took us back to our base, but that was a wild experience. But I had another experience in an O-47 this time, that beautiful mid wing, North American built, and I had two doctors that wanted to see somebody in Atlanta, Georgia. So I had them in the back, in the middle and the back, and we got to Georgia and they took care of their business and I waited for them, and they came back. I'd gotten service, fuel, and oil, and one of the responsibilities of a pilot is make sure you've got oil and fuel. That's your responsibility. You can tell them to service it, but it's your responsibility to check to see that they did properly, and of course I didn't. I don't think any of us ever did, but about halfway back to Laural, Mississippi I was just below Montgomery, Alabama, and I saw my oil pressure just drop to zero. Holy moly. Talk about cotton coming up in your mouth in a hurry. No way could I get to Mobile Airfield, but I did see a big cow pasture that I think would've probably been used for emergency landings, or something for training, or something, and I pumped my gear down hydraulically, because your hydraulic system was operated by the oil in your engine, and lowered by flaps and I made a beautiful landing, got right to the end of the cow pasture and the big fence and I took a ground loop right at the end so I didn't go through it. And I was really proud of myself. I got that damn thing down on the ground safely, and one of these majors, medical doctors in the back, said, "What's the matter, lieutenant? You lost?" Oh, man. I could've killed him. I thought I'd done such a great job. Needless to say, I put those guys...I called Mobile and they sent a truck out, and a watchman, and a mechanic, and the two doctors went back to Mobile and hitchhiked the rest of the way to Laurel, and then the next morning I got my crew chief from Mobile to look over the airplane and we took off the plug at the bottom of the oil sump. I checked it for metal fragments to make sure that the engine hadn't blown from lack of oil. The magnetic plug was free of fragments. So we filled her up with oil. I ran it up. She checked out perfectly. I lowered a few degrees the flaps and took off and landed again at Laurel, Mississippi. My crew chief there checked my oil. I was out of oil. So that engine was ruined, and this happened to be the Colonel's engine, his private aircraft. So I thought, "I'm going to really be in the dog house." So I was made mess officer, so I was in charge of the mess for the squadron, and I must've really improved that mess. I put on a couple of parties with the guys. I've got photographs of it. Big steaks and my head cook had an alcohol problem, but, boy, he knew how to scrounge, and he scrounged one day. We put on a party one day for the squadron out in this little park, not far from the base. It was a real success. We had a wonderful time. So shortly after that, I got another promotion. I was now a Captain, and I wasn't even 23 years old. I thought things were going great.

J.R. Warmkessel: Did they ever find out why the engine ran out of oil?

Ransom Rideout: The Wright cyclone burned a heck of a lot of oil. It always did. So you had to always check it, and I hadn't, you know, checked it when we got to Georgia. I didn't hear any more about it. I just know they had to put a new engine in it. The Colonel wasn't going to have an airplane for awhile. Eventually I was transferred out, and now this was called, no longer an observation squadron, but it was called Tac Recon School, and they sent me to the Tac Recon School of Aeronautics, which was in Orlando, Florida. We were the first class there. The thing I think that impressed me the most about that was begin chased by sidewinder. I was in swimming in one of the, they had lots of holes and nice sand, coral sand, and we'd lie there in the sand and then we'd go swimming, sun ourselves, and had a good time. But I got out there and I was swimming and all of a sudden I could see the head of this snake coming at me and that was my first experience with a water moccasin and, boy, I was glad as hell to get out of there. We also had coral snakes. It was so brand new, not enough people around there--activity--to scare them away yet and they were still there. So that was quite a school. A lot of the Brits, fighter pilots from the Battle of Britain were there and would tell us about their experiences. There was one guy who was quite famous. He had one leg and was still flying. Anyway, they would tell us their tactics and what they did to avoid the enemy or kill the enemy, and then shortly after I got back to my base, following school there, I was sent to the Tac Recon School--wait--School of Applied Tactics in Florida. Then I was sent to Jackson, Mississippi to the Tac Recon School, and this is where I was introduced to the P-51s. We had the As and the Bs, which were Allison powered and had been designed for the Brits, but they were only good for low altitude. They didn't have the super chargers that the Rolls Royce Merlin engine had in the Ds and the Cs. They were a beautiful airplane to fly because they were so lightweight. So I got a lot of time in the 51. Graduated from there, and then I was transferred out of our Tac Recon School, which never did get to see combat. They never did. They would train, and train, and train, but they never got to the point where they were proficient enough as a unit. Pilots were transferred out just as I was, and also we left Laurel, Mississippi for Esler Field, Louisiana, and there we were introduced to the P-39. And the P-39 was a tricycle gear, and what made it so unusual was it had an engine in the rear and this gave it a strange feeling when you were flying. Its center of gravity was different from a tail dragger, but I learned to really enjoy that airplane and it was great. Never had any difficulty. And I was the operations officer. I'd been in operations ever since my first assignment, which was kind of nice because when I became the operations officer then I could schedule everybody, including myself, what to fly and where to fly, which made it really nice. I was transferred out of the squadron at Esler Field to a composite squadron at Fort Riley, Kansas. And it was most interesting because Fort Riley is the largest cavalry base in the United States in the Army, so we would coordinate missions with them, the cavalry, for exercises.

J.R. Warmkessel: When you say cavalry, you mean, like, horses?

Ransom Rideout: Yes. Yeah. That was a cavalry base. However, they were tanks now.

J.R. Warmkessel: Oh, okay. Good.

Ransom Rideout: They are armor now, but they still wore spurs. These guys would come up to the officer's club and they're spitting polish and they...they didn't have the round, sharp spurs. They had just a spike. That's all, but they didn't like us a bit because some of our missions included training for them for chemical warfare, and this was in the heat of summer. And we'd spray molasses. We had these wing tanks full of molasses and we'd look for them and when we spotted them we'd dive down and spray them all with molasses, and of course they were supposed to duck and cover as quickly as they could as a training exercise. Boy, those guys, they just hated us. We'd go their officer's club and, boy, you'd get a kick from a heel, on of those guys, in your shins because of all the crap we'd given them. And I was there quite some time. There again I was operations officer so I could schedule myself in any aircraft we had or go any place, and we were in the 3rd Air Force, but because of our uniqueness in being a composite squadron, we didn't report to anybody. We didn't have to get permission to do certain things. We wrote our own missions and training missions, and I got to fly the B-25 there and the the way, when I was there they sent me to twin engine school down in Houston so I had the twin engine training, so I flew twin engine aircraft when I got back to the base. I remember one experience I had, I took P-40 and took to fly home. I just wanted to visit my folks. My mother lived in San Jose and she was staying in the Vendome Hotel there right on First Street, and I flew this low-level mission. I wanted to see if I could do it all the way at treetop. So I didn't get more than a hundred feet off the ground all the way, and when I came into San Jose I went right down First Street and buzzed First Street so my mother knew I was home back there and I went on out to Moffett Field to land. And, lo and behold, a taxi up to the tarmac, parked there, I look out and I see a pin sticking up from my flaps. I knew I had left my flaps down, which is, you know, that's a no-no from protocol, so I was still so punchy and instead of pulling up the flaps, I pull up the landing gear. Oh, Jesus. "Thump." Fortunately, it was a P-40, being that the wheels on the 40 have to turn and go up into the belly, but my tail will, well it dropped, so I knew I had to jack that damn airplane up and Moffett Field hangar is one huge, huge place, and it's getting dark and I'm looking for hydraulic lifts that I can put under the wings of the aircraft, jack it up, and put my tail wheel down and make sure it works. Well, it was almost midnight before I got that all done, but, anyway, it turned out okay. I flew the aircraft home. It had no major damage, but it was a wild experience. I'll never forget that.

J.R. Warmkessel: Was it hard to go from the P-51 mustangs?

Ransom Rideout: No, it wasn't. No, it wasn't hard to go to a 25, or C-47, or AT-10s, UC-78s, that's the Bamboo Bomber that my CO let me take to New Orleans on my honey moon. No, when you had as much time as I did and so many different aircraft, there's certain basic things that don't change and I found no...there was a P-39 being, a tricycle gear that's, has the nose, wheel in the front, as opposed to a tail dragger, which the nose is very high in that aircraft. That's the only, I would say, major...that was a major change from a tail dragger to a tricycle gear. Well, let's see. About that time, my wife was overseas. She beat me overseas. She was in Europe with the 119th evacuation hospital, and I thought, "Well, I think I can volunteer and I'll bet I can get sent to Europe." So I volunteered to go overseas. They sent to down to Mobile, Alabama for gunnery training and I took about 20 pilots, new pilots, overseas, but they didn't send me to Europe. They sent me to China. I was very disappointed. So we flew from Miami to Berlin, Puerto Rico, to, not to Berlin. I forget where it was in Puerto Rico we landed, and then we went to Berlin off the Brazilan coast, and took a C-54 and flew across the Atlantic to Dakar. And on the way over we ran into some horrendous, horrendous weather. Oh, gee. We were scared to death. The lightening and the flashing and the bouncing in that aircraft, it was just terrible, and we were in the bucket seats and in the middle aisle of the C-54 were engines all strapped down for replacements some place in India or wherever. And when we got to Dakar we were told we could take the day off. This was as nice when we flew, incidentally, across the Atlantic, and we got to Dakar very early in the morning, but it was daylight and we were told to come back by 6:00 that evening or something, and we would head on for Karachi, India. We came back after the day off. We explored Dakar a little bit, went to the beaches and stuff, and Dakar reminded me so much of caramel. The air smelled just like caramel, the sea air coming across the ocean, and the beaches were so clear and beautiful white sand. And when we got back to the base we were told that we'd have to layover and leave the next morning on another aircraft, that the left main spar of our C-54 was cracked. Jeez, how luck can you get? We had all gone down...I think recently well within the last five years, a French transport got caught in a similar situation. They never did find out what happened to it. It ran into severe weather and was lost. So we got on a C-46 after that and we went to Casablanca. We went to Tunis. We went to Cairo. Cairo we had a layover and that was wonderful. We got to go and see the sphinx and climb the pyramids and had a good time. Even sailed, no, not there. We didn't sail, but we could observe the lateen rigged commercial vessels that plied the Nile River, and then our next step was Karachi, India, and that was rather harrowing. We had to land at Basra, Iraq and then I forget the next town right near in Iran. We went to both of those places, and then the flight from Basra to Karachi was very interesting and, you felt threatened and you were told if anything ever happens stay with the aircraft because these people would cut your throat. We got to Karachi, India and awaited further transportation to China, which came a day or so later. I think we were in Karachi three days, and I got to sail on what we called the bunda boats. Those were the native lateen boats, all teak, and the frames of those boats were all natural woods frames. They weren't sawn. They were natural, and got to know the owner of the sail boat. Had a good time with him and then we headed for Calcutta. Was it Calcutta? I don't know, Indian place. We wound up in Assam, India, which was the most eastern portion of India, and the Japanese had just been driven out of Assam. The old wreckage of the war was also very much in evidence, smoking still, and interesting happened...interesting thing occurred in Assam. I had a cousin who was in my lower class at Luke Field, where I graduated, and whether it was intentional or not, he got really ticked off with his instructor who was giving him a bad time on an instrument flight. He got so mad at him that he read him off. No cadet can do that. Gee. So they kicked him out of the cadet program. Well, as I told you, in those days you were reverted back to your civilian status, which he did. So he went across the street to Thunderbird Field and became an instructor over there, and then he got hired, I think, by United or somebody. He was flying over to Russia, and then he got on with CNAC, China National Airways, and they were based out of Assam. And I thought, "I wonder if I can reach him. He can't be more than 300 or 400 yards from where I am." So I tried to reach him and sure enough I got a hold of him. We had a nice visit on the phone. That was a very heartwarming experience.

J.R. Warmkessel: When was this did you get to Assam?

Ransom Rideout: That was Assam, A-S-S-A-M. I was there in '45.

J.R. Warmkessel: Okay.

Ransom Rideout: Flew the hump to Xinjiang, in a C-46 and got to wait my orders for assignment to a squadron. This is Chennault headquarters and 14th Air Force headquarters, and I had some free time on my hands so I took the bus into the town of Xinjiang and I was standing at a kiosk with all the stickers and stuff, most of it in Chinese, and I was looking at that thing. I was all by myself and I heard this voice behind me. "Rideout. Bud Rideout. Bud Rideout," and I look back and here's this Chinese-American in his military outfit. It was a sergeant and it a fellow by the name of Charlie Leon. Charlie had been the first Chinese-American to be editor of a college newspaper in the United States. Wonderful guy, and he would later have his own publishing company and publish the Chinese-American newspaper in San Francisco. Anyway, Charlie took me all around. Saw a lot of sights I wouldn't have seen. We took lots of pictures and that's what his assignment was. He was a journalist for the 14th Air Force. I got my orders shortly thereafter and I was assigned to the 27th Chinese-American composite squadron. It was one of the four squadrons to belong to the 5th fighter group, CACW. Now CACW stood for Chinese-American Composite Wing. This was formed in '43 in Karachi. At that them the Chinese morale was rather low, and they wanted to spruce it up a little bit. So this Chinese American Composite Wing was formed and sent to Karachi for training, where they trained in P-40s as a unit and went back to the 5th fighter group where they functioned as a unit, and I was in the 27th squadron. We had P-40s and, at that time, it was getting towards the end of the war, P-51Ds were assigned to us. Incidentally, the P-51D was a great aircraft to fly and it was great at altitude but at low altitude, treetop level, which is where we flew most of time, it was a flying target. You could hit it anytime from the radiator back, anywhere forward clear to the props because there were coolant tubes all over it, radiators. We used to say they could shoot us down by throwing a bucket up in the air and catching it in our air scoop. Anyway, to make a long story short, it was a great aircraft but for our mission in China it was not the plane. And at that time when I was assigned to the 27th, we were surrounded by Japanese. The Japanese up until that time had...they wanted something. They wanted to get us out of this place. This place, they just came in and drove us out no problem. Colin, Changshaw, all those field we had to leave, but at Xinjiang we made a stand with the Chinese first army. We were flying one and two missions a day. Our pilots were getting shot at as the flew their own traffic pattern, but we drove them back, and it was the first unit and the only unit on the continent of China to have an Allied victory as a result of that. We received a Presidential unit citation and also Xinjiang, my base, was selected for the surrender ceremony of the Chinese land forces and that's another story. Xinjiang, our base, is interesting for several reasons. Most people are not aware of this. You had your AVGs, your American Volunteer Group. There were other volunteer groups, the first of which was a Chinese American volunteer group. In 1936, Chiang Kai Shek sent representatives to the San Francisco Bay area soliciting Chinese-Americans to come fly for their mother country and help them. Well, it's a long story. This is an unusual situation. This school is called the San Francisco Chinese School of Aviation and they flew out of Alameda. If they passed their physicals, then they took their primary training. If they passed their primary training, they were sent on a ship to China. This was in 1936. I got a call at this house from a guy. He said, "Colonel Rideout, Victor Chang. Victor Chang. Xinjiang. China. Your old wingman." He was in the CACW, "You flew with the Chinese," and he was my old wingman, and it was Victor Chang. He lives in San Francisco. Victor had volunteered in that 1936 Chinese School of Aviation at Alameda. He passed all of his tests, went to China, and flew for the Chinese. I didn't even know he was an American citizen when I was there. Hell, he was Chinese. So, that was kind of interesting.

So they volunteered, this was in '36. The Russian's also volunteered. They were called the RVG and they were based at Chick Yang, which was my base. Our generators were all Russians, the camouflaged planes were all Russian, yaks. People were not aware that there were other volunteer groups besides the AVGs. The AVGs were the last to go in. The first were the Chinese Americans, then were the Russians, and of course they had to leave because Hitler invaded Russia. And then the AVGs, but very few people are aware of that.

To make a long story short I was on my 38th mission and I was told by this watering commander that I would lead this mission and that it would comprise of flight from Nanking to Hankow, so it's a river sweep on the Yangtze River. And he chewed us out, I'll never forget that. Because we were always exposed to danger and he chewed us out for not getting more results. Not sinking enough ships and not destroying enough enemy... whatever.

So that was stuck in the back of my mind. I lay awake most of the night. Even though I had 38 missions, China was never familiar to me at any time. There were no landmarks that you could use, just a vast, vast country. There were no streets, highways, railroads that you could use. You did have the Yangtze River.

Early morning I went down to ops and was briefed and told that if anything happened to go north as far as you could from the Yangtze because everything else was all in Japanese. So we were showing our flak, zones of flak. After the briefing the Chinese two guys on my wing and I, we climbed in our P51-D's we had two, each one of us had two demolition bombs. And of course we had our six...

J.R. Warmkessel: 50 caliber?

Randsom Rideout: 50 caliber machine guns. So we were heavily armed. And we took off, joined up, and headed for Nanking.

It was a gorgeous day, it was a pilot's day to fly. The air was so smooth, the Merlin just purred so smoothly, and I look over to my left side and I see in the early morning sunlight this ten-story, I figured it was ten-story, it could have been twelve or five, but it was a beautiful white marble pagoda. And as I gazed down at that gorgeous pagoda I thought to myself, "How could there be killing going on and everything below me?" It was just a serene setting, it made it hard to believe there was anything harmful going on. And about that time I could see Nanking in the distance and I told my wingman, "Let's drop down to 5,000 feet," and we did and we started our sweep from Nanking to Hankow which was approximately 800 miles.

We were now 1,000 miles behind lines into Japanese territory. And of course we had no radio aids at all and that's what made it spooky. If weather could come in behind you, how the Hell am I going to find my way home? We'd write our courses down on the back of our hand so that we had at least a small reference but everything was dead reckoning. We had no radio aids whatsoever.

After we got down to 5,000 we started our sweep and an hour went by and shoot, no luck, we didn't see anything. I figured about this time the old man is going to have fun with this when we get home 'cause we're not sighting anything. And about that time I saw in the distance this gorgeous big, white yacht. I mean, what a thing to see. A big gorgeous yacht. Big power yacht.

Now that time of year, the Yangtze River is way down. The banks of the river are some 40 feet high. And this big yacht was nestled right up to the base. Before a bend in the river, it was based down here.

I told my wingmen to give me cover while I went down and strafed it up a bit. So I took a pass at that beautiful yacht, gave them a long burst with my 50s, couldn't get a fire started. I don't even know if I ever hit them or not. Anyway, I broke to the left and my wingmen were screaming to me at that time, "Rideout, they're shooting at you! They're in the bank of the river there. They're firing at you."

So I made one more pass and this time I broke to the right. Well, as I broke to the right, I could not, I was down on the deck, I had just finished my pass, and I was breaking down to the right. I couldn't believe it. I'm under the biggest camouflage net in the world, it stretched for miles. And underneath this massive camouflage net are 11 huge, huge landing craft.

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Show Notes