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| After this he was assigned to DeRidder Air
Base in Louisiana, where he passed the next three weeks doing "odd jobs".
The field closed at that point and Gabby's next assignment to the 29th
Fighter Squadron with P-40 fighter planes in Sarasota Air Force Base, Florida.
Here he helped to instruct pilots on how to fire their guns and drop rockets
and bombs. Next stop for the pilots after they completed their schooling
The base was equipped with a tandem fighter plane, used to teach students the art of strafing land dive bombing. When the instructor didn't have a student, he had a most willing flight companion! Gabby was ever ready to strap on a parachute and hop into the plane. He tried to become an Army Air Force pilot, but was turned down because he is color blind.
In October 1943, a hurricane headed through Florida and the Sarasota-based planes were ordered to evacuate to Georgia. Gabby was scheduled to fly along, but at the last minute he was replaced by a mechanic. Enroute to Georgia, the plane on which he would have flown exploded in midair; the two occupants, pilot and mechanic, were killed. This was the worst of several near misses which would occur in his lifetime.
Gabby was in Sarasota until October 1945 when his squadron was shipped out in a C-46 cargo plane to March Field, California, the largest base in the country at that time. He took full advantage of his two months on the west coast to do some sightseeing. One trip aboard a freight train bound from San Francisco to Los Angeles was especially memorable. Gabby and his friends were on top of a box car; every time whistle blew they were covered with soot.
Gabby was discharged from the Army at Santa Anna Base on December 27, 1945. When would such an opportunity come his way again? He stayed on to see the Rose Parade and Rose Bowl game before heading homeward.
He boarded a train for the scenic route home, stopping first to see Boulder Dam in Colorado. The next stop was Salt Lake City, Utah to visit the famous Tabernacle Church, built by using wooden pegs instead of nails. Gabby remembered hearing the music of the huge organ and Tabernacle Choir on Sundays while he was living at home.
The next train hop took him to Las Vegas, Nevada, which was very cold with more snow on the way. He enjoyed looking at the beautiful girls and played the slot machines for awhile, commenting later, "You can't beat them!"
After three days in Las Vegas, he left for Chicago, Illinois. It was icy cold and snowing there, so he didn't linger long. He boarded the next available train for Philadelphia and home.
Perhaps he couldn't become a pilot the Air Force, but back home again, as a civilian, it was a different story. In June 1946 he soloed in the Blue Dove Aeronca airplane and went on to get a commercial and twin engine rating.
Gabby was off and flying!
The Pilots Club And Flyer's Roost
There were a number of local aviation enthusiasts who hung
around the Limerick airport on weekends, consulting each other on places
to which they could fly. During the winter of 1947-48 Vernon D. Shaffer
called them together for several meetings in the old YMCA building on King
Presidents after Vernon Shaffer were: Bert Wells, 1949; James J. Moore, 1950; William J. Weiss, 1951; Barton Whitman, 1952; Alvin E. "Gabby"