NATTC MEMPHIS HOME PAGE
MEMORIES OF AVIATION ELECTRONIC "A" SCHOOL, NATTC MEMPHIS, TN (AKA MILLINGTON, TN)
I attended "A" school for 26 weeks. It seemed like a long time then. It doesn't now. In retrospect, it was one of the most rewarding experiences I've had, and set the stage for my career in electronics and management in civilian life.
OGU (Outgoing Units)
Following graduation from ANP school at Norman, Oklahoma, I came by train directly to Memphis. Before I could be assigned a class, I had to spend a short time in OGU. OGU was made up of a wooden WWII barracks and "company" composed of transient sailors who might temporarily be tasked to any sort of bottom-feeder detail: cleaning, watchstanding, you name it. Typically a person spent at least a few days in OGU upon arrival before receiving assignment to an "A" school company, and he typically spent a few days after graduation in OGU before receiving travel orders to his next duty station. I don't know anyone who liked OGU.

During my stint in OGU, I was assigned to clean the locker room at the base gymnasium. Quite late at night, one of the petty officers in charge unexpectedly gave me a tuna sandwich from the galley. This was my first exposure to "mid-rats", food served to watchstanders in the middle of the night. Mid-rats were welcome then and were to be always welcome in the future.

ASSIGNMENT TO CLASS
After spending a few days in OGU, I was assigned to class 55-04 on January 24th, 1955.
BARRACKS
When we moved out of OGU and into school barracks, we found they were a vast improvement over the wooden WWII barracks we'd had in boot camp and at ANP school in Norman, Oklahoma. These two-level barracks were spacious, with huge windows and easily cleaned surfaces. There was even a recreation room with TV. And there was a large room on the first floor with sofas where one could doze while awaiting the order to fall in for class.

barracks

The school barracks at NATTC Memphis.
CHOW
Directly in the middle of about four barracks buildings was the chow hall. As is usual in the Navy, food was excellent. The chow hall was also used for fleetwide examinations for promotion. Based upon fleetwide examination, I was promoted from Airman Apprentice (AA) to Airman (AN) on May 16th, 1955.
MARCHING
We fell in outside the barracks and marched southward perhaps one-eighth to one-quarter mile to class. Marching was relaxed, compared to boot camp. One exception was when the Navy petty officer in charge of our class turned us over to a Marine non-com, who had higher standards. That was NOT fun!
CLASSMATES
Most of us were sailors. Included in our classes, however, was a sprinkling of Marine privates, a few Waves (as female sailors were called in those days), and a few female Marines (whom we called Bams, but not to their faces). I don't recall how the Marines, Waves, and Bams compared academically to the sailors, but I suspect they performed about equally. We got on well with all of them. I recall visiting the Marine barracks on one occasion (they were billeted separately) at which time I was invited to "put on your mattress cover and let's go on liberty", a humorous reference to our white Navy uniform.
LESSONS
We were first taught the basics of electronics: electron flow, the workings of resistors, capacitors, and inductors, how electron tubes worked, etc. Electronic components are marked with color bands to indicate their values in ohms, microfarads, and microhenries - so our Navy instructors taught us a memory aid I still remember: "Bad boys rape our young girls, but Violet gives willingly". This corresponds to black=0, brown=1, red=2, orange=3, yellow=4, green=5, blue=6, violet=7, gray=8, and white=9. Then there was "Eli, the ice man", a memory aid to remind us that voltage (E) leads current (I) across an inductor (L), and current (I) leads voltage (E) across a capacitor (C). Where would we be without memory aids?

When we'd reached a sufficient level of expertise, we were taught to tune and calibrate ART-13 transmitters installed in cutaway WWII aircraft hulks, like Hellcats and Avengers. This part of the curriculum seriously wanted updating.


ART-13 transmitter

The venerable ART-13 transmitter.

The Navy had built on a table a replica of the Mississippi River area surrounding Memphis, including islands, dams, and various cities. This was submerged under about 8 inches of water. An ultrasonic transmitter "flew" through the water over the replica, with an associated receiver sensing the reflections from the surfaces. The resulting images painted upon a radar scope duplicated closely what might be seen by an aircraft flying over the actual area. This clever simulation was to prepare us for the flight phase of our training, where we filed into Navy R4D aircraft, flew over the area, and took turns directing the pilots and the aircraft according to information on our radar scopes. Since there were no windows in the aircraft, and since there was little air movement, we became queasy when we encountered turbulence. We were also required to wear chest-pack parachutes, and the instructors warned us against deliberately or accidentally pulling the D-ring. Naturally, one of our class (not me) popped his chute inside the aircraft cabin, much to the disgust of instructors.

Toward the end of training, we were taught to troubleshoot APS-31 radars. The instructors would cut one of the pins from the base of a critical electronic tube, resulting in a malfunction of the system. We would have to diagnose the problem based upon symptoms observed and our knowledge of the signal flow.

LOCKER CLUB
Since it was required that students wear uniforms off-base, some enterprising soul had established a locker club in nearby Millington, Tennessee, where military persons could rent lockers and keep civilian clothes. I didn't participate, but many did.
NORTHSIDE
Across the highway from the Southside school base was the Northside air base. This included a movie theater, a barber shop, a Naval exchange store, and an airfield.

On one occasion I walked to the airfield terminal and bummed a ride on a training flight consisting of two Navy reserve officers flying an SNB twin engine Beechcraft. During the flight, the co-pilot moved aft to work on some night school homework, and invited me to fly the right hand seat. The pilot retained control of the aircraft, of course, but I got to bank the aircraft around big puffy cumulus clouds. It was great.


Navy SNB twin Beechcraft

A Navy SNB twin Beechcraft.
WEATHER
Since we were still junior non-rated personnel, we stood quite a few watches. Many of them were outside in school areas. I can recall standing watch in a driving rain with ice-cold water trickling down my back, clothing completely soaked.

I can also recall standing watch outside in the winter when it was so cold the Navy "doubled the watch" and only permitted us one hour's exposure at a time, compared to the normal four hours. At that time I was wearing practically every item of clothing I'd been issued.

GRADUATION
On August 5th, 1955 at the end of 26 weeks of study we graduated. Graduation was anticlimactic. There were no Navy bands, no marching in review as in boot camp. The Navy allowed us to choose our next duty stations, based upon class standing. I wasn't bright enough to be class "honor man", but I placed sufficiently high that I was able to choose NAS, Cecil Field, Florida. After a stint of several days in OGU, I set out for there by train.
THEN AND NOW
Where once was a secure base, now the base is open - I have driven it's streets unhindered. It's still Navy, but the base has been taken over, for personnel purposes, I believe. The school barracks and chow hall are gone, as are many other buildings. New buildings have risen. The AT school has been relocated elsewhere, to Pensacola, Florida, I believe. The airfield is still there, but I believe it's no longer Navy. Don't bother to go back - it's not the same. In early May of 2010 the base was completely flooded by rising waters from the river, over 9 miles to the east. Since I've not been back in recent years I have no idea what condition the base is in now.

FROM WILLIAM CLEMENTS
Bill Clements attended AT B school at Memphis, following a posting to NAS Niagara Falls. Below is a photo of his graduating class. I'm going to take some liberties in interpreting what he sent me, since I know sailors frequently refer to buddies by their last names without ever knowing (or maybe forgetting) their first names, so I'm guessing the front row, left to right, is J.L. Pederson; Powell; Henson; R.E. Gordon, the ATC; G.F. Flores; L.M. Hollingsworth; and G. Agard. The second row, left to right, would be Cobel; F.D. Strout; Davey; R.E. Nida; W.J. Clements; Pettigrew; and Howell.



FROM BERNIE KOETTING

Some Memories of NATTC Millington by Bernard Koetting AT1

We were getting used to long and dusty train rides - St Louis to San Diego, San Diego to Jacksonville. The trip from AN P School in Jax to NATTC Memphis was an easier trip. After we arrived, barracks S-1 became our home for the next 28 weeks. S-1 was right on the corner of the street leading from the main Southside gate and the east-west street that ran the full length of the base. There was room to play touch football near the back entrance. [Mem 7, Mem 8].

Within 2 or 3 weeks of our arrival, all hands were turned out around 2am to help control a building fire on the southwest corner of the facility. Our fire control training in boot camp helped us handle the hoses properly, but it burned to the ground anyway. Other than that experience life was routine until the day a very hard windstorm took down the Administration flag pole as I watched from our barracks window. We found the Hobby Shop well equipped with a Photo Lab, Model Building Room and a Hi-Fi workshop. [Hobby Shop].

All new students had to attend morse code class [Mem Bldg. 51] and I was allowed to test out of that class since I already could copy 13 words per minute because of my experience as an amateur radio operator WOYYI. That and some background as a broadcast engineer when KGMO first went on the air in Cape Girardeau MO made our first few weeks of class and labs easy to absorb. A few times some of my buddies wanted help from me when they studied in the barracks. [Mem Elvin, MEM Paul] . While still attending A School I discovered that Special Services operated a Radio Station on the base. It covered only Northside and Southside plus the Naval Hospital to the east. I requested and received duty at the radio station, eventually becoming chief engineer of WTRI "The voice of the tri-stations". [Mem WTRI-2]. Special Services also supplied a building on Northside for "hams" to operate an amateur station W4ODR [Mem W4ODR, W4ODR-2].

You mentioned the lockers for rent across Navy Road and yes I did have one. Once or twice a week I would change into my civies for a bus ride into Memphis where the Knights Of Columbus had a beautiful clubroom and outdoor garden. One landmark on the trip into Memphis was the Humko plant which produced cooking shortening [Mem 78]. There were a lot of friendly young ladies when they would have some special event, like the Hawaiian theme party we attended. [Mem 41]. It was like the USO but privately managed. Incidentally these were all people of high moral character, and nearly everyone in the AT School seemed a grade or two above the values of the seagoing Navy. Those days are long gone.

In late 1952 the Blue Angels performed at an Airshow and the public was invited [Mem 30 through 43]. 30 and 37 were the PBYs, 34 and 38 the Blue Angels flying F9F Panthers, 31 Navy SNJ Texan, and 43 an F7F Cutlass.

I believe we had 2 weeks in the Northside barracks [Mem 125] definitely more run down than the barracks on Southside. Our time there included several days of flight time in SNBs and R4D practicing directing the pilots by our APS- 4 radar observations. Radar displays were primitive then. We flew south to Helena and Sardis, and took turns as "co- pilot". When my A School was finished, they sent me to Instructor's School for several weeks and then to [Mem Bldg 99] as Ship's Company [Mem Ships Co] with freedom from watch lists and a few other perks, to teach ARC 5 Receiver theory and troubleshooting [Mem 108--classroom and 164 - Sol on left, Bernard on right]. After a year or so, it was getting monotonous and I was ready for a transfer, which came on 20 July 1953 to VC-4 Squadron NASAC - Atlantic City NJ.

Misc pictures: Some of the new barracks under construction in the northeast area of the Southside [Mem 24 and 119], Confederate Park downtown Memphis [Mem 52], Captain's Inspection on Saturdays [Mem 10, Mem73], me using 2 "tie-ties" to hang up laundry [Mem Hang Wash], Looking West on main street [Mem Mess Hall], The AD (Av Machinists Mate) and AM (Av Structural Mech) School, from my classroom window [Mem 109].

Other memories: Ship's Company picnic somewhere in the southeast quadrant where there was a swimming hole and a shaded area with park benches and fire pits. Near the ammo dump as I recall. Several shows on Northside - Eddy Arnold, a Wave Beauty Contest, POGO comic strip creator Walt Kelly, Stan Kenton. Sailors flew U-Control models next to the Hobby Shop, including a ramjet engine - NOISY. Private pilot training lessons were available at the Navy's "Field 21" about 10 miles southwest of NATTC. It was one of several "Touch and Go" small practice fields. This one was reserved for us to store and fly our privately owned planes. Chief Chuck Farrar ADC ran the private business. This airfield is now The Charles Baker Municipal Airport but you can still see the outlines of the original octagon runway layout on satellite. A group of 6 of us formed the Wings of Pleasure Flying Club and bought a Luscombe 8A for $400. Eventually one of our members wrecked it trying to practice a simulated forced landing. There went our $400.

Lt Cdr Long contacted me to see if I would consider Officer Candidate School and after giving it a couple days of thought I declined. The enlisted Navy was where I wanted to be. Two weeks later , CDR Long died in a plane crash, and I grieved for a long while.

With my wife and 2 sons we visited NATTC in 1963 and it was a thrill to walk the streets again and see that nothing much had changed by them. Most of the wooden barracks were still intact, as well as the AT School buildings. A personal friend from Perryville was the Marine Commandant and we got a great tour, North and South.

Then in 2001 I went to the Memphis' Airshow and revived some wonderful memories on the base. The water tower still stood and some of the metal classroom buildings on the Northside were still there, as well as a hangar or two, but all the wooden barracks were of course leveled away. It was a day worth remembering and I visited our old downtown haunts like the K C clubroom and the Memphis auditorium which was the venue for a lot of big band talent. Sometime after the Airshow I inquired to Public Affairs about visiting the Navy's facility on the Southside and they said I was very welcome but needed to be accompanied by a base employee for admission. I decided to give up on the idea. That was 2001.

80

Left to right: Mem 7, Mem 8, Hobby Shop, Mem Bldg 51. Click on any small image to see a larger image.

Left to right: Mem Elvin Knutson, Mem Paul Jesse-Krall, Mem WTRI 2, Mem W4ODR. Click on any small image to see a larger image.

Left to right: W4ODR 2, Mem 78, Mem 41, Mem 30. Click on any small image to see a larger image.

Left to right: Mem 31, Mem 34, Mem 37, Mem 38. Click on any small image to see a larger image.

Left to right: Mem 43, Mem 125, Mem Bldg 99, Mem Ships Co. Click on any small image to see a larger image.

Left to right: Mem 108, Mem 164, Mem 24, Mem 119. Click on any small image to see a larger image.

Left to right: Mem 52, Mem 10, Mem 73, Mem Hang Wash. Click on any small image to see a larger image.

Left to right: Mem Mess Hall, Mem 109, Mem WTRI - Frank Schweiss. Click on any small image to see a larger image.



FROM FRANK ACEVEDO, AX2

Frank was stationed at Millington from September, 1962 to December, 1963. He was assigned to VS-22 from March, 1964 to June, 1966. He offers his email address to any who might wish to contact him: Frankxa@aol.com.

Left to right: A young Frank Acevedo. Frank's graduating class (front row, left). VS-22 disestablishment ceremony (Frank is on left). Click on any small image to see a larger image.

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