Fighter Pilot Training
George Brown was born October 16, 1924 in Rockwell, Iowa but he grew up in nearby Mason City graduating from Mason City High School May 1942. After high school, George attended Mason City Jr. College, but at age 18 he enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corps on December 1, 1942. In February 1943, George was sent to Jefferson Barracks in St. Louis, Missouri for Basic Training and then to Santa Ana Air Base for Pre Flight Training. Next, he was sent to Tucson, Arizona for Primary Flight Training using a Ryan PT-22 Recruit, a 160 horse power trainer plane. After Tucson, George was sent to Minter Army Air Field at Bakersfield, California for Basic Flight Training using Texan AT-6’s rated at 650 horse power. Of
approximately 100 pilots in training, George and eleven others were selected for Advanced Flight Training at Luke Air Base where they initially flew AT-6’s and the single seat Curtiss P-40 Warhawk 1,200 horse power fighter plane. Upon completing his first flight on a Curtiss P-40, George said, “Wow! That was exhilarating but down right scared the pants off me”.
Hazardous Duty Pay
During flight training, George received a bonus $25 per month hazardous duty pay bringing his monthly pay to a whopping $75. Speaking of hazardous duty, George recalls the time during his P-40 training when suddenly his wing man, Milburn Apt, disappeared. George, yelled over his radio, “Where did you go!” It just happened out that Milburn’s engine unexpectedly went into idle mode resulting in a rough splash down in a Louisiana rice paddy, which he blissfully walked away from.
POW Brother Jim
Following Luke Air Base George was assigned to Hamilton Field, California, where he joined
the 398th Squadron, 369th Fighter Trainer Group that assembled there. In the winter of 1944, he was off to DeRidder, Louisiana for combat training. Then, in the spring of 1945, George was transferred to Meridian, Mississippi where they began flying P-51 Mustangs. George thought the Mustang was the smoothest flying fighter yet, especially with its powerful Rolls Royce single engine. Many of George’s family members served during WWII including his older brother James who piloted a B-17 Bomber over Germany where he flew 12 combat missions. Jim and his crew were shot down in 1944 over Holland by a German Messerschmitt and was promptly captured which led him to becoming a prisoner war. On April 29, 1945, General George Patton’s tanks crashed through their prison gates thus liberating James and his fellow prisoners.
By the time George completed all of his fighter pilot training logging in over 900 hours of flying time, WWII had finally come to a close and he was honorably discharged September
21, 1945. George returned home to Mason City, Iowa and promptly attended the University of Iowa receiving his Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration in 1948. George gives great credit to the GI Bill for enabling him to continue his education and pursuing a professional career. Meanwhile, George fell in love with Patricia Neal and they were married December 26, 1947; they have four children and 2 grandchildren.
Leading the Good Life
George was compelled to work hard and to pursue his American dream so after college he embarked on numerous job opportunities including working in sales with Standard Oil and banking in his home town. George landed a position with Mason City’s Airport Commission which led him to becoming assistant manager of operations for 8 years at Waterloo’s airport. Then, he became assistant airport manager at Salt Lake City International Airport. George moved up to Assistant Deputy of Operations and later moved back to Mason City Airport becoming Airport General Manager. George remained in the U.S. Air Force Reserves after his active duty retiring in 1984.
George fully retired in 1986 and took up several hobbies including bicycling to stay in shape
and becoming an avid HO gauge model railroader. George said, “I’ve had a great life surviving prostrate cancer in 2007, a stroke in 2008 and receiving a heart pace maker in 2012.” George lost his dad at age 37 so George knew he had to make a successful life on his own. Being a member of the greatest generation, I reckon George benefitted from his hardy family background growing up as sharecroppers during the great depression and serving during WWII.