Cornelia Fort 1919 to 1943. WAFS pilot

My Aunt Cornelia was born on February 5, 1919.
She grew up with three older brothers, Rufus, born in 1910, Father, born in 1911, and Uncle Garth, born 1914. When Cornelia was five years old, grandfather called the three boys into a room and made each swear on The Holy Bible that he would never fly an airplane. Grandfather had a deep underlying conviction that airplanes were dangerous and he wanted to insure that no member of his family would succumb from the temptation to pursue this dangerous avocation.

At 21 when Cornelia did start taking flying lessons in 1940, after attending Sarah Lawrence college for two years, she shared the news with my father, Dudley. Although she was overjoyed with enthusiasm, my father was outraged. He was quite matter of fact when he asked Cornelia how she could possibly fly when she knew that their father had forbidden this activity. Cornelia was untouched by his criticism. She said that the oath was given to the boys and not to the two girls. My father was never satisfied with this answer and resented Cornelia's flying. Their father lay on his death bed when Cornelia had started to fly. She had become infected with the thrill of flying and could not escape its intoxicating grip.

Years later I would listen in awe as her friends would relate "Cornelia Stories". One woman said that Cornelia would call saying that she had a plane she could fly for gas, but she had no gas money. "I had three dollars, so we flew around for the afternoon."

Cornelia was the second woman in Tennessee to get her commercial license and the first to get an instructor's rating. This was on March 19, 1941. Grandfather had died almost one year earlier and his warning against flying had long since been forgotten.

After earning her instructor's rating Cornelia wrote all of the flying schools in America looking for a job teaching. A reply came from The Massey Ransom Flying Service of Fort Collins, Colorado. The telegram read,

"Mr. Cornelia Fort, you are accepted as a flight instructor, report at once."
Cornelia was in tears when she took the telegram to her mother. "Look mother," she said, "they think that Cornelia is a man's name. I knew that no one would hire a female flight instructor."

My grandmother was quite specific when she related this story to me in 1956. She would often relate Cornelia stories to me, and I took special interest in this one. My grandmother then said, "I told her to wire Fort Collins and tell them that she was a woman pilot. Cornelia finally regained enough of her composure to do this and off she went to the telegraph office." "The next day a telegram arrived. Cornelia opened it with trembling hands and tears of joy ran from her eyes when she read, Mr. or Miss. or Mrs., we do not care what you are, if interested please report at once."

And so Cornelia was off. The family Chauffeur, Epperson, drove Cornelia to Colorado and years later I asked him what they talked of during the drive. He was quite candid. He felt that he had raised Miss Cornelia. He had reviewed her Latin with her while driving her to school years earlier and the two were quite comfortable together. Cornelia spent the entire time relating the joys and thrills and achievements that flying had given her. Her hopes and aspirations were so intoxicating that she hardly ever quit talking. Once in Colorado Cornelia forgot the anxiety that had plagued her before getting a job instructing and wrote an article for the Sarah Lawrence Alumnae Magazine:

I came to Fort Collins, Colorado, to get altitude experience-the hardest flying there is. We are a mile high, which is higher than most light planes ever reach after taking off at sea level. I'm flying off the side of the Rocky Mountains where the air is tricky and vicious; one learns plenty and fast...

A year ago if anyone had told me that I'd ever care about the workings of a carburetor I would have laughed in his face, and if that same person had told me that I would get up at 4:30 a.m. and work straight through until almost 8:00 p.m. daily for six months, I'd have thought him crazy. Yet one student who really aches to learn, one sun-drenched flight at sunrise, one trip chasing a rainbow, one little girl who claps her hands and shouts "roller-coaster!', one cool, deeply quiet flight up the canyon at dusk are perhaps reasons enough....

After six months at Fort Collins a letter came from Honolulu offering Cornelia a job teaching there. She returned home, packed, and drove to California with a friend to leave by boat for Honolulu. There she worked for the Andrew Flying Service, located at the John Rodgers Airport.

On 10-31-91 she wrote the following letter to my father. Hawaii, 10/3/41

Dear Brother Dudley,

Thank you for your last two letters. I've been moving around so much I have hardly had time to write Mother.

In your letter to me in Colorado you mentioned that you hoped I was going to church while away from home. For six months there I worked all but two Sundays and on those two I slept. Don't worry about my soul - I realize how wonderful our childhood was, how lucky beyond hope of written word we are to have had such parents.

Honolulu is pretty wonderful - Except for the defense workers and enlisted men, and the only thing wrong with them is that there are so many of them. Warm but not hot and cool breezes from the sea at nite. It rains on and off all day but lightly - no one pays any attention to it at all - we don't even stop flying.

My apt. is right across from the Royal Hawaiian Hotel and the view of the surf is spectacular, but the beach is bitterly disappointing - narrow and dirty.

The flowers are marvelous - great banks of them outside my door. The little Chinese maid fills the apt. with them every day.

This is an excellent place to work. A good organization and good planes. I'm flying more open ships (stunting bi-planes) than I've ever flown before. Its all a lot of fun.

The people are friendly and Democratic in a very good sense. I wish you all could come over. I'll show you everything from Waikiki to a hula.

Living costs are out of sight though. Eggs .84 a dozen and butter .67 a pound. The same can of pineapple juice that cost .27 in Colorado costs .33 here. Figure it out.

Love, Cornelia.

The next letter that we still have was to her brother Rufus Fort. In 1941 he was an insurance executive working in Nashville, TN. Once the war started he received an army commission as a major and worked in the recruiting office in Atlanta, GA.


11-14-41 Hawaii

Dear Rufus,

As you probably gathered from my letters to Mother, I'm of two minds about Honolulu--it is truly beautiful and such weather as could never be found anywhere -- all blue and green and gold--sunshine without that drenching heat you might expect in the semi-tropics. I spend my one day off prone on the beach (and not Waikiki, that Coney Island of the Pacific) absorbing sun and surf and resting up from my soldier-sailor-defense worker students. For this is really boom town, and that I don't like. Hectic and full of petty and not so petty irritations. I'm glad I came, but the islands are not for me. I miss the season changes and the trains that take you places. There is a Toonerville Trolley Train that putters around the island. One of the local proverbs says that when that train begins to look like a train on the mainland, it is time to go home. Already it looks bigger, bigger to me, and last midnight I heard it whistle. That peeping little whistle contained all the magic of unknown places. If ever you have read Thomas Wolfe's books and his descriptions of trains and that quality of wonder contained in a smoky line of cars hitched together on the rails, you may understand what I mean.

There's so much poetry in so many things, my dearest. I've had so much happiness given me and for all of it I am grateful to everyone who has touched my life and added joy. And so many times a day I'm choked with love and gratitude to Mother and Dad, who made my way of life possible and who gave us our standards of integrity and loyalty and the ability to love life and value wisdom and beauty.

The happiness I have earned for myself is deeply good, too. The friends I've known in so many places, the knowledge I've thirsted for and gained, and the limitless prospect of more and more, the simple fact of having earned a living for myself with my hands and the skill that they can produce, the deeply satisfying pleasure of flying and the convictions such as they are that I have come to.

And if I leave here I will leave the best job that I can have (unless the national emergency creates a still better one), a very pleasant atmosphere, a good salary, but far the best of all are the planes I fly. Big and fast and better suited for advanced flying.

Love, Cornelia


Cornelia continued to teach flying in Hawaii and was up flying the morning of the attack in Honolulu, December 7, 1941. She kept a daily log, and it reads: "Flight interrupted by Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. An enemy plane shot at my plane and missed and proceeded to strafe John Rodgers, a civilian airport. Another plane machined gunned the ground in front of me as I taxied back to the hangar." She had been flying with her usual student at 6:30 AM and had a birds eye view of the attack. However, it was such a surprise to her that she was not able to understand what was happening until much later. She was flying an Interstate Cadet with a 65 HP Continental engine, but in the movie Tora Tora she is shown in an open cockpit Stearman. She later wrote up this incident for Woman's Home Companion and it was published three months after her death.


1-28-42
Dear Mother,
In writing this letter, which if delivered will be my last, I'm filled neither with a feeling of morbidity nor a prescience of disaster. But the ocean voyage I will be making shortly has elements of danger and if I lose my life before seeing you again, dearest, I wanted to say aloha and send you my love forever and forever.

I want you to know that except for not seeing you in the last weeks when I've ached for you so, my life has been exceedingly happy. Thanks to environment, both physical and spiritual that you and Dad gave me, my life has been rich and full of meaning.

I've loved the green pastures and the cities, the sunshine on the plains and the rain in the mountains. Springtime in New York and fog in San Francisco.

Books and music have been deeply personal things to me, possessions of the soul. I've loved the multitudinous friends in many places and their many kindnesses to me. I've loved the steak and red wine and dancing in smoky nightclubs, self-important headwaiters who bring the reams of French bread and wine sauces in New Orleans, I've loved the ice coldness of the air in the Canadian Laurentians, the camaraderie of skiing and the first Scotch and Soda as you sit in front of the fire.

I loved my blue jeans and the great dignity of life on the ranches. I loved fox-hunting even with its snobbishness, I loved the deep pervading tiredness after six hours of timber-topping.

I dearly loved the airports, little and big. I loved the sky and the planes and yet, best of all, I loved flying. For it too was a deeply personal possession of the soul. I loved Johnny because he knew what I meant when we were flying and I suddenly grinned or clapped my hands because the inside excitement was too great not to grin.

I loved it best perhaps because it taught me utter self-sufficiency, the ability to remove oneself beyond the keep of anyone at all--and in so doing it taught me what was of value and what was not.

It taught me a way of life--in the spiritual sense. It taught me to cherish dignity and integrity and to understand the importance of love and laughter.

For I have loved many people and many places and many things and best of all I have loved life, and especially American life--And if I can say one thing in truth, it is that to my friends and my convictions I have brought all the loyalty and integrity of which I was capable.

If I die violently, who can say it was "before my time"? I should have dearly loved to have had a husband and children. My talents in that line would have been pretty good but if that was not to be, I want no one to grieve for me.

I was happiest in the sky--at dawn when the quietness of the air was like a caress, when the noon sun beat down and at dusk when the sky was drenched with the fading light. Think of me there and remember me, I hope as I shall you.

With love, Cornelia


Cornelia returned home by convoy and traveled around the country promoting the sale of War Bonds. She wore a dress that resembled a military uniform and was very patriotic. To further her flying skills she went to New York to take a link trainer course, and just after completing this course on September 6, 1942 she received a telegram from Nancy Love inviting her to come to Wilmington, Delaware and join an all woman group of ferry pilots. This was to be the original group of WAFS who already had at least 500 hours of logged flying time. There was no flight training, just pass or fail flight checks. Although Cornelia must have been in contact with her mother the first letter we have is dated after she completed her six week orientation. During this time women kept dropping out of the program and were replaced by other qualified female pilots, many of whom were flight instructors. Few other women had the necessary flight time, and some of the original women were simply incredibly wealthy women who had been flying as a hobby. Given the opportunity to fly for the country, they accepted the challenge. Some washed out because of their lack of cross country skills or their relative lack of skill in bad weather conditions or cross wind landings. Some found it impossible to quickly adapt to the changing conditions that they were faced with.

Here, then, is the first letter that Cornelia wrote after completing the indoctrination.
For details of the training see Del Scharr's book, "Sisters in the Sky."


Post card dated Oct. 21, 1942 1 PM Del.

Mrs. R.E. Fort
Riverside Drive
Nashville, Tenn.

Mother dear,
Whether I get to bring planes thru Nashville will be a matter of chance. However, in the process of getting back here via Airline, I shall certainly come thru - probably at odd hours. Would you go to the airport to meet me briefly (with Kerin) at 2 or 3 AM? If I wire you and you do want to come, leave word at the Airline office.

(Kerin was her dog)


Oct. 24 Del.
War Department
C Fort WAFS
NCAAB
Official Business

to Mrs RE Fort Riverside Drive, Nashville, Tenn.

Where should I wire you - Fortland or Jackson Blvd. This is important to know at once!
Do not disclose names of planes or destination of our trips - Say Eastern sea board, mid-west, south etc.



HEADQUARTERS
2nd FERRYING GROUP
FERRYING DIVISION - AIR TRANSPORT COMMAND
NEW CASTLE ARMY AIR BASE
WILMINGTON, DELAWARE
10/24/42

Mother dearest,

On Wednesday our month of training was up and we were allowed to wear our uniforms. Unfortunately it rained so we were like the original, all dressed up and nowhere to go! Thursday, however, the first six of us, thereby having seniority, were given orders. It was tremendously exciting. We proceeded by an Army transport plane to Lock Haven where the entire town was out to greet us. So somewhat self consciously we climbed into six L4B's and took off across the Allegheny Mts. to Allentown.

Betty Gillies was Flight Leader and consequently brought up the rear to watch over the flight. I was sub-flight leader and was in front which, as I wrote before, is a somewhat awe-inspiring job. We flew in a beautiful V echelon formation.

All of us felt practically historic - the first female ferry pilots to have active duty. On arriving at the hotel we unanimously agreed that instead of having to "rough it" on trips, it was the height of luxury.

Bath tubs instead of showers. Great soft beds instead of Army cots and a telephone to wake us instead of pounding on doors. The next morning we left precisely at 8 and arrived at out destination, Mitchell Field, Long Island where we heaved a thankful sigh that our first mission was completed without incident.

We went with Betty Gillies to the famous Aviation Country Club (airport swimming pool, tennis court, skeet shoot and the other usual country club facilities) where we changed out of our skirts and had pre-lunch sherry to celebrate.

Being very hungry for good music I streaked into NY to Carnage Hall to hear Bruno Walter conduct before meeting Mrs McCain at '21' for a drink. All of us took the 6:30 train home. It's simply wonderful to be able to whip out our little book of travel tickets and know we will get space by priority if necessary. Actually it is fair because having flown all day we need sleep and rest on the way home for the next trip. Our uniforms, which are as yet devoid of insignia, created a great stir. People guessed everything from Air Raid Wardens to WAAC;s to Junior (Girl Scout) Commandos.

Col. Tunner, Commanding officer for the whole division, flew up from Washington to review today. With all 20 (twenty) of us in uniform, we presented quite a spectacle. Now we are on call for the next trip.

Thanks for the bottles etc. How about the flashlight, the old spice bath powder (in a brown round tube for traveling in or on my bureau) and my jodhpur. I'm sending home some clothes, if you will have the yellow coat cleaned I'll reimburse you. Do you have any idea what the cost of all your express and postal charges to me are? Also the horn rimmed dark glasses in the left drawer of the study book-case.

Hope to get a glimpse of you soon. I love you. Cornelia.

In late October Cornelia delivered a J-3 Cub to Nashville. This letter followed.



HEADQUARTERS
2nd FERRYING GROUP
FERRYING DIVISION - AIR TRANSPORT COMMAND
NEW CASTLE ARMY AIR BASE
WILMINGTON, DELAWARE

Mother dearest-

No words could convey the utter happiness of last week end. It meant more than even you can guess. The plane trip was smooth and ahead of schedule. I slept all the way to Washington and slept in the Stewardes's Lounge for 1 1/2 hrs - so I didn't have too bad a time.

I was welcomed back like a hero - and to my horror I found that none of the other girls had been on any trips - and still haven't. Its like a dry rot of morale which is deadly, and the far reaching effects of such stagnation are too dreadful to contemplate.

I called Mrs. McCain and found that Bill has been transferred from the U.S.S. Indianapolis back to the states. If his new ship is being built he may have several months - if it is ready he will have immediate duty. We had just foregathered at the officer's club in late afternoon when he called me from San Francisco. He thinks he will be here before the end of the week and plans to spend his leave in Wilmington. Of course I won't let him - wouldn't his family love that?

We have been encouraged to use the Link Trainers, a privilege eagerly taken advantage of as much time as we like. I have had 4 hours ($60 worth) in two days and am much happier about my enforced idleness. A small example of the mismanagement of our leaders is this - My Link instructor is an enlisted man but he graduated from Harvard Business School and Harvard University - another one was a Professor of Romance Languages at Yale. And some of the officers on the Post don't know ain't from no how!

When I actually noticed some improvement in my Link work today I simply beamed with happiness. And I guess that's as good an answer as any to your question of whether I felt I had to do this work. It's something so deep inside of me - a need so vital to my happiness as sunshine and sleep. I want more than I ever wanted anything in my life to be really good, to be a scientific pilot and command respect from all comers in aviation but even more important - for my own satisfaction and so my dear, I guess that's it.

Betty and I had dinner with two of our sweet little instructors last night at the Brandywine Room. It was a meatless Tuesday but no one could have suffered. There was choice of fish, lobster, crab, chicken, duck, shrimp and I had *** can't be read *****. It was my first experience and I very much liked it.

Tonight I took Nancy to dinner at the Walter Carpenters. He is the President of DuPont Co. It was a very pleasant evening, cocktails in front of a fire and roast turkey. But the Ping Pong wore us out. I never knew such a vigorous family. Incidentally, I flew long and low over the Pierre DuPont house and gardens today. They are gorgeous indeed. General George, Chief of the Air Transport Command is coming up to review us Saturday. Seems wicked for Generals to stop the war for a bit of ritual but apparently that's the kind of war it is. I have a fairly good idea that I will lead a small flight to Jackson, Miss next week and of course I'll have to airline home thru Nashville.
I love you muchly, Cornelia


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HEADQUARTERS
2ND FERRYING GROUP
FERRYING DIVISION - AIR TRANSPORT COMMAND
NEW CASTLE ARMY AIR BASE
WILMINGTON, DELAWARE
11/9/42

Mother dear-

Note the date - a full week since I left you and I still haven't gone out except for the Link Trainers it has been a totally useless week. I'm leading a flight of two - giving the other girl experience - to Selma, Ala - which will take me thru Atlanta and probably airline thru Nashville.

It has been a pleasant week socially. Mrs. Walter Carpenter (he is the Pres. of DuPont Co) gave a small dinner party for me. The roast turkey and cranberry sauce we had there shall in all likelihood be my Thanksgiving. I met a slap happy pilot at the officer's club after the movie we talked and he took me dinner dancing the next night. I hadn't realized how hungry for dancing I was - so very few of the officers here are worth walking across the street to chat with. I've never seen such a group of charmless men. Collectively their attractiveness is very low. Jimmy is fun and funny so it was pleasant. Bud Gillies (Betty's delightful husband) flew a twin engine Grumman down on Sat and they took Nancy and me to dinner at our favorite, the Brandywine Room. To sit down with 3 people who are so utterly like people we have known and to be happily at ease is a rarity here instead of common place. You wouldn't believe there could be such a large percentage of strikingly common place men as we have collected here. General George came up on Saturday to review the WAFS. I would not blame the rest of the men on the field for being fed up with the (entirely unsolicited and unwelcome) attention given the WAFS. He is the Commanding General of the entire Air Transport Command. We had a band and all sorts of flags and it was very stirring. He merely walked down the front of the men's squadrons but he inspected us each and every one and stopped to chat with each of us. And to make us even more conspicuous, five WAFS were invited to have luncheon with he and his aides in the Mess. The only table with a table cloth, flowers etc. and we sat thru the entire meal with a barrage of stares from everyone else in the mess. I had already eaten my lunch and was getting up to leave when Col. Baker come for me and told me I was supposed to have lunch at the Generals table. As I sat directly on his left I couldn't skip course after course so I carefully chewed my way thru another meal. He is a nice little man.

Yesterday was gray and rainy so we spent the afternoon in front of the fire at the Club reading. I met a guy (one of the best pilots on the field) who promises to add a little interest. He is going to try to arrange a trip in a Bomber (B-26) with me as his Co-Pilot. As General George told me flatly that if we did well (and he was tremendously impressed that I had taken a plane to Nashville by myself) in a few months we would be allowed to fly anything we were capable of. This Bill Howard is from West Virginia and a very attractive person. The first one I've seen.

Will wrote today that he would be on the Coast two more weeks and then have two weeks leave. So that will be nice indeed.

Johnny Koons is flying in the south west Pacific.

Love, Cornelia


Postcard with an airliner on one side. Winston Salem, NC Nov. ** 1942

I spent Thurs. nite in Charlottesville with friends. Fri. in Lynchburg with the Stokes and Sat. night in Atlanta. It is a minor miracle that all these things happened to work out. It was wonderful to see R. & AG & Dud & Pearl. We had a gay reunion dinner and Clem came up from Ft. Benning! Mission completed today so I'm homeward bound.
Cornelia



The Fallon Hotel, Lock Haven, PA.
11/19/42
Mother dearest,

I've literally been on the go so much and so fast that the postcard I wrote riding the airliner home was my first free moment.

We flew to Charlottesville the first day where I had a little mechanical difficulty. So I stayed and sent my Flight on without me. We seldom ever eat lunch while flying-it takes too long so by dinner we are ravenous.

I had dinner with Connie and Bill Butterfield at Farmington Country Club the first night. That place is truly fabulous. Aside from being as beautiful as Montecello and as gracious, it has out of this world food. We had home made mushroom soup and roast guinea etc.

The second day I strayed into the Rincharts. Jack was Master of the Hounds for 8 years and is a very dashing guy. He took me to the club again. We had vichyssoise, fresh artichokes and roast beef and die over. I think Charlottesville is the most beautiful place, without a doubt, I've ever seen.

I got as far as Lynchburg the next day before I was weathered bound. So I happily stayed with the Stokes. We called Rufus and Agnes and I told them, weather permitting, I would spend the next night there. I was lucky indeed and cannon balled into Atlanta in record time. Its too bad you and Louise weren't there. It was such fun. Dud and family came to dinner which we had after several reunion drinks. Their house couldn't be more attractive. The kids have grown a lot since July and it was blissfully happy to be with all of them.

I phoned Clen to say hello and he said he could come up which was a total surprise. I slept from 11 - 2 and he came about 2:30 so we had a few sleepy hours together. He is very thin and looks older but very fit. I delivered my plane at 2:30, jumped into a plane that was warming up for me and roared 50 miles to catch an airliner. Douglas "Wrong Way" Corrigan who is also in the Ferry Command rode part way with me. He's a very nice, twinkly-eyed little guy.

With my priority I put a Col. off the plane. He was a little irked but more gracious than I'd have been. I slept all the way back, waking up only to eat, read Life and Time and collapse again.

A wire from Bill was waiting for me so I called him in NY and he came right down. It's too damn bad I can't have leave while he does but its out of the question. I was fairly sure I wouldn't be sent out the same day but I was almost wrong.

He arrived at 5:30 and we went out to the officer's Club so he could meet Nancy and Betty. He has been in Alaska for 5 months which is apparently deadly.

We went into the Brandywine Room and had lobster thermidor and champagne for celebration. It was wonderful to see him again but oh damn how hard for me.

He has 10 days leave and a 6 week course in Washington. He begged me to marry him now so we could have 6 weeks together and that I would belong to him when he went back to sea. I wanted to say yes but Mother dear, I simply can't. I love him tenderly and devotedly, our interests are identical, we have an incredible lot in common but my heart doesn't pound even the slightest bit, I have nothing that resembles passion for him and so my heart and my mind made me say no. He was so stricken it made me weep.

He had said that all he wanted to talk to his family about was how wonderful he thought I was but instead all they talked about was how wonderful they thought I was. His mother told him as he left that she hoped he would come back with my yes and that she could have me as a daughter. So possibly you can guess how hard it was for me.

If I can work Xmas leave he is coming to Nashville with me. He is crazy to meet you.

Today he came out at 11, brought me roses and took me out to breakfast. No sooner had I reported back to the base than I found orders waiting for me. So even the chance of seeing him in Wilmington is shot to hell. Five of us left at 2:30 by plane and here we are again. This hotel is getting as familiar as Fortland.

I'm going south again and confidentially I can tell you that I will eat dinner at Antoines. I'll go thru Atlanta again and hope I can work it for overnight. I'm in a state of near collapse again so my darling I will say good night and send you all my

Love Cornelia.


Postcard from Quantico VA Nov 19, 1942 To Mrs. R.E.Fort, Jackson Blvd.

These Marines are fabulous. They never blinked an eye when 5 females asked for quarters. They simply blocked off a corridor and tacked up a "Ladies" sign-took us to the officer's club for champagne. What a good group of guys!

Cornelia


(Envelope) New York, Nov 21, 12M 1942 .03 postage due AIR MAIL

From: Bill McCain

Darling:
I don't know when you will get this. Perhaps we will see each other before you receive it. That is one of the things that is hard to get used to in the states; that there is always the chance of seeing you and being with you, instead of being isolated by thousands of miles of ocean. Being with you that brief while in Delaware was a brief vision of heaven, an all too short glimpse of that sun which has been hidden so long from me by the exigencies of war. Honey, I must admit here and now that I have made a mistake. When we parted in Honolulu, so many ages ago, I thought that I loved you very much. All during the intervening months I thought so, as well. Day and night during this time I prayed that I might see you again, thinking that when we were together again I would feel as I did in Honolulu when we parted. Well, to be frank, I don't feel as I did that day. Instead a passion so much stronger, so much more overwhelming has seized me that I can't even think straight. Day and night I dream of one thing, see one name before me, jump five feet when that name is mentioned, and generally am of no particular use to the family, as we are living in two different worlds.

Well, who is this person that has so changed my life, and made me forever her slave? You, Darling. You were so right when you said that we should wait, and know each other better, and not rush blindly into anything, because by doing so you have bound me to you so strongly that nothing can ever untie us. Seeing you again under different conditions simply makes me love you a thousand times more strongly. It was terribly hard to have to tear myself away before you took off.

Honey, every minute with you was a minute in Paradise. If only we could snatch just a day or two from our duties it would be Heaven. I enjoyed very much meeting your associates, especially Mrs. Love and Mrs. Gillies. They are wonderful people. I was especially impressed with the work you all are doing. It is much more important and vital than the work I am in, and I think the press, which has been my only previous source of information, has failed to convey the value and responsibility of your work. I trust that the Army was not upset by the presence of the Junior Service, as Naval Officers are rare birds (no pun intended) at Army Airfields. I also hope that I was not under your feet in any way during business hours.

Darling, I have just got to see you again soon. All this time in New York is bleak and barren, as you are not here. We must continue our conversations. I almost said to you at breakfast that morning that before continuing we should both sing "Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition". Honey I am hoping and praying that I will see you before the week is over. On Sunday the 22nd, and Monday the 23rd my address in Washington will be the Wardman Park Hotel. I will wire you as soon as I have a more permanent address.

I received your post card today, and was happy to learn that you had gotten well started on your flight, and were in good hands. The Marines are wonderful people, and as you pointed out so charmingly, are equal to any situation. Honey, I am praying for you and hoping that you will not run into any more quagmires.

ALL MY LOVE BILL


HEADQUARTERS
2nd FERRYING GROUP
FERRYING DIVISION - AIR TRANSPORT COMMAND
NEW CASTLE ARMY AIR BASE
WILMINGTON, DELAWARE
11-26-42

Mother dearest,

A very happy Thanksgiving and Jolly how I wish I were with you. I guess I'm lucky not to be in Kansas. I'm going to have Thanksgiving dinner with Bill either at Mrs. Dick Du Ponts or in Baltimore, depending on my orders. This is a working day for us.

My trip was very satisfactory. The first night at Quantico was very colorful indeed. The Marines out did themselves in hospitality, the 2nd night in Winston, Salem where I had a very fine steak with an old friend, the 3rd night in Spartenburg, S.C. which was dreary, the 5th night with Rufus and Agnes which was as good as an unexpected Xmas Present. Dudley and Pearl met us at the Piedmont Driving Club. It was so gay to go out at 10 instead of going to bed at 10. How delightful it was to dance again. The 5th night at Maxwell Field, Ala which we spent with Ann and Hamilton Gayden. Call Mrs Dickinson and tell her they are well and were very kind to us. We had a very gay pleasant buffet supper at the officers Club.

You've no idea the vast benefits that fall to me now that I'm in the Army. We were weather bound at Maxwell all the next morning and a Lt. asked me if I'd like an hours twin engine time. In civilian life I could have begged and pleaded and offered $100 and still wouldn't have gotten it. I said "yes of course" so now I have an hour of twin motored time all legal and everything. I was speechless with excitement. The next nite I spent in Mobile with Ann Perdue's family. I had an elegant dinner in that most beautiful old house, we talked long distance to Ann who is to have a baby in Jan. and I had breakfast in bed! Oh my! I delivered my ship to Biloxi (a military secret altho these airplanes have so little military value we can tell their destination). The Gulf was lovely and blue.

We were flown to New Orleans - 80 miles along the lovely coast line, beaches and palm trees etc. Lunch at Arnand's and a ramble thru the French Quarter. I succumbed to the lure of Antique shops and bought a soup tureen for the Andrew's. It is a beautiful - very plain - one and I hope you'll approve of it.

Dinner at Antoines was quite a ritual, oysters Rockerfeller, Pompano in the paper bag, a bottle of white Bordeaux and Crepes suzettes - during which they dim the lights so you can better appreciate the beauty of the flame. Some soldiers at the next table - after the lights had been dimmed several times-remarked in a loud voice, "What the hell is wrong with these lights" which amused us and horrified the waiter.

We saw or heard the last of the New Orleans Symphony and got home yesterday. Bill came up from Washington last nite because we were afraid I might be sent out today. We had lobster and sauterne and it was very good to see him. I'm enclosing his last letter. Please save it.
Love Cornelia


Sanborn Hotel, Florence SC Dec. 8 3 PM 1942 (* on the envelope *)

Mother dear-
This far and no farther have we gotten. I wonder if the time will ever come when I can get up and not care how bad the weather is. It has surely fouled us up on this trip!

We were weather bound 3 1/2 days in Lock Haven, a town with very few facilities for fun. The one day of good weather we flew from Pa. to Raleigh, N.C The next nite we were 50 miles further south in the dreary little town of Lumberton, N. C. The only entertainment possible for 2 girls in a strange town is the movies and even the movies were closed there.

Yesterday we flew 50 miles and again ran into bad weather. Oh dear! We could hitch hike faster. We are going to Fla. however, which is some recompense and by way of Charleston, Savannah and Sea Island, three places I've never been. If we ever get there perhaps it will be fun.

I'm so dreadfully tired of bad restaurants I should have learned by now that I will never get a good meal in a small town cafe' but somehow hunger makes me forget and I'm disappointed anew every meal. Even a home cooked meal at the Freezes would look heavenly to me. I shudder every time I see a menu. However, that is a small grievance and I have no complaints.

I miss you very much and I thought of you constantly all day Sunday, the anniversary of Pearl Harbor. Certainly last year I had no inkling of foreknowledge that I would be in Lumberton, N.C. a town I'd never heard of doing a job which was still unheard of. The war has brought us many changes, the main one in my case being a heightened enjoyment of the very simplest things - a candle lit dinner and a drink with friends before a fire - things I took utterly for granted in my pre-war life which seems several life-times ago.

Aloha nui----- Cornelia

HEADQUARTERS
2nd FERRYING GROUP
FERRYING DIVISION - AIR TRANSPORT COMMAND
NEW CASTLE ARMY AIR BASE
WILMINGTON, DELAWARE
1/7/43

Mother dearest.
I thought you might appreciate - as I did - the enclosed letters.

I'm still dazed- Having not seen the remains of Fortland I find it hard to picture it as gone. I want to help you in any way I can. Would you like me to try to list contents of the rooms and in so doing I might remember something you forgot.

Every once in a while I remember something else, like my favorite yellow coat and realization prickles my spine. It is utterly and forever gone.

I hope with all my heart you will sell Fortland now. Aside from the farm which all of us loved in different and various ways, the real character of the place was Fortland itself We would all have made sacrifices to have kept it but the farm is a drain, not only of your money, but what is more important, of your time and energy. As none of us could bear to rebuild where Fortland was and can never be again, the farm can have no substantial reason for remaining in your possession.

We could either build after the war of buy some house in the country, for I know you love gardens and country life as I do. You don't need so much land, however.

If for instance, and I say this with no ulterior motive whatsoever, you bought a house or lot in Lealand, you could have ample space for gardens, vegetables and otherwise, some cows and the horses-and you would have the lovely bridle pathed hills of Lealand to ride in and none of the sorrows of maintaining such a large place.

It would really enable you to have a town house in the country or would it be a country house in town? If Evie and Paschall Davis would sell their house it would be ideal. The location and land is lovely and the house is large enough and has great charm.

I know there will be no recompense for me in the things I lost in the fire, but do you need a list? I can mentally list $300,000 worth. Your list must easily be a quarter of a million.
Poor mother, I wish I could be with you.

Cornelia


From Gretchen Collins 1-2-43

Cornelia my dear,
How can I possibly express my intense grief over the loss of your lovely Fortland? I had to reread your letter several times before the hideous truth could make the slightest impression, and then I could no longer control the tears.

Cornelia, such a loss is felt not only by your family, but by a Nashville that lost a beautiful landmark and by your host of fortunate friends who, though they carried with them such grand memories of glorious dinners had there, nevertheless, retained a desire to always return there whether it would mean a cross-country trip or not. I Rue, though, that wherever the Fort family collects itself again, the same hospitality and charming atmosphere will be there, too.

Gretchen


Wed. Dec. 30th

My dear Cornelia-
Bill's letter, which arrived this morning, brought the tragic news of the loss of "Fortland". I know you are utterly desolated, for to have the home of your youth simply evaporate is indeed an irreparable loss. It happened to us, so I know how you feel. It isn't alone the loss of the house and all your material possessions, accumulated over many years, its the associations which tie into your life in the old home which make it like the loss of a parent. What a blessing that Louise and your Mother were not there. I know your Mother is overwhelmed over it and all her lovely and precious belongings gone. I do sympathize so very deeply with you all.

We were naturally disappointed not to have you with us Christmas Day, but were so happy you could be at home. What a joy for your Mother to have you for even so short a time.

You were sweet to send us gifts, tho it was not at all necessary. We know how busy you are and that you have no time of your own to do anything personal. I hope soon you can have a duty at the Base which will give you some respite from such constant travel. It will be an anti-climax to say Happy New Year when you are grieving, but I do hope the New Year will be a happier one and bring Peace to us all.

With love, Frances McCain.


HEADQUARTERS
2ND FERRYING GROUP
FERRYING DIVISION-AIR TRANSPORT COMMAND
NEW CASTLE ARMY AIR BASE
WILMINGTON, DELAWARE
2/4/43

Dearest,
Dudley wrote that they loved having you. I hope you had fun. I can't begin to tell you how much I loved being with you. It was wonderful fun and something we must try again. For instance South America. I appreciate your going with me more than I can say.

When I got to Washington and called Bill his landlady was practically in tears. Mr. Howard had been sent to Dallas two hours after my wire arrived and he left word to say how unhappy he was to miss me. I called Ben Willes with whom I was going to have lunch and his superior officer told meregretfully that he had just sent Ben to NY on business and that Ben had left word to look him up at the St. Reges. I didn't feel much like chasing to NY to have lunch with him so I spent the day with Evie and Paschal Davis. Had gala dinner (guinea and wild rice) at La Salle du Bois.

It was snowing and sleeting when I returned and has continued to be lousy. Had dinner Saturday nite with Jim Beasley from Nashville, who put me on the boat to Honolulu. He just took a Flying Fortress to Africa from NCAAB. That's what is so good about flying. You have such unexpected reunions.

Met Colter Rule (the Dr. from Cincinnati) in Philadelphia last nite for dinner and three hours of chatter. I very stupidly got on the wrong train and didn't get home till 4 AM. Such is life. I ought to know better.

Love, Cornelia

PS Not a word from McCain. He must really have the sulks. I returned the bracelet and felt like a damn fool. I'm sure he doesn't want it back but I guess it is better.


HEADQUARTERS
2ND FERRYING GROUP
FERRYING DIVISION-AIR TRANSPORT COMMAND
NEW CASTLE ARMY AIR BASE
WILMINGTON, DELAWARE
2-5-43

Dearest,
I'm a birthday girl and never felt less so. I feel about 104 instead of 24.
The slip is breath-taking. I'll feel as flossy as Mae West when I put it under my uniform.

Uncle Dud blew into town last night so I went to E.E. du Pont's for dinner. He is Nancy (Glasgow) Reynold's father. She was there so we two girls played (and beat) Uncle Dud and Mr. duPont at bridge. We had a divine dinner, wild duck, wild rice and vintage Burgundy. For the first time I ate and liked practically raw duck. Uncle Dud is busy patenting a new plastic auto license plate which will release the metal ones. It was good to see him.

Lt. Bill McCain's address is #10 Gracie Square, NY, NY.

Did I leave my new white Brooks sweater at home? Answer quickly for if I didn't I'll have to start writing the different hotels in Florida.

I left a book "The Last Train From Berlin" on the radiator or an-coal device. It belongs to Mrs. Robertson. Read it-its very good and return it someday when you are passing thru Lealand.

I'm going to have dinner with Nancy Reynolds tonight and go to the Theater. A Broadway play "Watch on the Rhine" which is supposed to be good. Enclosed are one letter from Jil Cannon and one from a student in Colorado.

Love Cornelia (2-5-43)


POSTCARD Airport Administration Building Vancouver, BC
Trans Canada Air Lines Canada's national air service

Toronto Ontario Feb 10 1943

To Mrs R E Fort, Jackson Blvd., Nashville, TN USA
An on the way to the Hartoge for dinner. Wish you were here. Flew overNiagara Falls. This is pretty flying country.
Cornelia



*********************************************************************

Between 2-10 and 2-16 Cornelia was transferred to Long Beach. She stopped in Nashville for 36 hours on her way from Wilmington to Long Beach.

Long Beach, Calif Air Mail Feb 18 4 PM 1943 There are 2 3 cent stamps on the envelope.

6th Ferry Group
Long Beach, CA
2-17-43
Dearest,
That was a very extra-special day and a half in Nashville. It is so wonderful to be with you, to know you better and better and to love you more and more.

Everyone was cordial but vague when we arrived. Apparently they hadn't done a thing about quarters for us until Saturday afternoon when they emptied a hospital ward and I do mean emptied. When I arrived there wasn't a chair, a bed, a towel or anything. Just a 60 foot long, gaping room. We are still there but with promise of a B.O.Q. shortly.

The weather is hot, believe it or not. Brilliant sunshine to such an extent hat we went to the beach Sunday afternoon. There, in a nut-shell, is the miracle of aviation; fox hunting one day in a blizzard and lying on a beach 3000 miles away the next.

The most noticeable difference between NCAAB and here, aside from the weather, is the happy expressions on all the faces. People stare at us as we knew they would, but they are friendly stares. Pilots say "Welcome" and seem to mean it.

I saw half a dozen friends the first day and ran into Bill Lacy yesterday. He is the one who sailed his little boat to Honolulu and spent last Easter at Fortland. It is very good to have him here.

We checked out in BT 13's the very first morning which is a miracle of efficiency. They are the biggest planes any of us have flown really and truly alone. (450 horsepower).

I met Col. Spake, the commanding officer, at the very lovely officer's club the nite that tongue in his cheek. Reluctantly he told me that he had had excellent reports on all of us and he added that the men who had given him the reports were tough men to please. We first three girls soloed the planes in the minimum allowable time and did a fine job, a fact which was naturally gratifying.

Yesterday we went on an Instrument Flight and I was able to apply the knowledge I've gained in the Link Trainer at Wilmington. It was also gratifying to get on one of the most complicated Radio Range Systems (there are 7 Range Stations overlapping within a radius of 50 miles) in the country and fly by Radio from one to another with sureness and certainty- in a twin engined airplane. I'd never flown before. I'm so glad I worked hard on it at NCAAB. I really feel as if I'm a 500% better pilot than I was last fall, and besides, the rewards of my thirst for knowledge have always been a source of pleasure to me. To ache for knowledge, work for it and then see the results, is the most wonderful thing I know. Our Officer's Club is pretty glamorous-sprinkled with movie stars and silver chafing dishes filled with fried oysters and cheese - Ahem! I think we will be very happy here. If things continue to move as fast as they have in the first few days I know we will be. I've already eaten so much lettuce green vegetables and fruit that I feel like a greenhouse.

Love to all. Cornelia P.S. Don't send anything yet

Date cannot be read
My Dear Cornelia,
I know that you will think it rather strange that I would be writing to you, but just heard the other day about the loss of the house place. It seems quite a tragedy since it was such a beautiful old place, but I reckon it was just one of those things that happens and one can do nothing about it.

You will probably want to know just where I might be, but since we happen to be at war just now they will not let me state all I would like to. I can go so far as to say that it is some where in the Caribbean Sector. The main draw back being the heat which is an ever present thorn in your side.

Be sure to remember me to all the family and give your very dear Mother my best love. Of course, I am rather presumptuous thinking that you are at home. If you should have a vacant moment some time, how's about sitting yourself down and writing me the news, particularly about yourself and family.

Try hard to be good and take care of yourself. Your ever devoted friend,

Kuinard McConnico


WAR DEPARTMENT ARMY AIR FORCES

2/22/43

Mother dear,
We have completed our first mission and within the week. It was the pleasantest trip of any we have had which speaks well for our new post/Of course the reason for this was the airplane which we loved, which had a delightful radio to take us blithely across the desert and the weather which was unbelievable.

And of all the coincidences, which will never happen again, was the fact that Bill Lacy went out with us on the same orders. We spent the first night in Palm Springs where the Officers' Club is a guest ranch complete with swimming pool. The moon was full and the desert smelled of all the wonderful flowers I ever imagined. That was one of the times when I knew clearly the reason for my love of flying, why I wouldn't change jobs for freedom of the air, in the pride of skill and the joy of self sufficiency.

The next day we flew to Phoenix for lunch and to El Paso for the night. Bill and I went to Juarez, Mexico which is right across the border, for dinner. It is a typical border town; touristy, full of souvenir shops and trashy beyond belief. But it was fun for once. We had dinner in the fanciest place there which had Mexican music and castanet players and guitar playing sombrero-ed men. I was in bed by 10 so you can see the "gaiety" of ferry pilots on trips.

The desert is a very safe place to fly across for you could land anywhere, but it would also be a very easy place to get lost in for the stretches of sand and space are incredible. It is the most nothing I have ever seen. This was the first time I ever flew with a superb radio and I have discovered a new world. All the Link work I did in Wilmington stood me in good stead. I simply tuned in on Tucson when I left Phoenix and flew the beam directly to the Tucson airport where I tuned in on the next station and so on. All the worries of navigation are reduced to one worry and that is that your radio will go dead.

From El Paso we flew to Big Springs, Texas and on into Dallas where we delivered the planes. The distance was 1304 miles, twice what it was from Wilmington to Nashville, and I flew this in nine hours total or a day and a half instead of a week. I was making good a speed of 180 instead of 60.

I had the afternoon in Dallas and guess who I spent it with. Bill Howard. Oh my. We were so glad to see each other and we tried desperately to change my departure from 6 p.m. to 2 a.m. but the priority was good only at 6 so off I went. He is just finishing up an instrument course there preparatory to his overseas ferrying. He is a pretty great guy and there are no doubts in my mind that you would agree. I have tried to arrange to see Peter and Ruth and may make it tonight but without a car here you are more helpless than anywhere else in the country. Pasadena might as well be 528 miles instead of 28. If I don't write often here it will be because I am so busy. It is indeed refreshing to see one place in the Army run well and efficiently.

All love to all, C


Hand written on plane paper
2/23/43
Mother dear,

Just had a note from Bobbie Hogg who was to have taken the tureen across but she can not due to luggage restrictions. If you haven't sent it, that is fine.

Spent last nite in Pasadena with two of my most favorite people, Pete and Ruth. We just sat and beamed happily at each other-simply at being together. I'm enclosing a list of the things that grow on their fabulous place. They have bought the most divine house I ever saw. Low, rambling white brick with patio, outside closet for skies etc., badminton court, beam ceilings, fireplaces and the greatest profusion of landscaping and horticulture I ever witnessed. During the one nite and morning I was there we used limes from their trees in drinks, avocados in salad, orange juice and Camellias for my hair.

They want me to come and live with them which I would dearly love to do, but I'm afraid it would be difficult as to transportation. Peter works at Downey, which is 8 miles straight up the highway. If I had a car I could drive to Downey every nite at 5:30, ride home with him, drive back with him in the morning.

I may get a car and I may spend many nites with them, but living 26 miles away from the Post would be difficult when I came in at 3 AM from trips etc. Golly they are such lovely people and their baby is the most beguiling child I ever saw, bar none.

Today we went perforce to the bi-monthly luncheon, at the Officer's Club, of Officer's Wives. It was the most desperate ordeal I ever saw. Talk about being stared at and appraised over in a decidedly unfriendly fashion. Whew! They are in a frenzy of jealousy that we will co-pilot with their husbands. Of all the dammed, stupid, female rat!

Col. Spake sent his Deputy to make a speech-which had a dual purpose. Theoretically it was a speech of welcome for us , but actually it was an announcement to the wives that they need not worry that no "mixed operations orders" would be issued, i.e. no man and girl as pilot and co-pilot.

And can you believe it, the rude women applauded right in front of us! I was so livid at an exhibition whose equal I've never seen, that I got up and walked out, whereupon the other girls followed me. I hope they had the grace to be ashamed of their rudeness if not their feelings.

Col. Spake, however firm he is on that subject, is otherwise very kind and obviously very proud of us. He has promised us fabulous things and soon, and he is noted for being a man of his word. He was delighted at our delivering to Dallas in such speed and safety. He was nearly purring this morning.

Our quarters still lack any vestige of charm or privacy. The first I could live without for a long time no matter how it pained me, but ******The rest of this letter is missing.******


Air Mail letter From C.Fort 6th Ferry Group To Mrs. R.E.Fort

THE ROYAL PALMS, PALM SPRINGS, CALIFORNIA
3-2-43

Mother dearest
I'm on my third BT 13 trip and am writing this epistle two miles above the desert between Tucson and El Paso.

My last trip was to San Antonio. Melus and Henry had Jack (Lt. Col) and Frances Burch out for cocktails so it was quite homelike.

We had a Mexican dinner at LaFonda, the only Mexican food I've ever been able to swallow. It was fun to see them as well as San Antonio. Called Billy Kennon but couldn't get in touch with him.

Took the all nite airline back to Long Beach. That and restaurant eating continue to be the two irritants.

Nancy Love came out to be guinea pig for us. She was checked out (soloed) in a C-47 (Douglas DC-3, exactly like an airliner) and a P-51, the newest and fastest pursuit plane. We will be given the same airplanes when we have delivered 5 BT's (which are fun). Those airplanes should be substantial enough to please you. After a Cub they look like flying houses to me.

Went to a dance with Nancy at the Officer's Club Saturday nite. A great many musicians from famous orchestras have been drafted. Many are at Long Beach in the Post band so our music is a compound of many orchestras and is excellent.

Went out with Bill Lacy to his house which is right on Hermose Beach to swim, have dinner and spend the nite with he and his beautiful wife.

Col. Spake is 5'5" (about Prentice's height) and as much taken with Barbara Erickson, a beauteous, petite WAFS. I sincerely hope he makes her commander of the Long Beach WAFS. Whoever gets the job will have a lot of desk work and a certain amount of Post politics to cope with. Neither one appeals to me.


3-3
Stopped in Midland Texas and spent the nite with Hunt Collins (Gretchen's brother) and his wife. He is an Instructor at Midland, one of the largest bombardment bases in the country. Texas doesn't seem to lack steaks. We had enormous ones.
I guess I had better have my shoe ration stamp.
Had the afternoon in Dallas-Neiman Marcus is such a fabulous store. Am now on the everlasting airline-Long-Beach-bound.

I love you
Cornelia.

P.S.

And the airline trip was very adventurous. Left Dallas at 3:45, got to Tucson at Midnight, turned back to El Paso, where we stayed until 9 AM, went to Tucson, took off for Phoenix, turned back to Tucson and stayed four hours, finally got to Long Beach at 5:30, 26 hours for a routine run of seven hours.

We were all too exhausted to move.

Had dinner at a place called Leilani. It made me actually and unexpectedly home sick for the Islands. The walls were covered in tapa, Hawaiian scenes and Hawaiian music. Such a lost beautiful world.

C-

(over one of the Royal Palms letter heads which has a picture of an enclosed patio with a pool is written:
"This is where we stay and swim-good fun, fancy place".)

New letter on The Royal Palms stationary.

4-6 (This is an error on Cornelia's part and it should read 3-6)

Mother dear,

After I wrote you yesterday I was unexpectedly given the afternoon off, so I trundled up to Los Angeles by bus. Had lunch with Clarence Belinn, an old friend, who took last nites Clipper to Honolulu. I can't believe that as I write this he is sitting on the lanai at the Moanal Hotel on Waikiki.
(Lanai: a verandah or open-sided living room of a kind found in Hawaii.)
It was good for my morale to get dressed in civilian clothes, go to the very elegant Town House for lunch in the Cape Cod Room. Even to have a cocktail, avocado stuffed with crab meat and French pastry, was like pre-war excitement.

Then I went to Pasadena to be with Ruth and Peter for the nite. It was so damn pleasant to sit in a quiet, well ordered, gracious house with friends. They are always exceedingly heart warming. They love me just as much as I love them.

Enclosed is an interesting letter from Dick Brayto who you met in NY It explains how I feel about the war.

Consider the surplus in this check as payment for the clothes in Florida. Didn't we have fun?
I love you.

Cornelia

3-10-43 ( This letter is in Doris Tanner's book)

I haven't gone out again since last I wrote because of an idiosyncrasy of the factory. Toward the last of the month they almost belch out planes, planes lacking instruments and otherwise incomplete simply so that their month's production record can be complete and as large as possible. Consequently at the first of the month there are none for us to fly andthere is an enormous waste of pilot -man and women- power.

Pilots were dismissed early on Sunday, so I went to Pasadena to have dinner with Janie Wilson, who sent you her best. We had dinner in a cunning little French restaurant called the StuftShirt, a little paneled room built around an open fire for charcoal broiling, presided over by a chef in a tall white cap.

Yesterday was a very eventful day-I bought a car, a dream car this time instead of a junk heap. I felt so helpless without one and distances are so tremendous out here. This is a gray Chevrolet convertible with radio and heater. It will be wonderful fun this summer to put the top down. All cars are ridiculously high out here, especially convertibles. Everyone says this was an excellent bargain, but at any rate I love it although it doesn't leave much balance in my savings account.

If anything should happen to me-which I don't think will-I want Louise to have the car.

Cornelia


(wing,star,wing in a circle)
UNITED STATES AIR FORCES

4-16-43 (This must have been a mistake, Cornelia still thinks March is the 4th month.)

Dearest,

I was glad to hear from you and sorry that you've had all the lists to cope with.

The weather has been consistently bad and although I've been on orders five days, I still haven't gone anywhere. My little car has already been a joy especially with its top down and the California sun pouring in.

I spent last Friday nite with Ruth and Peter. After dinner we lay on the floor in front of a fire and toasted marshmallows and chatted way into the night. Saturday nite I met them in Hollywood for dinner at our favorite place, Little Gypsy, which has wonderful chicken paprika and gypsy music.

One of the cowboys from the ranch in Wyoming is in the movies. He met us for a little while, complete in full cowboy regalia. Boots, Stetson, and fancy leather tie. I'm sure the customers of the elegant little restaurant were startled. We were delighted.

Then we went to Coconut Grove at the Ambassador to hear Harry Owen's Hawaiian music. Sunday we were dismissed early so one of the girls and two pilots and I drove down to Laguna Beach to a very famous old inn. The Victor Hugo. It is high on a bluff over the ocean with flowers growing up and down the slopes. We sat in a glass enclosed room all the late part of the afternoon and watched the sun on the water. That such an alternative place should also have out of this world food was too much to expect. Avocado cocktail, sweet breads in a wine and cream sauce and French pastry.

I also sent a check to the auto club due to the fact that now I'm a car driver-so will you do as you like thru the Nashville Club so that one of us will get a refund. Am enclosing check for Blarney. Is he getting cuter? That's pretty reasonable amount for such a long stay at the Vet.

As to Mr. Cason. I wrote him that I had a record in my check book of having paid him in full. If I'm wrong I'll send him a check. That's pretty heart breaking to pay for whiskey that no one ever got a chance to drink. (The whiskey burned in the fire at Fortland)

Will you send the blue denim shorts, the fancy yellow dress, one or two chambray dresses, the brown shorts, the three piece bathing suit' (shirt, bra and pants from Hawaii) along with the shoe ration stamp.

And please write more often. I miss you so much.

Love C-

P.S./Oh joy! Nancy is being transferred here.

That was our last letter from Cornelia. Others were returned unopened, some written to people who had been killed in combat. The following letter was found in her drawer after she had been killed. The tightly spaced, handwritten letter from:
Dick Brayto
1622 Harrison St.
Oakland, Calf.

2-27-43
Tuesday Afternoon
Dear Cornelia:
Received your very welcomed card. Sure was glad to hear from you. I thought you might possibly have been sent abroad, but am glad you're still in the good old USA. I'm sorry I haven't done better on my end of the correspondence. Have been very busy both with business and personally.

As you see I'm still with Kaiser. The work progresses normally and the organization is doing a big job. I am connected with the Iron and Steel Divisions and we are completely responsible for the design and erection of the steel mill in Fontana, Calif. The plant must be fairly close to you. Perhaps it's still quite a ways north. My knowledge of geography of the West Coast is pretty limited. In any event it's a big thing, approximating $83,000,000 so far.

Since my return to the States and my working here, I have become very unhappy with the general attitude of the people with whom I've come in contact. Everyone I've met, friend or foe, with a few exceptions, naturally, feels it's his or her chance to cash in and make money. Never in my life have I seen money spent so freely or so copiously as it is being spent today. People are also unruffled about the general situation. A blue print boy only today told me he's applying for a deferment because he's in defense work. He said if he were a shoe salesman "it'd be different." Considering the type of work he is doing, it could be handled just as well by a high school girl. And so it goes.

Even the great and tremendous organization I'm with, probably none better anywhere, is very lax about keeping costs down, using materials that are not as scarce as others, etc. Why should they care? They have a tremendous stock of material on hand plus the fact that the whole cost of construction is paid for by the people through the R.F.C. Very convenient. I remember early in the game the statements made about no war millionaires this time. BASH! They are already made and going strong.

All this boils down to one thing. I am so dissatisfied with civilian life and my present very meager aid to the war effort that I have applied for a commission in the Engineers, U.S. Marine Corps. The preliminary steps have all been made and my papers have gone to Washington for the final verdict. They are carefully studied and a decision will be reached in one to two months. I have been waiting anxiously for about three weeks now. If I should be accepted, I would be commissioned immediately in San Francisco. Then I would return to Quantico for an indoctrinary course. From where, who knows? My draft board is giving me a bad time. They refused to reclassify me from 2B to 1A or equal. They claimed I was necessary in the war industry program which is honestly a real laugh. If I am actually accepted and they continue to refuse to release me, however, the Marine Corps will go over their heads which will please me greatly.

My family think I'm nutty. They are really quite unhappy about it. Although they are reconciled to the fact that I'm going ahead with it in any event. Mother feels that one son is enough. I feel its every son and dammed near every daughter! This war and the greater and much more difficult problem of peace after war, these are going to take every available human being who's capable of the minutest assistance. I'm pretty sure you'll understand how I feel. A lot of my friends in Samoa are now buried in Guadalcanal. Some of yours were lost much earlier in Hawaii. I'm sick of squabbling over sugar and meat and "only 3 cans of peas a month." Americans are too damned selfish and I'm no different than the rest. I tried to alibi to myself that I was doing a good job where I am. Well, I haven't and 90% of the others aren't.

You have always possessed a great capacity for giving. Your present job is a very good example that you are doing what you believe you should be doing. This to me is a wonderful way to think and act. I'm proud that I know you, Cornelia!

San Francisco is a very charming city. It's different from any city I've ever been in before. I imagine that in normal times it is a very peaceful sedate place, with of course its more boisterous quarters. Right now the place is a mad house. I have never seen so many service men in my life. The St. Francis on Saturday night is a mad milling mass of humanity as are all the other nicer hotels. As or the Latin Quarter or the Sutlinurd, they're impossible any night.

Sure would like to see you again. Hope that through providence it can be arranged somehow before I head East again. I haven't even had time to look up your friend in San Francisco. Am going to try and find time is she's still there. Saw a cute play the other night. Junior Miss. Very entertaining.

Enough for now. I'll write again and soon. Good luck and be careful.

Love
Dick.

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