Chapter Six: Grandpa Gordon Re-enlists

Since the war was officially over by September 2, 1945, Grandpa Gordon figured it would take some time for not only the Government but the military to get their houses in order. He figured that the first of January 1946 should be enough time for them to decide what their needs would be. He had been following the news and he knew that there were going to be problems with Russia.  Little did he know that we would be embroiled in a Cold War from March 12, 1947 till December  26, 1991, and that we would be engaged in two major wars to stem the expansion of Communism. He, however, knew there would be a need for pilots no matter what so he felt that his career path was secure. He also believed and rightly so that his military record with the RCAF would make him a tempting prospect for the Air Force. He had left the RCAF as a 1st Lieutenant so he hoped that he would be able to move up pretty quickly in the ranks.

Recruiting Office

Little did he know that he would be signed up as a Captain. When he heard the news he was elated. But there was one stipulation and that was, he needed to go back to school and get a college degree. Due to extenuating circumstances related to the war with Germany they had overlooked some of the educational requirements and had allowed cadets to test out for promotions. Those circumstances no longer existed, so now it was back to hitting the books. There was also one more thing, he would have to relocate to San Antonio, Texas. Frankly Grandpa Gordon was OK with that. He actually found that as he got older and matured some he actually began to enjoy school especially when there was a tangible goal in sight. He wasn’t just going to school to go to school, there was a reason for it.

It turned out it wasn’t so bad after all.  They only expected him to get an associates degree. They also gave him credit for the classes he had already taken and they also gave him credit for his flight time. So it only took him one year to get his degree instead of two and they not only paid for his classes they gave him a stipend and housed and fed him on the base. To keep his flying skills current, they mandated that he spent at least two hours a week flying. One thing is for sure you did not have to twist his arm. In the six months since he left the RCAF he had not been in a plane once and boy, did he miss it.

The facility known today as Wilford Hall Medical Center started as Station Hospital in 1942 on Lackland Air Force Base. The full name at the time was actually Station Hospital, San Antonio Aviation Cadet Center, named such in accordance with its first mission: taking care of aviation cadets training at the nearby Kelly field. In 1950, when this image was taken, what was then known as the 3700th Station Medical Squadron was sending patients to Brooke Army Medical Center for treatment. The hospital is scheduled to be demolished after the new Wilford Hall Ambulatory Surgical Center is completed, further improving military medical care.

His routine kept him busy for the next year or so and time seemed to just fly by, no pun intended.  Once he graduated they kept their word and promoted him to the Captain’s position. Because of his ability to fly multiple planes and his positive attitude and strong work ethic they also made him a flight instructor.  He found that he really enjoyed instructing new cadets. It made him feel like he was giving something back to the system. A system that had given so much to him.

During this time he only dated casually. He went out mainly in groups where they met up and went to dances. There was nothing serious going on and he formed no serious relationships during this time. Besides it was hard to find someone because there was always the chance that you would get orders to transfer to another base, so it seemed better to just keep it casual. Meeting the love of your life while you are at cadet school or are hopping from base to base only happens in the movies. This went on for another year which now brings us to the summer of 1948.

There are times or events that set the tone for your life. You know the ones I am talking about because everyone has experienced these events. What makes or breaks each individual is whether or not you take advantage of them or how you deal with them. This summer several headhunters from the Air Force Base in Las Vegas, NV came by the training school in San Antonio looking for likely instructors for a new flight school.  They wanted instructors with fighter pilot experience,  and they had heard of Captain Gordon Anderson. He just so happened to be the top ace at this base with ten victories in the European theater.  When they arrived at the base, they immediately started watching him teach his classes, they watched him take his students up in flight drills and they watched him fly demonstration dog fights with other instructors.  They could see that he was the superior pilot in each of these dog fights. In every aspect of his training he excelled. He engaged with his cadets and they seemed to be riveted with his instructions and in his classes. The Vegas boys could see that he was a natural instructor and trainer.

After they had watched him for a couple of days they got together and discussed what they had seen. They all agreed that he was what they were looking for in a flight instructor.  They informed the base commander (CO) Colonel Sidney Jameson of their decision to talk to Captain Gordon Anderson and their plan to make him an offer. The CO said he would be sad to see him go since he was well-liked and was their best instructor. He also said that he would not stand in his way. He knew that his Captain could really do some good work in this new program.

The next day before Captain Gordon Anderson held his first class of the day, they pulled him aside and brought him to the CO’s office. Of course, Grandpa Gordon had seen them around the base, but being the good soldier that he was he had not questioned their presence.  So it was with no little trepidation that he followed them to the CO’S office. The three headhunters introduced themselves to Captain Gordon Anderson and said that they were from the Las Vegas Air Force Base. They then started discussing what their mission here was. He immediately felt better about the situation. He now knew that the meeting was not punitive in nature.

They stated that there was a need for a unified school for training high quality pilots. These pilots would in turn train more pilots.  They also said that they were looking for the best of the best which meant World War II fighter Aces. The school would be located in the Las Vegas Air Force Base and would be called the “Aircraft Gunnery School”. The training would be exhaustive and would last 5 1/2 months. There would be two classes a year. They would only take the best pilots from the airforce for these classes. They told Captain Gordon that he had all the right tools to make a great instructor at the school. However, there was one stipulation he had to pass the class before he could teach it.

After he heard their spiel, he looked over at his commanding officer and he got a nod from him. He turned back to the three headhunters and said with a big smile on his face and said “yes”. He then asked, “where do I sign?” However, he had one caveat of his own and that was if the US entered another war he wanted the opportunity to be able fight in that war. He said that he wanted to fight for his country this time. They all agreed. Little did they know how prescient this request would be because the Korean War would take place in just two short years.

The next day he filled out all the appropriate documents, packed his few belongings and set out for his new future in the Land of Sin. He hopped on a Douglas C-54 Skymaster transport plane to the base while the three headhunters went in search of their next prospect.

Douglas C-54 Skymaster