The Putt-Putt Air Force: The Story of The Civilian Pilot Training Program and The War Training Service (1939–1944) is a 116-page booklet by Patricia Strickland dating back to 1970. It is the first to document the boom era of general aviation. Numbering well over 10,000, the primary trainers in the program were two-place Stearmans, Taylorcraft, Aeroncas, Monocoupes, and Piper Cubs. Three-quarters of the half million trainees took their first flights in Cubs, soloed and were certificated in them—the same aircraft that went to battle in WWII as the L-4.

The Putt-Putt Air Force booklet

The Civilian Pilot Training Program was unique in government ventures. It took aviation into every corner of the country and more than 400,000 men won wings under its aegis, yet it built up no bureaucracy, bought no airplanes, rented no classrooms, nor hired instructors. Rather, it used facilities already in existence. The ground training was handed over to the colleges and universities; the flight training to the established flight operators. All knowledge and insight to be gained from The Putt-Putt Air Force is still valid today!

A chapter on Grasshoppers recounts how the legendary fleet came into being citing a CAA memorandum addressed to the Chief of the Field Artillery. Other chapter headings include:

  • A Starving Industry
  • Pilots By The Thousands
  • Where The U.S. Stood
  • Climbs and A Forced Landing
  • The Military Thrust
  • Production Lines—Instructors and Co-Pilots
  • Glider Pilots
  • Negro Fliers
  • From South of the Rio Grande
  • Distaff and Cockpit
  • Flying Is As Safe As You Make It
  • Research
  • The Putt-Putts
  • Spinoff—The Three and One-Half Inch Bookshelf
  • Spinoff—Air Age Education

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Other great books to read and learn about flying the L-birds of WWII…

Grasshopper Pilot

Julian Cummings began flying Piper Cubs as a young man and was recruited to the reconnaissance unit of the U.S. Army’s Third Infantry Division. This memoir chronicles his daring missions in combat, from first flights in the North African campaign through the end of the war in the Pacific. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for extraordinary bravery in Sicily.

Many articles and books have been written, and movies made, about the battles of every branch of the military. However, the one group of men that has been forgotten, ignored, or is just plain unknown to most people was the “grasshopper pilot” who flew dangerous missions in unarmed light aircraft during World War II.

This book tells the story of these heroic pilots, who fearlessly performed their duties as air observers for the field artillery; as angels of mercy, evacuating the wounded or delivering vital medical supplies; and as doers of countless other impossible missions. These daring men were constantly in the thick of battle. They were the eyes of the field artillery. Their primary purpose was observation—locating enemy advances and radioing their positions back to the command post, directing artillery fire to the target. The only defense against an assault on the unarmed and lightweight L-4, a Piper Cub in military dress, was the pilots’ ability to outmaneuver enemy fighter planes and dodge gunfire.

During World War II the ability of American ground forces to advance in the face of fierce resistance was largely dependent on the precision of artillery barrages. Aerial observation was frequently the only effective means to locate enemy targets. For this mission the Army Air Corps used light civilian airplanes (usually reconfigured Piper Cubs), known as grasshoppers for their ability to take off from and land in tight places—dirt roads, grass fields, railroad tracks, and ships. In addition to pinpointing enemy artillery, the courageous pilots of these aircraft were often assigned other missions—medical evacuation, reporting on enemy troop movements, and reconnaissance—often armed with only handguns.

Grasshopper Pilot gives long-overdue attention and credit to the crucial role these courageous men played in combat and adds valuable information to an understudied dimension of the war.

A memoir by Julian “Bill” Cummings (deceased 2002), “this book is dedicated to all the men in my aviation section of the Third Infantry Division, U.S. Field Artillery.” Published in 2005, 92 pages.

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HOW TO FLY A PIPER CUB

How To Fly a Piper Cub is a step-by-step pictorial familiarizing and instructing on the Piper Cub Trainer. This entertaining and informative booklet gives useful instructions on flying the Piper J-3 Cub—techniques that can be applied to flying any aircraft.

Built by Piper Aircraft between 1937 and 1947, the J-3 Cub is one of history’s best-known civilian aircraft. The Cub’s simplicity, and affordability, led to the plane being dubbed the “Model T of the Sky.” It ushered in a new era of aviation in which anyone could fly. More than 20,000 Cubs were built, including thousands as trainer and liaison aircraft during WWII. Today the Cub is one of aviation’s most imitated aircraft, renown for its superb flying qualities.

Originally printed in 1945, when all Piper production was restricted for military use, this How To Fly a Piper Cub booklet looked ahead to the post-war era. Produced in color with rich illustrations, specification sheets, both black-and-white and color photos, it’s a nostalgic piece of history that no Piper fan or flying enthusiast can resist. 32 Color pages fully restored.

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YOUR WINGS

Your Wings by Assen Jordanoff is a vintage WWII era book on how to fly a plane, written in the author’s unique style, and covering aerodynamics and “avigation.” Your Wings offers timeless insight to the operation of any aircraft. Insightful tips include:

  • Statistics show that security of flight is 1500 per cent greater when knowledge and expert supervision are the background.
  • Fast turn without sufficient bank results in SKID. Slow turn with too much bank causes SLIP.
  • Attempt the landing with intention to land and not with the thought to try.
  • Experience tells us that the instruments on the plane are fully reliable only when their reading is properly interpreted.
  • The independence of any nation depends largely upon its strength in the air.

Highly specialized, Your Wings is both a practical and technical book by an expert ace and inventor. It’s written, and illustrated with over 400 figures, for anyone interested in flying. Scientifically accurate drawings enhance the instructional text for any aviator. Your Wings covers activity not only in the air, but parts of the plane, function and care, ranging from first flight to advanced aeronautics. This book is for dreamers and model builders, and active pilots for a better grounding of the principles and mechanics in the constantly widening field flight.

Your Wings by Assen Jordanoff

Assen “Jerry” Jordanoff was by all accounts an amazing story teller. Jerry was a Bulgarian test pilot and engineer who fled Europe for the U.S. after the First World War. He taught himself English at the New York Public Library, and supported himself with odd jobs such as shoveling snow in winters. He worked his way through America’s aircraft industry, developing new ideas and new technologies, seemingly on a daily basis. Among his other accomplishments was a series of instructional texts on aviation. Your Wings was his crowning student guide to flying, and it’s full of classic knowledge that any pilot must absorb. The art and illustrations remain both a charming artifact, and a lively reminder that some knowledge simply doesn’t age. 283 Pages.

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