When WWII broke out, I wanted to serve. Growing up on the Lower East Side of New York City, I had never been on a plane or even been to an airport, but now there was a possibility for me to fly. I thought about being a pilot during the war as well as a career afterwards.
So when I was 18 years old, I ate a lot of carrots (for better night vision) and took the Aviation Cadet Exam, hoping to join the Army Air Corps. I passed but was told it would be 4 to 5 months before I would be called up. “How can I get in sooner?” I asked. “Enlist in the regular Army” was the response. So I took the risk, joined the Army and luckily within one month I was off to San Antonio for Aviation Cadet (A/C) Training in the Army Air Corps.
Imagine what this web site would be like if I had been called up for the Infantry! During my short time in the Army on Long Island, NY, I did the regular stuff like marching and KP duty, but soon it was off to the wild blue yonder.
Two months after passing the Aviation Cadet Exam, Headquarters officially informed my parents that I had passed the exam (view original Induction Letter). They said that “their boy” had been selected for training as a Pilot in the Army Air Forces and that considering the rigid requirements they have every reason to be proud of me.
My parents were very proud but were anxious that I would possibly be in a dangerous branch in a dangerous capacity. My extended family was also very proud since I was the only person they knew who went into pilot training let alone became a pilot.
In fact, would you believe that I learned to fly a plane before I was able to drive a car? My father was very reluctant about me driving his most prized automobile when I returned home from the war.
In March 1943, I had already started Aviation Cadet Training and could not be with my family when visiting Aunt Sadie and Uncle Sam Fox in the Bronx. But they gathered for a family photo opportunity. Greeting me are (front row) my mom Rebecca, my older brother Jerome (also in the Army), (back row) my younger sister Charlotte and my dad Sam Piskin. My oldest brother Leo was busy with his Air Warden responsibilities on the Lower East Side of New York City where we lived.