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Wednesday, June 4, 2014

November 1, 1944

The Curtiss C-46 Commando was a twin-engine transport aircraft employed in World War II, introduced in 1942 but mass produced in 1944-1945.  Now sure what M.I. is -- perhaps military intelligence?

                                                                             Wed, Nov 1st

Dear Arnold,

     Well your big brother is now a regular qualified paratrooper.
I finished or rather made my last qualifying jump this morning.
However, I expect to get several more jumps in, in the next three
or four days, just for the hell of it.  I am still doing M. I.
work, and the jumping is just a means of getting around.  It makes
my work much more interesting and exciting.  This looks like a
hot division, they're a wild assed bunch of boys.  The officers
in headquarters  seem like a swell bunch of fellows.  I get all
the cooperation I want, and I think this is going to be a swell
assignment, I only hope that I stay with them for a long time.

     As I know your are unfamiliar with the jumping procedure,
I am going to give you a blow by blow description of a jump.
Each man is assigned a position, and a group of men go out the
door at one time and are called a "stick".  A plane may carry
one or more sticks depending upon the number of men in a stick.
It is SOP for an officer to go first, so in all except my first
jump I went first in the stick I was in.  I was suppose to go
first in the first jump, but they increased it by two men at the
last minute, and I went out last.  After you are assigned your
number, you go over to the packing sheds and pick up your chutes.
A main chute of twenty-eight feet in diameter, which is of the
back pack type, and an emergency chute of twenty-two feet in
diameter, which is of the chest pack type, are the types we use.
You then put them on, and it is really fitted tightly and securely.
You march over to the ship, and then get a check for adjustment
and fit.  You climb into the ship and it takes off.  This is
the point where you start to "sweat it out".  The old timers
say they sweat it out.   By that term I mean you become a
little nervous.  You have that funny tingling in your stomach.
Although it may be a greater or less degree, depending upon
a number of circumstances, it is always there.

     In the first load or plane a man jumps first alone, and
is known as the wind dummy.  He neither slips or twists around,
but goes down to see which way the wind is drifting.  The plane
circles around again for the first stick to jump.  We jumped
two sticks in a place of six men each.  The door has been removed,
and since I was first man in the second stick, I was sitting quite
near and opposite the door, and had a wonderful view of the
ground 1200 feet below.  Some of the men make a small joke to try
to relieve the tension, other smoke or chew gum.  Some have tense
faces, while others look like they are merely riding home on the
street car. You look at one another and wink or smile, but you
know that no matter how the men look or what they do, they are
all sweating it out.

[page 2]
     As we approach the field, the jumpmaster shouts "Stand up
and hook up".  Each man jumps to his feet, and hooks his "static
line" to the steel cable that is suspended down the center of the
ship.  Next he gives the command, " Check equipment".  You look
at the harness on the back of the man in front of you, and check
the front of your harness.  "Sound off for equipment check", the
last man shouts six OK, etc down to one OK.  Then "Close up",
you all shuffle with your left foot forward and your right foot
to the rear something like a boxer might move forward.  The
shuffling sounds like a subdued tone version of the marching feet
in the old Gangbusters program.  The jumpmaster then shouts,
" stand in the door and prepare to jump".  Number one man steps
forward with his right foot, pivots on it, and places his left
foot on the edge of the door.  At the same time he throws his
static line towards the rear of the ship and grasps the outer
edges of the door wtih his hands.  He is crouched slightly with
his body perpendicular to the floor, and his eyes on the horizon.
He stands tensed for the jump.  The jumpmaster slaps him on the
ass and he jumps out into space, throwing his right leg forward
so the slip stream of the props will catch it and give his body
a quarter turn, so that he faces the rear.  As you sail  through
the air you bend your head forward, keep your feet together, cross
your arms over your chest so that you can quuickly grab the ring
of your emergency chute if necessary, and count one thousand,
two thousand, and usually before you can say three, there is a
loud wham and a jerking snap that seems to almost stop you in
midair.  Incidentally, I usually forget to count.  If you go past
three thousand you should pull your emergency chute.  Once you
leave the door the tingling in your stomach stops.  There is no
sensation of falling through the air, but for just an instant you
seem to be suspended in space.

     You grab the risers and look up and check your canopy.  It
is a beautiful sight to see that white or sometimes camouflaged
canopy billowed out above you.  Your are usually swing back and
forth gently, and if you are ocillating too much, you and stop
it by roughly jerking down on the risers.  There are four of these
risers which are strong web belts which are fastened onto your
suspenion lines by a ring.  You can slip in any direction by
merely pulling down on the pair of risers in the direction that
you want to slip.

     You float down silently and gently, and you look over and
see your commrads coming down nearby.  You may call over and
talk to them if you wish.  The objects on the ground begin to
grow rapidly larger and larger.  You look down and pick the
spot you think you are going to land at and then reach up and
grab the risers above your heads.  You look up at the horizon,
and allow your legs to hang down in a relazed and natural postion.
A second later you hit the ground with a thump, and roll over
on your side, shoulder, or back depending upon the direction
you landed.  You jump to your feet and dump the air out of your
chute if necessary.  And there you stand, amazed that you are
all in one piece, unhurt, and that it was so easy.

[page 3]

     The men behind number one man follow the same procedure
that he [arrow #1] does, but do not wait to be slapped in the fanny.
When I was the last man, there seemed to be a confused wild
rush and the next thing I knew I was out.  In an operation they
usually jump one eighteen man stick per plane, but we now have
some new C-46s and you'd be amazed at the number of men they can
jump, I don't think I'd better say it because of military security.
Your not the only boy who is now drawing extra pay.  This extra
$100 I get a month is a soft racket.  I am not going to tell the
folks because I think that they would worry too much, so don't
you say anything to them.  I only have one set of wings, so would
you mind buying about two more wings and send them to me, because
they are hard to get out here, and be sure to get silver ones and
send me the bill, thanks.

     Enough of this dribble about myself.  How are you and the
Air Corps coming?  How soon will you be through at Harvard, and
are you going to MIT, I hope?  This move has mixed up my mail,
and I have'nt had a letter for over a week, or is it two weeks!
Write more about your luxuries, I like to hear about them it is
nice to go to sleep and dream about them.  And brother stay with
them as long as possible, you will be over here soon enough, and
I think you will become just as tired of canned rations, no place
to go, less to drink, and corny shows as I am.  Oh how I wish
I could have been at this Larconia Lodge with you, it must have
been swell.  Were there plenty of cute babes around?  I am now
dreaming about the luxuries of Manila, I only hope the Japs leave
a few joints standing.

     Well Bud, time for chow and I am out of breath.  Write

                              [signed] Leonard

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