Glenn L. Eggleston, Jr.
Pilot, 597th BS, 397th BG
My Welcome to MacDill by Glenn Eggleston
It was near the end of September in 1943. and the Class of 43-1 had graduated from advanced pilot training at Moody Field. GA. Three of my classmates and I were given solemn farewells because our orders read to “proceed to MacDill Field, Florida for transition training in the B-26 aircraft.” The farewells were solemn because the B-26 had earned a bad reputation in Flying Training Command. They weren’t referred to as Martin Marauders; they were called “Flying Coffins” and “Widow Makers.”
After a 10-day leave at home in Buffalo. I took a train to Tampa, ready to start dreading my assignment. It was Sunday morning, and I was on a bus from Tampa train station to MacDill. The bus ran along the shoreline (now known as Bayshore Boulevard), and I was sitting on the right side. Suddenly, everyone on the bus jumped up and started looking out the windows | on the left side. I asked a man what they were looking at, and he said, “Another one of those B-j 26s went down yesterday, and there's one of the bodies floating in the bay.” There were two j men pushing a rowboat off the shore, getting ready to pick up the body. That’s how I was welcomed to MacDill and the 397th Bomb Group in the days of “One a day in Tampa Bay.”
I reported to group headquarters and was assigned to the 597th squadron. K. C. Dempster was the squadron commander, and he met new pilots with words something like this: "I know j you’ve heard bad things about the B-26. but I’m here to tell you it’s a good airplane. If you | don’t want to fly it, I don't want you in my squadron and FU see that you get transferred. But. | do me one favor and put at least 50 hours in the airplane before you decide you don't like it.”
I took KC’s advice, flew my 50 hours, and stayed with the 597th all the way from MacDill to A-72, where I finished my tour and came home.