By Ralph F. Wakerly
Dear Richard I received your letter several days ago and I believe it is a good thing you are doing. I am an 86 year old WWII veteran and was in the 349th NFS at its inception in Orlando in 1942. I w as scheduled to go overseas in early 1943 with the 414th NFS, however I was in a crash on January 15, 1943 on a test flight out of Kissimmee, Florida where the 349th was then stationed. I was a crew chief and the only survivor of the three occupants. . As a result, I spent 130 days in Orlando Air Base Hospital. When I got out I went back to the 349th and we subsequently went to Hammer Field in Fresno, CA, leaving Florida on Jan 15, 1944. I continued my mechanic duties and went to P-61 school at Northrop in Hawthorne, CA for a six-week course and graduated as a hydraulic specialist. I watched Johnny Meyers perform acrobatics where he flew low over the crowd and did a slow roll on one engine. He was the test pilot and engineer for Northrop for many years and was waiting at age 88 year old to test fly the P-61 they are rebuilding at MAAM in Reading, Pa. After all my training in Fighter planes, I was shipped overseas into the ATC in November 1944. I was stationed in England, Marseilles and Paris (Orly Field). We serviced any planes that came through our base and I witnessed the end of the war in France, Germany, and Japan.
None of this helps you with your project since it doesn’t cover P-61 and Night Fighter activities overseas. I do have a great deal of data accumulated and if I can be of any help please let me know.
Signed by Ralph F. Wakerly