Uncle Sam Wants You!

His story.....
as told by his children.

Art grew up in Quincy, Massachusetts, a Boston suburb. His dad was an engineer for New England Confectionary Co. (NECCO). He had an older brother, Alfred, and two older sisters, Gladys and Irene. Most of his younger years were spent like everyone else in Boston with one exception.

During the depression, our grandfather was able to buy a thirty-two foot sloop by assuming its delinquent storage fees. He outfitted the boat, the "Curlew," with a heavy steel centerboard, and cut the sails down so that the small craft would be less likely to capsize in heavy weather. Then, without radios, a motor, or any of today's navigational aids, the Starratt boys and a friend of Alfred's they called "Heavy" headed out to sea. Art was 12 the first year they did this, and Alfred was 15. They spent their next five summers cruising the New England coast, sometimes at sea for a month at a time.

After high school, Art attended Boston University for two years. He then started working for Quaker Oats. He was doing so well in sales that he decided to work full time, and try to complete his business degree at night. As a successful salesman, he had a new company car every year, a good income, and a bright future. As the war went on, however, this was not enough. He decided to enlist in the Army Air Corps.

Military ID and Health Card

Prior to reporting for duty, he was spending time at his Dad's farm in Maine. A friend suggested they go to a dance at Old Orchard Beach near Portland, and to top it off, his friend even thought he could get a date for Art. As it turns out, that date was with Priscilla Marietta Smith from Saco, Maine.

All we know is that it was strong, and it happened fast. Within months of meeting, they announced their engagement.


Soon, it was time for Art to report for duty. He qualified in his initial testing for training as a pilot, navigator, or bombardier. It was his choice, so like most, he chose to train as a pilot. He shipped out for Lackland in San Antonio, Texas for six weeks of pre-flight. Although Art eventually did end up living in Texas for over fifty years, his first reaction to Texas was less than favorable. Then he was off to Sikeston, Missouri for flight training flying PT 19A's.

PT 19A

Art's pilot class was told upon their arrival that only two out of three cadets would make it. Unfortunately, there hadn't been enough good flying weather for Art's class to complete their training within the allotted six weeks, so the entire class was "washed out." This meant that each man in the class had to be re-assigned. Each could choose one other option for which he had earlier qualified, but if for some reason this training was not completed, he would be reduced to an enlisted rank and trained as a gunner. Art chose to be trained as a bombardier, and was sent back to Lackland for reclassification and then to Childress, Texas for advanced bombardier training.

As we mentioned, It didn't take Art long to decide that Priscilla was the one, but he had a little selling to do. He wanted to get married as soon as possible. In the meantime, Priscilla, wanting to do her part in the war, had decided to join the Navy WAVES (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service).

Priscilla Starratt

At Lackland, there were telephones set up for personal calls. The base operator would place the call, announce over a loud speaker that your call was ready, and at the end of your call, announce the charges. There was always a large crowd waiting to use the phones, plus with military pay being what it was, most cadets economized on their use of long distance. Art wanted to get married before going overseas. He got Priscilla on the phone and was doing his best to sell her on the idea. By the time she agreed, he had spent nearly two hours on the phone. When they announced his charges, it was almost a full month's pay. The crowd laughed, not believing their ears.

Art's next stop would be Childress, Texas for advanced bombardier training. This was an acceleration of his training. He graduated as a 2nd Lieutenant in Class 4311, ahead of his prior classmates still in pilot training in Class 43H.

Art Starratt
Aviation Cadets Graduation Photo

Art's Aviation Graduation Class 43-11

His early graduation provided some consolation because if he encountered any of his prior classmates, who were still cadets, they would now have to "pop to" and salute! More importantly, it meant he had some leave and could see Priscilla, who was now in training for the Navy at Iowa State Teachers College in Cedar Falls, Iowa.

Art, now a brand new 2nd Lieutenant, went to Cedar Falls to see Priscilla. He met with her commanding officer to obtain permission to get married. Referring to the Navy manual, Art was told that it was against Navy regulations for a person in training to get married. So marriage would have to wait. He did offer to have Priscilla stationed in Texas when her training was completed. Art said "For heaven's sake, no!" He knew she would hate Texas, and besides, he would not be there much longer, himself. Her commanding officer did, however, station her in Washington, D.C. after her training where she worked in Admiral Knox's department in Navy Communications transcribing decoded messages.

After graduation, Art had enough leave to go to Washington, D.C. and get married. Before the wedding, he thought he'd like to show his bride-to-be a B-17. He talked an MP at a local air base into letting her on the base to see a B-17 that was parked there. It helped that she was in uniform. The plan went south, however, when he got her into the nose of the plane, and all she could do was cry at the thought of him leaving for combat. They were married in a military service in Washington, D.C. on October 1, 1943.

Announce Wedding

Art was then off to Pyote, Texas (near Pecos) for B-17 phase training. For a New England boy, this was the end of the world. Many years later, in 1961, we all visited this abandoned base while on vacation. He was right!

Pyote was where the Army formed the bomber crews. Art's crew consisted of Walter LeClerc, Pilot; Jim Ellis, Co-Pilot; George Kilduff, Navigator; Ralph Grooms, Engineer; Archie Stinebaugh, Waist Gunner; Bruce Stone, Radio; John Taylor, Waist Gunner; Harold Hay, Tail Gunner; Howard Kramer, Ball Turret Gunner, and himself as the Bombardier.

While in Pyote, the new crew was assigned to the 19th Bombardment Group which had been retired there from Pearl Harbor to conduct training. Art's first unit ribbon was theirs.

From Pyote, the crew was off to Salina, Kansas to pick up a new B-17. They would ferry this plane to England. Because so many crews were making unauthorized last visits on their way to England, another pilot was assigned to the crew for the trip to the East Coast. The crew was grounded due to weather in Wilmington, Delaware. The MP's took the crew's ID cards to keep them on base, but Art and the rest of the officers piled into a car, and talked their way off the base bluffing the guard with their picture ID health cards. Art called Priscilla who, with her girlfriends covering for her, went AWOL. She was in a little trouble later, but given the circumstances, they did not pursue her absence.

When the weather cleared, the new crew flew to Presque Isle, Maine and then on to England.