Letters Home: Neal Montgomery

From the February 14, 1918 Skidmore News, page 1:

A Letter from Neal Montgomery to His Parents.

Champaign, Illinois, Sunday afternoon.

Dear Folks: —

All is still well along the Potomac.  I am now in E squadron and there are 30 of us now, still growing smaller.  I wonder how many there will be when we finish here.  We have been having engines and aeroplanes this week, learning the names of the different parts and how to assemble them.  Also we have had the theory of engines and all that.  Mechanical Efficiency, Indicated Horsepower, Delivered Horsepower, etc. including many definitions and formulas also haw to derive the last.  We have had two small quizzes, one on engines and theory and the other on aeroplanes, names of parts etc. and then we had another one too, on the theory of flight, how an aeroplane flies and why?  Why the parts are placed where they are and the action of each part.  I never knew how many things there were to learn about engines and aeroplanes until they began teaching them to us.

They explain it to us in such a way now that you can’t help but understand if you pay close attention and have several sparks of intelligence.

Some funny things happen though.  For instance they told one man farewell this week who had been working for some engine factory as an engine expert for five years.  Kicked him out for engines too.  But he may have tried to show up an instructor or didn’t try to learn it the way they teach it here or something like that.  It makes no difference how much you know if you don’t tell it their way you don’t know it or at least it don’t do you any good here.

We continue with our engines and aeroplanes, wireless, machine gun this week and may get some map reading too.  They flash us lights now instead of using buzzers in wireless and it’s harder for me to get.  You can’t watch your paper, if you do you miss some of the signals.  I guess I’ll get it alright tho.  I can if I have to.

We had 9 hours of engine laboratory work this last week, 3 hours at a time, each time a different motor.  We tear them down and trace the oiling systems and each one has a different one.  Get their main differences and working parts and how they go together.  It certainly is interesting work for me.  If it wasn’t all interesting work for me I wouldn’t be getting it like I am.  but you know a man can do anything he wants to do, if he wants to bad enough and will stay with it.

I received all of your letters and the box of candy and it was fine. Grandpa I finally got the copy of the Sentinel, thanks.  I think that about the first time I ever broke into print.  But I hope it will not be the last.  I am in the Enlisted Reserve Corps and while I am on active duty am in the regular army.  It might be the volunteer army tho for as soon as the war is over I can get out according to the act passed by congress.  I am not in the draft army tho.

S. C. Crane one of my room mates and I got a pass this week end from 12 noon Saturday until taps tonight.  We stayed at the Ex house last night and it was certainly a relief to get away from the Barracks for awhile.  We went to a vaudeville show in the afternoon and saw Illinois beat N. W. in basket ball last night 38 – 22.  I didn’t enjoy the game so much consequently.  No excuses they just naturally trimmed us.  This afternoon we walked down town and I am using some of the hotel’s stationery.  They ought to be glad to have the use it.

We will go back to the Barracks after supper and the old grind will commence for another week.  But all work and no play you know takes all the “pep” out of us and they need “pepy” aviators.  We don’t get a chance to relax during the week so we take advantage of our chance on the week end.

I am feeling fine, don’t get a chance to feel otherwise.  I am so busy I wouldn’t get a chance to know it if I was sick.  But only 4 more weeks of it.  The next crucial point is F week – when we get the final exams in engines and aeroplanes.  After that it’s easy, comparatively.

Love to all, Neal.

The above letter is self explanatory and shows a part of the schooling that is necessary for one to become an aviator.