|The C.E. Daniel Collection
|Louis "Bud" Francis Foster Jr.
War Eagle Field and the Polaris Flight Academy
|One of Foster's original pilot instructor patches from Polaris
|Foster maintained and preserved a good number of squadron books (as shown to
the left and below) from each of the squadrons that trained at War Eagle Field. He
also kept 8x10 original photographs of each of the squadrons that trained there as
well. In addition, Foster kept handwritten notes pertaining to each training
squadron, when they started and ended their training, and each of the pilots
contained within the squadron. (See photo below.)
To the left is the squadron book for Squadron 16, which according to Foster's notes,
began their training November 24, 1941 and ended their training on January 26,
1942. 15 student pilots were recorded by Foster as having started the training, with
two showing that they had been eliminated from training prior to graduation. No
reason is given for why either student pilot did not complete the training.
One student pilot in particular stands out in Squadron 16. Born on November 10,
1919, Steve "Spiro" Pisanos who immigrated to the United States and earn his
private pilot's license in 1940, at Westfield Airport, New Jersey. In October of 1941,
he joined the British Royal Air Force and began his military training at the Polaris
Flight Academy, where he and Foster certainly crossed paths.
Pisanos would eventually graduate, go on to complete his British flight training and
eventually end up with the 71st Eagle Squadron. Pisanos would later become part of
the 4th Fighter Group of the U.S. Army Air Corps, flying P-47's. Pisanos would end
the war as a double ace, having achieved 10 air victories in his combat career. He
would later serve as a test pilot and retire from the United States Air Force in
December of 1973 with the rank of Colonel. Among other awards, he earned 5
Distinguished Flying Crosses and a Purple Heart.
|Among the many items in
Foster's grouping is this
postcard sized photograph
of F/O Kenneth Maescher
Armstrong. Armstrong was
killed in a flying accident in
Canada on April 8, 1941, as
published in the Winnipeg
Tribune on April 15, 1941.
|One of the many cartoons choosen by the student pilots and found adorning the squadron
books. This particular cartoon is from the book of Squadron 18.
|Left: Handwritten notes kept by Foster of each squadron to pass through the Polaris Training
Above: a close up of the entry for Squadron 1, which consisted of only four student pilots.
Among the small class is Carroll "Red" W. McColpin. McColpin began his flying career at the
age of 14, and by the age of 16, had built his own aircraft and taught himself the basics of flight
and aerial acrobatics.
McColpin completed his flight training with the Polaris Flight Academy and made his way to
England via Canada to join the British Royal Air Force. McColpin would eventually find himself
assigned to the 71st Eagle Squadron and later flew with the US Army Air Corps, achieving 12 air
victories, 5 probable kills and 12 damaged enemy aircraft. McColpin would fly over 280 combat
missions and serve in the United States Air Force after the war, retiring at the rank of Major
General. McColpin is considered one of the most admired and most decorated Allied fighter
pilots of WWII.
|Louis Francis Foster Jr. was born May 6, 1908 in Gardena, California. A childhood injury
cost Foster the sight in his right eye, but this did not deter him from achieving his goal to
become a pilot. He began his flying career in 1928, earning his pilot's license at Dycer
Airport, flying an OX 5 Jenny. Dycer Airport was first built in the mid 1920's and was
located near the intersection of Western Avenue and 136th Street, in Gardena, California.
Foster was a flight instructor in the Civilian Pilot Training (CPT) program in Long Beach,
California before being hired as a primary flight instructor at the Polaris Flight Academy.
Foster was apparently quite an influence on many of the men who passed through the
Polaris Flight Academy as many of them kept in contact with him as they continued on
toward the war, writing letters or V-mail to him back in the states. Many of his former
students would refer to him as "Bud" Foster in their correspondence. The
correspondence also shows that as of November 1945, Foster was still serving as a
primary flight and instrument instructor at the Polaris Flight Academy.
Evidence suggests that Foster himself contemplated entering the war as an aviator,
which is shown in a letter he received from the Clayton Knight Committee dated May 23,
1941, outlining their requirements for potential aviators. It is very likely that Foster's
childhood eye injury would have prevented him from applying as a combat pilot.
Foster would remain as a primary flight instructor and an instrument instructor until the
end of the war.
|Left: A photograph of Squadron 16 at War
Eagle Field. On the far right, future ace
Steve Pisanos can be seeing posing for the
photograph. The close up at right, shows
Pisanos standing in the back row on the far
Note: The Squadron 16 book shown above
was the very first squadron book published
at Polaris Flight Academy.
|Above: Foster's Flight Instructor Pledge for the Polaris
Flight Academy. The pledge is signed at the bottom by both
Foster and Field Commander, Civilian Chief Flight Instructor
Luckenbacker and some
of his correspondence.
|A brief entry from one of the squadron books, remembering each flight
instructor. It is obvious Foster made an impression on these fledgling
|One person who fondly corresponded with Foster was S/Sgt. George Luckenbacher, a
crew chief with the 27th Fighter Squadron, 1st Fighter Group. The letters are spaced
apart due to the war, but start in January of 1943 with Luckenbacher sending a letter
from North Africa and end with a letter dated January 31, 1944 from Italy.
Luckenbacher's letter seem to indicate he had once been a student pilot, but did not
complete the program. He speaks of his love of flying and his inability to fly at all with his
position being that of a crew chief. The 27th Fighter Squadron is one of the oldest
squadrons in the United States Air Force and is currently flying the F-22 Raptor.
Another penpal was Flight Officer William Anderson. One letter from Anderson
describes being stationed in England with very few officers around and quite a few
single English women living nearby. He further describes living off base in a small cabin,
with a fishing stream nearby and lots of game to hunt. Anderson tell Foster he believes
he will get by!
|A class photograph of Squadron 18, signed by all of the student pilots. In the center of the back row, Joseph Klass wrote an incription to Foster, "Tail
Winds to Bud." The other members of the class who signed the photograph are: Leonard T. Hays, John B. Sandstead, Charles "Tex" Mack Blakeney,
Charles H. Tucker, Richard P. Heckman, Craven P. Almond, Charles C. Schulter, Robert C. West, Otto H. Krause, Craig C. Moore, Frederick O. Trafton,
Mason L. Armstrong, James E. Dittus and Reuben Simon.
The photograph is signed by all 16 members of Squadron 18. Louis Foster is in the front row, fifth from the right side, wearing a dark cap.
|It is an honor to have had Foster's items donated to my private collection, and to act as the steward to care for the items and preserve them for future
generations to enjoy and learn from.
This page is dedicated to the service of Louis Francis Foster Jr., and those like him, who gave of themselves to help young men prepare for battle in the
skies over Europe and the Pacific. It was men like Foster who helped to provide the student pilots with the confidence and the ability to take the fight to the
enemy in defense of their nation. The page is also dedicated to those brave American pilots of the Eagle Squadron, who took to the skies with the British
Royal Air Force to battle the Luftwaffe before America's entry into WWII.
If anyone has additional information concerning Louis Foster Jr., his time at the Polaris Flight Academy, or his connection to Coast Aviation Corporation, I
would enjoy hearing from you.
War Eagle Field: http://www.airfields-freeman.com/CA/Airfields_CA_PalmdaleN.htm
War Eagle Field: http://www.militarymuseum.org/WarEagleField.html
|Letters and V-Mail from F/O William Anderson.
|Foster's WWII era civilian flight instructor wings
and matching cap badge, believed to be from
Coast Aviation Corporation, which operated
from Eagle Field near Fresno, California.
|A well aged document from Alpha Ete Rho, International Aviation Fraternity,
issued to Foster on may 18, 1930.
|A post-war photograph of Foster and an
unknown, twin engined aircraft. His love of
aviation never ceased.
|War Eagle Field
|War Eagle Field was first established on July 15, 1941, operated by the Polaris Flight Academy, and initially trained British Royal Air Force pilots. 50 RAF
pilots were the first to graduate from Polaris Flight Academy and begin their way toward the on-going combat in western Europe. Following the attack on
Pearl Harbor in December of 1941, the school continued to train RAF pilots until July 28, 1942, when it began training pilots for the U.S. Army Air Corps.
War Eagle Field would continue to churn out U.S. Air Corps pilots until the end of WWII. It was considered a basic flight school and primarily utilized the
BT-13 as its main training aircraft, later introducing the AT-6 Texan later in the war.
War Eagle Field, which no longer exists, was located approximately 5 miles west of Lancaster, California. In 1944, the flight school changed its name to
Mira Loma Flight Academy and continued to operate until October 1, 1945, at which time the airfield was inactivated. As often occurred with items and
locations from WWII, in 1946 the field was classified as "surplus" and was taken over by the War Assets Board. Today, the location that had once been
War Eagle Field is now home to the Mira Loma Detention center, with nearly nothing of the original field remaining.
To see a brief video clip related to War Eagle Field, click on the link below: