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Abstract of Interview: Mr. Allen discusses his memories of childhood in
Elmore County, AL and his attendance at Holtville High School along with his
participation in its world renowned vocational agricultural program. Mr.
Allen then moves on to discuss how he hitch hiked from Auburn, where he was
attending Auburn University, to Opelika on December 7, 1941 to join the
Naval Air Cadet Program and serve as first a Marine flight instructor for
cadets in Pensacola. He then became trained as a fighter pilot himself and
flew approximately 110 combat missions in the Philippines and Asian
continent. Mr. Allen’s wife, Elizabeth Allen is also present for the
interview and interjects occasionally to further Mr. Allen’s story.
Biographical Note: Archie Clayton Allen was born in Spiegner, Alabama
which is located in Elmore County, on May 8, 1918. He was the oldest son and
named after his father, Archie Clayton Allen, Sr. and his mother was Mary
Richardson Allen. Mr. Allen’s only sibling was a younger brother born in
1924, Leonard Allen. Mr. Allen attended Holtville High School all twelve
years and graduated in spring of 1936 after which he entered Auburn
University. In 1941 Mr. Allen joined the Naval Air Program as a cadet and
then joined the Marines. After he received his commission in 1943, Mr. Allen
married Elizabeth Sophronia Martin on February 23, 1943. After more than
five years of military service, Mr. Allen received his discharge and
returned to Speigner where he served as a vocational agriculture teacher
while he obtained his Master’s degree in Administration from Auburn
University. Mr. Allen later became the principal and administrator for
Holtville High School.
Interviewer: Dr. Martin T. Olliff
Date of Interview: August
Place of Interview:
Allen residence, Dothan, Alabama
Name of Indexer: Christina L. Robinson
Date of Index: April 1, 2009
Full name: Archie Clayton Allen
Full name: Elizabeth Sophronia Martin Allen, Sophronia was her paternal grandmother’s name
Place of birth: Spiegner, AL in Elmore Co., at the time it was a “Railroad Station”
Father’s information: Archie Clayton Allen, Sr., was a part time station manager and telegraph operator.
Siblings: One younger brother, born 1924, Leonard Allen. Leonard was also WWII veteran, drafted while in Auburn University to study Agricultural Engineering. Tells joke about how Leonard travelled from N. Africa to Germany on foot during service.
Mr. Allen’s Date of Birth: May 8, 1918
Parents: Father: A.C. Allen, Sr. and Mother: Mary Richardson Allen, both from Elmore County
Childhood: Father operated a country store and Mr. Allen attended Holtville High School all 12 years
College: Mr. Allen graduated Holtville in 1936 and entered Auburn University but always envisioned flying airplanes. Navy would give him that opportunity.
Field of Study while at Auburn: Agricultural education to become a vocational agriculture teacher. Ag. was the thing to do at the time because farming was important.
Preparation for agriculture during high school: Holtville High Agricultural program was world renowned and prepared him well. In shop he learned to make tools and adjust machinery and equipment. Used welding and hand tools but few power tools, also fashioned tools and handles.
Other things produced from shop: included metalwork, building trailers and truck bodies for hauling produce or cotton, called the “Hoover Wagon”. Everybody was poor coming off the depression so they would take the body off a car, make a wood frame and hitch mules to it. The school would make these and sell or give to local farmers.
How the Depression affected the community: the Holtville campus had community services, canning plant, freezing plant, woodworking and furniture shop to provide services and trade locally. Very unusual and drew nationwide interest. Skills acquired by students very useful.
Size of community served: approximately 600 students in school, people would travel 12-15 miles for campus services, if able. People would do their own canning but use facility and trained people to help them.
Attention from Holtville service program: People came from Hollywood to make a movie, also a book and magazine coverage.
A.C. Allen Sr.’s store is pictured in the Life Magazine article. Pictures show people bringing mules and such.
Community affected by war preparations: Prior to Dec. 7, 1941 people just adjusting to idea of being at war.
Joining Navy: On the morning of December 7, 1941 Mr. Allen hitch hiked from Auburn to Opelika to the Naval Recruiting Office to join the Naval Air Cadet Program
Marines: There was an option upon completion of the Naval Cadet program to enter the Marines and Mr. Allen says he “fell for the hoopla”. After flight training in Jacksonville, FL, he went to Pensacola, FL as a flight instructor
Assignment in Pensacola: For the flight training for Cadets, Mr. Allen taught various maneuvers in two seater S2V ‘Stationary Landing Gear Variable Pitch Propeller’ aircraft.
Skills acquired by cadets: Program not based on completion of hours, but the completion of various activities such as takeoff, gaining altitude, turns, rolls, etc. It was just basic flight training.
Flying with the cadet: Flew with each one, he was in back and the student in front. Could not physically touch but there was a gasport which was a row of holes with a mouthpiece to communicate.
One of A.C.’s students was Ted Williams the baseball player and he was a very good student.
Williams as a student: Mr. Allen actually gave Mr. Williams a check ride which was a system to check the competency for both the students and the instructors.
Time as flight instructor: Approximately 1942 to 1945 Mr. Allen was a flight instructor as a basic trainer of small aircraft and practiced unit formation flying, like a small version of the Blue Angels.
Student washout: Most students were without skills upon entry and there were many washouts. Those students could go on as navigators or otherwise cut out of flight program and sent back to Bureau of the Navy.
Other Assignments: Bureau of Naval Personnel sent Mr. Allen overseas because the need for new pilots had decreased.
Training for combat: Mr. Allen was sent to various stations to get additional training as a fighter pilot including Columbia, South Carolina and Miramar, California where he had to learn ground survival training.
Physical basic training: This training was necessary because they were ‘soft’ and it was a ‘rude shock’ at Camp Pendleton. Mr. Allen talks about the difference between basic training here and earlier as a Naval Cadet.
Deployment: Spent first night of deployment on Johnson Island, ‘about halfway to China’.
Johnson Island: The island was about the size of a baseball field, big enough for the DC 8 with cargo and replacement pilots he was on from Pearl Harbor. Mr. Allen tells story about landing on the tiny island.
Next station: The next landing was at Manis Island before arriving at the Philippines where he reported to the 1st Marine Air Wing in Spring of 1945.
Aircraft flown: F4U’s were flown in Philippines and tells story about the model of this plane given to him by a man who served in Vietnam.
Description of plane: Problem with long 3 blade propellers that if you braked too hard they fell forward and these were later improved to a short 4 blade. These were also single seaters and you had to know how to fly, could not be trained in them.
Other problems: This aircraft also had a tendency to roll in the air so a wooden piece called a spoiler was fashioned to go on the edge of a wing for balance. These spoilers were manufactured in Dothan at Hedstrom.
Missions: Flew in the 31st Flying Corsairs for Napalm and Rockets support in the Philippines. Received Combat Air Medal with 2 stars. He dropped Napalm and Rockets, also used Machine guns.
Maneuverability and range: Aircraft was 13,000 pounds with full 300 gallon fuel tank. At slowest rate the fuel consumption was 45 gallons per hour and at fastest speed, the rate was 50 gallons per hour
Air Medal Received: This medal was received for general service of more than twenty combat missions. “If you can get back, you get a medal”.
Most exciting mission: Mr. Allen went into a dive not knowing anyone was on the ground and received enemy fire that resulted in 81 holes along his aircraft.
Other aircraft: Mr. Allen discusses the differences between the Corsairs and the P47 in combat along with the differing engine capabilities.
Other missions: Mr. Allen flew in approximately 110 total missions. He discusses how the Army Air Corp. and the P51s virtually wiped out enemy aircraft so that he did not participate in any dogfights.
After the Atom bomb was dropped: They all thought the war was over with and they took off from the northern tip of the Philippines, but instead of flying home, they flew to Okinawa, then to Beijing to patrol the Manchurian border to protect Chang Kai Shek from the communists. They stayed here for about a year.
End of Duty: Mr. Allen was discharged in March of 1946. Received discharge and orders home while in China that included an option to stay and climb rank from captain to major, but refused. He took a troop transport by ship rather than plane because he felt that his “luck ran out”.
Marriage to Elizabeth: After Mr. Allen received his commission he said jokingly to Elizabeth “We’re gonna get married now, put up or shut up”.
Mrs. Allen was teaching at Auburn then and A.C. came down with the mumps prior to their wedding which delayed it about a month. They were married in Auburn on February 23, 1943.
Career after Military Service: Mr. Allen was a vocational educator for disabled veterans for two or three years after his discharge and then returned to Holtville High School as a vocational agriculture teacher, and later became the principal and administrator.
College Graduation: Mr. Allen actually graduated from Auburn in 1941, but his ceremonies were delayed until he finished service.
A.C. went back to Auburn on a G.I. bill and received his master’s in administration.
Return to College: Mr. Allen entered his master’s program after he returned to teaching at Holtville High. He was a part-time commuter student to Auburn and attended classes year-round.
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