You’re in the Navy Now

WEPs cruise book photoAs I mentioned in my previous post (on my grandfather’s service on Kwajalein Island), my grandfather, William Eugene (“Bill”) Prettyman served in the U.S. Navy during World War II. In this post, I’ll present a few of the documents I’ve found so far concerning his military service. I’m trying to figure out when and where he served, so I’m gathering everything I can that can help answer that question.

My grandfather told me he moved from Minnesota to Los Angeles in 1941 to take a job as a machinist with Lockheed. He told me “I gave up a good job on the jigs” to join the military.


Bill told me he did a lot of waiting before he could start his service. Perhaps that’s why I haven’t found any military records between October 1942, and March 6, 1943. The following record from the U.S. Naval Reserve Aviation Base in Minneapolis. It states that his enlistment date was March 6, 1942, and that he enlisted in Minneapolis, Minnesota. His rank as of May 31, 1942, was Seaman, second class:
WEP Enlistment Page 114
The corresponding notation in the lower half of the document reads:

Rec.A.D. 5-21-42
From inactive duty. Auth:NACSB,Mpls,Minn. Ltr. QR5/
NACSB(1592-42)P16-3(1)/P11-1/ccs 411-88-37 of 5-6-42.

I’m still working on deciphering that. What I have so far is:

Received for active duty (from inactive duty) on May 21, 1942.
Naval Aviation Cadet Selection Board, Minneapolis, Minnesota.
QR5 (?)
NACSB(1592-42)P16-3(1)/P11-1/ccs 411-88-37 of 5-6-42.

The next document shows that he arrived at the U.S. Naval Reserve Aviation Base in Minneapolis on May 21, 1942, two and a half months after he enlisted in Minneapolis, MN. He’s listed as a Seaman, second class, and I believe that V-5 USNR signifies that he was in the U.S. Naval Reserves and that he was part of the V-5 Naval Aviation Cadet program to send civilian and enlisted candidates to train as aviation cadets. According to the V-5 Wikipedia article, to qualify for the V-5 program, candidates had to be between the ages of 19 and 25, have an Associate’s degree or at least two years of college, and had to complete a Bachelor’s degree within six years after graduation to keep their commission. Training was for 18 months and candidates had to agree to not marry during training and to serve for at least three more years of active duty service.
WEP Muster record Page 155
The following are pages from the Navy Cruise Book (titled “The Slipstream”) for his training class at the Naval Air Training Center in Corpus Christi, Texas. Curiously, this book is dated 1941, the year prior to his enlistment in Los Angeles. Bill is pictured on page 175.

Navy cruise book Page 1

Navy cruise book Page 3
Navy cruise book Page 4
Navy cruise book Page 5
Navy cruise book Page 6
Navy cruise book Page 7
Navy cruise book Page 174
Navy cruise book Page 175
Navy cruise book Page 176
Navy cruise book Page 177
Navy cruise book Page 178
Navy cruise book Page 179
Navy cruise book Page 180
Navy cruise book Page 181

Former President George H. W. Bush also trained at the Naval Air Training Center in Corpus Christi, Texas, graduating in its third graduating class in June, 1943. I don’t yet know when Bill graduated, so I don’t know if Bush was in his class or in the class before or after Bill’s graduating class.

Naval Reserve V-5 insignia

As Bill was selected to go on to with the V-5 program, he would have gone on to Naval Flight Preparatory School, and would then have gone on to receive Basic flight training at Pensacola Naval Air Station before getting his Advanced flight training at Corpus Christi Naval Air Station. I haven’t yet found records of either of these earlier training programs for Bill.

If you know anything more about Bill’s military service, please let me know in the comments section below.

6 thoughts on “You’re in the Navy Now

  1. Hi Michael, Dad washed out of flight school due to night blindness. After serving as a navigator he wound up instructing navigation in Alameda in the Bay Area.

  2. Thanks, Dan! So he was at Alameda Naval Air Station, too. He really got around. I vaguely recall him saying he also did LORAN work in western Alaska the part closest to Siberia, but I was so young when he told me that that I’m not sure I’m remembering that correctly.
    I’m writing to the National Archives for his official Military Personnel File, but it looks like they’ll only release that to the veterans themselves or to strictly defined next-of-kin ( It looks like you, mom, and gram would all qualify as next-of-kin, so I’ll be hitting one of you up for a signature in the near future.

  3. The LORAN work was a secret mission. There is a photo somewhere of an opera that he saw when he was there (I think they actually went into Eastern Russia). The full cast is on stage in costume and I think he might have been somewhere by the edgwe of the stage. Haven’t seen the photo in a while but I’m sure it didn’t get thrown away.

    • Hi Dan,

      I have that photo and have already digitized it. I’ll send you a link and/or write a post about it once back from my conference. The caption on the back of the photo (if I recall correctly) said “Bill Prettyman in Play. Moscow”, and I thought this was a photo of a high school or college play he was in. That’ll be a good one to figure out. Thanks for the details!

  4. If the LORAN installation was in Attu. There is a pretty famous Opera House right across the sea in Petropavlovsky-Kamchatsky. The GI’s could have been guests there for a night or two since the accommodations in Attu were probably pretty sparse. Thanks for the pic.

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