Pilot’s Log is a website created to preserve the little known history of the flight school operated at Mesa Del Rey Airport in King City, California during WWII (1940-45). Within the history of the place, the website will predominantly focus on bringing to light the cadets who were at Mesa Del Rey and left for the war after a brief ten-week training. The airport still operates as a small civil airport, however it offers only a binder containing a news article about its history, letters from one pilot’s collection, and a few photographs. A Wikipedia page offers a brief information about the airport. The local Museum features an Aviation Exhibit (currently closed), has a few copies of the King’s Log, the “class” books from the flight school, a silent film depicting cadets arriving on a train to King City, and an interview conducted with one of the pilots, Red Rider. Currently, there is no website that allows audiences to access or share information about this part of American history when young men from around the country were summoned to King City, trained to fly Fairchild PT-19s and PT-17 Stearmans, and left for the war. Other than a few local history enthusiast and local family members of the cadets, the history of the pilots and the flight school is buried in attics, in boxes and in the memories of people around the United States.
Pilot’s Log Digital Project Goals:
- To inform its audience about an important part of King City’s history and its contribution to the World War II efforts.
- To recognize the thousands of men who trained at Mesa Del Rey and later fought in the war by compiling a composite of who these cadets were, how their lives were at the flight school and how it changed as they played an important role in the history of the United States.
- To engage audiences interested in local history, WWII history, history of pilot training, or to find out about fellow pilots or connect families in this common history.
- To open up the conversation about this time in history and invite the audience to contribute their own stories and artifacts in the hopes of recovering the history of the Mesa Del Ray Flight School and its cadets.
- To further engage audiences and encourage critical thinking, the project poses the following historical questions:
- Who were these men/cadets/pilots and where did they come from?
- What do the activities, the training, and statistics about pilot output tell us about the success of the school?
- Where were the trained pilots assigned for duty?
- What happened to those who did not make it as pilots?
- What can we learn from the experiences of these cadets about war, relocation, family matters, and camaraderie?
- How does the history of Mesa Del Rey flight school inform local history?
- How does King City and the Mesa Del Rey Army Air Force flight school fit into military history of the U.S.?
- How frequently or to what extent was the flight school chronicled in the local paper?
The digital exhibit will be created in Omeka using digitized pages from the King’s Logs, photos, interviews, and a film courtesy of the Monterey County Agricultural and Rural Life Museum. The site will have item profiles, exhibitions, and pages about the men. One exhibit will consist of articles documenting the flight school. The other exhibit will include the available yearbook information (1943-44): list of cadets in each division with the addition of pictures. A collection will display the art (cartoon drawings) and humor depicted in the logs reflecting on the experiences at school. Finally, I plan to map the places around the country where the cadets came from and mark the location of the school. Plugins, such as Video Stream, Exhibit Builder, COinS, Simple Pages, Neatline, and Geolocation will be implemented.
Target audiences will include people interested in King City’s local history, aviation, WWII history, pilots who attended the Mesa Del Rey flight school and their families, current and former pilots, pilot training, and anyone fascinated by common people making history.