By Alex Jones
INCREDIBLE colour photos from the Second World War show stoic student pilots getting to grips with their parachutes as they prepare to go to war for their country – although thousands would die before even getting the chance to fly in battle.
Stunning photos from 1942, taken by the US Office of War Information, capture a patient instructor explaining the mechanics of a parachute to nervous students; a woman methodically sewing the straps for the potentially life-saving chute; and a grinning recruit showing off his canopy bundle as he clambers into his aircraft.
Another photo shows a US Marine expertly parachuting down to earth on Parris Island, the home of the U.S. Marine Corps training facility.
The majority of the striking shots were taken across various airfields in Texas, just weeks after the United States entered the war following the bombing of Pearl Harbour in December 1941. The US Airmen were particularly prominent in the Pacific War against Japan but also served valiantly across Europe, helping the RAF and other allied air forces to claim the skies from the German Luftwaffe before the D-Day landings in 1944.
After heavy losses at Pearl Harbour and The Philippines, the United States bulked up their air force considerably. Over the course of the war, the country constructed over 275,000 aircraft. In 1939, fewer than 1,000 pilots graduated basic flight training whilst in 1943 that figure had grown to 165,000.
Tens of thousands of American airmen were shot down and killed, captured or wounded throughout the Second World War. Soberingly, some 15,000 of those died whilst training to go to war – ten times the number of Americans who died on D-Day.