Holux Overview 2: Who Originally Owned the Holux Watch....
....and How did the Six Pilots know each other?
Who bought the Holux watch?
The first name engraved on the watch is “C. W. Mapes”, and it seems likely that Charles was the original owner of the Holux watch (the names are not in alphabetical order). Mapes was three years older than the other airman, married, and as the former manager at a large department store, probably had more money to buy a watch before leaving Pre-Flight Training at Santa Ana (see below). The engraved, gold Holux watch probably cost around $50, which was a month’s pay for an Air Force cadet. It was purchased at Brock & Co, a prominent Los Angeles jewelry store. (The watch came with its worn original leather band, engraved “Brock & Co” on the back.)
How Did the 6 Pilots Meet & Become Friends?
In December 2019, I purchased a copy of the “The SAAAB Story” (Santa Ana Army Air Base) by Edrick J. Miller (1981). The book supports the conclusion that all of these six pilot trainees were members of the Western Flying Training Command’s “Class 44-A Training Schools”, from Pre-Flight Training (April 1943) through Advanced Training (January 7,1944):
Pre-Flight Training (Santa Ana CA Army Air Base) (04/17/43 – 06/22/43)
Pilot Primary Training (CA - Chino / Oxnard) (06/24/43 – 08/29/43)
Pilot Basic Training (CA - Chico / Lemoore / etc.) (08/31/43 – 11/03/43)
Advanced Pilot Training (Luke / Douglas AZ / etc.) (11/05/43 – 01/07/44)
Thus Mapes, Higgins, Brew, Buttner, Kitzman, & Riha began their two months of Pre-Flight training together in April 1943 in Santa Ana, and maintained their friendship through Primary, Basic, and Advanced Pilot training. They all graduated (from either Luke or Douglas Field) on January 7, 1944.
Just prior to Major Kitzman's death in March 2020, his daughter Sharon Berube showed him pictures of the watch and the pilots, and asked if he remembered any of them. Don saw William Buttner's photo and immediately recognized him. "...Bill was with me in Santa Ana. He had a Cadillac convertible, and we used to crowd in his car (along with Ben Higgins and Ben Brew...) and drive 30 miles to Los Angeles. We went to the Biltmore Hotel, where we danced with pretty girls....". I was finally able to confirm that the pilots were good friends -- and shared good times!
P.S. Don especially remembered meeting Jenny Wellons, who lived in Beverly Hills. There really was a "Virginia Wellons" who lived in Beverly Hills -- Don remembered her name after 75 years! I found her photo in Ancestry.com