RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany — A lot has changed in the field of military aviation over the last 70 years, two World War II vets told a crowded theater here Monday.
When William “Bill” Prindible and Julian “Bud” Rice flew into Normandy on D-Day, the Air Force was part of the Army, pilots flew by analog instruments and officers didn’t have to have college degrees to fly planes.
But some things are still the same, Prindible said.
“Practically all of us, if not all of us, were volunteers.”
Prindible, who signed up for the Army Air Force just out of High School in August 1942, and Rice, who joined a few months earlier after leaving prep school, were at Ramstein to meet with members of their old unit prior to heading to Normandy to commemorate the 70th anniversary of Allied invasion in World War II.
The 37th Airlift Squadron at Ramstein traces its lineage back to the 37th Troop Carrier Squadron, the unit Prindible and Rice flew for.
Both men served in Sicily before the squadron moved to England in early 1944 to train for D-Day.
“I don’t think there was any thought in any of our minds that we wouldn’t do what we’d been trained to do,” Prindible said.
The men flew twin-engine C-47 Skytrains, the war’s workhorse cargo plane. In honor of that legacy, Ramstein officials on Monday unveiled the renaming of one of its roads to “Skytrain Lane.”
In the C-47, “we had needle ball and airspeed and artificial horizon and gyrocompass and that’s about it,” Rice said, naming the instruments they used to guide their flights. Technology now, “they fly by themselves. You got four buttons — one for taxiing, one for takeoff, another button for cruise control and the other one for landing,” he quipped, nudging Prindible. “So maybe we ought to think about signing up for another hitch, Bill.”