Birthday: January 25, 1921
Birthplace: Mercer, Wisconsin
Family: Levi and Etha Sleight
Branch: Army Air Corps
Unit: Third Combat Cargo Group; Ninth Squadron
Inside of Church Burma.
Outside of church.
In order to enlist in 1942 a man had to weigh 127 pounds. To meet this requirement Richard Sleight had to eat five pounds of bananas and drink two quarts of milk. Mr. Sleight wanted to enlist so that he would not be drafted, he felt that if he was drafted a man his size would not stand a chance in the infantry. He also didn't want to go into the Navy because he could only swim so far, so he enlisted in what was then the Air Corps "We left Chicago and went to Miami Beach They kept us in hotels, but they had been completely stripped so that they were just barracks is all they were. At Miami Beach we were given our primary shots, clothing, and we were trained in close order drill, basic training is what it is known. Then they sent us to a school in Pennsylvania called the University of Susquehanna, which was a Lutheran school. There they were giving us classes such as mathematics and navigation, things they thought we should know. We were there three months and then we went to Nashville Tennessee where we had classification. There they decided this man could make it or he couldn't. In Pennsylvania we had ten hours of dual flying in J3 cubs if we passed in Nashville, then we were in what was known as the cadet-training program. If you didn't pass you were in the infantry or they kept you in the air corps, they didn't send you home."
Sleight first trained to be a pilot to fly a single engine aircraft. In the last three months, known as Advanced training, they went into twin-engine aircrafts. "I ended up in C47's, which was a cargo plane. What happened to me was in Starkgaurt Arkansas, my group was scheduled to go into B17's, which is a bomber plane. They shipped us out, but I was in the hospital with a chest cold or the flu, so I missed my fight. When the British got themselves into a jam in Burma, they had to be re-supplied by air. They grabbed any pilot that wasn't assigned and they put us into C47's. They flew us over, and we re-supplied what was known as the Wingate Raiders and Merril's Marauders for quite a few months." Sleight carried anything from food and ammo to pigs and donkeys. While Richard Sleight was flying the plane there was also a co-pilot, radio operator, and sometimes a crew chief went along. In the back of the plane they had one to three men to kick out the bags with parachutes attached. The plane that Mr. Sleight flew was named the Hoboken Ferry, which he crashed on a sandbar in the middle of the Irrawaddy River.
" There was a time when a group of American infantry men were trapped in a hole, hills on either sides of `em, we called `em hills 8,000 feet high 6000 big and we were supplying them by air and it was monsoon time and the winds blew from west to east something terrible and I got in there and I was the only one that got in there that day. I got into a circle to the left turned and dropped and then came back around and dropped. I wanted to get out and I couldn't. I don't know who was flying the plane but I wasn't! I hauled everything to make a right-hand turn, but it wouldn't turn. Finally, we were able to get out and what took us about one and a half hours to go in, took a lot more hours to come out. That's the way the winds were blowing. Our plane would cruise only about 128 mph. There were several times I thought I was dead.
"We would fly into Calcutta from our base and spend a week at a time there." We would go to visit things like the Black Hole of Calcutta, which was the spot where the British had been captured and were left to die. There were also other things to see such as museums. "On D-Day Mr. Sleight was visiting the Taj Mahal. When Mr. Sleight heard about D-Day he told us, "Well we were relieved to know that finally we were going to be doing something and of course I was happy that I wasn't there on the beach. I'm not ashamed to say that anyways. They released only a few people at a time and I was one of the last ones to go home."
There were a few things that Richard saved from the war including a silk map of where he was stationed and a Japanese flag. " On the way back I flew through the Holy Land and we stopped at the Great Pyramids. We went through the kings tomb but not the queens."
Mr. Sleight got back from the war on June 8, 1945; he went back to school to finish his education, graduating with an Engineer degree. Mr. Sleight then worked for sawmill up by Mercer, Wisconsin. In 1949 Sleight came to Wisconsin Rapids to work for Consolidated Papers.
under Learn and Serve American Grant #00LSFWI104