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Iowa History Daily: May 11 - US Preflight Lands in Iowa City

Iowa History Daily: On May 11, 1944, the last group of cadets to enter the US Navy Preflight School (NPFS) at Iowa City started training. Famed for the vaunted Iowa Seahawks football team, Preflight saw some of the best and brightest pass prepare for action in World War II.

In addition to the NPFS locations at Georgia, North Carolina, and Saint Mary’s (CA), the University of Iowa agreed to host a preflight school in February of 1942. Building on training cadets already gained in flight preparatory school and War Training Service (WTS), the program taught flight theory, gunnery, celestial navigation, aerology, and many other important topics vital to success for active-duty pilots.

In addition to the academically rigorous curriculum, the Navy required all cadets to participate in athletics during the eleven-week long program. Calisthenics, swimming, basketball, boxing, wrestling, gymnastics, and other opportunities awaited cadets, but the Iowa Pre-Flight Seahawks football team endures as most notable.

Coached by former University of Minnesota Coach Bernie Bierman (1942), University of Missouri Coach Don Fauront (1943), and Auburn University Coach Jack Meagher (1944), the Seahawks went a combined 26-5 in three seasons. Featuring current and former Iowa Hawkeye standouts including Al Couppee, Red Frye, and Bus Martes, the teams competed as independent college teams and finished ranked in the national polls each season. Other NPFS teams featured the likes of future presidents George H.W. Bush and Gerald Ford.

Many other notable individuals passed through the NPFS in Iowa City including famed astronaut John Glenn. Although Glenn did not appear on the roster of the Iowa Seahawks, the future US Senator did once remark he served ‘scrimmage fodder’ for the nationally-ranked team. #IowaHistoryDaily #IowaOTD #IowaHistoryCalendar


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