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Bourgeois was born and raised in New Orleans, Louisiana. He first flew when he was about 7 years old. After that he was very interested in flying.While he was attending classes at LSU [AnnotatorÂ’s Note: Louisiana States University] he spoke with Marine Corps recruiters. He was very impressed with their uniforms and decided to sign up.The Marine Corps wouldn't take him until he was 19 years old so he went into the Civilian Pilot Training Program. He learned a lot there.On his birthday, 1 September [Annotator's Note: 1 September 1941] he was sworn in as a naval aviation cadet. He took preliminary training in New Orleans. His instructor in New Orleans was a Marine captain who really taught Bourgeois how to fly.After his preliminary training was complete he was sent to the Naval Air Station in Corpus Christi, Texas for his regular training. When the war began in December the program was accelerated. Bourgeois was commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant in the US Marine Corps in June 1942.Bourgeois had a scout master who had been a Marine in World War I and that was one of the reasons that he chose the Marine Corps. Only 4 out of 30 were accepted into the Marine Corps.Promotions went faster in the Marine Corps than in the navy. Bourgeois was sent to San Diego to North Island Naval Air Station in late 1942 where he flew F4F Wildcats.In December [AnnotatorÂ’s Note: 1942] he and 13 other pilots got orders to go overseas as replacement pilots. The senior replacement officer was Major Gregg Boyington [AnnotatorÂ’s Note: Gregory "Pappy" Boyington]. The trip overseas was an interesting one and took about 18 days. There was no fresh water for bathing or shaving.They arrived in New Caledonia and flew up to Espiritu Santos to the Marine Air Base at Turtle Bay. There they were assigned to various squadrons as replacements.Bourgeois had met Boyington at a party. He and his friend John Beggert went to the party where they met the former Flying Tiger. He and Boyington liked to play bridge and would pair up to beat everyone else.Bourgeois' first squadron was VMF-122. Boyington was the executive officer. The squadron was flying F4F Wildcats off of Guadalcanal. The planes were few in number and there were pilots like Joe Foss and Walsh who got priority on planes so Bourgeois and Boyington didn't get to fly much. There were many air battles right over the airfield.After 4 or 5 weeks Bourgeois went to Sydney for R&R for a week. When he returned he trained with the same squadron. There were new pilots in the squadron and they had received Corsairs.Most of Bourgeois' combat missions were escorting B-24s [AnnotatorÂ’s Note: American B-24 bombers] and Marine dive bombers, SBDs [AnnotatorÂ’s Note: SBD Dauntless]. The SBDs would go to Munda and the B-24s would go up to Bougainville. The B-24s were tough to escort because they flew at high altitude and the Corsairs had no heater. They were long missions.
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