Prewar Life to Joining the Military

Being a Navigator Overseas

Close Call Crash


Arnold A. Mirsky was born in November 1918 and was born in Newark, New Jersey. His parents were immigrants of Russia and Ukraine. His father ran a confectionery store in Newark and dabbled in real estate. After the market crashed [Annotator's Note: Wall Street Crash of 1929, also known as the Great Crash, September to October 1929], his real estate business fizzled out. Mirsky enjoyed working in the candy store with his father while he was in high school. He also worked in the grocery store when he was about twelve years old. He made six dollars a week. He gave five dollars to his mother and kept one dollar for himself. He took his kid sister to the movies and bought a bike with the money he earned. He and his two siblings were musically inclined and took private lessons. Mirsky took lessons on the violin. He played in the high school orchestra and played the clarinet in the high school marching band. Mirsky lived in a mixed neighborhood. There was Roman Catholics, Protestants, and Jews. He graduated from high school in 1936 when he was 16 years old. He continued to work for his father, and then enrolled in the University of Newark [Annotator's Note: now as Rutgers University in Newark, New Jersey]. Mirsky graduated from college in 1939. He was aware of the hostilities happening in Europe during the mid-1930s. He had extended family living in Russia and Ukraine when war broke out in Europe in September 1939. In Spring of 1941, Mirsky applied for the naval cadet midshipman program, but was told he was overweight. In three weeks, he lost enough weight to apply again, but did not pass the three interviews required to enter the program. He then applied for the Army Air Corps and was accepted.


Arnold A. Mirsky's father did not want him to join the Army Air Corps, so when he was accepted, Mirsky did not tell his father. When he was drafted, he went into the infantry and was sent to South Carolina, until November 1941 when he was called for his appointment in the Army Air Corps. He was sent home for a short leave [Annotator's Note: an authorized absence for a short period of time] before he had to report for training on 8 December 1941. He went home to Newark [Annotator's Note: Newark, New Jersey] and his parents were surprised to see him. Mirsky dd not tell his parents that he would be going into the Army Air Corps. Mirsky was still home when he heard about the attack on Pearl Harbor [Annotator's Note: The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii on 7 December 1941]. He was shipped to Ryan Field [Annotator's Note: now Hemet-Ryan Airport in Riverside County, California] and issued new uniforms. Then a group picture was taken. Mirsky sent the group photo to his parents who then found out he was in the Army Air Corps. He graduated from training and became a navigator and second lieutenant. He was assigned to the 1st Photo Mapping Charting Reconnaissance [Annotator's Note: 1st Mapping Group] and first stationed at an auxiliary in Quebec, Canada. He stayed up there until the winter and the weather conditions became snowy. He returned to the United States and was assigned to a squadron in Laredo, Texas for six weeks. He then was sent to Havana [Annotator's Note: Havana, Cuba] to take aerial pictures. He then was sent to South America for the same duties. In November of 1944, he was sent overseas to New Guinea. When he arrived, most of the fighting was done except in the northern part of the country. He was then sent to the Philippines and Okinawa [Annotator's Note: Okinawa, Japan]. He was on Okinawa when the war ended. Because he was assigned in the Pacific, he had to have 300 hours of combat flying before going home. Most of his mission were ten hours long. His job was to direct the plane and keep it on course to its destination. His plane took pictures at 20 thousand feet. If there was cloud coverage, they could not take pictures. They used a trimetrogon camera [Annotator's Note: an aerial photographic survey method that involves the use of three cameras in one assembly].


Arnold A. Mirsky was assigned as a navigator for the 1st Photo Mapping Charting Reconnaissance [Annotator's Note: 1st Mapping Group] in the Pacific during World War 2. There was one mission that happened in March 1945. Mirsky was in Darwin [Annotator's Note: Darwin, Australia] and was going to Hollandia [Annotator's Note: Hollandia, Dutch New Guinea, now Jayapura, West New Guinea]. The pilot chose to fly a "dog leg" instead of direct to avoid the mountainous terrain, so he mostly flew over water. During the trip, one of the engines stalled and the engineer could not get it to go. The plane still had three engines, but it lost some altitude and could not fly as fast on four engines. As his plane reached New Guinea, another engine went out. The plane dramatically lost altitude and flew through a rain shower. The pilot finally saw the landing strip and began his descent. Luckily the plane stopped without flipping over. The whole crew got out as fast as they could. Mirsky was ready to go home after that experience. He decided he wanted to return to the United States by a ship. It took three weeks for him to get home by boat. Mirsky helped save the plane from crashing because of his navigational skills. Mirsky got along with all the crew members. He kept in touch for several years after World War 2. He befriended a guy named B.Z. Sowell [Annotator's Note: phonetic spelling] and they encouraged each other during their service. They also kept in touch after the war. Mirsky was invited to dinner one night by a family while he was in Brazil. He came to visit the family several times, to play games and eat dinner. He kept in touch with family after the war too [Annotator's Note: Interviewer abruptly ends interview at 1:01:40.000. Black screen until 01:03:44.662].

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