Paul Ostrander '46: Fight for the Sky

Lt. Ostrander in front of a P-47 plane Duxford, England, 1944. (Courtesy Photo)

A minister’s son and a thoughtful pacifist who wanted to study law, Paul Ostrander probably never dreamed he would become a fighter pilot.

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Ostrander was also interested in student life at Pacific. A whirlwind of activity, he was seemingly everywhere, on the road with the debate team, doing yearbook artwork in the basement of Marsh Hall, serving as manager-elect of Mac Hall, active in Phi Beta Tau. There was also a deeper, more reflective side of Ostrander that began to show.

War was on everyone’s mind in the first half of 1942 as newspaper and radio broadcasts reported one American defeat after another. There was a new attitude on campus now, more serious. Ostrander was thinking deeply about his possible role in a world at war. He wrote a poem, published that spring in Pacifica, the student literary magazine. It was titled My Dream:

If all the knowledge in books

         Could be one great text

         With one great title on its front

         And only one index


         The name that I would like to see

         Upon that mighty cover

         Would be printed much like this,

         To love your fellow brother


         And then if man from sea to sea

         Would read the text therein

         And understand its mighty facts

         And realize his sin


      Then life would thrive and man would live

         And peace would rule supreme

         And I could see the world which now

         To me is but a dream

On campus there were many new faces and few familiar ones. One by one, his classmates were disappearing, putting on uniforms, going off to war. As U.S. Marines struggled for a foothold on an island in the Pacific called Guadalcanal and the Army landed at Algiers, he made a tough decision.

Despite his personal convictions and religious upbringing, which could have qualified him as a conscientious objector, Ostrander chose to enlist in the Air Corps reserve. In February, 1943 he was called to active duty along with his pal Boyd Lewis, student body president Bob Beattie and several others. 

By summer he was a cadet receiving flight training at several Army air bases in the Southwest. Flying an airplane appealed to Ostrander’s adventurous spirit, his athleticism and love of nature. He excelled at it. On April 15, 1944 he graduated from advanced training at Luke Field, Arizona, receiving the coveted silver wings and his commission as a Second Lieutenant. Even better, he was chosen to fly the big, single-engined P-47 “Thunderbolt” fighter.