Born in Hawaii while it was still a territory, Betty spent her early years reading books about aviation. When she was 14, she met Amelia Earhart who encouraged her wanting to learn to fly and invited the teenager to watch her take off when she flew solo to Oakland, California. According to Betty, “that cinched it.”
Betty had her first flight at age 15, then hitchhiked to the airport and did bookkeeping for flying lessons. She attended University of Hawaii, was accepted into the college’s Civilian Pilot Training program and earned her license. She then flew tourists around the Islands.
On Saturday, Dec. 6, 1941, she had passed tests for commercial license and instructor rating and was scheduled to fly a tourist around the island at 6:30 am. He canceled that afternoon. Sunday morning, Dec. 7, 1941 she witnessed the bombing of Pearl Harbor from her family’s balcony on a high hill overlooking the Harbor. Riveting stories of the aftermath of Pearl Harbor, blackouts, driving w/ blue gel over the headlights and listening to Tokyo Rose on the radio. Three months later, she married her fiancé, a Naval Ensign whose ship had been sunk on Dec 7. He was soon reassigned to the US and they came to the States in a convoy of ships.
When her husband was shipped out on an overseas assignment, Betty heard of Jacqueline Cochran’s new experimental flying training program to teach women to fly military aircraft. She applied and, with her large number of pilot hours, was accepted as a member of the first class.
She completed 5 months of AAF flight training at the Houston Municipal Airport, graduated, and received orders to report to Long Beach to ferry aircraft for the Air Transport Command Ferrying Division.
Her first assignments were to ferry new training aircraft to bases all over America. Within a short time, the AAF opened up pursuit training schools to select WASP. There she learned to fly all types of pursuits. Her orders then were primarily to ferry fighter aircraft to ports of embarkation on the East coast for shipment to overseas bases. Her accounts of her experiences are riveting.
After the WASP were disbanded, she raised two sons, was a reporter, and a craftsman, eventually designing a bean bag frog that was featured in the film, “The April Fools” w/ Jack Lemmon & Catherine Deneu.