WASP Elizabeth “Betty Wall” Strohfus

2018-8-15 Strohfus

Strohfus, known as Betty (or sometimes Liz) Wall when she joined the WASPs — Women’s Air Force Service Pilots — died March 6, [2016] in Faribault, Minn., after a lifetime devoted to ensuring a legacy for the women once entrusted with the military’s newest planes. She was 96.

Strohfus spent years crisscrossing the country in her blue uniform to champion the WASPs, whose contributions to the war effort were never fully acknowledged.

“She had to fight most of her life for recognition,” said her son, Art Roberts of Northfield, Minn. “The ladies, for the most part, were unaware they were pioneers. They wanted to fly planes and help their country.”

“She had to fight most of her life for recognition,” said her son, Art Roberts of Northfield, Minn. “The ladies, for the most part, were unaware they were pioneers. They wanted to fly planes and help their country.”

When Strohfus learned in the 1970s that the law didn’t recognize WASPs as veterans, she and others lobbied Congress for a change and won. Last week, U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar and several congressional allies called on the Army to allow burials for WASPs at Arlington National Cemetery. Klobuchar met with Strohfus in January to discuss the policy with her.

“While Betty wanted to be buried with her family, she stood up for fellow WASP sisters and fought for them to have the same rights as other veterans,” Klobuchar said.

Strohfus, then 22, had dreamed of flying when she was a child. She borrowed money to join the Faribault flying club, putting up her bike as collateral, but then saw an ad for the WASPs and quickly logged the required 35 hours in the air.

She applied along with about 25,000 other women. Of that number, only 1,047 made the cut — including Strohfus, who trained to fly every aircraft and simulate enemy fights in mock air combat with U.S. bombers. Elizabeth Wald Strohfus trained to fly every aircraft. “The planes … never asked if you were a man or a woman.”

“They were beautiful, they were smart, they were dedicated women and they gave it their all,” said Cheryl Young of Minneapolis, who worked with Strohfus in the 1990s on a book about her three years in the WASPs.

During 1943 and 1944, Strohfus was sent to a U.S. Army air gunnery school in Las Vegas to help train men for in-flight combat. Her job was to dive an AT-6 Avenger fighter-trainer onto formations of B-17 bombers to give the gunners target practice, using special cameras in place of guns.

She towed cloth sleeves behind her plane so the bombers’ gunners could practice with live ammunition. A couple of fellow WASPs died that way, among the 38 WASPs who died during the war in crashes and other accidents.

Strohfus also trained men to fly by instrument. A few of them didn’t think a woman could handle a plane.

“It was just something you had to put up with,” she told the Star Tribune in 1991. “But what I loved was that the planes I flew never asked if you were a man or a woman; they flew just as well for me as anyone else.”

Roberts said that after his retirement he traveled with his mother to public appearances. “Her message was always positive, that people need to follow their dreams,” he said.

We honor you, Elizabeth Strohfus.

(#Repost @Star Tribune)

WASP Mildred Darlene Tuttle Axton

2018-8-9 Axton

Mildred “Micky” Axton considers herself very lucky to have had her childhood dream of flying fulfilled when a neighbor, a barnstorming pilot, took up her and her brother for rides. She graduated from Kansas State University and joined the Civilian Pilot Training Program, which led to her volunteering for the WASP. Her main duty, in the isolated West Texas outpost of Pecos, was to test planes, replacing men grateful for the chance to apply their flying skills in combat. Axton left behind a husband, who worked in an aircraft plant, and an infant, whom her mother agreed to care for. Her brother was a flier, too, in the Pacific Theater, where he survived being shot down and spending 14 hours in shark-infested water. Her career in the WASP was cut short when her mother took ill and she had to resign to care for her and the child.

We honor you,  Mildred Axton.

(#Repost @Veteran’s History Project)

WASP Marie “Deanie” Bishop Parrish

2018-3-26 Parrish

Born and raised in Florida, Marie Deanie Bishop grew up with a determination to prove herself. On her twenty-first birthday Deanie, who had learned to fly, reached the age requirement for admission to the WASP program and applied that day.

After acceptance, Deanie reported to Avenger Field in Sweetwater, Texas, on November 1,1943, where she began training. As a member of class 44-w-4, she was one of the first women pilots to go from primary training directly to advanced training, bypassing the basic training level. After the women successfully made that training change, skipping the intermediate “basic” level, all pilot training in the Army Air-force implemented this system.

Following graduation from flight school, Deanie was sent to Greenville Army Air Base in Greenville, Mississippi, where she was one of three WASPs on base. As an engineering test pilot, she tested and repaired new aircraft to be re-released for instructors and cadets in training. At Greenville she test-flew a twin-engine aircraft for the first time.

Because of her success in flying twin-engine aircraft, Deanie was soon selected for the B-26 Flexible Gunnery School at Tyndall Army Air-force Base in Florida. She was one of eight women pilots to pass all training tests flying the difficult B-26 Martin Marauder. One of her duties was to hold the B-26 in a flight pattern while B-24s would fly by with gunners shooting live ammunition at the sleeve target towed by the B-26. The training was crucial to prepare gunners for combat. Deanie was stationed at Tyndall for the remainder of her time as a WASP.

After the WASP disbanded on December 20,1944, Deanie continued to work in base operations as an aircraft dispatcher. She later went to Langley Air Force Base where a civil service position as chief aircraft dispatcher in base operations was created for her. In 1946 Deanie married Bill Parrish, a B-24 pilot from Tyndall Air Force Base, and she accompanied him when his orders sent him to Panama. There she became private secretary for the director of operations for the 6th Air Force.

After the war, she returned to school and graduated summa cum laude with a bachelor of science degree from the University of Houston. She served as national secretary of the National WASP Organization and chair of the WASP Steering Committee for the National WASP World War II Museum. As associate director and primary interviewer for Wings Across America, a project to document and educate others on the history of the WASP, she recorded over 103 interviews with WASPs, preserving the history of the first American women to fly military aircraft.

We honor you, Deanie Parrish.

(#Repost @What-How-When)

WASP Marion Hodgson

2018-3-8 Hodgson

A truly remarkable Georgia “peach”. Marion’s father was the Athletic Director at the University of Georgia, so she and her sister never lacked for male companions. Her main interest in high school, other than boys, was playing basketball, and she was very good.

In 1941 she took the Civilian Pilot Training course at the University of Georgia, graduating that year with a private pilot’s license and a degree in Journalism.

She then went to Chicago and worked as a journalist, but when she heard about the AAF experimental flying training program, she applied, was accepted and headed for Texas.

Marion was in the first class to arrive at Avenger Field. There were aviation cadets still there who were in training, just as she was. The “powers to be” soon decided that they must be transferred, because having the two sexes on the same field training to fly military aircraft, was not working.

Upon graduating and receiving her WASP wings, Marion was sent to Love Field, Dallas, to be a member of the 5th Ferrying Group. She ferried aircraft, primarily new training aircraft, to training bases all over America.

After the WASP, she married her fiance, a Marine pilot. For the first three years, with no children, she spent much of her time writing – mostly about the WASP. Then she had 2 children, and when they became independent, she began writing again in a variety of venues – articles for McCall’s, Guidepost, etc, and books several of which have been published, with much success.

Marion is featured in the 8th Air Force Museum in Savannah, Georgia.

We honor you, Marion Hodgson.

(#Repost @Wings Across America)

 

 

Lt Betty Tackaberry Guild Blake

2018-2-26 Blake

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.

We honor you, Betty Blake.
(#Repost @Wings Across America)

WASP Betty Gillies

2017-12-24 Gillies

The first pilot to qualify for the Women’s Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron was Betty Huyler Gillies of Syosset, Long Island, New York. She entered the WAFS on September 12, 1942. Gillies at this time had 14 years of flying experience, running up a total of 1400 hours to her credit, held various aeronautical ratings, and for two years (1939–1941) was president of the Ninety-Nines, an international club of women flyers formed in 1929.

When Nancy Love transferred to Love Field, Dallas, Texas to start a new WAFS ferrying unit, Gillies was made squadron leader of the WAFS assigned to the 2nd Ferrying Group, New Castle Army Air Base, Wilmington, Delaware.

Nancy Love, pilot (left), and Betty Gillies (right), co-pilot, the first women to fly the Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress heavy bomber. The two WAFS were set to ferry a B-17 named Queen Bee to England when their flight was canceled by General Hap Arnold.

In early March 1943 Mrs. Gillies became the first woman to fly the Republic P-47 Thunderbolt when she was checked out on the aircraft at Wilmington. The “check out” consisted of an explanation of aircraft systems, flight characteristics and emergency procedures. Since the P-47 was a single seat aircraft, her first flight was also her first solo flight.

One of the outstanding ferry missions accomplished by the original Squadron at Wilmington came in April 1943, when four PT-26s were delivered from Hagerstown, Maryland, to DeWinton, Alberta, Canada, a distance of more than 2,500 miles. Gillies was flight leader, and the other three pilots were Nancy Batson, Helen McGilvery and Kathryn Bernheim. The type of plane flown had a cruising speed of only around 100 mph. They left Hagerstown on April 18, spent the night at Joliet, Illinois (697 miles away), spent the next night at North Platte, Neb., after a run of 585 miles, then made a long hop of 846 miles to Great Falls, Mont. On April 21 they flew the remaining 275 miles to DeWinton, Alberta. All four pilots were back at the 2nd Group by Friday evening, April 23, and were commended by Colonel Baker for their efficient and prompt delivery, which included not only the flying of the planes but also the paperwork involved in such deliveries, such as flight logs, gasoline reports and RON (remain over night) messages.

On August 15, 1943, Love and Gillies qualified as first pilots (i.e. aircraft commanders) on Boeing B-17s and made three deliveries together during the balance of the month. On September 2, 1943 Gillies and Love departed Cincinnati on a ferry mission to deliver a B-17F to England; however, the mission was canceled before the aircraft left Goose Bay, Labrador.

Gillies remained squadron leader of the Women Airforce Service Pilots assigned to the 2nd Ferrying Group at New Castle Army Air Base until the WASPs were disbanded on December 20, 1944.

Betty and her husband B. A. Gillies had three children. One of her children died at age 4; her remaining son and daughter became commercial pilots, and four of her grandchildren become pilots as well.

Also after the war, Gillies was a ham radio operator who, using her radio, connected phone calls to ships in the Pacific from her home in California. She had her huge antenna directed at the Antarctic and maintained contact with the staff and Navy personnel in Operation Deep Freeze who were stationed there for two year hitches. She also participated in the Navy MARS program under the call sign NNN0AYT.

We honor you, Betty Gillies.

(#Repost @Military Wiki)

LT Elaine Danforth Harmon

2017-10-28 Harmon

A life-long Marylander of 95 year, Elaine Danforth Harmon was a role model, patriot, and World War II veteran. Born in 1919, she was the daughter of  Dr. David Charles Danforth (a Baltimore dentist and professional baseball player with the 1914 Baltimore Orioles) and Margaret Oliphant Danforth (a homemaker). She distinguished herself early in life by earning a degree in bacteriology from the University of Maryland in 1940.

While an undergraduate, and in response to an ad in the school’s student newspaper, “The Diamondback,” Elaine applied for, and was accepted into, the Civilian Pilot Training program at the historic College Park Airport. She asked her father to sign the permission form because she knew her mother felt it would be “unlady-like” to be a pilot.

After earning her private pilot’s license and graduating from the University of Maryland, she became aware of a need for female pilots to join the Women’s Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) to provide support for the war effort in 1943. Over 25,000 women nationwide responded, but only 1,830 were granted admission into the program. Ultimately, Elaine was one of the 1,074 women who successfully completed pilot training at Avenger Field in Sweetwater, Texas. Thirty-eight of these brave women died in service to their country. The WASP were trailblazers by successfully breaking into the previously male dominated role of military pilots. In the many decades that have passed since the war, they have continued to be role models, and heroines, for aspiring young women across our nation.

During the 1970s, she was very proactive in working with the WASP organization, and Senator Barry Goldwater, to get the WASP contributions to World War II finally recognized with the award of an Honorable Discharge and GI benefits from the United States Air Force for the pilots. In more recent decades she remained active in WASP activities that resulted in the awarding, by an act of Congress, of the Congressional Gold Medal. Resulting from her leadership role in ongoing post-WWII activities, Elaine was invited to the White House Oval Office on two occasions, one with President George W. Bush, and the other with President Barack Obama.

We honor you, Elaine Harmon.

(#Repost @Maryland’s Women’s Hall of Fame)