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)


Hazel Ying Lee

2017-10-10 Lee

Hazel Ying Lee was the first Chinese-American woman to pilot aircraft for the U.S. military. After taking her first flight in 1932, she fell in love with flying and earned her pilot’s license later that year. Lee moved to China ahead of the Second Sino-Japanese War and sought opportunities to serve her family’s native country. After the Chinese Air Force rejected Lee based on her gender, she worked as a commercial pilot in China.

Upon returning to America at the start of the Second Sino-Japanese War, Lee became one of only two Asian-American pilots under the Women Airforce Service Pilots program. The program was launched in the wake of World War II, in which female civilian pilots were assigned to noncombat missions within U.S. borders, although they were not considered official members of the military at the time. Because of her prior pilot training, Lee qualified for the Air Transport Command and became one of only 132 women trained to “fly pursuit,” meaning she could captain the faster, more powerful fighters. Lee died in 1944 when her aircraft collided with another on a runway in Great Falls, Montana.

We honor you, Hazel Lee.

(Submission by: Ninzel Rasmuson #Repost @Mic Network Inc)

Gayle Dora Bevis Reed

2017-9-21 Reed

Like many other women who served in the WASP, Gayle Bevis joined the Civilian Pilot Training Program first–but to further her education, not because she yearned to fly. However, one flight was all she needed to fall in love with flying: “And when the wheels left the ground, I was thereinafter hooked for the rest of my life.” She became a member of the fifth class of the WASP and worked out of Dallas, ferrying planes around the country. She married another pilot who was envious of the variety of planes she was assigned to fly. Her career was cut short when she got out of her plane to check on something and it ran over her and broke her ankle. Six weeks later, the WASP were deactivated.

We honor you, Gayle Reed.

(#Repost @Veteran’s History Project)