militaryheritage.org: Deleware Military History: Ethyl Meyer Finley
Some 1,100 Americans were Women Air Force Service Pilots (WASP) in World War II. Thirty-eight died in the line of duty.
Ethel Meyer Finley (1921 - 2006) was a WASP. A native of Minnesota, she won her pilot’s license in 1940 in her senior year in college. Her instructor was world-famous Max Conrad.Invited into the military, Ethel Meyer won her WASP wings in September 1943. She qualified in 12 different types of aircraft and ferried planes from factories, test-hopped planes after repairs, and taught male cadets to fly.
“The WASP instructors were the outstanding members of the squadron,” stated an official report at Shaw Field, S.C. Ethel and Air Corps Colonel James A. Finley married following disbandment of the WASP. Frequent visitors to Rehoboth, where his family had a home, they moved permanently in 1980. The Finleys had two daughters and a son. Col. Finley died in 1988.
Active in the WASP WWII organization, Ethel has served as national president and as editor of WASP News. She served two terms as director of Region One, which includes Delaware. She is now responsible for the region’s newsletter and air show participation.
She was on the board of the Air Mobility Command Museum Foundation. She holds the
Trailblazer Award of Delaware for her work in establishing half-way houses for women and for service on the Delaware Commission for Women. Ethel Meyer Finley of Rehoboth Beach, DE, died on February 24, 2006 at the home of her daughter in Forked River, NJ. She was 85.
Mrs. Finley, who was born in Lake City, MN, lived on a farm near there until graduating from high school in 1937. She earned a bachelor’s degree in science, mathematics and physical education from Winona State Teacher College, and she was the first woman at the school to participate in the Civilian Pilot Training program, training with renowned aviator Max Conrad. She taught school for a year before she learned she could not earn a living and have enough left to fly planes, so she went to work operating the Link trainer at the airport in exchange for flying time.
In March, 1943 she entered the army as a member of the Women Air Force Service Pilots (WASP). She was one of about 1,000 women who were the first to serve as U.S. military aviators. She trained military pilots, logging more than 1000 hours of flying before the WASP were disbanded in December, 1944.
While in the Army she met James A. Finley Jr., from Media, PA and Odessa, DE, and they were married in December, 1944.
She left aviation to raise a family, living in West Virginia and Pennsylvania before settling in Summit, NJ in 1952. They lived there for 30 years, and she became active in women’s affairs by starting halfway houses for women recovering from substance abuse.
After moving to Rehoboth Beach Mrs. Finley again became active with the WASP
organization. She served a variety of positions and continued to travel to national air shows and events throughout the country telling the story of the women aviators and encouraging young women to follow their dreams. She was president of the organization 1992-1994, during which time Congress granted the women veteran’s status.
She received the Delaware Trailblazer Award in 1995 and was named to the Delaware
Aviation Hall of Fame in 2001. She is a member of the Board of Directors of Wright Flight Youth Program in Tucson, AZ, and served on the Dover Air Mobility Museum Foundation Board. For seven years through 2005, she organized the WASP activities at the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) Fly-In in Oshkosh, WI and the national Sun and Fun Air Show in Lakeland, FL.
In Delaware, Mrs. Finley remained active in the women’s affairs, serving on the Delaware Commission for Women and helping to establish Tau House and Houston Hall in