Sunday, March 11, 2012

Reflecting on My Time as a WASP ‘Guinea Pig’

From DoDLive: Reflecting on My Time as a WASP ‘Guinea Pig’
Betty “Tack” Blake was a Women’s Air Force Service pilot during World War II and a graduate of the first graduating class in 1943 near Ellington Field in Houston. Blake, now 91, lives in Scottsdale, Ariz.

We were the guinea pig class. We were the experiment because they didn’t think we’d be able to do it. They watched us like hawks to see if we were going to make it.

They took over one of the buildings in the commercial airport, and it was right next to Ellington Field. All of our instructors were pilots from Ellington Field, and they were not happy at all with instructing girls. Fortunately, I’d grown up with a lot of boys, so I knew how to joke, spit through my teeth, crack my jaws and do a lot of boy things. So they were very comfortable with me.

Some of the other girls were in tears most of the time because they’d never been around boys, but I got along fine. I had a lot of fun down there. It was a lot of work, but it was exciting, learning to fly military planes.

We started out in civilian planes. I flew the AT-6 [Texan], and twin-engine and four-engine planes toward the end. The biggest plane I checked out in was the B-17 Flying Fortress.

I was lucky, being in the first class, we had a choice [of assignment]. The other classes had no choice. When we graduated, they said there were seven or eight bases, and you can pick whichever one you want. I picked Long Beach, Calif., because I figured it was closer to Honolulu, and I might get to go home. We also had a choice whether we wanted to teach flying to cadets, ferry airplanes and a third choice. I picked the ferry command.

I wanted so badly to fly a B-17 or B-24 [Liberator] home to Honolulu because I was one of the first three gals who learned to fly in Honolulu. I thought, “Boy, would I be important if I could fly a big four-engine back to my hometown.” But they wouldn’t let us fly across the ocean.

They were going to use us as co-pilots on the overseas flights, but about that time, the men pilots were brought back because the war was over in Europe. So I didn’t get checked out in a lot more planes that I would have liked to have flown because they didn’t need us anymore. It was just, “Goodbye, girls. Thanks.

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