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The Betty H. Carter Women Veterans Historical Project

Diary of Henrietta Pearl Terry, 1944

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Object ID: WV0197.3.001

Description: Henrietta Pearl Terry served as a naval aerologist during the Second World War as a member of the WAVES [Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service]. She was stationed at Naval Air Station Norfolk outside of Norfolk, Virginia. Her diary spans a period from May 8th to September 18th 1944, and deals primarily with her flight training and personal life. Major events detailed by the diary include: a flight in a Curtiss SB2C3 Helldiver; Terry’s various piloting experiences; an account of the celebration of the first Anniversary of the WAVES at Naval Air Station Norfolk; and the diarist’s experience weathering the Great Atlantic Hurricane of 1944.

Creator: Henrietta Pearl Terry

Biographical Info: Henrietta Pearl Terry (b. 1904) served in the U.S. Navy WAVES from 1942 to 1945.

Collection: Henrietta Pearl Terry Papers

Rights: It is responsibility of the user to follow the copyright law of the United States (Title 17, U.S. Code). Materials are not to be reproduced in published works without written consent, and any use should credit Jackson Library, The University of North Carolina at Greensboro.

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[May 8, 1944]

May 8, Monday 1944

Went to the low pressure chamber & made a hop to 35,000 feet. Was the only one at 18,000 out of the oxygen mask to experiment on. Had only gas on the abdomen as the only ill effects of the high[crossed out] low pressure. Ears always O.K. going up and coming down.

[May 9, 1944]

May 9, Tuesday

Left for [Naval Air Station] Oceana at 0745. Picked up Lt. Peak at the Ad building after collecting gear. Reached Oceana at 0830. Began fixing equipment. Had to change plugs on electrically heated suits.

Put on-

1. Summer flight suit

2. Electrically heated suit with gloves & boots attached & heated

3. Helmet

4. Ear phones

5. Oxygen mask with microphone in front

6. Goggles

7. Parachute

8. Shoulder straps for dive

9. Safety belt

Was plugged into the plane by electrically heated suit, oxygen mask, Ear Phones, & microphone.

Plane was a new SB2C3 (4 blades to prop) on which they wanted the ceiling. Pilot Lt. Kalet flight officer of VB-80 could hardly walk down the stairs with all the clothes on and was literally poured into the plane. Put the parachute around me after I got into the plane.

Plugged everything in and turned all the switches & valves on. Levelled[sic] off at 8000 feet climbing 1000' every 2 minutes. Closed hatch and put on oxygen mask. Communication impossible. Just told Kalet mask on and comfortable. Proceeded to climb again. At 20,000' levelled [sic] off to look things over. Left hand cold. Found left mitten not properly attached to suit. Fixed it & began heating. About 25,000’ put on goggles, Eyes felt cold. At this altitude communications were O.K. Could here [sic] plainly, "do you want to dive?" Answer, "Slowly." Hum.(?) At 29,000’ reached ceiling, other plane 1000’ below us. Not so good a climber.

At 29,000’ we dived to 17,000' in less time than it takes to tell about it. 575 miles ph. Some speed. Watched the altimeter thru out the dive. Pulled out with 8 G. 8.2G being the top around here. Did not red, grey, or black out. Enjoyed the whole procedure. Did a few barrell [sic] rolls on the way back to the field.

After returning found the dive iced up the carburetor so that we continued to loose [sic] altitude after coming out of dive. Turned on low blower and was O.K.

Temperature for the day was 76°F so probably much higher than 29,000’.

Had a steak lunch dinner out at Oceana and then took station wagon home. Was a little late to work by the time I got clothes changed.

[May 10, 1944]

10 May 1944

Planted flower seeds with the help of 1 or 2 SP-17 negro boys. Looks very good if it will only grow.

[May 11, 1944]

May 11, Thursday

Got a new permanent, i.e. what hair was left when she stopped cutting. Why ? do they do it.

[May 12, 1944]

May 12, Friday

Planted 5 doz snapdragons, 5 doz asters, & 2 dox zinnias. Am I tired, back broken.

Took the nite [sic] flight to Washington after doing map without Lafac. Had a good ride with Hagler & George. Loads of fun. Flew (Piloted) most of the way home. No where [sic] near as sensitive as a link trainer. Revised map before coming home Lafac was in.

[May 13, 1944]

May 13, Sat

Went for a Link Trainer lesson again. Did enjoy getting to it again. Stayed late at work for Mr. Hull. Came the rain from a cold front aloft. Missed it completely.

[May 14, 1944]

May 14, Sun

Went on the day shift & made an official forecast for the first time in weeks. Came home and watered my flowers & garden seed.

[May 16, 1944]

May 16, Tues

1st anniversary of WAVES on NAS [Naval Air Station] Norfolk [Virginia]. Had a big drinking party at the club. Everyone in whites except the officers wifes [sic]. Lt. Com. Palmer came from Washington. Dimelow was over. Sat with Lt. Morgan & listened to his records in the evening.

[May 18, 1944]

May 18, Thurs.

Had a flight to Patuxent [Naval Air Station, Virginia], flew the plane both ways. Hardly off the ground before I took over coming home. Late getting to Patuxent because the passenger wanted to go over Bloodsworth Island. Half hour late getting back to work. Patuxent began looking for us while we were still in the Bay.

[May 21, 1944]

May 21

Left for work[crossed out] leave home. Took shuttle to Washington 2 hours late. St. Louis plane was already in and FULL. Took plane to New York, Chicago plane left while we were in the traffic circle. Took St. Louis plane at 1800 and was put off at Wash[ington, D.C.]. Tried to take T.W.A. [Trans World Airlines] and got only to Dayton [Ohio] so just gave up and took train at 2100. Got to Chicago at 1530, next day. Ferry hops were delayed until Tuesday so good I didn’t wait.

[May 22, 1944]

May 22.

Arrived in Chicago 1530

" " Springfield 2000

Went to see Mother before going to Greenview with Sis.

[May 23-25, 1944]

May 23-25. Stayed with Mother at the hospital. Aunt Mary, Florence, Retta (Delta?) came up.

[May 25, 1944]

May 25. Got Schauer’s(?) (Schaver’s?) telegram that she would call for me in Springfield.

[May 26, 1944]

May 26. Sis took me to the airport. Helen Lindner came with us. Flew back to Norfolk. Flew about an hour. Flew at 11,000 feet over the mountains for 2 hours. Down under the clouds with for 20 mins & home at East Field.

[May 27, 1944]

May 27. Ran a lot of errands and went out to dinner & played bridge.

[May 28, 1944]

May 28. Went to work at 0300.

[May 29, 1944]

May 29. Took Ready plane hop with Wiseman. Slept so long I missed my link trainer lesson. Got the grapevine news about New Orleans. Wonder what?

[June 2, 1944]

June 2

Spaded up empty beds & transplanted 95 zinnias & nasturtiums.

[June 3, 1944]

June 3

Vigaroed [fertlized] my garden. Hope every thing gets big & rank and blooms with great brilliance.

[June 3, 1944]

June 4

Hoed garden & pulled weeds. Looks fine. Seaman 1st class took fighter out for a ride. Attempted to land 6 times. Finally made a good landing & only ground looped not seriously. Bent ends on propeller on one of his attempts to land. Gay old time.

Pilot came in at night & missed runway. Clipped tails off of a row of PBY’s then hit the Sikorsky mid ribs & cut it in two. Only plane was shambles. Got up and walked away from the mess unhurt. Amazing.

[July 17, 1944]

July 17

Captain’s inspection, sign charts(?) for medals now.

[September 14, 1944]

September 14, Thursday

Very quiet night

At 0800 a low overcast but winds only at 12 knots.

The winds gradually increased and the ceiling lowered while the rain began. By 1000 we had a real storm and all opening [sic] were sputtering water on the north side of the house. The front door opening into the lounge was a regular ditch of running water. All occupants of East North side rooms moved to West South side rooms.

During all this I was quietly and calmly cleaning my closet. Scrubbed the walls, floor, & shelf. Boxed all small junk neatly & shined all shoes. Some one came along & said "Terry, are you going to go down clean?"

Finished by 1130 & dressed for lunch. Put on rain coat, havelock, & rubbers. SP-17 is only a short half block from our quarters but by the time I got there my shoes were squashing in my rubbers & my feet in my shoes. Not a try thread on me except the back of my neck where my rain coat is double & my havelock also covers.

Wet or dry I sat down & ate lunch. Men & women came in barefooted. Men with trouser legs rolled above their knees. One man without a rain coat looked like he had just been washed ashore by the waves he was so drenchingly wet.

Next, how to get home against that North wind. Planned to go back in the lee of the Quarters which mean going up thru the yard rather than the walk or street. The yard was ankle deep or better in water and half way along I met a large section of our roof. Further up I met a ventilator & more roof. I knew what this would mean inside. All topside had moved to lower deck. The corridor and all south rooms were piled high with clothes & other gear. Water, water every where & in a short time South side rooms began to leak from the ceilings. The floors of topside were not water tight. Mine was one of 6 rooms that did not leak at this point.

Between 1330-1400 the cloud cover began to break & this allowed the winds to have a last fling reaching a gust of 85 mph. Rain was barely falling & the ponds of water brought in by high tide were beginning to fall as winds were NW by now. The hurricane was just due east of us 60 miles at 1200. Oceana, one of our outlying fields East registered some 100 mph gusts at that time, from the North.

By 5 P.M. the day was beautiful blue sky, sunshine, & balmy light fresh smelling breezes. The WAVES who had been rained out were sent to a special dormitory in Mens Quarters to sleep. H. Terry went to work.

The first small map I analyzed at work had a pronounced wind shift, Dew point contrast, and cloudiness line. There was nothing on previous maps but I dotted in a weak cold front just to watch it and see what it looked like on the next map.

On the next map an hour later, 3 stations reported rain.

That settled it.

My garden a mess. Just pull up my big zinnias & asters.The rest may recover. Snaps & verbennias [sic] look fairly good.

Turned on the steam heat today in an effort to dry out the walls so they can paint and repair. The workmen say the rockwool insulation underneath where the roof was once is still literally dripping. It will be days before they ahve topside in livable condition.

One bright spot in it all. Admiral Bellinger Commanding Officer of Air Force Atlantic Fleet sent a letter commending the Fleet Weather Central to Commander of Atlantic Forces, Big Bass of Brasses, Capt Davis[?] passed the word around that said the letter would be attached to our fitness reports. We have nearly 1500 planes (not all flyable) and not one lost or damaged.