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The Betty H. Carter Women Veterans Historical Project

Oral history interview with Dorothy Post Hoover, 2000

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Object ID: WV0170.5.001

Description: Primarily documents Dorothy “Dot” Post Hoover’s early life and service with the WASP.

Summary:

Pre-service topics include Hoover's aspirations to become a writer and a pilot; admiration of Charles Lindbergh; attending the Civilian Pilot Training Program at Furman University, and her husband’s call to active duty.

Hoover primarily discusses her WASP experiences, including her reasons for joining; her family’s reaction to her enlistment; a typical day on base in Sweetwater, Texas; disappointment in being assigned to training service; distaste for twin engine planes; training under male instructors; working with various planes; life in Sweetwater; and moments she was scared when flying. She also describes flying a P-60 that pulled military gliders used for training; servicemen’s response to working with women; towing targets for aerial gunnery practice; attending Basic Instructors’ School; never receiving an official uniform; the disbandment of the WASP; and her reasons for not enlisting in the regular air force.

Other topics include: President Roosevelt’s death; her husband’s military service; her feelings on women in the service; WASP deaths during training; friendships with other WASPs; her brief time in the CAP (Civil Air Patrol); and her career as a court reporter.

Creator: Dorothy Post Hoover

Biographical Info: Dorothy “Dot” Post Hoover, of Asheville, North Carolina, served in the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) from 1943 until 1944.

Collection: Dorothy Hoover 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.

Full Text:

ERIC ELLIOTT:

My name is Eric Elliott, and I am with the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. This is an interview for our Women Veterans Historical Project. I am in—well, it's Arden on the post office box, although I'm on the mountain overlooking Arden somewhere in the High Vista development. I'm at the home of Dorothy “Dot” Hoover this morning.

Thank you, Miss Hoover, for having me here this morning. Glad to get up here through the rain and turkeys in the mountains. I ask everybody about the same question to start out with, and that is where were you born and where did you grow up?

DOROTHY HOOVER:

I was born and grew up in Asheville, North Carolina.

EE:

Do you have any brothers or sisters?

DH:

No, I was an only child.

EE:

What did your folks do for a living?

DH:

My father, Albert Post, was in the machinery and foundry business. He had a business that was Post Machinery, it was called.

EE:

I know there were a lot of textile mills around here. Was it that industry, or what industry was the machinery for?

DH:

He repaired the machinery for various textile companies and all kinds of machinery.

EE:

What did your mom do? She stayed home?

DH:

My mother stayed at home.

EE:

You graduated from high school at Asheville?

DH:

Yes. Lee Edwards [High School].

EE:

Lee Edwards. I went to high school in Gastonia. We played Asheville in football, the Asheville Cougars, I guess. Was it the Lee Edwards Cougars? Was that what it was?

DH:

Yes.

EE:

Were you somebody who liked school growing up?

DH:

Oh, yes. I liked it very much. I went to Biltmore College at that time, after I finished high school.

EE:

Did you have a particular kind of work in mind that you wanted to do?

DH:

At that time? Yes, I wanted to be a writer. It didn't work out. I wanted to be a pilot, also, but that worked out.

EE:

What year did you graduate from [Biltmore College]?

DH:

'34.

EE:

So and I guess North Carolina was an eleven-year high school then?

DH:

Yes.

EE:

So you went to Biltmore. Was it two year? Four years?

DH:

Biltmore Junior College, two years. I graduated from high school in '32, and I graduated from Biltmore in '34.

EE:

So you were living at home, I guess, at the time and just going to classes?

DH:

Yes.

EE:

What did you do after you finished Biltmore?

DH:

I went to business college for a year and then I went to work as a legal stenographer.

EE:

How long were you doing that work?

DH:

About two years until '39. Let's see, that would have been a long time, wouldn't it? Longer than I thought.

EE:

About four years.

DH:

About four years.

EE:

In '39.

DH:

Then I was married in '38, and my husband was in training, manager's training, with Sears and Roebuck, and we were transferred to High Point in about 1940, I guess it was. We moved down there, and then he was transferred from there to Greenville, South Carolina. That's where I learned to fly.

EE:

Had you had this idea from early on that you wanted to fly?

DH:

Oh, yes.

EE:

[Charles A.] Lindbergh's flight happened when you were in junior high, probably.

DH:

And that inspired me to no end. I couldn't get over it. I had a scrapbook like that of it. I wanted to fly so badly—couldn't afford it. Then the government came along with the Civilian Pilot Training Program, and I got to get into that through Furman University. They couldn't fill their quota, and they let me in on that.

EE:

They were trying to train college men?

DH:

They were training anybody that would volunteer to take the course.

EE:

Anybody?

DH:

There were three women that volunteered, including myself. One of them dropped out after her original flight. Another one washed out about halfway through the course, and I finished.

EE:

It was Lindbergh for you and not Amelia Earhart?

DH:

It was Lindbergh for me all the way.

EE:

Yes, he was an amazing character.

DH:

And along with wanting to be like him, I wanted to fly for the army, and that worked out, too.

EE:

At the time you were getting married and moving to High Point and getting, really I guess, your family life started, the war is starting in Europe. Did you all have an inkling about the war affecting us over here? What were you thinking about?

DH:

We were not thinking about it at all until he was transferred from Greenville to Columbus, Georgia, and he was in the reserves. While we were in Columbus, Georgia, he was called into active duty.

EE:

This is '41?

DH:

It was—

EE:

Or '42 after Pearl Harbor?

DH:

It was before Pearl Harbor. He was supposed to be in a year, and we were ordered to Camp Davis, North Carolina. After Pearl Harbor—in February after Pearl Harbor, he was shipped overseas, and he was gone for four years before I saw him again. [Laughs]

EE:

That's a long time for a one-year temporary.

DH:

Yes. So it was during the time that he was overseas that I did my flying with the WASPs [Women Airforce Service Pilots].

EE:

Where was Camp Davis at that time? That no longer is in North Carolina.

DH:

About twelve miles north of Wilmington.

EE:

That close?

DH:

Yes. We lived at Wrightsville Beach. We had an apartment there until he went overseas. We were there, I guess, six or eight months.

EE:

I think that there was some WASP training at Camp Davis, wasn't there?

DH:

There was. There was a WASP killed down there. They towed targets. That was an artillery school or camp. I begged Jackie Cochran [head of the WASP] to let me come there after I graduated, but she wouldn't do it. They were having problems down there then. Everywhere the WASPs went they ran into difficulties. They didn't want us in there.

EE:

This was the men didn't want you around?

DH:

Yes. That was particularly bad at Camp Davis. That may be the reason she turned me down. But, anyway, they made a policy, I guess, of not—in the army you don't decide what you will do. They decide what you will do. [laughs]

EE:

Right. Pick what you want and we'll give you what we're going to give you, is what it amounts to.

DH:

Yes.

EE:

Do you remember where you were on Pearl Harbor Day?

DH:

Yes. I was in Wrightsville Beach. It was quite a shock, and things started to happen awful fast after that. It happened in December, and in February he was gone. So then I had to pack up and come back home. I came back to Asheville.

EE:

What were you doing when you came back to Asheville, back to the stenographer work?

DH:

When I came back here, I was looking for work. I went to work for the Thomas Farmers Federation in the bookkeeping department.

EE:

In '42 they started the WAACs [Women's Army Auxiliary Corps]. In '43 they started the other services for women. You hadn't picked up and really used your flying training after going through this program at Furman, had you?

DH:

No.

EE:

What made you inspired to pick the WASPs?

DH:

I was sent by the Federation to be a clerk for A. C. Reynolds down at the legislature in Raleigh, and while there I saw this little tiny paragraph in the paper that Jackie Cochran was wanting women flyers. You had to be twenty-one and have at least two hundred hours, and I could make it. So I wrote in immediately and I got the orders to report to Sweetwater [Texas]. She didn't even interview me. Some of the girls had to go through some tough interviews.

EE:

That's what I heard.

DH:

Apparently my CPT training [Civilian Pilot Training] had some weight, because she figured that I had good training. So I headed for Sweetwater.

EE:

What did your folks think about you going in?

DH:

Well, my mother was very dead set against it, but that didn't bother me at that point. [Laughs]

EE:

Being on your own.

DH:

Yes.

EE:

What about your husband? Did you let him know about it, or were you able to contact him?

DH:

No. At that time, he was not allowed much correspondence. That was in '43, early in '43.

EE:

Did you join February, March, something like that?

DH:

I think it was the fifth of March '43.

EE:

I've seen clippings. When women joined the other services, there'd be a picture and notice in the paper. This was made a big deal of. Was there a notice in the paper that you were joining the WASPs? Was that played up local?

DH:

When I left, Federation put a little tiny thing under “People in the Military” that I was going into the WASPs.

EE:

So were they hoping that you'd come back to work for them afterwards?

DH:

Yes.

EE:

Had you ever been outside [North Carolina]? Except for traveling with the Sears transfers, had you ever traveled much outside of the state before?

DH:

We used to. We would vacation in Florida, and I'd been down there two or three vacations, two weeks at a time in the wintertime. That's about all. Oh, I had traveled as a youngster. I traveled to visit my relatives in Mississippi and New Orleans. We went to the World's Fair in Chicago when it was there.

EE:

You traveled quite a lot for that time period. That was pretty good travel.

DH:

I didn't get to the West Coast until after, well almost after, the war. It was sometime in '45. But I got out to Seattle. My husband finally had gotten to come home for a couple of weeks, and then he had to go back. So I went back as far as Seattle with him.

EE:

You didn't know anybody out at Sweetwater. How many women were there when you arrived in your class?

DH:

In my class? I don't know those that were in group there. Let's see, we had two squadrons, and there must have been fifty girls in each squadron. There was close to a hundred.

EE:

I've heard there's a pretty high attrition rate.

DH:

They washed out pretty fast, deliberately. They did everything in the world they could to make you wash out.

EE:

What was a typical day of training like for you down there?

DH:

Well, I don't know just what exactly would be typical.

EE:

What was a typical day? Did you all get up and have a drill in the morning or did you go direct to classes or how did it work?

DH:

Well, I was corporal of my platoon, and I had to get all the girls up and get them on the flight line—not a flight line, but we had to go answer roll call in the morning. And then we'd march to mess hall and have breakfast. Then our class—we were split into two squadrons. Our squadron was either going to ground school or we were going to be on the flight line, one of the two. Then at some time during the day we had drills, PT [physical training], and at night we either studied our ground school lessons or collapsed, whichever we were able to do, and that was about it. We flew and we marched or we went back to the mess hall for meals. We had good meals.

EE:

At least you were not going in the dead hot of summer when you were down there.

DH:

Yes, I was.

EE:

How long were you down there?

DH:

It took six months. I went there in March, and I graduated in September, I believe was the date.

EE:

That's a long training period.

DH:

It was right in the middle of the summer. We'd be knee deep in mud and burning up in the sun. I graduated in October.

EE:

I know that there was a ferrying service that started before the WASPs that sort of and that Cochran kind of got her idea of combining with this ferrying service. But was it pretty clear what your job was going to be before you went in? They told you that's what you all would be doing was ferrying these planes?

DH:

Yes. It was the disappointment of my life when I graduated and they put me in the training command, but there wasn't anything I could do about it.

EE:

The ferrying service would have been much more open, free. You just check in and see the country.

DH:

That's right.

EE:

Training service you're going to be stationed at a base and just doing the same thing, bringing other women through.

DH:

Every day. Every day the same thing.

EE:

This is your reward for being good in your class?

DH:

I don't know what it was. If it was, I'm sorry about that. [laughter]

EE:

Well, that's usually what happens. You get promoted to a level which you're not happy with, if you do well at something.

DH:

True.

EE:

What was the most difficult thing about the training for you, either physically or emotionally?

DH:

I didn't care much for Link Trainers, and I did not like twin engines.

EE:

Just how the plane handled?

DH:

I did not care for twin engines. It's just they're so clumsy on the ground, and trying to taxi them is a pain in the neck. So my first assignment out of school was twin engine, eighteen tons, by golly. That's how it goes. But I didn't care. As long as they would let me fly the airplane, it didn't make any difference.

EE:

When you went into your training, I guess all the instructors were men?

DH:

Yes.

EE:

And what they were hoping to do was grow so that all the instructors would be women at some point?

DH:

Before I left, we had one woman instructor come in, and then more came in after I got out of the school. Our instructors had just finished up with a class of boys, and they didn't even change the cuss words, believe me. [laughter]

EE:

They didn't have to change the language because the ladies are around then?

DH:

Not a bit. That was the first time I'd ever been cussed in my life. It was quite a shock. And you couldn't talk back, because they had you pinned in. You've got a gosport in your ears, and you didn't have any way to talk back. But I didn't care, as long as I was flying.

EE:

Did they take you out and give you practice with parachute jumps as part of your training, too?

DH:

No, we didn't have any parachute jump training. We'd take tailspins and all kinds of emergency procedures, but they did not give us parachute jumps. One girl in our class had a parachute jump because she had to. She was so tiny, her waist was about twelve inches around, I believe, and the seatbelt wouldn't hold her in. In an open cockpit she went up alone to practice tailspins and she got thrown out over the top of the plane, and the plane went one way and she went another. So she was in the hospital, and I went over to see her.

I said, “Jean, how did you ever remember to pull the ripcord?”

She said, “There wasn't anything else to do.” [laughter]

EE:

Your brain suddenly clears up when you're falling through the air. “I think I'll pull the ripcord.” Oh, my.

DH:

But they washed her out for that, because her plane ended up in a bunch of matchsticks.

EE:

I'll bet. There's always pressure when you're flying U.S. government hardware, I'm sure, to keep the plane in good condition.

DH:

Yes.

EE:

Did you all feel especially because you were women that they were really giving you the once-over to make sure you could fly?

DH:

Well, they were pretty rough on us. I mean, I think they expected a whole lot. Me, the first time I looked at that PT-19, I thought I'd die, because it was the biggest airplane I ever thought about flying.

EE:

I guess what you had was the PT [Primary Trainer], the Basic Trainer, and then the Advanced Trainer, the three stages that you had to get through?

DH:

And then we had the twin engine.

EE:

So you were certified at four different levels, and you had the fast track?

DH:

Yes.

EE:

Sweetwater probably doesn't have a lot of social life, does it?

DH:

Dear Lord, it was the typical western town like you imagine things would be. It was one hotel and dirt streets. The hotel was two stories high. If it had ten rooms, it was amazing. I don't know where they put them. And I don't remember anything else being downtown, if you could call it town at that time.

EE:

So you all just stayed there on the base? You had your own housing?

DH:

I did. Yes, we had our barracks, and there were six girls in a room, to a bay, they called it, and we had cots and a locker and that was it.

EE:

You say you got assigned out of Sweetwater, not to a ferrying session, but to a training position?

DH:

Yes.

EE:

Where were you assigned?

DH:

I was assigned to South Plains Air Force Base at Lubbock, Texas, to fly P-60 airplanes, which was a Lockheed Lodestar. It was a converted cargo ship that had been stripped down to make it suitable to pull military gliders for training purposes.

EE:

And you were pulling gliders, and this would have been for target practice?

DH:

To train glider pilots.

EE:

To train glider pilots?

DH:

Yes, there were gliders that were used in the Normandy invasion.

EE:

To get behind the lines.

DH:

Yes. They carried fifteen men and a Jeep, and the wingspan on the glider was wider than the tow ship. It was a hundred feet.

EE:

So it makes it tough to pull, doesn't it?

DH:

It was. It was tough. That's what the army was doing. That's what they told us to do, so we did it.

EE:

This was October of '43, so this really was getting ready for June '44.

DH:

Yes.

EE:

Was it just women who were doing the towing?

DH:

No, there were men and women.

EE:

How many women were stationed down there at the time you were doing it?

DH:

There were about twelve of us, ten or twelve. I forget which.

EE:

Since you were doing the same work as a man right next to a man, did you feel the respect level went up a little bit in that environment?

DH:

Did they what?

EE:

Did the respect level that the men had for you go up a little bit since you were there working with them as opposed to—

DH:

That would depend on the individual.

EE:

It really did?

DH:

Some resented it. Some accepted it, and we had a lot of fun. We became friends. I remember one fellow walked in the first day I was there. I was sitting in the ready room waiting to go out on assignment.

This kook walked in and he said, “What is she doing here?”

So my friend sitting beside me said, “She's come to replace you so you can go into combat.”

He said, “Hell, I don't want to be replaced.”

So that was the general idea. A few of them accepted us, and those who did were just wonderful people.

EE:

Freeing a man to fight sounds noble for the women, but sounds terrifying when you're the man being freed. [laughter] That's not peculiar to the WASPs. Most people that I talk with did not meet the men that they were freeing to go fight. Did you have a chance to do that? I guess this was a new program that you had gone into, people were just assigned to.

DH:

Well, I don't know exactly. I know that the glider pilots were shipped out, then they broke up the base. I know the pilots went somewhere. Now, where they went, I don't know. I know where one of them went. He went to fighter pilot training school down at Tyler, Texas. But the others, I don't know where they went. But I guess they were sent to combat.

EE:

Were some of the same people that were towing in Texas also sent overseas to help tow those folks for the invasion?

DH:

I don't know. I really don't know.

EE:

How long were you down at Lubbock then? From October to summer of '44?

DH:

Yes. Then I was sent to Eagle Pass Air Force Base, to tow targets for aerial gunnery practice in AT-6 airplanes and from there to Basic Instructors' School.

EE:

Then you went to this school?

DH:

Yes, Basic Instructors' School as shown in this picture.

EE:

And this school, where was that located? The basic school?

DH:

That was at Randolph Field in San Antonio, Texas.

EE:

You got to know Texas pretty well, I take it.

DH:

I did, and I hated it. [laughter]

EE:

My exposure to it has not been very impressive, although supposedly San Antonio is a nice place now.

DH:

A nice place to be from, I guess. They're having a reunion of WASPs again back at Sweetwater, but you couldn't pay me to go back to that place. [laughs] I've had enough of Texas to last me for good.

EE:

In this class, were there other WASPs who were taking this as well then?

DH:

Just the twelve girls that are in this photograph were there. Not all of them were from my class at Sweetwater.

EE:

This was a class to train men and women to be flight instructors?

DH:

Yes.

EE:

I guess the men, were they going through the similar process that you all were, that you had to have a civilian license before coming in? Or I guess the men they probably were training. Were they training the men right off the bat without a license?

DH:

I don't know. They appeared to be older men. They're not boys at all. I don't know where they came from.

EE:

A lot of the women who joined in '43 and '44 were like twenty-one, twenty-two, right out of school.

DH:

Twenty-one was the general average.

EE:

You were older than most of them.

DH:

Yes, I was twenty-five. That may be why they sent me to training command, I guess. [laughs]

EE:

Well, they might have just assumed that you could carry more responsibility. Now four years doesn't seem like a big deal, but, you know, back in those days four years is a huge difference in age from your early twenties.

DH:

Well, some of the girls they sent to B-17 school. Maybe they were older than me. [Laughs]

EE:

Right. You were in this class of flight instructors. That took you to the end of '44? It was a six-month class?

DH:

No, I went back. I didn't get assigned to do any training at that time, but I went back to Eagle Pass, Texas, where I was pulling targets for aerial gunnery practice. I was flying an AT-6 down there.

EE:

That doesn't sound like the safest kind of work.

DH:

Well, I had my target shot off one time right about that far from the tail of the airplane. [laughs] But it didn't worry me. I don't know. I was flying and that was enough.

EE:

This is all open cockpit flying?

DH:

It has a canopy. The AT-6 is an advanced trainer. I think there's a picture in here somewhere.

EE:

In all these different training airplanes the instructor sits behind?

DH:

Yes.

EE:

The two-seater, the pupil's in the front?

DH:

Yes. Here's a small picture of one. You can't tell much about it there.

EE:

That's the twin engine one you didn't like too much.

DH:

I detested that thing.

EE:

Looks like these four women are bowing down and worshipping it. [laughter]

Or maybe they're just praying to get off of there.

DH:

They're just praying to graduate. That was the last test.

EE:

Did Miss Cochran come down for your graduation at Sweetwater?

DH:

She sure did. In our class she had our wings made especially for us. It's different from a regular WASP wing. And I still have mine.

EE:

Were you the group that got the uniforms straightened out? I guess they were sort of designing things as they went along.

DH:

No, I didn't manage to get a uniform. They passed me up. They were handing them out to people, but somehow I got passed over. I don't know why.

EE:

So you were in overalls most of the time on this kind of system?

DH:

I was in pink, they call them, and a white shirt. That was what we had before we got our uniforms, and I never got a uniform, so that was what I wore, except when I was in the zoot suit, which was practically all the time.

EE:

You did this work at Eagle Pass, Texas. I guess they ended the WASPs in December of '44.

DH:

In December of '44.

EE:

So that's where you were when they ended the war?

DH:

That's where I was.

EE:

How did you find out the word about that? Pull in one day and they say, “Sorry, we don't need you tomorrow,” or what was it?

DH:

Yes, that's about it. Well, there was some talk about it and carrying on. Just before they disbanded them, they sent through a questionnaire to ask the girls if they would like to become part of the military. In other words, to go straight into the air force from the WASPs. A lot of the girls did.

EE:

Would this have been Air Force Reserve or regular air force?

DH:

Regular air force. But the majority of the girls turned it down, and I think that is what rushed the demilitarization right quick. After that it is when it happened.

EE:

Why did most of them turn it down? An extended commitment?

DH:

Well, a lot of them had commitments. They were married or getting married or wanted out for some reason or other, and they just didn't want to be in the military. Some of them didn't want to be in the military anyway. As far as I was concerned, I was hoping that they would keep it the way it was, because we were under Civil Service, you see, and we were making pretty good money for that period of time. And if we'd gone into the service, they would have not only cut our pay, they would have cut me off as a dependent of my husband. It would cost me about three hundred dollars a month in pay. So naturally I couldn't go for it. I wished that I had been in a position to go into the military, but I wasn't at that time.

EE:

You say you got to see your husband in Seattle. Was that early '45, after you'd gotten out?

DH:

Yes, it was.

EE:

When you left Eagle Pass, you came back to Asheville, I guess?

DH:

Came back to Asheville.

EE:

Did you go back to work at Federation?

DH:

For a very short while. I think I worked there a couple of weeks. But I worked in the city building where the air force had a headquarters for some communications, I think. I went to work for the air force here in Asheville, because they had a contingent that had taken over the city building. Maybe it was the Weather Service.

EE:

They've got a climate center up in Asheville, don't they, the National Climate Center?

DH:

They did have one. I don't know if it's still operating or not. I think most of it's moved out. They had the Arcade building for a while, but they turned it back. I don't think they have it there anymore.

EE:

Were you working there when President Roosevelt passed away?

DH:

I was on the train going to Seattle when he passed away.

EE:

That was a shock to everybody. Everybody knew that he'd been ill. He was not in the best of health when he ran in '44.

DH:

I was very shocked about that.

EE:

Well, the war ended in Europe, not too much longer after that. Were you together with your husband when the war ended in Europe?

DH:

No, I don't think he got home just at that time, but he got home shortly after the war ended. He spent his whole time in the service in the South Pacific stationed for quite a while in Hawaii until the tide of battle turned so where they could push on further west. And then he got down into the Gilbert Islands and the Solomons, and he spent four years out there. It wrecked his health.

EE:

Was he in the [U.S.] Navy or Marines?

DH:

He was in antiaircraft artillery.

EE:

His health was bad when he got back from that, do you think?

DH:

He never got back to where he was when he left.

EE:

About how long were you all married?

DH:

We were married twenty-eight years.

EE:

He got out of the service. Did he go back to the Pacific? When did he get out of the service?

DH:

About '46, I think it was.

EE:

Okay, so it was after VJ [Victory in Japan] Day.

DH:

Yes.

EE:

Do you remember where you were on VJ Day? That must have been a pretty good feeling to find the thing's finally over.

DH:

No, I missed that one. [laughter] I don't remember that one. I was back in Asheville, I know that.

EE:

He came back from his time in service. Did you ever think about going actively trying to fly someplace, or being a flight instructor?

DH:

No, that was behind me at that point. I had to be a housewife from there on until I went to work again.

EE:

When did you go back to work?

DH:

Well, it was very soon after that. I went into a court reporting job, and I worked in the courts for sixteen years as a court reporter. Then I left the court system, and I had a business of my own as a court reporter doing private work for attorneys until I retired in '78. I retired in '78.

EE:

That's about the time you moved over to this place. Eighty-six, you said.

DH:

Eighty-six is when I moved up here. I had a couple of places before I moved here. Then it was not until after my mother passed away in '84 that I had to have a large place because I wanted to keep some of her things. In fact, this old desk over here.

EE:

Beautiful. Beautiful secretary.

DH:

I had to find a place where I could keep them.

EE:

So you husband passed away in the sixties?

DH:

Yes.

EE:

Did you all have any children?

DH:

No.

EE:

If you had had daughters and they wanted to join the service, what would you have told them?

DH:

Go for it. Go for it. [laughter]

EE:

It's funny, even with all the changes in the past with women in the service in the last thirty years, it was not until December of 1998 that the United States sent a woman into combat for the first time as a fighter pilot. What do you think about that? Are there some jobs that should be off limits to women?

DH:

Well, when we went in, we were there for whatever it took, and if we were needed in combat we would have gone. I don't approve of women on battleships, but I did feel much safer in airplanes. [laughs]

EE:

Sort of hard to do any hanky panky in the cockpit. Looks like something else is—of course, the submarines they're going to have—you know, part of it is that if you're going to have one service—the women were in separate services, really, or separate chains of command by the seventies, when they integrated them fully. But they kind of have to hold them to the same standard, whether it's combat experience or wherever you were in your professional career.

Were a lot of the women that you were in the WASPs with, did a lot of them have similar situations where the husband or loved one was overseas?

DH:

Yes, a couple of them lost their husbands while they were there, probably in the air force.

EE:

I know there were some women who lost their lives in training down in Sweetwater and other places.

DH:

We lost twelve in training, and I don't know how many afterwards. There were several who lost their lives. There was one in Camp Davis. I think there was another one down at Charlotte, and there was one in Maryland that I'm aware of. There were three of them that I know of. But it's like when you have a class that you're familiar with all those girls, there was a hundred of them, but the next class that comes in you may not know a one in there. So a lot of people ask me, “Do you know so-and-so in the WASPs?” She could very well have been in the WASPs, but I didn't come in contact with her.

EE:

I know when you joined the service, one of the things is you would come in with people from all over the country and all different backgrounds. Was that the case with the WASPs as well, that they were picking people from all over the country?

DH:

They came from everywhere.

EE:

Was there a personality trait that was sort of in common with all of them, or were they all different characters?

DH:

They were all, well, there wasn't anything wrong with them. I mean, they had their own quirks, but we were close, that's all, no matter what. Know your faults, know your friends' faults, and like them anyway.

EE:

Yes. That's nice to be around people who will do the same thing for you.

DH:

Yes.

EE:

Some people have told me there's something they really miss about that time was that we're not patriotic like we used to be like that. Was there a lot of patriotism in your group?

DH:

Well, I don't know if you'd call it patriotism. I guess they all felt like I did. Whatever Uncle Sam needed, you were there to do it. We just took it for granted. I mean, we didn't wave any flags or anything, but we were in the war to do our share.

EE:

I guess because you didn't have a uniform, when you were off the base, no one really would have known you were a WASP, would they? Did you have to wear a uniform or some sort of fatigue?

DH:

We had our officers' pinks. I remember distinctly walking down the street in San Antonio one day. I was on leave, and these two soldiers were—yes, I guess, they were soldiers—passed me and one of them says, “You wait till you get home and your husband finds you were wearing his pants.” [laughs] So we were well known for some reason or other.

I remember I had a two-day pass, and I decided that I was going to Sweetwater—not Sweetwater, down to San Antonio and take a room in a hotel and sleep in a real bed for a change. So I did. The next morning I got up and went down to breakfast, and I looked at the menu and I told the waitress, “There's nothing on this menu I want except the champagne cocktail.” She said, “I'll get it for you.” So she did. When I got back to the base, who should walk up to me but one of the officers on the post and says, “How was the champagne cocktail for breakfast?” So we were well-known. I don't know how they knew us, but they did. [laughs]

EE:

Did most of the girls kind of pal around down there, or did everybody kind of do their own thing?

DH:

Well, we were close, very close. We were closer, of course, with the six girls that were in one bay. We knew all about them and their families and everything about them.

EE:

I have heard some stories. They're really bad on inspections, other branches of service. Were you all kind of low key on the inspection side?

DH:

We had them.

EE:

Did you?

DH:

Yes, we got demerits for having water spots on the lavatory and the shower. Somebody had gone in there after we cleaned up and got a drink of water.

[Begin Tape 1, Side B]

EE:

It's been about forty-five minutes, and I've gone through most of the questions that I have that I try to ask everybody about. Were you ever afraid doing the kind of work you were doing?

DH:

Well, I was more nervous in some spots than others.

EE:

That's an adequate way of putting it. [laughter]

DH:

I remember, as I said, I was scared of that PT when I first saw it, from the first ride that I took in it. That instructor that I had was the roughest thing on the controls I have ever come in contact with. He jerked that plane all over the sky, and I was scared anyway at that point. I was just about to tell him I was going back home.

He got out so far and then he said, “You take it.”

I grabbed hold of that stick. I was not going to turn it loose again no matter what. I thought, “I've got to fly this airplane. I've got to get it back to the field, because this guy in the backseat don't know what he's doing.” [laughs]

EE:

Yes. He's going to kill me if I don't get out.

DH:

That's when I definitely decided I would stay. Up until that point I wasn't sure. That was the one time that I guess you could say I was scared. There was another time when I was in basic training, basic instructor training. They told me I had to go up and do my acrobatics solo. Well, my instructor had put me through it one time, just barely, and I wasn't sure I knew how to do that. Besides we had a superstition about BT-13s, that if you got rough with them that all the rivets would pop out. Then there was this thing that “it wasn't true that the wings would not fall off, that they were held on securely with two stove bolts on.” [laughter]

Anyway, I had to go up and try. When I got up to my altitude, I just sat there. I didn't know what I was going to do. I looked around, and I had flown into a circle of clouds that rose up to at least 40,000 feet. They were perfectly gorgeous, and I had the whole inside to myself. And then I thought, “Well, I've got to do this thing.” I sat there a minute and I said, “Lord, I'll tell you what I'm going to do. I'm going to turn this thing over, and you turn it back up again.” [laughter]

EE:

And did he?

DH:

So I did and he did. After that everything was glorious. I was on my way. I didn't have any more qualms about doing anything with that airplane. It was wonderful.

EE:

Have you ever done anything in life that made you feel as excited or as alive?

DH:

No, never. And I'll remember that to my dying days, because it was just perfectly gorgeous. I had the whole sky to myself, until, after a while, I looked way over on one side, and there was my instructor out with his favorite student checking up on me to see that I was doing my work. They had come up to find me. I did all right after that. In fact, I took my buddy back up-we had to go buddy riding after that one time to practice our acrobatics, aerobatics-and I made her sick. [Laughter] She came down and said, “I'll never fly with you again.” I got quite a reputation, I'm afraid.

EE:

Just too happy, huh?

DH:

Just happy as a lark.

EE:

Thinking about it, your time in the service was spent flying in the air, and your husband's was shooting down stuff flying in the air.

DH:

Isn't that a coincidence?

EE:

He was not a pilot?

DH:

No. Didn't care anything in the world about it.

EE:

Probably got to where he didn't like airplanes. I imagine if you get to shoot them down on a regular basis, you're not going to be flying one of them.

DH:

That was pretty bad. He got in on an invasion, I think, twice. When they brought them in, they had to clean up the carnage, and I think that's what got his goat.

EE:

Seeing all that?

DH:

Yes.

EE:

Seems like I've seen something on the History Channel about that the other night, that they sent the Marines in to actually film that, because it was so bad they wanted people to remember how bad it could be.

DH:

Yes, he saw some awful sights. He never did talk about it, but he dropped things here and there that I've overheard when he didn't know I was listening. Some of his army buddies visited with us, and I heard some things. I know it was bad.

EE:

Did you, yourself, feel like you contributed to the war effort?

DH:

Well, I was doing what they asked me to do.

EE:

Actually, you were doing more than what they asked. You volunteered to do more. Nobody drafted you to do what you were doing.

DH:

That's right. If they had asked me to go to combat, I was there to do it. I didn't make any conditions.

EE:

Did you tell your husband a lot about what you did in the service? I know a lot of people they didn't really talk about it to each other what they did while they were gone in great detail.

DH:

No, I didn't tell him much about it. We corresponded, of course. I may have said something about it here and there, but knowing that he didn't care about flying, I wouldn't discuss it with him.

EE:

Did you ever fly for fun later on, a private pilot?

DH:

I was in the CAP [Civil Air Patrol] for a few months. They had a plane that wasn't much fun. [laughter] It was an L-4. It was like going back to a baby carriage after you've been riding in a Cadillac. That is the biggest thing because I was used to a faster airplane and bigger airplanes, and the private planes I've been around recently, they don't impress me a great deal. Unless you're working for the government, that's what you get.

EE:

That's right. That's right.

DH:

I think I would like to fly again. I may do it yet.

EE:

Well, George Bush stepped out of an airplane, and parachuted down. Remember that a couple of years ago?

DH:

No.

EE:

Yes, it was to celebrate, I think, on his seventieth [birthday] and he jumped out.

DH:

Oh, yes, I did see that in the paper.

EE:

Overall is there something that you'd want people to remember about women who were in the WASPs, what would it be?

DH:

Just what a great bunch of gals they were. I've never been around a group that was so one-minded, you might say. We were there to do a job, and rough and ready is the word. [laughter]

EE:

Teddy Roosevelt wasn't the only one.

DH:

Yes. They were the ones that were there, to prove women could do a good job. That was the whole thing.

EE:

Were you surprised how good the other girls were?

DH:

Huh?

EE:

Were you surprised yourself at how good the other girls were?

DH:

No, I was surprised that I was able to keep up with them. [Laughter] Oh, lordy, some of them were a little wild and I think I was about as wild as anybody. But it's just that they were such a great bunch of girls, still are.

EE:

Do you think anybody then or now appreciated what all you all were able to do as a group?

DH:

The women who are in the air force appreciate it, who are flying with the air force. They have expressed their appreciation, because we opened the door. Up to that time, there were no women in the air force, I mean, as far as flying planes; we opened up the flying end of it.

EE:

So when people talk about pioneers, you know what it feels like to be one.

DH:

Yes, I sure do. [laughs]

EE:

You're back and telling what it felt like.

DH:

Marching in the sun was what I remember. We had a drill tea. We had a competition in Sweetwater against the men drill team, cadets from another training base, and we won. So then we felt we were doing just as good a job in the air as they were. And they were rather surprised. [Laughter]

EE:

Well, the male ego has never been the most resilient thing.

DH:

I think they were a little surprised.

EE:

Well, I'll tell you, I appreciate you sitting down with me this morning. It's hard for people to remember things from sixty years and to compress your life into an hour. It's only a glimpse, but I appreciate you doing that. I do think you are quite right to feel proud about those times, because it's certainly a great thing to have done and a legacy to leave.

DH:

It's personal, but I remember it with great, great enthusiasm, really. I'd like to fly again, I think, but I don't think it will be like it was then.

EE:

I don't think the government's going to loan you a new plane.

DH:

No. [laughter]

[End of interview]