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The Betty H. Carter Women Veterans Historical Project

Oral history interview with Majorie S. Thompson, 2005

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Object ID: WV0337.5.001

Description: Primarily documents Marjorie Sanford Thompson’s service in the WASPs [Women Airforce Service Pilots] from 1943 to 1944.

Summary:

Thompson briefly discusses her education, pre-war teaching career, and training in the Civilian Civilian Pilot Training Program. She describes joining the WASPs in 1943 and her subsequent training at Avenger Field, Texas, including: civilian instructors, check rides, washing out, getting wills and dental records up to date, and training deaths.

Of her time in Dodge City, Kansas, Thompson discusses: being one of the first 11 women to fly a bomber plane, being the first to fly without an instructor; using a parachute; and male response to female pilots. She shares a story about another WASP's experience with racism towards Asians. Thompson describes in detail the process of towing targets at Harlingen, Texas, and recalls another WASP being purposely shot down. She remembers the crash of a plane that she was scheduled to be on and recalls landing a plane with a dead engine. Other topics include: attitudes towards the WASP, her admiration of WASP director Jacqueline Cochrane, uniforms, rooming with WACs, and social activities.

Post-service topics include: her work analyzing aircraft accidents in Winston-Salem, North Carolina; flying a private plane in South America, and volunteer activities as a docent, in a hospital, and with Junior League.

Creator: Marjorie Sanford Thompson

Biographical Info: Marjorie Sanford Thompson (1915-2008) of Peoria, Illinois, served as a pilot in the WASPs during WWII.

Collection: Marjorie S. Thompson 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:

Note: Braxton Thompson was also present during the interview

Hermann Trojanowski:

Today is Thursday, December 29, 2005. And the time is two o'clock in the afternoon. My name is Hermann Trojanowski. I'm at the home of Ms. Marjorie Thompson in Houston, Texas, to conduct an oral history interview for the Women Veterans Project at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. Thank you so much for talking to me this afternoon. If you would give me your full name, we'll use that as a test to see how we both sound on the machine.

Marjorie Thompson:

All right. My name is Marjorie Sanford Thompson.

HT:

Ms. Thompson, if you would tell me a few biographic bits of information about yourself such as when you were born and where you were born.

MT:

I was born in Peoria, Illinois, on February 18, 1915.

HT:

And where did you live growing up?

MT:

In Peoria.

HT:

Peoria, right. Can you tell me something about your father and mother and siblings?

MT:

Well, I had a father and mother, and I have—had an older brother, and I have a younger sister.

HT:

And where did you go to high school?

MT:

Peoria High School.

HT:

And do you recall what your favorite subject was?

MT:

Well, I loved biology. I ended up teaching biology.

HT:

And did you go on to college after high school?

MT:

Oh, yes. Bradley University. It was a college when I went, later became a university.

HT:

And where is that?

MT:

In Peoria.

HT:

In Peoria, okay. And do you recall where you were when you heard about Pearl Harbor, [Hawaii]?

MT:

Oh, yes, I had my pilot's license. And of course, that was on a Sunday. And I was flying an airplane early that Sunday morning, and when I had left the ready room, guys were cheerful and talking and laughing and joking. When I came back, they had such long faces.

And I said, “Well, what is wrong?”

And they said, “Pearl Harbor has been bombed.”

And several of them were killed during the war.

HT:

And you mentioned that you were flying at that time?

MT:

Yes.

HT:

How did you become interested in flying, which was very unusual for women in those days?

MT:

Well, that's true. But they had a course—I think they knew the war was coming. When I say “they” I—you know. But the feeling was that we were going to be involved in war. I think [President] Franklin Roosevelt realized that was coming. And so he established a program called Civilian Pilot Training. And the three classes of fifteen men each were being trained in the college level. And Eleanor Roosevelt, in looking back, I think must have been an early women's libber because she said, “I think there ought to be one girl for every fifteen men.” And so there were three classes. So there were three of us that were trained.

HT:

And was this at the university where you—

MT:

This was—yes.

HT:

At Bradley.

MT:

We only got our private license.

HT:

Private license, right.

MT:

Yes.

HT:

And how did you become interested in flying? What sparked your interest?

MT:

Oh, I just thought from the very beginning—Well, my father took me up in a plane Ford—what was that plane the Ford?

Braxton Thompson:

Old Ford Trimotor.

MT:

Yeah, the old Ford Trimotor. It was taking up passengers. And you know, you paid five dollars or something like that. Any rate, I was very young. I wasn't ten yet. But I just fell in love with flying. Ooh, I just loved it from the very beginning. And my mother was terrified of flying. My father thought it was great, but she was a worrier.

HT:

So you were in the college, I guess, in mid to late 1930s, is that correct?

MT:

I finished—yeah, I finished in '37.

HT:

Nineteen-thirty-seven. And so you took lessons in those—when you graduated?

MT:

Yeah, '30.

HT:

And what was your feeling about flying at that time?

MT:

Well, I thought it was the most wonderful experience. I thoroughly enjoyed it. Of course, as you say, there weren't many women flying, but they were training these classes. And when we finished, you only got your pilot's license period. That's it. It was free board. You bought and old [noise—unclear] And I joined as a [noise—unclear] paid part of the cost. So one weekend it was my turn to fly. And I built up my time till I had over there hundred hours.

HT:

And what type of plane was that again?

MT:

Oh, we flew—oh, it was the Aeronca. A-e-r-o-n-c-a. It's like a Piper Cub, you know, little.

So I was teaching biology and aeronautics at Woodruff High School [Peoria, Illinois]. You know, you're talking about circulation of a frog's leg and three minutes later you're down the hall talking about what the angle of attack of an airplane is.

HT:

Very unusual.

MT:

Very strange combination.

HT:

Later on you did join the WASP [Women Airforce Service Pilots] I understand.

MT:

Oh, yes.

HT:

Right?

MT:

Yes.

HT:

And what made you decide to do that?

MT:

Well, I just thought it was a great experience. You see, it was—Jacqueline Cochran decided that women should fly the military aircraft. And you know, even today there are a lot of women—A lot of people, when I talk about flying, that look at each other like [unclear]. They don't believe that women ever flew military aircraft. They just won't believe it. And not only women flying military but flying bombers? She's crazy.

HT:

The lady I interviewed yesterday, I think she flew B-29s.

MT:

Oh, yes. And where was she based?

HT:

Maxwell Air Force Base [Montgomery, Alabama].

MT:

Well, I was down at Harlingen [Texas] towing the targets for gunners. And he was in my squadron from there.

HT:

Your husband?

MT:

Yes. He loves to say, “The good old days when he was boss,” you know? But we towed targets out over the Gulf of Mexico. The gunners were in B-24s.

HT:

What made you decide to join the WASPs? Did you see recruiting poster or—

MT:

Oh, I just thought—

HT:

—word of mouth?

MT:

—it was a wonderful opportunity. You see, the WASPs, the purpose of the WASPs was to ferry aircraft from factories to points of embarkation, and relieve the men so they could go overseas to fight. And most people don't realize this, but I took a course at analyzing aircraft accidents at Winston-Salem [North Carolina]. And it's absolutely true that more of the men were killed in training in this country than were killed overseas. So when more men were returning than had been anticipated, it was time to get rid of the WASPs permanently, which was done December 20, 1945.

HT:

And when did you join the WASPs?

MT:

When—Do you remember when I joined the WASPs?

BT:

I didn't know you then.

HT:

Which class were you—

MT:

It would be in that thing.

HT:

Right. What was your class?

MT:

43-W-5.

HT:

Forty-three—

MT:

Which was the fifth class in 1943.

HT:

And when you decided to join, what were the thoughts of your parents and—

MT:

Oh, well, as I said, my mother didn't like it at all, but my father thought it was great. My friends thought it was a wonderful opportunity. And when I received a telegram from Jacqueline Cochran that, you know, inviting me to join the WASPs, I had never heard of a blue bonnet. “Report to the Blue Bonnet Hotel at Sweetwater, Texas.”

HT:

At the Blue Bonnet?

MT:

Yes. And then, we were to go out to Avenger Field [Sweetwater, Texas]. The whole thing sounded so strange.

HT:

And you were still in Peoria, Illinois, at this time, I guess.

MT:

Oh, yeah.

HT:

And what was the process that you had to go through in order to join? Were there tests?

MT:

Well, you had—Well, we had to have a minimum. Well, originally you had to have over two hundred hours. But they finally lowered it way down to about just a pilot's license. And some instructors said that they would rather have somebody towing those targets with no experience at all. They had to undo a lot of things that they were doing wrong. They'd rather take someone with only eight hours and then train them than somebody with two hundred who had developed a bad habit. [dogs barking in the background]

HT:

But I assumed your habits were good with three hundred hours.

MT:

Yes.

HT:

Can you describe your first day at Avenger Field when you join the WASPs?

MT:

Well, when we reported they still had men on the base. And so we were the first classes of women. And it was really—of course, from then on it was just women pilots. If you washed out you washed out. Only one person washed out in basic. Nobody that we ever heard of was washed out in advance. If you got that far, you know.

HT:

So there were three segments—

MT:

Primary—yeah. Two months of each training.

HT:

Two months of basic.

MT:

Basic. Primary first.

HT:

Okay.

MT:

And then basic and then advanced.

HT:

Advanced, right.

MT:

And you ended up flying AT-17s, AT-6s and AT—The 17 was twin engine. AT-6 was a single.

HT:

And what did you do during each of those phases? Like what kind of instructions did you get during basic? Do you recall?

MT:

Basic was just BT-13. Not a very pretty airplane.

BT:

13s and 15s.

MT:

13s and 15s, BT.

HT:

Are those single-engine planes?

MT:

Yes.

HT:

—planes?

MT:

And then I was sent to Dodge City [Kansas] to learn to fly the B-26.

HT:

After you finished?

MT:

Yes. I was sent to Love Field [Dallas, Texas]. I was there three weeks. [I] didn't get a chance to even ferry one aircraft before I got these orders. And two other girls and we were to report immediately, go straight to your bunk and get your B-4 bag[?] and [snaps]. And the commanding officer at Love Field said, “That's just crazy because that is a B-26 school. You girls have had no heavier time than AT-17s, twin-engine. You're not going to be flying a B-26. I can guarantee it. You will be driving a gas truck up there or something, but you won't be flying a B-26.”

HT:

This was at Love Field?

MT:

Yes, when I was at Love. That guy. But when we reported, there were eighteen of us. There were three from Romulus, Michigan, three from Palm Beach, [Florida], three from—at any rate, a total of eighteen. And the commanding officer told us why we were there. He said, “Four of our planes have cracked up within the last month killing the entire crew and the boys are scared. They're giving us bad rides on purpose because they want the B-25. They don't want the 26. So Jacqueline Cochran and General [Henry Harley] Hap Arnold, who was head of the training command, and I, the guy in charge, think that if women fly it, men won't be afraid of it. It's a morale booster, pure and simple, but you are not all going to make it. And I can't guarantee.” He said, “The cadets are still going to make it. Some of you are going to wash out. And I can't guarantee that you will get back to the field that you just came from. I don't know where you'll be sent. So you think it over carefully. But if you stay, and if you complete this training, you will be the first women in the history of the air force to fly a bomber.”

HT:

And did you?

MT:

Yes.

HT:

Oh, you flew it?

MT:

Yes. Of the eighteen that washed out: seven. Three were sent to Laredo [Texas] and eight of us were sent to Harlingen. And I like Harlingen [Texas]. We towed out over the Gulf of Mexico.

HT:

You said Harleson?

MT:

Harlingen, H-a-r-l-i-n-g-e-n. It's way down the tip, southern tip.

HT:

Oh, okay.

MT:

Isn't that right, Papa?

BT:

What?

MT:

To describe Harlingen. It's the southern tip of Texas.

BT:

Yeah, about forty miles west of Brownsville [Texas].

MT:

About forty miles west of Brownsville.

HT:

And you said you towed targets out and people shot at you?

MT:

Yes.

HT:

Can you describe that for me?

MT:

Yeah, it was at the end of a thousand-foot steel cable. Now, some of our targets were sleeve-shaped round. Ours were flat. Flat panel. [To BT] And honey, if you would get that bullet and show him the 50-caliber.

BT:

Find him what?

MT:

[To BT] Show him the bullet.

BT:

Well, no. Fifty gallons was fifty gallons.

MT:

Okay. But it's sitting over there. And see there's the B-26. See all that?

HT:

Yes.

MT:

But we would make passes. Four B-24s would get out there, and they would fly in formation. And not only the lead and the two wing and the tail, but they had to have altitude difference because the gunners would be shooting at each other, you know? So they would go up—

BT:

That's a 50-caliber round.

HT:

Oh, okay. So this is what they shot at you?

MT:

Yes.

HT:

Okay.

BT:

They shot at the target, not at the airplane, hopefully. [laughter]

MT:

Well, they did shoot one down. One died. He'd been washed out of pilot training and sent to gunnery school. He was mad, and he deliberately shot down one of the airplanes. Of course, he was discharged immediately. But they never found the plane. All they found was a tire, a piece of rubber, and an oil slick.

HT:

Who was flying that plane, a WASP?

MT:

Yeah, a WASP. There were two. One in the right seat and one in the [unclear] I mean the—yeah, the [unclear].

BT:

Were there WASPs flying that airplane?

MT:

Yeah. Well, I—wait a minute.

BT:

I don't think so. I don't think so. I believe it was a couple of men.

MT:

Yeah, I think you're right. The WASPs were—yes, I'm sorry.

HT:

Okay.

MT:

So the WASPs were the ones that Mr. [Calvin G.] Atwood. To [bracket the beam?] to Bicksburg.

BT:

That was out of—

MT:

I know it. I'm thinking of—never mind. He was right.

BT:

He was armed, you know?

MT:

Yeah. Okay.

HT:

So can you describe the procedure of—

MT:

Yeah. We'd make—the B-24s would hold a pattern. We'd go up and get some altitude and then make passes. And we would come down like that. And you'd go—You got to get the left boys a chance to fire, and around low for the tail gunner, up the right side for the right waist gunner, up high for the [unclear], and then across the nose of the plane. And they would fly north for fifteen minutes, east for five, south for fifteen, and west for five. That was a rectangular pattern. And one-by-one they would get their guns all fired. They'd call, “2X12 from 4X14 all fired going in.” And when the last of the four B-24s was finished, they'd send up four more. And we towed for eight B-24s every day.

HT:

And how long would the whole process last?

MT:

Oh, usually two and a half hours. And each one of the bullets had a different colored paint, so when they finished and we had to fly back to the field and drop the target, and they could tell who made the best.

HT:

Oh, I see. And so how long was the actual target? I'm assuming it was cloth of some sort. The target, was it paper or cloth or—?

MT:

Oh, the target—

HT:

Yes.

MT:

—was cloth.

HT:

Cloth.

MT:

It was cloth, wasn't it? The target.

BT:

What?

MT:

The target was cloth?

BT:

Yes.

HT:

[dogs barking in background] Well, did you have anything unusual happen when you were doing this?

MT:

Well, we had a tow operator that would put out your target. As I said, it was a thin thousand-foot steel cable. And lots of times they would shoot the cable, which was understandable. You are trying to hit the target. And so I would call the tow operator and say, “Go back.” Some were electric motors, others you had to crank. And this guy went back, and two cranks, and there was the end of that cable. And he came running back up that bomb bay and said, “You call that gunner, the gunner instructor who went up with him, and tell him to watch what they're doing. There's no excuse for that.” Right. It was within ten feet or whatever, a couple of turns, and there was no excuse for that. But you know, you take your chances.

HT:

And how long did you do this type of work?

MT:

I reported on January 1, and WASPs were disbanded December 20.

HT:

Okay, so all of 1944, practically?

MT:

Forty-four.

HT:

And you stayed this and did this. Wow.

MT:

You know, Barry Goldwater was also a B-26 pilot, a tow pilot for gunners. And he once said, “That that's the most dangerous—,” he didn't use that. He said, “That's the closest to combat that women have ever come: those that are towing targets for gunners. And they'll never get that close to combat again.” Which, of course, isn't true. You look at today: girls are on aircraft carriers, girl's astronaut. But that was his feeling at the time.

HT:

I'm sure at that time that was quite true.

MT:

Yes.

HT:

Well, if we could backtrack to the time you were in Avenger Field, I have just a few questions to ask you concerning about your training that you received there. What did you think of the training that you—because you had already done so much flying?

MT:

The training where?

HT:

At Avenger Field when you were in the six months.

MT:

Oh, I thought—of course, some were better instructors than others, but generally I thought it was good.

HT:

Now, did you have civilian instructors or military instructors?

MT:

They were all civilians.

HT:

All civilian.

MT:

Except for check rides. Whenever you got a check ride, yeah, that was military. And you would go out in the hangar and see up there your name and red star next to it. That's a check ride. A scary part.

HT:

Can you explain what a check ride is?

MT:

It's—you had to—Not just one person could wash you out. It could be a personality clash or something. But if the one military guy said, “She's not going to do good,” then another military pilot had to give you a check. And if he said the same thing, then you went home. And I was—Well, I was squadron commander, and I felt so sorry for girls who washed had out. People at home had given you parties and stuff. “Ooh, she's going to be a military pilot and all,” and then here she is back home. That's rough.

HT:

That is rough.

MT:

And I would always tell them, “It's not that you can't fly. You can fly or you wouldn't have gotten in the program.” There were lots of girls—because you had to have a minimum of thirty-five hours. But there were lots of girls over the country who thought, “Hoo boy, I'm going to sign up for that. I want to be a pilot.” Well, they didn't take people who hadn't been flying.

HT:

Now, what would cause a girl to wash out?

MT:

Well, she just didn't make the lining or just was sloppy or careless or, you know, they just didn't put up with that. But it was of the ones that reported, thirty-eight were killed. And some were killed in the service, some were killed after they finished, and some were just completely uncalled for: mid-air collisions. And somebody—you know, that's terrible.

An incident that I shall always remember, we were assigned alphabetically to our instructors. So Sanford, [Margaret “Peggy”] Seip, and [Helen] Severson, and Swartz were all assigned to Mr. Atwood. And he would bracket the B to Big Spring [Texas] which was only an hour away. I wrote to my mother religiously every Wednesday night and mailed the letter Thursday. And they lived in Peoria, and she usually got them on Saturday. Well, I was so excited about getting my wings the week following Friday that I completely forgot to write a letter, completely forget. Well, we were ready to take off at one o'clock in the afternoon to fly over Bedford, Connecticut, and maybe an hour to come back. Engines were running, ready to go, one o'clock on this Monday afternoon.

And the dispatcher came running out said, “Long distance call for Miss Sanford.”

And I said, “Mr. Atwood, I'll take it when we get back,” you know.

I'll be back at three. It's an hour over and then back.

And he said, “Oh, no, it's war time. Long distance calls are hard to get through. It could be an emergency. What difference does it make whether you go up in an hour or you go up with me at three? You answer the phone and tell Peggy Seip to take your place.”

So Peggy took my place. And I answered, and it was my mother. She was worried. It was on Monday and she didn't get a letter. And how she got through, I don't know, because it was a long-distance call. Any rate, she must have told the operator, “Well, my daughter is flying military planes, and I didn't hear from her.” You know, anyhow. I reassured I was fine. I was so sorry I hadn't written. I would write that night, blah, blah, blah, blah.

I went back and waited and waited, but the plane never came back. Five o'clock they finally called off flying. They knew it had to be down by that time to be out of field, and so they called off flying. They finally—I always say this about that young farmer that lived near Big Spring, [Texas]. There was also an airport there. At any rate, they think it bi-tanked [?]. It must have been materiel. Well, it was because he said that something fell off the back of it. He didn't use the word tail. But he said, “And it went down in my cornfield, and it didn't burn.” It didn't start a fire. But I knew nobody could be alive in that airline because it just demolished it. And there was nothing. So he went on right on plowing until he got dark. And then he went into Big Spring, and he called. He called Big Spring. He thought it was one of their planes. And they knew that we had lost one. So he retrieved what they did.

I've always wondered why this mechanic, when I was waiting for the plane to come back, came out and said, “Well, Mr. Atwood gets back with two x-whatever, and then leave that and take—.” And I thought there is something wrong with that airplane. You don't switch aircraft in the middle of a trip.

HT:

So Mr. Atwood died?

MT:

Oh, yes.

HT:

And was Peggy Seip on that as well?

MT:

Helen Severson and Peggy Seip. Now, Severson would have been killed anyway. She was already in the plane. But Margaret Seip took my place. And you know, that is so iffy. If I had written a letter, if my mother hadn't been a worrier, if the phone had been busy, if the dispatcher hadn't run, if Mr. Atwood hadn't insisted, well, my name would be on that list of those killed instead of Peggy. And I felt so badly about it. Of course, I didn't know her parents. They lived in Milwaukee.

But I said, “I'm going to write them a letter because, you know, I just felt so badly that she lost her life because of me.”

And the flight attendant said, “That's not going to make them feel any better. Don't do that.”

But whenever I look at these memorials and see her name I just say, “Peggy, this isn't right.” But it wasn't my turn. That's what the instructor said to me. And I was really upset.

He said, “It wasn't your turn. It just wasn't. You've got to learn to be fatalistic if you are going to continue to fly. You've just got to.”

HT:

And did you ever find out exactly what happened, what caused the crash or anything like that?

MT:

No, I never. If they ever found out, they never let me know. But you know, and then some mid-air collisions. For which—oh, that really, of all things, mid-air collisions.

HT:

Did one occur while you were in Sweetwater?

MT:

Yes. But when we were doing night flying, and this was at Dodge City in B-26s, they assigned A, B, C, D airports. And this is Zone A, Zone B. I was Middle Zone C. Well, we're supposed to have an hour, whatever, night time, and then that was it. You were through. And there was a guy his name was I. H.—no, Sharp. And we called him “Not-so” because we didn't think he was very bright [chuckling]. Any rate—

BT:

He wound up in my squadron overseas.

MT:

Oh, did he?

BT:

He was killed.

MT:

Oh, is that right?

BT:

Yes.

MT:

Well, at any rate we were—I only needed five more minutes or something, and the commanding officer said, “Let Middle Zone C go ahead and cross her off.” He had already told me to go back to your zone. “Go back to your zone.” Well, then when it came time to come in, Lower Zone A and Middle Zone A, blah, blah, blah, they got over to C, and I was so stupid. I should have known. They said, “Lower Zone C and then Upper Zone C come in.” They didn't mention me at all. Now I should have known right then that they thought I was parked on the ramp. Any rate, dummy, I didn't say anything. And here comes Upper Zone C. We're circling at the same, you know, we could have easily had a mid-air collision. So when that plane came in and then D, they said, “Dodge Tower, over and out.” And they were going to turn out the lights.

And I pushed the button right away and I said, “Dodge Tower, Middle Zone C, can I come in now?”

And they were shocked, you know. They couldn't believe it. The, the commanding officer said, “Middle Zone C, come in now. Anybody else out there come in now.” [laughter]

But that was so dumb. My instructor thought it was funny. And I said, “You can think it's funny when you're home asleep in bed at midnight and I'm out there coming down.” Oh, I was mad. [laughter] I didn't think it was a bit funny.

HT:

Can you describe your uniforms that you were issued or wore?

MT:

Yeah, well, we had nice looking navy blue dress uniforms. And we wore flying suits like on the pictures, you know.

HT:

I think you said earlier that your first duty station was at Love Field, but you only stayed there a few weeks?

MT:

Yeah, I believe that's right.

HT:

And then you went on to, I think, Har—

MT:

Dodge City.

HT:

To Dodge City next, okay. And what did you do at Dodge City?

MT:

Learn to fly the B-26.

HT:

Okay. And how long did that last?

MT:

[To BT] How long was the training at Dodge City, do you remember?

BT:

Well, I don't remember having gone through training there myself. I think it was probably six weeks to eight weeks.

MT:

I know we had to go to the dentist office so we could make plaster casts of our teeth so we could be identified in case we burned up. You had to make out a will. I didn't have anything. I was teaching school, living at home. And I didn't mean to sound facetious, but I wrote, “To my mother and father I leave my billfold.” I didn't have anything to leave them. But you know, I began to think, “Well, I'm going to fly to San Diego[?].” They got our wills and made plaster casts of your teeth. [laughs]

HT:

That's kind of a scary thought, isn't it?

MT:

Yes. It worked as a morale booster. The men decided if those dumb girls can fly, it can't be that bad.

HT:

Right.

MT:

And we had a sergeant by the name of Keith Black. I will never forget him. And I was the first one to go up. You can't say [unclear].

BT:

[unclear]

MT:

He was what?

BT:

An engineer.

MT:

Yes, he was an engineer. You have to have an engineer, you know, when you go up. Any rate, Keith [noise—unclear]. Well, I was the first one to go up without an instructor. Not that I learned any faster. But my instructor always gave me a little extra time. He gave extra time. So I got my needed requirements to go up before anybody. Well, he got in the airplane and he walked down the bomb bay and came back. And I there was a young man who had only been at the field months sitting next to me as a copilot.

Anyway, Sergeant Black came up and said, “Where's your instructor?”

And I looked back at it now, and I was so cocky. And I go, “Haven't got an instructor today.”

Terrible. He crawled right out. He got right out of that airplane. And I said, “Sergeant Black, I know how you feel. I'm the first one to go up without an instructor. My instructor is up in the tower.”

He didn't want him in the tower. He wanted him in the airplane.

And I said, “Well, Sergeant Black, you know I can't take this plane up without an engineer. And I understand, as I say, how you feel. But I will call the tower and get a replacement.” Well, he didn't want me to call and say, “Dodge Tower, it's too much for me. Sergeant Black won't go up with me.” [laughing]

HT:

So there were crew of three—

MT:

So—

HT:

Were there a crew of three on board this aircraft?

MT:

Yes.

HT:

You and the copilot and the engineer supposedly.

MT:

Any rate [laughing] he stood on the ground and said, “Oh, hell. I'm tired of living anyway.” And he crawled back in. [laughing] And he became one of my favorite engineers. He liked to fly with women. He said, “Women aren't so rough on the controls. Men, you know, kick the rudder and [makes sound] and women were easy.” He liked the way women flew.

And we would fly into Richmond, Virginia, and he was the engineer. And they, you know, a person—a B-26 had a bad reputation. Oh, they knew from the flight plan that I—I would write too large. The space for my signature isn't long enough. But because I wrote M. Sanford, they thought it was Mark or Michael or something like that. Any rate, when I got within radio distance to call them and I said, “Richland Tower from Army 2XN8, a B-26, I'm approximately fifteen minutes west of the field at 7,500 feet. Request landing instructions please, over.” Dead silence. And so I pushed the button again.

And just as I was about to push the button, the voice came back and said, “Army 2XN8 from Richland Tower, what type aircraft did you say you were flying?”

And I said, “A B-26, a B-26, over.”

And dead silence again. And just as I was about—he said, “Are you kidding?”

Now, you don't use that kind of—[chuckles]. I assured him I wasn't kidding. They switched runways. They gave me the longest runway they had even though it was crosswind. And they had a fire engine and an ambulance at the end. They put them out there to be doubly sure. And [chuckles] when I taxied with Sergeant Black, you know, “Oh, boy, hah,” you know, engineer for this woman pilot.

One guy said, “I wouldn't put my big toe in that airplane with the best man pilot in the world, but you, flying with a woman, you're crazy.” He really didn't—

HT:

Now, what was your purpose for going to Richmond?

MT:

To ferry cross country. You had to make cross country.

HT:

Did you leave the plane there?

MT:

All the other girls wanted to go to California.

HT:

Did you leave the plane in Richmond?

MT:

No, no.

HT:

Oh, no.

MT:

It was cross country.

HT:

Okay, just training.

MT:

Yes.

HT:

Okay. Well, I bet you were quite a sensation on Richmond Field that day.

MT:

Yes. [laughs] All the other girls wanted to go California. And I think this was such an interesting story. We had a little Chinese girl. Her name was Hazel Lee. In my WASP book she's pictured. And—

HT:

She was a WASP?

MT:

Yes. And she would get lost. She was a good pilot, but she wasn't a good navigator. Any rate, this is a true story. [laughs] Lee was trying to get to San Francisco, and she just, you know, couldn't find it. So she saw this farm with a farmer out there pitching hay with his pitchfork. And there was plenty of room for her to come in for a landing. So she landed and turned off the engine. She would have to get out and start it. Any rate, she taxied over to this farmer. And he came over and he had his pitchfork, as I said. And she pulled back. I mean when she took off her goggles, and here were these slanted eyes [laughing] right out of San Francisco, he was going, “Jap, [Japanese] Jap, Jap.” And he was going like that with her [laughs] poking his pitchfork at her airplane. I can understand how he could feel because it looked like a Flying Tiger [nickname for 1st American Volunteer Group in the Chinese Air Force]. He was just sure the Japs were invading. [laughs]

HT:

Now, you were not along on that mission, I guess?

MT:

Oh, no.

HT:

That was just one of your—

MT:

Yes.

HT:

—comrads?

MT:

Yeah, that didn't involve me.

HT:

Well, is Hazel Lee still alive?

MT:

I don't think. I can look in my WASP roster to see. [To BT] Honey, would you get the WASP roster out of the desk there? Get the list and look under Hazel Lee and see if she's still alive.

HT:

Well, why you're—

MT:

[To BT] It's under the clock. Well, 1994, you know, this WASP had to be seventy-two. See, you had to be twenty-one in 1940. So how old would most of them be? I'm ninety. I was twenty-one.

HT:

I think I guess most—most WASPs, most women who were in the military at that time, are in their mid eighties.

MT:

Yes.

HT:

Early to mid eighties.

MT:

[To BT] Did you find it? Hazel Lee.

HT:

Did you have any other interesting stories from your period at Dodge?

MT:

No. Except, well, I was so, you know—When we got our orders to go from Love Field to Dodge that was really exciting. It really was. Because as you got—

BT:

She was one class ahead of you.

MT:

One class ahead of me.

[Recording paused]

HT:

When we turned the machine off we were talking about Hazel Lee.

MT:

Yes.

HT:

Just seeing if she was still alive and she wasn't. And you were still at Dodge City, and then I think you mentioned another story about—Anything more happened there that's memorable that you can recall?

MT:

At Dodge City?

HT:

Yes, during that training period.

MT:

No.

HT:

Well, let me ask you, how did the men—

MT:

Oh, the men—

HT:

—take you, take it that these women were coming in?

MT:

Now, I never had—now a lot of girls say—Of course, as I said, the purpose of the WASPs was to ferry. But a lot of the girls who ferried aircraft felt real resentment. They were treated, you know—men wouldn't speak to them or whatever. I never ran into that. But then I didn't ferry. I didn't ferry one airplane.

HT:

Right. Now, what about the training with the B-26s, is that right, at Dodge? Did you run into any kind of discrimination because you were a woman—?

MT:

No.

HT:

—at that period of time?

MT:

I was treated very well. A friend of mine [laughs] who ferried aircraft was—We were given our parachutes to use. And they were $250. And you could—So when she ferried aircraft, she would never let them check it for fear they lost it. She would have to pay $250 to get another one. So she was sitting on the plane with a parachute in her lap. This fellow came up and said, “Do you mind if I check that thing? I swear, I'll watch it and watch it, but you're making the passengers nervous.”

HT:

[laughs] I could imagine so. Because they would ferry a plane—

HT:

Yes.

MT:

—and they would have to take commercial flight back?

HT:

To get back home.

MT:

And she was scaring the passengers on the commercial planes. Well, it would take some time for her to undo that thing and, you know, even bail out. She would be dead before they, you know, ever thought of—Now, if she was already all hooked up, that would be different. But I wanted to go watch them do my chute. They have to re-do it every so many hours or months. And mine wouldn't work. They jerked and jerked it. It would not—

HT:

So you had been using it all that time—

MT:

I had been using a parachute that would have taken me straight to the ground.

HT:

It's a good thing you didn't know about that.

MT:

I didn't know about that, thank goodness. [chuckles] That would have been something.

HT:

And how long did you say you were at Dodge, again, I mean five, six weeks?

MT:

[To BT] Do you remember how long the training was at Dodge City?

BT:

Well, like I say, I think a normal transition was six weeks, no more than eight weeks.

HT:

And then after that you went to?

MT:

Harlingen.

HT:

Harlingen and did the towing of the targets—

MT:

It was my squadron. He's the one that said, “Just because you are a lady, don't think you're—”

BT:

What?

MT:

“Just because you are women, don't think that you are reporting to my flight line late.” Ooh, I was so mad.

BT:

They weren't a late any more either.

HT:

But you were late at one time?

MT:

Yes.

BT:

Her first reporting to my squadron, she was about fifteen minutes late.

MT:

I was five minutes late.

BT:

It was 7:15 when you walked in.

MT:

It was 7:05. Any rate, he said, “Just because you're women, don't think you're—.” And I turned to my friend and said, “Who is that? Who does he think he is?” And eight months later we were married, and we've been married—now, don't you say—

BT:

Eighty-seven years.

HT:

[laughs]

MT:

I married him in '44.

HT:

A long time.

MT:

Yes.

HT:

Now, you were civilians, but you were still under the jurisdiction of the military wherever you were stationed, is that correct?

MT:

Oh, sure. [To BT] What do you got here? Oh, yeah. You can show that to him. Here.

HT:

Let me turn this—

[Recording paused]

HT:

What was the hardest thing you ever had to do physically while you were with the WASPs?

MT:

I think that PT [physical test?]. [laughing] Mmm [making sound] that was hard. As far as the plane was concerned, hauling the loads off, it wasn't that hard, I didn't think. Getting those up.

HT:

What about emotionally, what was the hardest? Did you have any problems? I've talked to some nurses, you know, and they said it was always very emotional working with patients and that sort of thing, but your work was a little bit different.

MT:

Yes.

HT:

Did you ever recall being afraid?

MT:

Well, let me see. [pause] Well, I guess the only times that I was afraid was—The instructors didn't like to give [unclear]. If you lose an engine, and of course, lose an engine on take off it is really dangerous. But any rate, I had my time up in the air with a lost engine, and you have the—The first thing the instructor does is pull back the fuel so the engine is windmilling, so you want to feather the prop so it goes straight into the wind and won't windmill and be a drag. And I had had my turn at the seat. And this other girl, Edna Modisette[?], was doing it. And it's just like taking driving lessons. You can't get out. You've got to get—you land and you get in the back seat and get back in again. They make you go up with the other. Anyway, he pulled the fuel back on the left engine and she feathered the right prop. Well, you know, that's terrible. It's a wonder the prop didn't fly right off. And I never seen an instructor hands go over a, what is a dashboard, you know, getting everything back together. We were almost at treetop level. And that's—It was a Sunday [dog barking in background]. And that's—I really did think that I had maybe at the most thirty seconds to maybe minutes at the very most to live because I didn't see how we could avoid those trees. We couldn't turn and bank. And just as I was—and you know it's an interesting thing. You don't think about yourself. If you think you're going to be dead in a few seconds, you think about those you are leaving behind. I had read more and more stories about that same thing. You do not think about yourself. You're not going to be there. And I was thinking of mom and dad. And, “I'm so sorry I've caused you this grief.”

[End Tape 1, Side A—Begin Tape 1, Side B]

MT:

[dog barking in background] Okay. It was a Sunday. And I really did think that I was not going to be make it, that I would be dead within thirty seconds to a minute. And just as those thoughts of how I felt sorry Mom and Dad that I caused you this grief, I had turned away from the station, radio station. I was tired of listening to their tower. And it was a Sunday, as I said, and there was a church service going on. And just at the moment that I thought I had such a short time to live, the minister said, “We will now sing, Oh, For a Closer Walk with God.” I had never heard of that hymn before. But there is a hymn, Oh, For a Closer Walk with God. And I really and truly, “You're going to think about me. I'm going to be gone.” I've talked to people who have nearly drowned. They didn't think about themselves. They think about their wife, their mother. But you just don't. I really believe that's generally true.

HT:

So how did you and the—Now, you were not piloting at that time, were you?

MT:

No, I was in the back.

HT:

How did the pilot and copilot get you out of that situation?

MT:

Oh, the instructor took over.

HT:

Oh, he did.

MT:

And he went right back in the field and washed her out.

HT:

Oh.

MT:

He said, “You can make a mistake as stupid as that if you are all by yourself. You're fired. You know, pull back or feather the wrong prop or whatever. You are only going to kill yourself. But you can't be that stupid with other people's lives in your hands.” So she went out.

HT:

So by the quick action of the instructor—

MT:

Yes.

HT:

—your life and her life were saved, his life was saved. That's unbelievable. Well, I was going to ask you—The next question was, were you ever in any kind of physical danger? But I think that last story sort of—

MT:

Yes, that's the only time.

HT:

That's the one that—

MT:

That I feel. I never had any engine fires or, you know, really dangerous, and getting the charter shot that close to the tail. I mean I didn't realize it at the time. But other than that. But they did shoot one down. And the guy was just, you know, washed out of pilot's training. He was mad. And he admitted it.

HT:

Was he charged?

MT:

The gunner.

HT:

Right. Was he court martialed?

MT:

I don't know what they did to him. I know I never saw him again. But the idea of deliberately shooting down an airplane just—

HT:

With people inside.

MT:

Yes.

HT:

Would you recall any embarrassing moments while you were with the WASPs?

MT:

Embarrassing?

HT:

Or humorous.

MT:

[To BT] Do you recall any embarrassing moments or humorous moments?

BT:

In connection with what?

MT:

Flying the B-26. If you leave your number with me, you telephone number, I will call you if I think of any.

HT:

Okay, that's fine [laughs]

MT:

That's—

HT:

That's fine. Now, what did you and the other WASPs do during your spare time? What kind of social events did you have?

MT:

At Harlingen we crossed border. We'd go to Mexico and shop and stuff like that. But there really wasn't a lot to do. The town was farmland.

HT:

Did you work seven days a week?

MT:

Oh, yes.

HT:

So you were on call all the time—

MT:

Yes.

HT:

—just about?

MT:

Yes. And they at first, you know, just where to put us because they put us with the WACs [Women's Army Corps] in a big barrack. And the girls resented it because we could sleep late. See, if we were—there were eight of us—from two in the morning and four in the afternoon. The next week, you'd switch. So some girls got to sleep late, see, and the WACs resented it.

HT:

So you were in the same barracks—

MT:

Yes.

HT:

—as the WACs? Oh, okay.

MT:

First. So they decided that's not going to work. So there was a place downtown.

BT:

You were in with the nurses at one point.

MT:

Okay. But any rate, remember we were downtown? They had this—it was a place above a Sherwin-Williams paint store. And it had been a dance studio, teaching kids dancing. So there were like eight bedrooms or there were eight WASPs. There was seven—Any way, two of them had to room together, and the rest of us had our own. But you went up these stairs right next to the Sherwin-Williams paint store to where this former dance studio had been. And they finally put us back out at the field because the men, you know, if we had dates or they could come and pick us up. And they decided it was a hassle for the [unclear]. And they were coming up those stairs, you know. How macho. So they took us back out to the field. And that was much better, nice accommodations.

HT:

Well, the lady I spoke to yesterday said they were actually considered officers, so they would eat and go to the officers' club.

MT:

Oh, yes.

HT:

Is that your situation as well?

MT:

Yes. And if they saluted, then you returned their salute. You don't say, “You don't need to do that.” Just go ahead and salute and go on. There were never, there were never—And you know I didn't want to be part of the military. Now, Jacqueline Cochran was very disappointed because she wanted to be like [Colonel] Oveta Culp Hobby with the WACs. She wanted to be a colonel. But I didn't want to be part of the military. If you wanted to quit and go home, you could. You couldn't do that if you were part of the military.

HT:

So you didn't sign any kind of contract?

MT:

Yeah.

HT:

You didn't sign a contact—

MT:

Oh, no.

HT:

—or anything like that?

MT:

No.

HT:

Did some women actually leave on their own volition?

MT:

No, I don't know. Let's see. Oh, yeah, one girl married.

HT:

And then quit.

MT:

But you were allowed to do that.

HT:

Because you were considered civil service—

MT:

Yes.

HT:

—at that time?

MT:

We were.

HT:

You didn't get military status until many, many years later.

MT:

Yes, we were civil service.

HT:

And do you recall what your pay was?

MT:

[To BT] What was it? Do you recall what our pay was?

BT:

I don't know. Did you get the same pay as a second lieutenant?

MT:

I don't even know how much we were paid. Did this other girl know?

HT:

She thought it was like $200-250 a month once she left that training. She could not remember what it was at that time during training.

MT:

I really don't remember. [pause] I really [unclear]. I'm going to write down stuff if it comes to mind because there are several interesting stories that are humorous.

HT:

Do you recall what the mood of the country was during World War II?

MT:

Do I recall what?

HT:

The mood of the country, what was it like living during that time? What was the mood of the country?

MT:

I don't know that I could answer.

HT:

That's fine. Do you recall—The WASPs were disbanded in December of 1944. My next question was, do you recall where you were during VE and VJ Days [Victory in Europe and Victory in Japan] which were, of course, VE Day was in May 1945, and VJ Day was in August—

MT:

No, I really don't.

HT:

—of '45. You had already left the service by that time. Now, you had gotten married, I think you said, in 1944?

MT:

Forty-four in August.

HT:

And where were you living at the WASPs were disbanded?

MT:

[To BT] After the WASPs was disbanded, he wanted to know just where we were living.

BT:

What?

MT:

[To BT] Where were we living after the WASPs were disbanded?

BT:

Well, I was still overseas when the WASP was disbanded.

MT:

I know. And I took a job. I took a job analyzing aircraft accidents in Winston-Salem. And I went to the [unclear] over in Fort Worth [Texas]. And I continued to analyze aircraft accidents until he came back. We were married only about five days and he was gone eleven months.

HT:

Oh, okay. And what type of work did you do, again?

MT:

Analyzed aircraft accidents.

HT:

Oh, okay.

MT:

[To BT] Honey, look in that Dutch desk and see if you can find one of the aircraft accident—Daddy.

BT:

And find what?

MT:

[To BT] See if you can find the aircraft accident thing to show him.

BT:

Find what?

MT:

[To BT] Aircraft accident report to show him what I did. We only analyzed major—

BT:

How do you know that there's one in there?

MT:

[To BT] I think there's where I put it. We only analyzed fatal accidents, major accidents.

HT:

Did you have to go to the crash site to do this—

MT:

Sometimes. And that's one of the reason I liked it because I felt that I could continue to fly, you know. [To BT] Do you see one of them?

[Recording paused]

HT:

We were talking about analyzing aircraft accidents.

MT:

Yes. But this one man knew I was available, and he loved to tease and make up stuff. And he was telling me about an accident that he had to report of a guy that was killed flying through a railroad tunnel.

And I said, “Really?”

He said, “It was a small plane, experimental, and he had plenty of room, you know, wing span. And he had measured everything carefully, but still he was killed.”

And I said, “Oh, that's terrible if he measured—.”

Of course, I think it's stupid to fly through a railroad tunnel to begin with.

Any rate [laughing] I said, “Oh, that's terrible if he had measured the wings.” I said, “What was wrong?”

He said, “He forgot to check the train schedule.”

I was dumb enough to believe. I said, “That was stupid. He should—.” [laughs]

I just couldn't believe that I had swallowed it. [laughs] “Well, was anybody hurt on this?” Once they find out you're gullible, you've had it, you know? But having a little black box would certainly be of some help all depending on how—

HT:

Now, were these commercial accidents, I mean, airliners for PanAmerican—

MT:

No.

HT:

—and that sort of thing? And that was, I imagine—Which governmental agency handled this?

MT:

I really don't know.

HT:

I never heard of that.

MT:

But there were three men and myself that flew. [To BT] Did you find one of the accident reports?

BT:

I'm looking, but I haven't found one.

HT:

That's fine.

MT:

[To BT] Well, look in the second drawer.

HT:

After you left the WASPs, did you ever think of making it a career to actually fly?

MT:

No.

HT:

Was that an option?

MT:

I began having children.

HT:

Oh, okay.

MT:

And that did it. To me that was more important.

HT:

Than flying. And did you continue flying at all after—

MT:

Oh, yes, we bought an airplane.

HT:

Oh, you did?

MT:

We took a trip to South America. And it was written up in Aero magazine. Oh, yes, we had.

HT:

And what kind of plane was that, again?

MT:

[To BT] The kind of plane that we had when we flew to South America?

BT:

[Piper] Geronimo.

MT:

It was a twin engine. And that was a great trip. It was called South American Odyssey.

HT:

And did you fly all over South America?

MT:

Yes. And we've got one of the South American trip magazines. [pause] South American Odyssey.

HT:

Was that in the forties or the 1950s?

MT:

[coughs] Oh, this was in the sixties.

HT:

Oh, the sixties.

MT:

I think. [To BT] Is there one of those magazines there?

BT:

I haven't run across one.

HT:

If we can backtrack just to the World War II period of time and your time in the WASP. Whom did you admire and respect a great deal? Who were your heroes and heroines?

MT:

In what?

HT:

From that period of time, who were—

MT:

Oh, I thought world of Jacqueline Cochran. [coughs]

HT:

Did you ever have the opportunity to meet her?

MT:

Yes. She came to every one of our graduations. Never would miss one. She would fly in. She had heart trouble and had surgery, and she was no longer allowed to even fly commercially.

HT:

Oh, really?

MT:

She had to stay on the ground. But I admired her much more than Amelia Earhart. I've always felt that Amelia Earhart was lost. You know, they never found her or the copilot or the airplane or anything. And they were looking for an island, Howard Island [sic—Howland Island]. And they just vanished.

But Jackie Cochran she never had—If you read the story of her life, she didn't even have a pair of shoes till she was six. She picked her name out of a phonebook. She doesn't know who her real parents ever were. Her adopted parents, the ones that adopted her, were fruit pickers in Florida. So she really came up from—And then she got a job in a beauty parlor. And at first she was sweeping floors. Finally, she was fixing hair. And she was fixing the hair of Mrs. [Hortense McQuarrie] Odlum, Mrs. Floyd Odlum, O-d-l-u-m. And she told her how much she wanted to learn to fly. And Mrs. Odlum said, “Well, my husband will teach you.” You know, she couldn't afford to fly. “He will see to it.” He divorced his wife and married Jacqueline. So Mrs. Odlum was sorry that she volunteered her husband's money.

But Jacqueline Cochran, she asked—She is the first woman to fly faster than the speed of sound. And she asked [Brigadier General] Chuck Yeager to be her copilot. And she flew into Kiev, Russia. Now, imagine asking Chuck Yeager to be your copilot. But she was convinced that women could fly military aircraft without, you know—Well, in this country they would fly old P-39s, yeah, up to Russia—up to Alaska to go to Russia. And these fat women pilots and Russia women wore big, old fur coats, pushed themselves in the cockpit of a P-39, which most pilots didn't like. The engine was behind you.

[To BT] What you got?

[Recording paused]

HT:

Back to your time at Sweetwater. When you were squadron commander, what were your duties?

MT:

Well, you tried to—well, you just—girls that had problems, some were homesick and others were scared of being washed out, and, you know, you just act kind of like a mother to them, let them come to you with their problems. But I enjoyed it. I enjoyed being a squadron commander. And the girls were just great, I thought. But it's amazing how over twenty-thousand thought they were going to get their license. It was so stupid. There's no way that they could have ever, ever been done. But Jacqueline Cochran did. She came to every one—

HT:

Of the graduations.

MT:

—of the graduations.

HT:

And so you got a chance to talk to—

MT:

Oh, yes.

HT:

—talk to her and chat with her and that sort of thing?

MT:

Oh, yes. She was really a remarkable, I thought, person considering her background and everything. You ought to read her book sometime.

HT:

I'll do that. Now where did she live?

MT:

She's dead.

HT:

No, where did she live at that time?

MT:

Oh.

HT:

Did she live in the Sweetwater area, or did she have to fly in from somewhere else?

MT:

No. I really don't know. I know that she didn't live in Sweetwater. She only came for—

HT:

The graduations.

MT:

—the graduations, yes.

HT:

Well, what did you think of President Roosevelt and Mrs. Roosevelt?

MT:

Well, I will always be grateful to her for insisting that one girl be trained with every fifteen men because if it hadn't been for her, I wouldn't have gotten my license. I really wouldn't.

HT:

Did you ever meet the Roosevelts or—

MT:

No. I love the story about the drunk and Roosevelt on an elevator.

And he said to her, “You're the ugliest woman that I ever saw.”

And she was really ugly. And she said, “Well, you're the drunkest man I ever saw.”

He said, “Yeah, but I'll be all right in the morning.” [laughing]

HT:

Is this—

MT:

And you know Franklin Roosevelt was handsome. And they were second cousins, I think.

HT:

Something like that.

BT:

Here's the article in there.

[Recording paused]

HT:

Well, during your time with the WASPs, do you recall meeting anyone special like say perhaps Bob Hope or I know many women who were with the WASPs or WAVES [Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service—U.S. Navy]—

MT:

Yeah. Buddy Rogers. He signed my short snorter bill [paper currency signed by servicemen].

HT:

Buddy Rogers, he's a movie star, is that correct?

MT:

Yes. I can't think of anybody else. But we were all so glad to see Jacqueline Cochran. She—Always indebted and grateful to her. I wouldn't have gotten all of this flying without it.

HT:

Would you consider yourself to be an independent person?

MT:

Yes.

HT:

Have you always been that way or—

MT:

Oh.

HT:

Or did being a WASP make you that way?

MT:

No. I taught biology and aeronautics at high school.

HT:

That was before you entered the WASPs?

MT:

Yes, well, I was—oh, yes.

HT:

Several years.

MT:

Oh, yes, but I had a lot of flying time. I had over three hundred hours. And I [chuckles] just barely—you know, not many people who say that they were—they've liked everything they've ever done in their life, but I loved teaching school. I loved being a docent who guided tours at the art museum. I was on the staff in the Museum of Fine Arts.

HT:

Here in Houston?

MT:

Yes. And I loved being a docent at Bayou Bend, [Houston, Texas], the [Simons home?]. And well, I don't believe that I would change anything. If I had my life to live over, I can't think of a thing I would change.

HT:

So how long have you and your husband lived here in Houston?

MT:

[To BT] How long have we lived in Houston? I can't—

BT:

We moved here in 1950.

HT:

Oh, a long time.

MT:

Yes, Honey can remember those dates a lot better than I can.

HT:

Well, I know what you and the other WASPs did was quite unusual for that time, so do you consider yourself to be a trailblazer or a trendsetter when you joined the WASPs?

MT:

Oh, I didn't call myself that, but we really were doing things that other—there were not many women.

HT:

Because the options for most women in the 1930s, early forties, were teacher, which you did, of course.

MT:

Yes.

HT:

Homemaker.

MT:

Yes.

HT:

And perhaps clerical work, and that's basically it. There were—career options were very limited.

MT:

Yes, that's true. That's true. You're right. But once I started having babies that was it. I wanted to stay home. You know? And I think they should. I really do.

HT:

So after you got married, you didn't work except for the analyzing of the aircraft?

MT:

Yes, while he was overseas.

HT:

While he was overseas. And then after your husband came back, what type of work?

MT:

That was it. I didn't.

HT:

You didn't work outside the home?

MT:

No, no. I did a lot of volunteer work with the Junior League. I was very active in Junior League. You know, stuff like working as a volunteer at MD Anderson in the cancer section where children are treated. I worked there. I think they do a lot of good work, the Junior League.

HT:

MD Anderson, is that a hospital?

MT:

It's a big hospital.

HT:

Here in Houston?

MT:

Here in Houston. And MD Anderson is the cancer hospital.

HT:

Well, did your children ever join the military?

MT:

No.

HT:

They did not?

MT:

No.

HT:

Well, what impact do you think being with the WASPs had on your life immediately after you got out in the long term? How did that change your life, perhaps?

MT:

Well, I don't know except that I enjoyed it so much and enjoyed reminiscing and giving lectures. I give a lot of lectures.

HT:

Do you give lectures about your time at the WASPs?

MT:

Yes.

HT:

Do you ever attend any reunions?

MT:

Oh, yes. And there are always fun. But you reach the point when you finally end up in a wheelchair, those convention things are a thing of the past.

[To BT] What are you looking for now?

BT:

What did you send me over here to find?

MT:

[To BT] Records of aircraft accidents.

BT:

I didn't find any.

MT:

[To BT] Okay.

HT:

Well, how do you feel about women in combat positions these days? Of course, women in today's military—

MT:

Oh, I think—I'm all for it, yes. I don't see any reason why—Of course, there some areas like submarines that wouldn't be convenient. But women I think are good military pilots. I really do.

HT:

If you had to do it over again, would you rejoin the WASPs?

MT:

Oh, yes. Oh, yes. [Phone ringing]

[Recording paused]

HT:

I think I've asked you all the formal questions that I've come to ask you. Is there anything you'd like to add to the interview, any stories—

MT:

Well, that's why I want you to leave your card.

HT:

—reminiscing and that sort of thing that you might want to add?

MT:

Yes. But if you'll leave your card—

HT:

I will.

MT:

—I'll call.

HT:

All right. Well, again, thank you so much.

MT:

Well, you're very welcome, indeed. But you know when you are trying to think of those things, they don't come to your mind.

HT:

Right. That's so true.

MT:

And when you're not, I'll get a dream, you know.

HT:

[chuckles] All right. Okay, again, thanks so much.

MT:

You're very welcome.

[End of Interview]