Elizabeth Wall Strohfus Aviation History Women Pilots


AvStop Magazine Online

Elizabeth Wall Strohfus

Elizabeth Wall Strohfus was born in Faribault, Minnesota, on November 15, 1919. When Elizabeth was little, she could often be found way up in the top of a tree. She liked to be up high, where she could get a better look at things. Some people are afraid of heights, not Elizabeth. Her mother would call her for supper, and Elizabeth would reluctantly climb down from her perch. She liked the feel of the big sturdy branches moving slowly in the breeze as she hung on tightly. The leaves rustled all around her. Sometimes, she would climb up on top of the roof of her house. From there, she could see the whole neighborhood. Houses and people looked small from where she sat.

As a child, Elizabeth was very good at gymnastics. She could imitate everything she saw professional gymnasts do. Flips, jumps, and rolls were all easy for the flexible and compact Elizabeth.

When Elizabeth was 21, she had her first ride in an airplane. She enjoyed it so much that she wanted to take flying lessons. So, every day on her lunch hour, she rode her bike from the court house where she worked, to the airport for a flying lesson.

When the lesson was over, she hopped on her bike and went back to work. Then, when she finished working at the end of the day, she got on her bike again and headed to the airport for more flying. One day, a letter from the United States government was delivered to the airport. It asked for all experienced women pilots to join our country's fight in World War II. All of the male pilots were needed for combat flying, so women were being asked for the first time to fly for the military. This was to be an experiment by our government to see if it was possible for women to fly the huge military planes. It would take a lot of physical and mental strength to do this job. Could women pilots handle it?

Elizabeth was accepted into this program, called the Women's Army Service Pilots (WASP). As a WASP she learned to fly many different planes. One of the jobs of a WASP was delivering new planes from the factory to places where the military needed them for fighting the war. They also trained other pilots, and pulled targets behind their planes so soldiers on the ground could practice their aim. When a plane from the war needed repairing, it was the WASP who went to get it and fly it to a repair station. From 1942 to 1944, the WASP served our country by filling an urgent need for pilots. When the war ended the women pilots were told to go home. The government did not declare the WASP to be a part of the U.S. Military as had been promised. The WASP were forgotten. Then, in 1978, our military started talking about allowing women into the pilot training program for the first time. The WASP spoke up and said, "Hey, we were the first women military pilots 36 years ago, and we want to be recognized." Our government agreed, and the WASP are now officially recognized as being the first female pilots in our country's military history.