The night before the attack, she was invited by Navy
ensigns to the officers club to celebrate her 21st
birthday. The next morning, she watched the attack from
the balcony of her family home on a hill above Pearl
"My family didn't drink, so I'd never
had a drink in my life," Blake said. "That was my first
taste of liquor (at the party). The next morning, when
Pearl Harbor happened, I was in bed with the worst
hangover I ever had.
"My younger brothers woke me up, and we all went to the
balcony of my house, and we watched all these planes
coming over the mountain behind us going toward the
ocean. When the planes went over us, they looked like
AT-6 (Texans), but they were (Japanese Mitsubishi A6-M
Zeroes). They had big orange suns painted on the bottom
of their wings. Then, we saw them as they started diving
toward the ocean in front of us. Their machine guns
started going off, and you could see the bullets hitting
the water and bouncing up.
We had been having so much fun before Pearl Harbor. We
were having fun every night, and suddenly it stopped."
Two ensigns Blake dated were killed at Pearl Harbor, and
a third, who became her first husband several months
later, also would have died if her father hadn't
intervened. He had invited Robert Tackaberry to spend
the night after the party so his daughter wouldn't have
to drive him back to his ship at night.
saved his life," Blake said. "His cabin on the (USS)
California was below the water line, and they dropped a
bomb right in the water beside the ship. His roommate
was asleep, and it killed him. So my father always
reminded my future husband he'd saved his life."
Blake, who worked at Pearl Harbor as a secretary before
she married Tackaberry, moved to the East Coast when he
was reassigned to a ship in Erie, Penn. A couple of
years later, she was selected for the first women's
pilot training class in Houston, near Ellington Field.
the casual way women pilots are regarded today, Blake
recalls a much different attitude during World War II.
However, she had an advantage her fellow classmates
didn't. She was already accustomed to getting along with
men from growing up with two brothers in a neighborhood
filled with boys.
got along fine with them because I'd grown up with
boys," Blake said. "I knew how to joke, spit through my
teeth and crack my jaws with them. That was very
fortunate because some of the girls were in tears if a
boy made a crack. I just joked back. They were always my
"But a lot of the men were not happy
having the women fly the same planes they were flying.
They watched us like hawks, and if we did anything
wrong, it was back at our base before we could get
After completing training, the graduates from the first
class were given their choice of assignment and job.
Blake chose ferry command at Long Beach, Calif., because
she figured she'd be able to fly home to Honolulu. She
never got the opportunity, but met her second husband,
who was also assigned to Long Beach. Blake was part of a
group of pilots who shuttled aircraft from factories to
sites where they could be sent overseas. There was some
discussion of using WASP pilots as co-pilots for
overseas flights, but the war in Europe ended before it
"So, I didn't get checked out in a lot more planes that
I would've liked to have flown because they brought all
the men pilots back and didn't need us anymore," she
said. "They gave us three days' notice, and it was,
Blake ferried about 35 aircraft models, in addition to
the AT-6 and others she flew in during training. But one
airplane still remains her favorite even today.
"The P-51 (Mustang) was definitely my favorite," she
said. "Whenever one goes overhead, and there are still a
few of them flying around, I hear that sound and
instantly know it's a P-51. It was reliable. I liked the
engine, and I just felt safer in it than anything else."
recently attended a funeral for the only other living
graduate from the first WASP class, who also lived in
the Phoenix area. The class of 1943 that was the source
of the young Luke AFB pilot's gratitude is down to just
"Now I'm the only one left, and I hope I'm here for a
while," Blake said.