Dot and about 1,083 other women served their country as aviators during WWII, flying virtually every plane built by the United States, all the bombers, fighters, military transport aircraft, doing engineering flights, testing repaired and experimental aircraft, including the first jet prototype, helping deliver those planes all over the US, develop the training manuals, train other pilots, serving with distinction despite a lack of recognition until 1977 when they were given veteran status by a special act of Congress.
On March 10, 2010, the WASP were presented with the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest civilian award, for their service during WWII. For more information, follow the links at http://www.fifinella.com/goldmedal.htm
Although other women were joining the WASP at the same time, Dot felt that the special training she received from the Tennessee Woman Experimental Research Program during which she received advanced training to become an instructor, meant that she could best contribute to the war effort in that role. So, in February 1943, immediately following her graduation, she began instructing pilots in the V-5 program for the Navy in Portales New Mexico where she instructed 4 classes of young men eager to be pilots.
In June 1943, following a chance encounter with another instructor who tested her in a different trainer, she was reassigned to the Women Airforce Service Pilots ("WASP") program, first instructing for 7 months and 4 classes of WASP, as reported in The Avenger, (Volume 1 Number 5), the WASP newspaper published by the WASP in Sweetwater, Texas.
Later, feeling that she had finally repaid the program that trained her in Tennessee, she resigned as an instructor in January 1944, and joined WASP class 44-W7 as a student, was kicked up to class 44-W5, and graduated in June 44. Assigned as a flight officer to various postings (Columbus, Mississippi -- Clarksdale, Maxwell Field -- Laredo, Texas --- Kelly Field, San Antonio), her flying assignments included engineering and maintenance flights, target towing, and some ferrying missions, flying various military aircraft including the P-40, P-63 and B-26 until the WASP were disbanded in December 1944. In the 1950s she applied and was admitted to the US Air Force Reserve, receiving an honorable discharge as 1st Lieutenant in 1957, subsequently receiving a DD-214 recording her active duty service in 1944 following the final militarization bill for the WASP which passed in 1977.
Though Dot's service also included some limited ferrying duties, other women pilots of the WASP spent their entire service delivering all types of aircraft which were produced for the war effort, flying over 60 million miles on these ferrying missions and other service flights. Their missions included gunnery training missions, radar testing, ground attack simulations, transport, and experimental test flying, and yet little mention is made in most historical records, as details of the WASP program were at time considered secret, and various records were sealed after the war. It is a part of history that still needs mending.
At the March 2010 Congressional Gold Medal ceremony, held at the Capitol building, with numerous speakers and about 290 WASP or WASP families in attendance . . . The Gold Medal design shows women "breaking the barrier" with their service and depicts 3 of the many aircraft that they flew. One is the B-26 bomber which Dot flew at the Laredo Army Air Field just prior to the WASP disbandment.
Here is Dot with Jan Goodrum and Dawn Seymour at the 2006 WASP National Reunion held in Portland, Oregon. Dawn, one of the women trained to fly the B-17, used to say that every time the WASP got together, they all immediately got younger!
Here is Dot with Florence "Shutsy" Reynolds, one of the WASP from Connellsville, PA, who ran the WASP Stores for years, and as a jewelry maker, produced some of the finest WASP jewelry for the WASP, including WASP Wing rings, various silver pins including WASP Wing reproductions and a special mounting of the small Congressional Gold Medal for the WASP.
On Memorial Day . . . .
For more information on the WASP, please visit Wings Across America - the most comprehensive website on the WASP
Copyright 2004, 2014 Albert Z Lewis Jr. / Estate of Dorothy Swain Lewis - All rights reserved.