On Saturday, April 29, 2023, at the Homecoming Celebration & Fly-in, the WASP Museum unveiled its new collection of special WASP in the Spotlight exhibits for the 2023-24 year. Much like a patchwork quilt, the individual stories of the WASP, pieced together, create the beautiful larger narrative of the WASP program. This quilt represents the most complete account of these mighty pilots and their WASP program.
These WASP families were in attendance and able to speak to their mother’s spirits, adventures, and accomplishments. While unbale to attend, two of our honorees, Nell Bright and Shirley Kruse are still with us. Nell continues to tell the WASP story through virtual platforms as often as she can, stating, “There are people even now that have never heard of the WASP. It’s an important part of history.”
Shirley also gives many virtual talks recounting that, “My time spent as a WASP was a never to be a forgotten adventure, a great preparation for the wonderful experience of all that my life was to become.”
To read their stories visit the website page listed below and please come to the Museum to see their exhibits before April 2024.
DONATE ARTIFACTS WITH CONFIDENCE
Many of you have inquired about your WASP becoming a Spotlight honoree. Please know while our aim is to spotlight all the WASP either physically and/or digitally, the archive needs information to tell their stories.
An archive is the lifeblood of any museum. It provides primary sources of information through newspapers clippings, official documents, photographs, and textiles that are needed to tell historically accurate, fascinating, and engaging stories. Families can donate artifacts to the Museum with confidence. The National WASP WWII Museum Archive, the only organization solely dedicated to the WASP, adheres to the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) Archival Storage Standards in our vault’s construction and in the archival materials used for preservation.
Please contact Ann Haub at email@example.com to donate artifacts, request research assistance, or to tour the archive.
CURRENTLY ON DISPLAY
Nell “Mickey” Stevenson Bright 43-W-7
Nell Stevenson was born on June 20, 1921, in Canyon, Texas. When she was eight years old, her father paid a dollar for her to ride in a World War I biplane, and from then on, she knew she wanted to learn to fly.
Nell graduated from West Texas A&M with a B.S. degree in English and Economics. Her fiancé nicknamed her “Mickey,” and the name stuck. With her parents’ support, Nell and nine men bought a Taylorcraft in 1941. By the end of 1942, Mickey had earned her private pilot’s license at English Field, Amarillo, Texas, with over 75 hours of flying time. One day, while waiting to fly, she picked up an aviation magazine and read about the new women’s group headed by Jacqueline Cochran. Qualified applicants needed to be 21 years old and have a pilot’s license with 35 hours of flight time. Mickey met all the requirements and applied immediately.
She was part of class 43-W-7, which began training on May 29, 1943, at Avenger Field, and graduated on November 13, 1943. After graduation, she was one of twenty chosen to be the first women trained to fly B-25 bombers at Mather Field, California. Mickey then transferred to the 6th Tow Target Squadron at Biggs Field, El Paso, Texas, where she towed targets for anti-artillery training with live ammunition. She flew various planes such as the PT-19, BT-13, AT-6, AT-7, AT-11, C-78, B-25, SBD (A-24), SBC (A-25), and the P-47, towing targets, strafing, and conducting night searchlight missions.
After the WASP program was deactivated on December 20, 1944, it was difficult for them to find jobs, particularly in aviation. Many people had never heard of the WASP or believed that the program was real. They were not given an honorable discharge because they were civilians. Mickey was single and could go anywhere she wanted, so she and a high school friend drove to Phoenix, Arizona. There, they found jobs as soda jerks at Luke Air Force Base. When asked if they were trying to meet pilots, Mickey once smiled and replied, “You got that right.”
Although she didn’t meet a pilot, Mickey did meet her future husband while working at the airport – he was a mechanic. The couple got married and had two children. Mickey continued to break down gender barriers by becoming one of the first female stockbrokers in the Phoenix area along with another woman. She worked in the field for an impressive 50 years before retiring at the age of 85.
Nell “Mickey” Stevenson Bright continues to tell the WASP story as often as she can. “There are people even now that have never heard of the WASP. It’s just so great to get this history out there.” -Mickey Bright –
Shirley Chase Kruse 44-W-6
Shirley Chase Kruse was born on June 22, 2022, in Kearny, New Jersey and grew up in Newark. Her father worked as a Wall Street Accountant, while her mother was a housewife. During the Great Depression, her father lost his job, but her mother managed to keep their hardships hidden from the children. Shirley recalls that her mother was resourceful and made sure that they had a comfortable life at home. One day, while on a family trip, they passed by Teterboro Airport in New Jersey. Shirley saw a sign advertising $5 airplane rides and asked her father if she could have one for her 10th birthday. Her father said, “Girls don’t fly.” However, her mother encouraged her and said, “If you want to fly, you will fly.”
Shirley got her first flight in a Piper Cub when she was almost 20 years old. She began taking flying lessons on weekends in Newburgh, New York and obtained her pilot’s license. When she heard about the WASP program, she applied and was accepted into Class 44-W-6. The program began on January 8, 1944, at Avenger Field in Sweetwater, Texas. Shirley graduated with 72 other women 7 months later on August 4, 1944. After graduation, she was assigned to Bainbridge AAF in Georgia, where she worked as a test pilot for planes that had been repaired and as a ferry pilot. Although she had hoped to fly the P-38, she flew BT-13’s instead.
In late 1944, Shirley returned to Avenger Field for an instrument training course. One day, Jackie Cochran arrived and announced that the WASP program was ending. Shirley remembers that the trainees sat on the flight line and listened to the disappointing news. The women had to pay their way home and most of them started looking for work. Shirley tried to find a pilot position at commercial airlines but was rejected because she was a woman. She eventually gave up on her dream of becoming a career pilot, got married, and raised three daughters named Barbara, Catherine, and Wendy. She later worked for the United Postal Service and retired as a postmaster after 20 years of service.
My time spent as a WASP was a never to be forgotten adventure, a great preparation for the wonderful experience of all that my life was to become. – Shirley Chase Kruse
Shirley has 8 grandchildren and 8 great grandchildren and currently lives in Wilmington, NC.
Rosa Charlyne Creger 44-W-10
Charlyne Creger was born on December 24, 1918, in Noble, Oklahoma to her parents, Charles and Rosa Creger. Her father worked as a blacksmith and played the Tennessee Bluegrass fiddle, while her mother hailed from the Oklahoma Indian territory. Charlyne was the fourth of six children and completed her high school education in Norman, Oklahoma. She took pride in being born during that time and remarked that they did not have any toys, but rather used their minds to create their own entertainment. As they did not possess an alarm clock, the sound of a braying jackass from across the street woke everyone up each morning.
When Charlyne was just eight years old in the 1920s, the local newspaper announced that the famous Wiley Post would take passengers for a ride in a plane for either a penny per pound or a collection of bread wrappers. Though Charlyne didn’t have a penny to her name, she began saving bread wrappers. When she finally arrived for her flight, she was told that she was too small for the seat belt. But Charlyne was determined to fly, so she asked if her cousin could share the seat belt with her. The pilot agreed, and Charlyne’s first flight was an unforgettable experience. After graduating from high school, Charlyne pursued her passion for dance by joining Catherine Duffy’s Productions in Oklahoma City. She then worked as a model for Kickerknick Lingerie and had aspirations to become a designer.
Charlyne was employed as a Production Control Booth Expeditor at Douglas Aircraft before the attack on Pearl Harbor. Although her job title sounded fancy, she primarily counted screws. She obtained her pilot’s license in Norman, Oklahoma and desired to join the WASP program. Unfortunately, her request was turned down since her work was deemed critical for the war. However, Charlyne decided to resign from her job and serve her country by flying.
Charlyne joined Avenger Field as part of class 44-W-10, the last group of Women Airforce Service Pilots on May 26, 1944. After her graduation on December 7, 1944, she was assigned to Waco Army Field in Texas. Unfortunately, the WASP program was deactivated on December 20, 1944, leaving her without a job. Despite no one wanting women pilots, she managed to adapt and became a salvage pilot and flight instructor. Later on, she worked at the Crippled Children’s Hospital in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, after which she completed nursing training at Houston’s Herman Hospital and Shriner’s Hospital in Shreveport. During the Korean War in 1951, Charlyne joined the USAF as a nurse. At age 35, she applied for medical school but was denied as it was believed that she would be taking a man’s place. She did not give up and, instead, went to London to study under the Queen’s Anesthesiologist. Eventually, she became the Chief of Anesthesia Department at Earl K. Long Hospital in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
In 2002, Charlyne was inducted into the Aviation Hall of Fame in Oklahoma, and in 2003, she was introduced into the Daedalians, a group of elite military pilots. Despite her success in other fields, Charlyne loved being a WASP the most.
She once said, “Out of nothing, it made me something, because it gave me the courage to try anything!”
Gloria Heath 44-W-7
Gloria Heath was born on May 7, 1922, in New York City to Royal Vale and Lillian Hart Heart. She graduated from The Putney School in 1939 and from Smith College in 1943, where she excelled as a three-sport athlete, playing basketball, ice hockey, and lacrosse.
During her time at Smith College, Gloria’s older brother Royal encouraged her to take up flying. After her first flight, given by his flight instructor, she wrote in her diary, “The view of earth from the plane was so peaceful, anxieties seemed to melt away.” For the rest of her life, flight held her captive.
She eventually convinced 14 other women at the college to take flying lessons with her. Together, they bought a plane and Gloria then founded the Smith College Flying Club. By the time she graduated, she had obtained her pilot’s license.
In 1944, Gloria was accepted into the WASP program class 44-W-5 at Avenger Field in Sweetwater, Texas. After graduating, she was assigned to Freeman Army Air Field in Seymour, Indiana, where she flew AT-6’s as an engineering test pilot. She later became a tow target pilot at Pocatello Army Air Base in Idaho before her last assignment at Dalhart Army Airfield in Texas. The WASP program was deactivated on December 20, 1944.
After the end of World War II, Gloria began working in the field of aviation safety and founded the Flight Safety Foundation. She played a significant role in designing and developing the electronic locator “black box,” which became a requirement in all civil aircraft in 1972. Gloria’s contributions to flight safety were recognized with the Amelia Earhart Award in 1957 and the Laura Tabor Barbour International Air Safety Award in 1965. In 1999, she was inducted into the Women in Aviation International Pioneering Hall of Fame, and in 2001, she was listed as one of the 100 most influential women in aviation by Women in Aviation International. Gloria’s legacy as an inspiration to young women in aviation will continue to live on.
Dorothy A. Lucas 44-W-7
Dorothy A. Lucas, born on December 4, 1922, in Norfolk, Virginia, was the youngest of four children. Despite the challenges of the Great Depression and her family’s constant relocations due to her father’s occupation as a traveling salesman, Dorothy found joy in swimming at the coastal beaches. After graduating from Woodrow Wilson High School in Washington, DC, in 1940, she worked as a secretary in the Pentagon while attending night classes at George Washington University.
During World War II, Dorothy’s patriotism led her to join the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) Program. To be accepted, applicants needed flight experience, good moral character, a personal interview, and the ability to pass the Army’s physical examination. The program, conceived by Jacqueline Cochran and General H.H. “Hap” Arnold, aimed to free male pilots for combat while utilizing the WASP for flight duties within the United States, proving women’s capabilities in military aviation.
At the age of 20, Dorothy applied for the WASP program with a friend and obtained the necessary flight hours by borrowing money and attending training in Frederick, Maryland. In the summer of 1944, she and three friends embarked on a road trip to Sweetwater, Texas, for WASP training. Graduating from flight school, Dorothy was assigned to Moore Field in Mission, Texas, where she joined the Gunnery Squadron. Her duties included towing targets for male fighter pilots, ferrying planes, and conducting administrative flights. Dorothy’s favorite aircraft was the AT-6, often featured in WWII movies as a Japanese Zero substitute. During gunnery sessions, she piloted a prearranged flight pattern while male gunners fired at the target she towed.
While stationed at Moore Field, Dorothy began dating an Air Force Captain who served as an instructor pilot for male cadets. One day, as she attempted to impress him with a smooth landing, she made her worst landing ever, but he still married her. Tragically, Dorothy’s brother, who received his wings from Aviator School, was killed in action over England while she was training. Despite her grief, Dorothy remained determined to earn her wings and make her brother proud. Her friend, who initially applied for WASP training, became a stewardess but died in a plane crash.
After the cancellation of the WASP program in December 1944, Dorothy became engaged to her flight instructor, Al Lucas, whom she married in February 1945. They raised five children together. Following Al’s retirement from the Air Force in 1964, they lived in various locations, and he pursued a career in real estate in Austin, Texas. They enjoyed playing bridge, golfing, and spending time with their 12 grandchildren. Dorothy and Al were avid University of Texas Longhorn football fans and participated in feeding ducks in Woodcreek, Texas, and deer in the quadrangle at Ft. Sam Houston in San Antonio.
In 2018, at the age of 95, Dorothy attended her last WASP Homecoming, one of four WASPs in attendance. She lived as a widow in San Antonio, Texas, until her passing in May 2022 at the age of 99. Dorothy’s inspiring journey as a WASP and her dedication to her family left a lasting legacy.
Mary “Marty” Anna Martin Wyall 44-W-10
Mary Anna Martin was born on January 24, 1922, in Liberty, Indiana to Reverend Sumner L. and Bernice Smith Martin. In 1939, she graduated from Shields High School in Seymour, Indiana. In 1943, she completed her Bachelor of Science degree in bacteriology from DePauw University in Greencastle, Indiana.
After the attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941, Marty wanted to support the war effort and learned about the creation of the WASP program. Her father insisted that she graduate from college first. After completing her degree, Marty began her journey in flying lessons and soloed at Sky Harbor in Indianapolis. Upon completion, she applied and was accepted into WASP class 44-W-10, the last class to grace Avenger Field. The class of 68 women graduated on December 7, 1944, two weeks before the program was deactivated.
After deactivation, she returned to Indiana and worked as a pilot for the Reconstruction Finance Corporation. She married a young pilot trainee, Eugene (Gene) Wyall, and they moved to Fort Wayne, Indiana, where they raised Hereford cattle and operated C&E Aviation. Marty owned and operated the first woman air taxi business in Indiana and raised five children. She was instrumental in reuniting and organizing the WASP members and became the permanent historian in 1978.
She received many awards and acknowledgments, including the Women In Aviation International Hall of Fame, Fort Wayne Master Gardener, and was recognized as a volunteer for 20 years at Lawton Park Greenhouse.
Past WASP in the Spotlight Exhibits
Margaret Peggy Kocher was born in Salem, Massachusetts in 1921 to Willard and Margaret Grishkin Helburn. She was the youngest of three children – two sons Nick and Peter, and
Dorothy Fulton was born October 14, 1918, in Ridgefield Park, New Jersey to Harry Leroy and Johanna Crystal Jensen Fulton. As a young child, Amelia Earhart was Dorothy’s heroine and
Nadine Ramsey was born on August 28, 1911, to Nelle and Claude Ramsey. Nelle and Claude settled in Carlyle Illinois and Claude went to work in the oil fields as
Betty was born May 12, 1919, to Rhea and Joseph Heinrich in Houston, Texas. A native Houstonian, she attended Travis and Browning Elementary, James Hogg Middle School, La Porte High
Meriem Lucille Roby was born July 12, 1921, in Eureka, Kansas to E.C. and Leota (Shambaugh) Roby. Her parents were prosperous ranchers and were able to spend the fall and
Betty was born in Faribault, Minnesota on November 15, 1919, to Daniel and Julia Anne Wall. She was one of six children in their family. She graduated high school in
Marion R. Tibbetts was born January 5, 1915, in Whitman, Massachusetts to Rayman and Mabel Taber Tibbetts. She had on older sister. Even though Claire was 10 years older than
Eleanor McLernon was born in Tampico, Tamaulipas, Mexico, November 3, 1922. Her parents had both gone to Tampico in the early 1900s and met and married there in 1913. Eleanor