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 (Mickey) was the fifth of six children. Two names were chosen before her birth, Michael, and Eleanor, in honor of her grandparents. Although named for grandmother, she was nicknamed “Mickey” and the name stuck.
When she was four, the family moved to San Antonio, Texas and Mickey attended Alamo Heights schools from kindergarten thru high school. She attended business school and began work as a secretary. Later she worked for three attorneys at a salary of $12.00 per week. Mickey never flew in a plane prior to her first flight at Stinson Field with her brother-in-law, Lt. William Francisco. She fell in love with flying and spent most of her salary on flying lessons and eventually earned her private pilot’s license. Following Pearl Harbor, she applied for a Civil Service position and was hired as a secretary for Colonel I.W. Ott, Chief Engineering Officer of the Aircraft Repair Depot at Duncan Field, San Antonio. One day she was asked if she would like to work on the line in flight test as a general mechanics helper. She took the offer and loved it. For two years she worked on most of the warplanes in existence which included the opportunity to run engines, taxi aircraft, and ride in planes as they were flight tested.
In 1942 Mickey applied for admission to the WASP program. She was accepted and received orders to report to Avenger Field on April 18, 1944. She graduated and received her wings on November 6, 1944. After graduation, Mickey was assigned to Napier Field, Dothan, Alabama. Her duties included flight testing repaired aircraft, flying mail to cadets at Eglin Field, Florida, and flying non-flying military personnel to various fields within the Command.
After the program was deactivated on December 20, 1944, Mickey worked at various administrative jobs and floated from job to job until August 1948 when she enrolled at The University of Texas in Austin. On December 22, 1951, she married Robert Storey Brown. They had four children, two boys, and two girls. The family lived in Texas, Florida, Oklahoma, and finally Victoria, Texas.
Mickey believed in the power of letters and wrote lots of effective letters. When a small article appeared in the newspaper about the first women in the military to fly planes. Mickey started writing letters to the editor, Senators, WASP friends, and President Carter. All the letters written were the spark it took to get recognition and the benefits they had been promised. Her love of flying took her places that most of us would neither have the opportunity nor desire to go. Not once, but twice she managed to get herself a seat on a plane that landed on the aircraft carrier USS Lexington while it was in sail! Her last flight occurred at the age of 86 when her children got her a flight with the Confederate Air Force in an AT-6. During the flight, the pilot let Mickey take the controls, and she proceeded to take the plane through a few barrel rolls, just for kicks!
Written by: Ann Haub | Collections Director
Photos courtesy: National WASP WWII Museum Archives
Partner with the WASP Archive in achieving its mission to collect, protect, preserve and provide access to materials that chronicle the WASP story, its legacy, and the personal and professional lives of its pilots. New artifacts are always welcome. Please call Ann Haub at 325-235-0099 or by emailing her at firstname.lastname@example.org.