Patricia, the eldest of four children, was born July 26, 1920, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. She enjoyed flying which she referred to as her favorite “hobby”. On April 26, 1942, at age 22 she received her civilian pilots license and joined the Civil Air Patrol. Patricia was sworn into the Women’s Flying Training Detachment (WFTD) program class 43-4 on February 15, 1943, by Jacqueline Cochran in Houston, Texas. The WFTD training program was renamed Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) when class 43-4 transferred to Avenger Field, Sweetwater, Texas. Patricia received her WASP wings upon graduation at Avenger field on August 7, 1943. Following graduation, she was assigned to the Third Ferrying Group Romulus Army Air Force Field in Romulus, Michigan. She was qualified and flew 8 different types of Army training aircraft and 3 operational combat aircraft B-24 “Liberator”. QA-10 (PBY) “Catalina” amphibious Flying Boat, and the A-24 (SBD) “Douglas Dauntless” Dive Bomber.
On September 5, 1944, Patricia resigned and returned home to Wisconsin where she married Albert B. Shields. They moved to Columbus, Ohio, and had four children daughter, Patricia “Petie”, son Charlie, son Albert “Tad” and daughter Veronica. At age 34, Patricia was left to raise four young children when Albert suddenly died in June 1955. She had no means of making a living, and a farm to take care of as well as children to comfort and care for all by herself. Patricia became a real estate consultant and developer which gave her income and encouragement. Eventually, she divided the farmland, kept the best part, sold the rest, and built a house for her family. This area is still considered one of the best neighborhoods in Columbus.
Patricia maintained an Ohio pilots license issued in 1948 but did not continue her favorite “hobby” flying. However, the last entry into her pilot’s logbook is dated July 26, 1983, “free flight in hot air balloon, contour flying, alt control flight.”
On March 10, 2010, the U.S. Congress awarded the Women Air Force Service Pilots (WASP) the Congressional Gold Medal. The award is a tribute to the WASP and their extraordinary, contribution to the U.S. military during World War II. On November 9, 2019, Veronica Shields proudly accepted the medal on behalf of Patricia Hanley Shields 43-W-4 and her family as a small token of the nation’s gratitude and pride in the WASP. Sandy Opeka Colonel, USAF, Retired presented the medal.
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 email@example.com.