Shirley Chase Kruse 44-W-6 | WASP in the Spotlight 4-28-2023

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.

Shirley has 8 grandchildren and 8 great grandchildren.

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

Written by: Ann Haub | Collections Director
Photos courtesy: National WASP WWII Museum Archives

Archives Contact:

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


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