/*********************************************** * Chrome CSS Drop Down Menu- (c) Dynamic Drive DHTML code library (www.dynamicdrive.com) * This notice MUST stay intact for legal use * Visit Dynamic Drive at http://www.dynamicdrive.com/ for full source code ***********************************************/
History
Minnesota National Guard
Betty Strohfus: A Tale of Love at First Flight

For Elizabeth (Betty) Strohfus, World War II pilot from Faribault, Minn, seeing the world from above had always been a great love of hers Even as a child, Betty could regularly be found climbing to discover new heights

Download photos
"I would climb to the highest hill or on the roof if I didn't have anything else to climb on," Betty said

First Flight

While working in the local courthouse, a man came in talking about flying Seeing her interest, he asked if she would like to accompany him on a flight

"I could get above all this beautiful world and see what God created?" she remembers thinking

"He went up 3,500 feet into a spin, turned around and looked, and I asked, "˜One more time?'" Betty said

After ten "˜one more times,' he stopped looking around Looking a little green, he landed the airplane

"He said "˜You know, whatever you do, you have to take up flying Every other person I take up flying and did a spin, they get sick You're the only one who's made me sick,'" Betty said "I had a ride in an airplane and fell in love with flying It was love at first flight"

Sky Club

From that point on, Betty could be found hanging around the local airport waiting to catch a ride from one of the 15 men in the Sky Club

"Of course, at that time there weren't any women in the Sky Club," Betty said "I used to go out there and do a little sweeping, and I'd just hang around because if somebody needed ballast in the backseat, I'd be it"

When one of the Sky Club members joined the United States Army Air Corps, Betty was invited to take the club vacancy The only hurdle Betty had to jump with accepting the position was that it cost $100

"I thought, "˜Gee, I've never seen $100 in one piece in all my life' I was making $50 a month," Betty said "This was in 1942, and my father had passed away My mom was trying to keep the house together, and we didn't have much money to spend"

The one purchase Betty had been able to make was a bicycle

"I had a bicycle for transportation I got out of high school in 1939, and went and bought a bicycle as soon as I got a job," Betty said "In those days we didn't have a telephone, we didn't have a car, we made our own fun When we wanted to go somewhere, we could only go as far as a bicycle would go"

Betty's bicycle took her much farther than she ever expected the day she went to the bank to ask for a loan of $100

"I said, "˜I'm going to start to fly' He said, "˜Oh, women don't fly' I said, "˜This one is going to,'" Betty recalls "He never said a word He got the papers, put my bike down for collateral, and co-signed my loan He knew we were poor, but he also knew we were honest people I got my $100 and joined the Sky Club"

Joining the 14 men, Betty fit right in as a little sister

"The fellas were so good to me In fact, it was almost embarrassing, because if I was going on a cross country [flight] they would follow me to make sure I didn't get lost," Betty said "Those years we didn't have the navigation situation like they have today We only had five instruments in our airplane"

Women Air Force Service Pilots

World War II started unexpectedly for the United States, requiring all of the experienced pilots in the military to become combat pilots The Women Air Force Service Pilots (WASP) organization was formed, and asked women to become pilots to relieve the men on the home front 25,000 women applied, while only around 1,900 aspiring pilots were selected for the training

"I didn't even know 25,000 women had applied for it I had no idea," Betty said "I just knew I had to fly airplanes"

Betty left her home in Faribault, Minn to travel down to Sweetwater, Tex for training with her sister Mary and one other woman from her town

"When we went into the Service, we took the oath of the military, under orders at all times," Betty said "We flew the airplanes of the service, and we thought we were to be a part of the Air Force"

With the military exhausting all resources for the war efforts, the WASPs acquired recycled uniforms from the English military following their flight training in Sweetwater

"If you got to the laundry in time, you would get one that [fit] Otherwise, they would be too big We'd have to pull them up and tuck them in," Betty said "But we didn't care, we wanted to fly airplanes We didn't care what they gave us to wear"

Unlike the males' uniforms, the females required consideration for their long hair

"When we got in the airplane, our hair would flow in the back and they always felt that it would [distract] the [male instructors] in the back seat," Betty said, "so we had to wear turbans"

While the males were trained to pilot specific aircraft, the females had the opportunity to fly all the aircraft

"Being they didn't know what to do with us, we flew them all," Betty said "So we were knowledgeable about all the planes"

Being experienced with more aircraft, Betty was able to assist with other pilot's flight missions

"I was always on the flight line, because I just loved to fly I was only supposed to fly four hours a day, as well as the fellas," Betty said "After four hours, I would go back to see if someone wanted me to finish their missions"

Marriage Proposal

Even though flying military missions was a great passion of Betty's, she considered leaving the Service for an offer of marriage

"I had a guy back home who came to see me," Betty said "He said, "˜Now you see that you can fly all those airplanes, now come home and get married You flew all those airplanes, and I have an airplane'"

Having a small 65 horsepower airplane, he convinced Betty to move home

"I went in to see our CEO," Betty recalls "She said, "˜If you want to resign, that is up to you, but before you sign this slip, I want you to get a flight on that AT-6'"

"I got a flight on that AT-6, I come down and called that boy [to tell him] I'm not coming home," Betty said "He said "˜if you don't come home, I'm going to marry somebody else' I said, "˜Go ahead' He did, and we both lived happily ever after"

Seeing Betty's commitment and passion for flying on a daily basis, Betty was selected to become an instructor

"I was an instrument flying instructor," Betty said "I instructed the [male] pilots before they went overseas"

Following the war, the WASPs were relieved from duty Although Betty returned home, started a family, and worked many jobs away from a cockpit, she never forgot her first love of flight

Today, Betty is a member of the Minnesota Aviation Hall of Fame, and has traveled to 24 of the United States since 1992 telling her story

A special thanks to Army Aviation Association North Star Chapter for sponsoring Betty's visit to St Paul, Minn on July 28, 2009

by Sgt Jodi Krause, Minnesota National Guard Public Affairs
August 5, 2009


**UPDATE**
A birthday celebration is being held at the Elks Lodge in Faribault, MN (131 Lyndale Ave N - (507) 334-9811) on Sunday, Nov 15 from 2-4 pm

July 28, Betty Strohfus: A Tale of Love at First Flight - Low Res

MPR News Article: 65 years later, female WWII test pilots finally recognized

MPR Video: WWII test pilot Elizabeth Strohfus, one of the few WASPs





Articles archive

In The News archive

Media Advisory archive

Latest News

Fourteen Soldiers. Twelve States. One Competition.

Posted: 2017-07-16  09:45 PM
ARNG BWC One Soldier (junior enlisted) and one NCO (non-commissioned officer) will emerge at the top at the Army National Guard's Best Warrior Competition held at Camp Ripley, Minn., July 17-20, 2017, and move on to represent the Guard in the All-Army Best Warrior Competition in October.

The competitors have been conducting last-minute training since July 12 at Camp Ripley by honing their skills on various weapons, maintaining their physical strength and endurance, and reviewing military tasks.

"I'm feeling very confident," said Cpl. Joseph Garback, a cannon crewmember with B Co., 1st Battalion, 114th Infantry, 50th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, New Jersey National Guard. He's been preparing with the other Region 1 competition winner, Sgt. Zachary Scuncio. Garback says he has really liked the hands-on preparation at Camp Ripley and believes he's had an ample amount of time to prepare.



Minnesota-based Combat Aviation Unit Soars into Battle Phase of Bilateral Training Exercise

Posted: 2017-07-16  09:52 AM
34th CAB CAMP ATTERBURY, Indiana - More than 140 Soldiers of the Minnesota National Guard's 34th Combat Aviation Brigade have established a presence at Camp Atterbury, Indiana, where they are supporting and engaging in high-level military operations and synchronization training.

Members of the St. Paul, Minnesota-based aviation unit, which is adept at providing a wide spectrum of aviation support, recently dove into the battle phase of the bilateral training exercise Talisman Saber 17. Throughout the exercise, much of their training will focus on air-ground integration -- or synchronizing aviation operations into the scheme of maneuver planned and conducted by forces on the ground.



Camp Ripley to host National Guard Best Warrior Competition

Posted: 2017-07-10  10:50 AM
Minnesota National Guard FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 10, 2017

CAMP RIPLEY, Minn.- Fourteen soldiers from 12 states, representing seven Army National Guard regions will compete July 17-20 at Camp Ripley in the Army National Guard's
Best Warrior Competition.

"This competition will test the soldiers' ability to perform tasks that are vital to our ability to fight and win our nation's wars," said Command Sgt. Maj. Douglas Wortham, senior enlisted advisor for the Minnesota National Guard. "We will push them to their limits to test their endurance, strength and resilience - qualities that our soldiers must possess to be successful."

The four-day competition will feature several events to test the soldiers both physically and mentally. The soldiers will demonstrate their proficiency with weapons, their physical strength and endurance, their ability to perform military tasks and their ability to put their knowledge to use under pressure.



National Guard Best Warriors to compete in road march around Lake Itasca

Posted: 2017-07-07  09:18 AM
Minnesota National Guard FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 7, 2017

PARK RAPIDS, Minn.- Fourteen National Guard Soldiers from 12 states will be competing July 17-20, at Camp Ripley in the Army National Guard Best Warrior Competition. As part of the competition, the soldiers will complete a road march around Lake Itasca the morning of July 20, ending at the Mary Gibbs Mississippi Headwaters Center.

Members of the local media and the public are invited to cheer on the soldiers as they finish the road march. Well-wishers can come to the Mary Gibbs Welcome Center, 36750 Main Park Drive, Park Rapids, MN, 56470, on Thursday, July 20, at 8:00 a.m. and are encouraged to bring signs or flags to line the route to the finish line.

The soldiers will be marching on public and private land around Lake Itasca. Wilderness Trail will be temporary closed for a portion of the event. The march route will pass by the Pine Ridge Campground and may be visible to campers there.



Article archive
 
top