| 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
"I would climb to the highest hill or on the roof if I didn't have anything else to climb on," Betty said
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"
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"
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
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
Camp Ripley strikes first before wildfire season
Posted: 2017-03-24 10:19 AM
CAMP RIPLEY, Minn. - Every spring Camp Ripley begins its annual controlled burn program to help reduce the risk of wildfire during training.
"Usually the burns are completed every spring before the summer annual training season begins," said Tim Notch, training area coordinator on Camp Ripley. "However, the warmer weather conditions provide a nice opportunity for preventative burns earlier this season."
As in years past Camp Ripley will conduct controlled burns on approximately 13,000 acres of the 53,000-acre military reservation. The burns are done in coordination with the staffs of the Camp Ripley Department of Public Works and the Camp Ripley Environmental Department along with support from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.
Minnesota Guardsman earns recognition through Leads 2 Enlistment program
Posted: 2017-03-23 09:46 AM
DULUTH, Minn. - Pfc. Trevor Nelson received the Minnesota Distinguished Recruiting Ribbon and a Minnesota Recruiting and Retention Battalion medallion for excellence from Command Sgt. Maj. Curtis Serbus, March 18, 2017, at the Duluth Armory. Nelson earned these awards as part of the online referral system, Leads 2 Enlistment for referring four friends who have joined the Minnesota National Guard.
"I talked to some buddies in my school about the Guard. They liked the benefits, so I put their info in the app and let my recruiter take over." said Nelson. "I thought it would be fun to serve with friends and help them figure out their path in life."
Nelson is currently a senior at Cloquet Senior High School and assigned to the Recruit Sustainment Program in Duluth. He attended basic training at Fort Benning in the summer of 2016 with follow-on training in the summer of 2017 to become an infantryman.
Litchfield and Local Veteran Honor Gen. John Vessey at Armory Open House
Posted: 2017-03-10 08:50 AM
LITCHFIELD, Minn. -Bruce Cottington, a Navy veteran of WWII and Korea, donated a bronze bust of Gen. John W. Vessey, Jr. to the Litchfield National Guard unit during the armory's public open house event March 4. Cottington, a Litchfield resident, commands the Minnesota Chapter of the Veterans of Underage Military Service. VUMS members enlisted in the military prior to the minimum age requirement in order to serve their country during WWII. Cottington received the bust from Vessey, a fellow VUMS member. Both enlisted in the military at the age of 16.
The highlight of the 334th Brigade Engineer Battalion open house was the unveiling of the sculpture. The unit was very supportive when Cottington proposed donating the sculpture. The Litchfield community has always been very supportive of the National Guard over the years, so the open house was a chance to say 'thanks' to their neighbors. "This was a great opportunity to honor Bruce and to honor Gen. Vessey," said B Co., 334th Brigade Engineer Battalion Commander, Capt. Seth Goreham. Bravo Company also has a tight relationship with the local American Legion and VFW. Many Litchfield citizens are former members of Bravo Company, or the unit's predecessors A Co, 682nd Engineer Battalion, and the 849th Mobility Augmentation Company.
Camp Ripley welcomes new command sergeant major
Posted: 2017-03-08 03:29 PM
CAMP RIPLEY, Minn. - The garrison command team of Camp Ripley, family, friends and colleagues from the Minnesota National Guard attended a Change of Responsibility ceremony between Command Sgt. Maj. Mike Worden and Command Sgt. Maj. Matt Erickson, March 5, 2017, at Camp Ripley.
The ceremony was an official "passing of the sword" from one senior noncommissioned officer to the next and assumption of the duties and responsibilities that go along with the position of Garrison Command Sergeant Major.
As with many military ceremonies those in attendance welcomed Erickson as a new member of the team and bid farewell, recognized and thanked Worden for his service.