| 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
Woman's Veterans Initiative Shows Major Muscle with Habitat for Humanity Build
Posted: 2015-11-25 09:37 AM
ST. PAUL, Minn. - The Minnesota Women Veterans Initiative (WVI), a group orientated toward networking Minnesota women military members and veterans brought 16 service(wo)men from all services, ages and backgrounds together, November 12, to assist in a Habitat for Humanity build. Eleven of the 16 women are current or former Minnesota National Guardsmen.
"We started celebrating Veterans Day this way in 2008 with Habitat for Humanity and enjoy coming back each year to build," said Trista Matascastillo, program officer for Veterans Voices and chairman for the WVI. "We learn new skills, build our own confidence and make new friends. There are 27,000-plus women vets in Minnesota and so often we hear that women veterans feel isolated and alone and having events like this is just another way to bring us out and together."
The group started in the morning with a brief on the tasks for the day and quickly got to work, going above and beyond by organizing the work-site and making sure there was a high attention to detail.
Empowering Girls and Influencing the Next Generation
Posted: 2015-11-17 10:51 AM
ST. PAUL, Minn. - The Minnesota Air National Guard and the Soroptimist International of the Twin Cities partnered together to present the documentary film 'Girl Rising' at the 133rd Airlift Wing on Saturday, Nov 7 2015.
The event featured a C-130 tour for any of the attendees, which included girls as young as nine. Following the tour, the documentary film 'Girl Rising' was featured and ended with a panel discussion. Topics included overcoming obstacles, mentors and people who have inspired them along the way.
"I think events like this are essential in opening our doors to the community and raising awareness about important issues not only local, but around the world - often these are places many of our wing members have deployed to," said Master Sgt. Theresa Mensinger, Diversity and Inclusion Senior Non-commissioned officer.
Duluth's 148th Fighter Wing has new leader
Posted: 2015-11-16 07:47 AM
DULUTH, Minn. - With the handing-off of the 148th Fighter Wing's flag on Saturday, Col. Jon Safstrom has become the new wing commander.
The Duluth native assumed the leadership role from Col. Frank Stokes, who is leaving Duluth after leading the 148th for more than six years to become chief of current operations at the National Guard Bureau in Arlington, Va.
During Saturday's Change of Command Ceremony at the Minnesota Air National Guard base in Duluth, Stokes passed the flag of the 148th "Bulldogs" to Brig. Gen. David Hamlar, who then passed the flag to Safstrom, symbolizing the accepting of the command.
133AW and Best Buy Corporate join together to support Operation Gratitude
Posted: 2015-11-12 12:51 PM
BLOOMINGTON, Minn. - Airmen from the 133rd Airlift Wing and employees from Best Buy Corporate joined forces to support Operation Gratitude at the Best Buy corporate headquarters in Bloomington, Minn., Friday, Nov. 6, 2015.
Operation Gratitude is a 501(c)(3) non-profit, volunteer-based corporation, funded entirely by private donations. Every year, Operation Gratitude sends more than 150,000 individually-addressed care packages to Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines deployed overseas.
On Friday, more than 30 members from the 133rd Airlift Wing worked side-by-side with employees of Best Buy Corporate to pack bags filled with snacks, small electronics and other items to be shipped to deployed military members overseas. The efforts paid off and the group packed nearly 1,800 bags in under an hour.