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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

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"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





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Minnesota's Beyond the Yellow Ribbon Program to be recognized on State Fair Military Appreciation Day

Posted: 2016-08-26  03:01 PM
Minnesota National Guard FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 26, 2016

ST. PAUL, Minn.- The sixth annual Military Appreciation Day at the Minnesota State Fair presented by USAA on Tuesday, August 30, will recognize Minnesota's Beyond the Yellow Ribbon program and provide an educational opportunity for all fairgoers to learn about Minnesota's military community.

"Veterans, active duty service members, and military families deserve our immense gratitude for their sacrifice and commitment," said Governor Mark Dayton. "Since 2008, over 290 cities, counties, businesses and non-profits have joined Minnesota's "Beyond the Yellow Ribbon" program, and are now providing community support and employment assistance to veterans and military families. I thank these organizations for their leadership, and encourage all Minnesotans to thank and support our military heroes."

A 10:00 a.m. program at the Minnesota State Fair's Leinie Lodge Bandshell will celebrate Minnesota's Beyond the Yellow Ribbon program. The program will conclude at 10:25 a.m. with a historic flyover of World War II-era P6 and B25 aircraft.



Willmar-based National Guardsmen to return home Saturday

Posted: 2016-08-25  03:26 PM
Minnesota National Guard FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 25, 2016

ST. PAUL, Minn.-

More than 150 Soldiers from the Minnesota Army National Guard's 682nd Engineer Battalion will return to Willmar Saturday following a mobilization in support of Operation Spartan Shield.

"The Soldiers of Task Force Wild excelled in their mission, and were recognized across the theater for their hard work and dedication," said Lt. Col. Keith Ferdon, battalion commander. "I couldn't be prouder of how our Soldiers represented the State of Minnesota."

The mission of the Task Force was to provide horizontal and vertical engineer construction in support of coalition forces in the region. The Soldiers oversaw the planning and execution of 285 construction projects with an approximate total value of 20.2 million dollars in seven countries: Afghanistan, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon and the United Arab Emirates.



Minnesota Identification Card will no longer grant access to Department of Defense installations

Posted: 2016-08-19  01:53 PM
Minnesota National Guard FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 19, 2016

ST. PAUL, Minn.- With the implementation of the "REAL ID Act" going into effect at Department of Defense installations nationwide, access will no longer be granted to Minnesotans carrying standard state-issued identification cards. Beginning this week, Minnesota residents will be required to have an approved escort or use alternative forms of identification to access the following installations:

- 133rd Airlift Wing, St. Paul
- 148th Fighter Wing, Duluth
- 934th Joint Base, Minneapolis
- Military Facility at Fort Snelling

Without a 'Real ID,' access will be granted only to individuals with an approved escort (i.e. a service member with a Common Access Card), or carrying one of the approved alternative forms of acceptable ID.



General John W. Vessey, Jr. - The 10th Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff

Posted: 2016-08-19  08:22 AM
Gen. John W. Vessey Jr. General John W. Vessey, Jr., a former member of the Minnesota National Guard's 34th Red Bull Infantry Division and the 10th Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, passed away August 18, 2016, at the age of 94.

General John W. Vessey, Jr. was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on 29 June 1922. He enlisted in the Minnesota National Guard in May 1939 while still in high school, becoming a member of Headquarters, 59th Field Artillery Brigade, 34th Infantry Division. He was only 16 and fibbed about his age to join. With other members of his unit he was called to active duty in February 1941. When war came, the 34th became the first American division sent to Europe, where it initially fought in North Africa and then in Italy. A natural leader, Vessey rose quickly in the enlisted ranks until 6 May 1944 when, pinned down on the Anzio Beachhead amidst high casualties, the 21-year old battery first sergeant was given a battlefield commission and sent forward to direct artillery fire.

Vessey decided to stay in the Army after war. During his first 30 years of military service, he spent most of his time in combat divisions. In addition to his World War II assignment with the 34th Red Bull Infantry Division in North Africa and Italy, Vessey served with the 4th Infantry Division and 3rd Armored Division in Germany, the 25th Infantry Division in Vietnam and was commanding general of the 4th Infantry Division (Mechanized) at Fort Carson, Colorado.

He attended the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College, the Armed Forces Staff College, and the Industrial College of the Armed Forces. He also graduated from the University of Maryland. His love of flying prompted him to earn his wings, which he always wore proudly. When he graduated from the Army Helicopter School in 1970, he was 15 years older than the next oldest student.



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