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"Teaching had always been a woman's profession and so consequently there wasn't that much objection, and the men wanted to go to combat anyway." (Audio Interview, 15:21)

   Ethel Meyer Finley
Collection image
Ethel Meyer Finley in uniform [1943]
War: World War, 1939-1945
Branch: WASP (Women Airforce Service Pilots)
Service Location: Winona, Minnesota; Sweetwater, Texas; Randolph Field, Texas; Love Field, Dallas, Texas; Maxwell Field, Alabama; Shaw Field, South Carolina
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Minnesota-born Ethel Meyer Finley began her flying career while at Winona Teachers’ College in September 1940, when she was accepted into the Civilian Pilot Training Program. Aviation pioneer Max Conrad offered her a job operating a link trainer, the forerunner to the simulator of today, which allowed pilots to establish aircraft instrument proficiency without leaving the ground. In December 1942, she was invited to join the WASP and was part of the fifth class to be trained in Sweetwater, Texas. She eventually flew as co-pilot transporting generals and other non-flying personnel, test-piloted planes after they were repaired, and taught pilots as part of a squadron of male instructors. In 21 months of active service, Finley logged a total of 1074 hours in the air. (NOTE: The transcript in this collection is from a 1998 interview with the veteran; the digitized interview was conducted in 2004.)

Interview (Audio)
»Interview Highlights  (3 clips)
»Complete Interview 
Download: audio (36 min.)
»Photo Album  (2 photos)
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 Audio (Interview Excerpts) (3 items)
Her experience with the Civilian Pilot Training Program, beginning in September 1940; got her license in November; was attending Winona Teachers' College; Jacqueline Cochran had suggested a program like the WASP to the President and First Lady even before the U.S. involvement in WWII. (01:04) Her training in Sweetwater, Texas; she was in the fifth WASP class; training in UC-78s, the "bamboo bomber," made of wood and fabric; jokes that some accidents might have been caused by termites; assigned to Ferry Command at Love Field in Dallas, then to the Southeast Training Command in Alabama; sent to South Carolina to test repaired planes; teaching men to fly from the back seat; didn't encounter much objection from her students to being taught by a woman. (04:10) Disbanding the WASP in December 1944; casualty rates in combat had not been as high as anticipated, so there was an oversupply of male pilots; bill to militarize the WASP failed; inaccurate accusations by commentator H.V. Kaltenborn that women were taking men's jobs; Hap Arnold praising the WASP just before they disbanded. (02:38)

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  October 26, 2011
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