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"It didn't matter to us that we didn't have those [military privileges]. First, we were doing something that we loved to do. And also, we were helping our country. And we knew they really needed us." (Video Interview, 15:25)

   Mildred Darlene Tuttle Axton
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Mildred Axton [2003]
War: World War, 1939-1945
Branch: WASP (Women Airforce Service Pilots)
Service Location: Pecos, Texas
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Mildred "Micky" Axton considers herself very lucky to have had her childhood dream of flying fulfilled when a neighbor, a barnstorming pilot, took up her and her brother for rides. She graduated from Kansas State University and joined the Civilian Pilot Training Program, which led to her volunteering for the WASP. Her main duty, in the isolated West Texas outpost of Pecos, was to test planes, replacing men grateful for the chance to apply their flying skills in combat. Axton left behind a husband, who worked in an aircraft plant, and an infant, whom her mother agreed to care for. Her brother was a flier, too, in the Pacific Theater, where he survived being shot down and spending 14 hours in shark-infested water. Her career in the WASP was cut short when her mother took ill and she had to resign to care for her and the child.

Interview (Video)
»Interview Highlights  (7 clips)
»Complete Interview 
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Interview (Audio)
»Interview Highlights  (7 clips)
»Part 1 | Part 2 
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Download: audio(2) (94 min.)
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 Video (Interview Excerpts) (7 items)
Her first sighting of a plane, when she was five years old, sparked an interest in flying; lucky that she lived near a barnstorming pilot, who took her and her brother for rides. . (02:00) The origins of the WASP; in 1940, she had just graduated from Kansas State; she applied and was accepted into Civilian Pilot Training Program; number of licensed women pilots jumped tremendously in that year; how her major in chemistry got her a teaching job in junior college. (02:50) First group of women pilots serving in England before the WASP were formed; how the WASP had even more training than the men, learning to fly a variety of assignments in many different planes. (01:44)
WASP sent home after flying 60 million miles; they had no insurance; their private insurance canceled because of the danger of their work; though they had no official rank, they were treated as officers and allowed to patronize the officers' club; had to take up a collection to ship home the body when one of their comrades was killed in an accident; variety of duties, including ferrying planes around the country. (02:26) Around the time she was accepted into WASP, heard from her brother, who was flying in the Pacific, about the horrific loss of planes there; had to leave her baby with her parents when she went off to serve in the WASP; she knew she was needed and prayed that she would graduate; two women killed in a training accident; the rest were told to fly the next day and one refused, so she washed out. (02:09) Loved her work testing aircraft better than flying across the country; one man they replaced said he'd rather face then enemy than test planes; difficulties in testing planes at the field in Texas with strong crosswinds; gaining the trust of the men by being the only people doing the testing. (02:36)
Considers WASP pioneers, given the limitations on women at that time; a woman with an able-bodied husband could not hold down a job; admires women who currently fly tanker planes which refuel flights in mid-air. (02:27)  
 Audio (Interview Excerpts) (7 items)
As far as she knew, she was the only WASP with a young baby at home; had to leave her husband, whom she had known from the third grade; parents appreciated the need for service, as her brother in the Pacific was flying fighters converted from bombers; husband was building airplanes which were desperately needed for training; he wanted to be a pilot, too. (02:33) Going to train in Sweetwater, "a godforsaken place;" local women packed the parachutes for the WASP, who trusted they did the job right; layout of the runways was north-south so they did a lot of cross-wind landings, which were dangerous. (02:39) Memorizing the check-in procedure; in training, you have to call those steps back to your instructors; men they replaced as test pilots were tickled to be able to get into combat; one told her if he had to die, he'd rather it be in combat with a little glory than in Texas testing a plane; some mechanics they worked with were washed-out pilots; men could wash out and still stay in service, but washed-out WASP had to leave. (02:43)
Brother was shot down by anti-aircraft fire; bleeding and in the water for 14 hours; was rescued; she was first woman to speak to graduating Navy and Marine pilots, in 1990. (02:13) When her mother took sick and couldn't take care of Axton's baby, she had to resign from the WASP; she did get to fly a B-25 on her way home; still flying in her 70s, despite high blood pressure. (00:54) When her mother took sick and couldn't take care of Axton's baby, she had to resign from the WASP; she did get to fly a B-25 on her way home; still flying in her 70s, despite high blood pressure. Part 2 (01:18)
Early training site was in Houston; when it was switched to Sweetwater, the people there lined the roads near the air field waiting for the planes and making bets on how many would get lost and how many would crash; a lot of people lost money, as all the planes made it safely. (01:31)  

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  October 26, 2011
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