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"And when the wheels left the ground, I was thereinafter hooked for the rest of my life." (Video Interview, 3:39)

   Gayle Dora Bevis Reed
Collection image
Gayle Reed [detail from video]
War: World War, 1939-1945
Branch: WASP (Women Airforce Service Pilots)
Unit: 5th Ferrying Group
Service Location: Sweetwater, Texas; Love Field, Dallas, Texas
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Like many other women who served in the WASP, Gayle Bevis joined the Civilian Pilot Training Program first--but to further her education, not because she yearned to fly. However, one flight was all she needed to fall in love with flying. She became a member of the fifth class of the WASP and worked out of Dallas, ferrying planes around the country. She married another pilot who was envious of the variety of planes she was assigned to fly. Her career was cut short when she got out of her plane to check on something and it ran over her and broke her ankle. Six weeks later, the WASP were deactivated.

Interview (Video)
»Interview Highlights  (8 clips)
» Part 1 
Download: video (53 min.)
»Secondary Interview (34 min.)
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 Video (Interview Excerpts) (8 items)
Working for a chemical company as a clerk when she heard about the Civilian Pilot Training Program; her interest was in the classes and not the flying; won a flight scholarship; hooked on flying as soon as her first flight took off, in 1941 at the Kansas City Municipal Airport; built up her flying time bit by bit; Nancy Love and ferrying program; she didn't have enough hours; approached by one of the Ninety-Nines (organization of women pilots founded by Amelia Earhart) to teach WAVES link training (simulated flight); heard about WASP and applied and was accepted; on her 25th birthday, was on a train to Sweetwater, Texas to begin training. (06:26) Not much vanity in training about personal appearance, though she did notice one woman arranging her hair as she put on her helmet; that woman washed out; there were men on the base; borrowing some hangers from a male cadet; had great rapport with first instructor. (03:51) One day, a lot of towering cumulus clouds; entranced to be above the clouds; did acrobatics, and on downside, plunging into a cloud, she recalled that her uncle had told her about getting above the clouds and seeing a halo silhouette around his plane; that was what she saw that day over Texas. (01:27)
On her graduation day, everyone dressed alike; general had come earlier for inspection and they didn't have uniforms; so they got tan pants and wore them with white blouses; the pants became known as "the general's pants;" shows off her Santiago blue WASP uniform jacket. (01:33) Flew a fabric-covered airplane, the UC-78, which they called the Bamboo Bomber; it was tougher to control, especially in the thermals around the mountains in California; her ambition was to fly pursuit; sent to pursuit school in Brownsville; the day she was to solo, she was so entranced with the higher engine power of the plane, she ignored radio calls to come in; practiced "landing on the clouds" because she was concerned about how she would land such a powerful craft; chewed out in morning briefing the next day before the whole squadron for not following instructions. (09:56) [Secondary Interview] When she joined WASP, most girls went into ferrying; wanted to be in Dallas and got it; she thought she would get better airplanes and she did; there are "pilot's planes," the ones that are fun to fly; before or after ferrying, flying on commercial flights--they could bump passengers--or in a bucket seat on a military plane; lots of stops for refueling; her best time to California was six days. (03:33)
[Secondary Interview] What they did for fun at Sweetwater; the camaraderie of the barracks; lack of privacy but keeping some things to themselves; met a cadet there and once separated, they started writing each other every day and they were married in December; she got what she wanted--to fly a lot of good planes--and he didn't--sent to Oklahoma to be a flight instructor. (02:49) [Secondary Interview] How her career was cut short; she made a "little" mistake; checking out a P-63 fighter U.S. was going to give to Russia; flying over Niagara Falls; one day, she didn't set the toggle switch correctly; got out of the plane and it ran over her and broke her ankle; this was on November 12, 1944, and WASP were deactivated on December 20, so she lost six weeks of flying. (04:00) 

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  The Library of Congress  >> American Folklife Center
  October 26, 2011
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