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"We kept our ships in flying condition." (Video Interview, 8:07)

   Phyllis Marie Aloisio Capelle
Collection image
Phyllis Aloisio Capelle [detail from video]
War: World War, 1939-1945
Branch: Marine Corps
Unit: Aviation Women's Squadron 18
Service Location: Marine Corps Air Station, Cherry Point, North Carolina; Naval Aviation Tech Training Center, Memphis, Tennessee; Hunter College, New York
Rank: Sergeant
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During World War II, 21-year-old Phyllis Aloisio was working in a factory but determined she could better help the effort by joining the WACs. Told she was too young, she joined the Marines, and when she tested well enough to become a machinist's mate, she was sent to Memphis for an accelerated course in mechanics. She worked on a wide variety of aircraft and was one of only 13 women during the war to draw flight pay. Discreet about whether she broke regulations by dating officers, she does talk about meeting aviator Charles Lindbergh and sharing a plane with actor turned Marine Tyrone Power. After the war, she wanted to attend aeronautical school but was told no one would hire a woman pilot, so she became a flight attendant for TWA, a job with as many rules and regulations as the military.

Interview (Video)
»Interview Highlights  (8 clips)
» Part 1 
Download: video (29 min.)
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»Wings of War
 Video (Interview Excerpts) (8 items)
Decided to join service when men in her plant began leaving; mother didn't care for her joining; WACs turned her down for being too young, suggested she try the Marines or WAVEs; boot camp at Hunter College in New York. (01:50) Knew about mechanical things and qualified to be machinist's mate; sent to Memphis, a Navy base with many Marines; took a two-year course in six months; 2,000 WAVEs and 56 women Marines there; WAVEs went out with male Marines, female Marines went out with sailors (01:03) Did 30, 60, 90 checks on planes and traveled with them to maintain them; claims to be one of only 13 women who actually drew flight pay during the war; worked on variety of planes until they were made crew chiefs; had to log at least 4 flight hours a month, but she easily exceeded that; shared a plane with Tyrone Power, who dated a girl she knew. (02:35)
Talks about planes she worked and flew on; B-26s were fastest landing plane; once when landing, wind flipped over her plane; she was still hanging upside down inside when a photo was taken; meeting Lindbergh, who was flying a Marine plane; she refueled it. (02:53) After pilots completed their mission quota, they came back to Cherry Point, North Carolina, where she was based; not supposed to date officers; she won't say if she did. (01:16) Staying in touch over the years, started a round robin in 1946; of the 21 girls in the group, 3 have died, and the rest are all over 80; this was the third group of women Marines; she was actually in the second group but had a close girlfriend in the third; stayed in Marine Reserves until 1949. (01:20)
Wanted to go to aeronautical school but was told no one would hire a woman pilot;went to work at TWA as a flight attendant; many rules: could not be married, could not work past 32, could not wear glasses; stationed in Kansas City, then in California; got married at 28; her husband was a Navy veteran, the brother of her flying partner. (02:05) Everyone had her own tool box, and there was a tool room for shared use; when men came back from overseas, they were put on crews under women, but there were no problems; if short a part, male mechanics would try to make another part work, but women would wait for that specific part. (01:10) 

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  October 26, 2011
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