WASP Documentarian Erin Miller
I'm talking today to Aaron Miller. Now, Erin is not a pilot, but she is the granddaughter of a wasp that's women's airforce service pilots, and she has a fascinating story to tell. So Aaron, thank you so much for being with us today. Thank you for having me your welcome so What I'd like is for you to to share with us what what your grandmother has shared with you about her flying story, and then we'll get to your story of how you how you made things right for your grandmother. But can you tell us how she got her starting aviation? So. My Grandmother. Elaine. Dan. For harmon was born in Baltimore Maryland in Nineteen nineteen and she grew up in the city and was born at home in her house. And had two siblings and was very independent. sporty did a lot of rotor bike and very athletic growing up and she attended the University of Maryland in College Park. Maryland for college. and. She did lots of activities there as well. She was a cheerleader she was on the rifle team swim team. She was in a sorority in all kinds of things very active and her senior year of college. She saw an advertisement in the school newspaper for the civilian. Pilot Training. program. Which I'm sure your listeners are familiar with but it was a program in the nineteen thirties to have more people in the United States prepare to get a pilot's license and Senate was I guess subsidized by the US government and it was offered through a lot of universities and university. Of Maryland was one of them. And Anyway. So they had an advertisement for this program where you could learn how to fly and it costs thirty five dollars. Or forty dollars and you got thirty five hours of flight training and ground school and whatever. So my grandma thought that would be cool. So she applied and at the time which doesn't sound like a big deal you're signing up for a class nowadays. But back, then if you were a woman, they only accepted one woman for every ten men in the class. So you kind of had to I don't I never asked her if there were comp competition about this or she just happened to be the only woman that applied I don't really know but anyway. So, she asked her dad for the money and she also had to get a permission slip signed because she was female and under the age of twenty one and not married. So her dad had to sign a permission slip and that's how she initially took pilot training lessons West, through this program at the University of Maryland. Very. Cool. So after she got her thirty five hours, did she continue to fly on her own? Not Really she I think she did a little bit but she basically that was in nineteen, hundred forty, sue her last year of college. She got her pilot's license and then not too long after that, she got married in the summer of nineteen forty one. To my grandfather, and then as your listeners I'm sure. Well, aware six months later Pearl Harbor happened. So I don't think you flying around was generally something that happened. A Lot. So at that point, my grandmother and grandfather were moving around a lot to support the war effort they lived in Ohio at one point for a while and we're kind of working at different places. And and so how did she get back into? So in nineteen, forty, three, I believe there was an big. The Women Airforce Service pilots kind of became newsworthy and there was a little bit of news about them. Newsreel. The old newsreels are in life magazine, and so my grandmother heard about this program called the WAAS. And thought she could apply and she asked my grandfather. If he thought it would be a good idea and he thought it would be a great idea for her. So she applied and she kind of didn't really think she would get in because she really the most she had done was that civilian pilot training program she didn't have a lot of hours. And she kind of applied and thought oh well, we'll see what happens but they accepted her. So that's how she ended up becoming one of the Watson. Then she started training in April of Nineteen, forty four where did she go for Carini? She was in sweetwater Texas Avenger field, which is in western Texas. About an hour west of Abilene Texas. Now. Did your grandfather go there with her when she went there No. So my grandfather was an engineer and he later became a patent attorney, but he was not in the service because he had a physical defect so he was So, he couldn't serve in the army. But he was I think recruited I would say by a company to actually manufactured airplane parts called Jack and Heintz which some people may not because I've seen their parts in the in the warbirds He got sent to Asia to work on a plan to repair aircraft for the US military in theater in the Pacific. So the planes didn't have to be sent back to the continental United States to be repaired to save time. So he got sent over there to work on that program as a civilian, and so he was gone during this time when she was trainy. tweet water. Aircraft was she trained in? So she was trained on I think they were all trained on basic plane. So things like the the steersman PT, seventeen, eighteen, nineteen, eighty, sixes, bt, Thirteen's neither all planes that she was training on. And what did she eventually flawed she I assume she was multi current and flew a lot of different airplanes as wasp. Yes. So all the WAAS flu lots of different planes and there were groups of wasps that were trained to fly every plane that was produced during World War Two from little trainer planes all the way up to be twenty nine bomber. So not every wasp was trained to fly every plane obviously but they're little groups trained to fly like you know pursuit crafter bombers or whatever. So. She was trained to fly bt thirteen's to train men in instrument training. So that was her job after she graduated. So she was transferred to Nellis Air. Base. In Las Vegas. And with her best friend from the WAAS Maggie Gee and Magnesia was to- target pilot in Las Vegas. So they were transferred there and my grandma trained men on instrument training in the thirteen. And she was also has some time as a co-pilot on the B seventeen.