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Strohfus tells of her time as a WASP

Lake City Historical Society sponsored a presentation by World War II veteran Elizabeth Strohfus in celebration of Women's History Month. Julie Plank from Frontenac helped arrange the WWII WASP's visit after meeting her at a 2006 air show in Red Wing.

Elizabeth Wall Strohfus served as a WASP -- Women Airforce Service Pilot -- one of an select group of young women trained to fly military planes between 1942 and 1944.

"When I heard there was an organization planning to train the first women to fly military aircraft, I signed up!" the World War II veteran said. "You could either have 35 hours of flying time or a pilot's license.

"Heck, I didn't have the money to get a license so I got my 35 hours of flying time and headed down to Sweetwater, Texas where we took our training."

Stohfus spoke Tuesday in Lake City in honor Women's History Month.

"This was a wonderful treat to have Elizabeth Strohfus come and share her memories," said Donis Boss, president of Lake City Historical Society.

After receiving her silver wings, Strohfus was assigned to Las Vegas Army Airfield and began training gunners.

"I had such a good time training gunners -- I scared the hell out of them," she said with a laugh.

Women were trained to ferry aircraft from manufacturing plants to military bases. The WASPs also tested planes to ensure they were safe for the soldiers to fly into battle. They were never assigned to combat, but they did face risks.

"If a plane had received some kind of damage or had a mechanical problem the women flew the plane to check it out before the fellows flew them," Strohfus said. "You see, we were dispensable but the fellas weren't. It was a war and they had to get there safely."

Strohfus flew B-17s and four engine bombers as a co-pilot. She also towed targets for anti-aircraft artillery practice.

"For the gunners I had a great big tow rope behind the B-26 and behind the tow rope was a great big sleeve about 15 feet long," she said. "The fellas would shoot at that with real ammunition.

"They missed me," she said. "There were a few accidents, but I never got hit."

Strohfus, who will be 90 years old in November, began traveling across the United States giving presentations on her military service in 1992.

"No one really knew about us until 1992," Strohfus. "The military sealed the records of the women pilots in 1944 because they didn't want people to know about us."

Strohfus has been invited to be one of the Eagles at Maxwell Air force Base in Montgomery, Alabama this June.

"This is where all the big guys go, George Bush, all the astronauts -- and me," Strohfus said.