November 27 – Happy Birthday, Dora Dougherty Strother

Posted on November 27, 2016

I knew that WASPs had veteran's benefits – but I didn't know that we could thank Dora Dougherty Strother (among others) for that!

Strother and two other WASPs.
The Woman Airforce Service Pilots existed because of the great demand for military pilots during World War II. The women pilots flew every sort of military aircraft – but in non-combat missions. The goal was to free up the male pilots for combat roles; the women pilots flew aircraft from factories to military bases, towed drones and aerial targets, trained new pilots, and even tested new planes.

Strother, born on this date in 1921, had earned her pilot certificate in 1940 and later became the sixth woman in the U.S. to earn an airline transport pilot license. So when the call went out for WASPs, she was one of the 25,000+ women who applied. Only 1,075 women were accepted into the paramilitary program – and Strother was one of them.

Strother achieved about as much as was possible within her WASP role. She commanded 23 different aircraft and was honorably discharged from the U.S. Air Force in late 1944.

One of the planes that Strother tested, demonstrated, and trained
male pilots on is the Boeing B-29 Superfortress heavy bomber.

She went on to teach flight courses, including at the University of Illinois. She earned her doctorate in Aviation Education in 1955 and was Chief Research Pilot for her university. She went on to design helicopter cockpits and became a test pilot for Bell Helicopter Company. She even set two world records in helicopter flying!
Strother became a member of "Whirly-Girls."

After her wonderful career, which included winning the Amelia Earhart Award, becoming an inductee in the Military Aviation Hall of Fame and the Texas Women's Hall of Fame, Strother put time and effort into making sure that she and other women pilots gained veteran's status and benefits. After all, a whopping 28% of the WASPs made the ultimate sacrifice, dying in training or on duty. They didn't go into combat, but they flew in combat zones and in combat-like situations. The law giving WASPs veteran's status was signed by President Jimmy Carter on Thanksgiving Day in 1977.

Thank you, Dora Strother, for flying so high, achieving so much, and asserting the rights of women to gain fair benefits for their efforts!

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