Betty Jo Reed, Oral History, Part One of Two
This is part one of a two part a video recording of an oral history with Betty Jo Reed. It was conducted on December 3, 2007, on the campus of Texas A&M University-Commerce. The interviewer is Glenn Gainer.
This interview focuses on Betty Jo Reed's service as a member of the Women Air Service Pilots.
Betty Jo Reed was born in Sherman, Texas on June 20, 1923. Her family moved to Des Plaines, Illinois. She graduated from high school in 1942, and got a job with a company that manufactured coils for the guns on B-17s. Reed used some of her pay to take weekly flight lessons in the J-3 Cub. She eventually got a job in the administration building of the Douglas Aircraft Plant where she delivered tooling changes to various departments.
Reed continued to take flight lessons and attended ground school one evening a week. Ground school taught the basics of aviation, including navigation, in order to obtain a private pilot’s license. In July 1943 Reed saw a cover of Life magazine which featured a picture of a woman sitting on the wing of a military aircraft wearing a flight suit. The magazine article described the work of the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP). On July 19, 1943 Reed contacted Jacqueline Cochran at the Pentagon, and told her that she wanted to join the WASPs. In September 1943 Reed was interviewed by Cochran, then received a letter informing her that she had passed the flight physical .
In February 1944 Reed took a train to Avenger Field near Sweetwater, Texas where she began her training, which lasted 7 months, Although 1,800 women had been accepted into the training program, only 1,074 graduated. After graduation, Reed was sent to Columbus, Mississippi to become a part of the Army Air Forces Eastern Flying Training Command unit. Reed became an engineering test pilot which involved participating in test flights and submitting reports about defects in the planes. Although Reed believes that many bases were happy to have the WASPs as a part of the war effort, she noticed tension at Columbus from a large contingency of men who did not like the WASPs. In particular, one of Reed’s male instructors refused work with the female pilots. Following her retirement from the WASPs in January 1944, Reed worked as a corporate pilot for her husband.
Special Collections and University Archives
Reed, Betty Jo and Gainer, Glenn, "Betty Jo Reed, Oral History, Part One of Two" (2013-12-03). All Oral Histories. 40.
World War, 1939-1945; Women air pilots -- United States; Women Airforce Service Pilots (U.S.);
aviators; World War II