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95-year-old Norwalk woman recounts time in WASP

By Caitlen Cameron • Feb 28, 2018 at 12:00 PM

Some may walk away from serving their country for fear of getting hurt or being in danger but, Thelma Miller says “why not.”

“I received a lot of lash back from my family and friends, who thought I was crazy for going so far away since, back in the 40’s Texas was far away from Ohio. I don’t think the feedback was hurtful but they were definitely worried.

“I just wanted to go to serve my country and help, so I said ‘why not.’” Miller said. 

Thelma Miller, 95, of Norwalk, signed up through a series of letters and interviews to serve her country during World War two and was eventually deployed in 1944 where she helped to transport supplies and possibly soldiers to and from different bases. 

For anyone to apply to the wasp program they had to have a minimum of 35 flight hours but when Miller applied she had about 200. 

“At the time it’s what they were really looking for,” Miller said. 

She made it into the WASP 4410 which means, year 1944, and the tenth class that they were training that year.

"In 1942, the United States was faced with a severe shortage of pilots, and leaders gambled on an experimental program to help fill the void: Train women to fly military aircraft so male pilots could be released for combat duty overseas," according to news source NPR. "The group of female pilots was called the Women Airforce Service Pilots — WASP for short.”

While she was located in Mission, Texas, she noted that the climate was pretty different from back home, but she still remembers it like yesterday.

“The grapefruit were huge and the poinsettias were blooming over the doors in the middle of December,” Miller said. 

To her the experience was full of good memories.  

“But then there was the night I almost got killed.” 

Despite her massive experience, Miller was still required to meet a minimum number of training hours. Toward the end, Miller just needed a few more night-time flying hours and to help kill that time her instructor told her to fly the plane in a large loop and then land on the runway.

Miller said conditions were so perfect and the landing was so smooth that the instructor didn't realize they touched the ground for the landing.

Not knowing the plane had landed the instructor pumped an extra 625 horse power into the craft, a potentially dangerous move. Eventually the instructor realized his mistake and that the wheels had already touched the ground before he reacted. After flying around one more loop he instructed Miller to land the plane again.

“I was so mad that I just stood there and looked at him and he said ‘I’m sorry. I thought we were still flying.’ But it’s one of those things that can cost you your life,” she said.

Even though Miller got mad, she didn’t scare easily with the experience. 

“You can’t freak out when you fly, once you’re trained you get farther and farther from that  if you can’t you don’t fly,” Miller said. 

It’s been more than 20 years since Miller has flown a plane. 

“To me it was fascinating, it was fun, it was very hard but we didn’t care.”

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