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Posted 12/1/2006 Printable Fact Sheet
Dora Dougherty Strother
Dora Dougherty, third from left in front of B-29 "Ladybird" with Lt. Col. Paul W. Tibbets, Jr. (left), Dorothea Johnson (2nd from left) and B-29 crew. (U.S. Air Force photo)
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Dr. Dora Dougherty Strother's career flying for the military began in 1942 when she entered the Women's Airforce Service Pilot (WASP) program as a member of Class 43-W-3. Her piloting jobs included flight training, target-towing for anti-aircraft gunnery, ferrying and radio control piloting. Established primarily to relieve male pilots who were needed in combat roles, the WASPs flew almost every type of plane used by the Army Air Forces, including liaison, training, cargo, fighters, attack bombers, dive bombers and very heavy bombers.

During their flying careers in World War II, the ladies lived a military style of life and expected to eventually become commissioned as officers in the Army Air Forces. That action was never approved by the U.S. Congress, however. A total of 38 women pilots in the WASP program were killed in service, while drawing $250 a month as "Army employees."

Dora Dougherty and Dorothea Johnson were chosen by Lt. Col. Paul W. Tibbets Jr. (the pilot of the Enola Gay) to demonstrate how reliable the B-29 was to fly. At the time, both women were assigned to Eglin Army Air Field flying target towing missions for pursuit plane gunnery practice. The WASPs were given just three days training at Birmingham, Ala., to learn how to fly the very heavy bomber. After several check rides -- there was an actual engine fire on the first one -- the women and Lt. Col. Tibbets flew the B-29 to Alamogordo, N.M., where it was christened "Ladybird." The aircraft also featured "Fifinella," the official WASP mascot designed by Walt Disney, as nose art. The two WASPs flew "safety and reliability" demonstrations with no other pilots aboard until the Army Air Forces General Staff ordered a halt to the flights fearing the bad publicity of an accident.

As a psychologist working for Bell Helicopter, Dr. Strother had the responsibility for human factors engineering research for development of helicopter cockpits. Prior to her position with Bell, she worked for the Martin Aircraft Co. and the University of Illinois, mostly in human engineering roles.

During her flying career, Dr. Strother held a transport pilots certificate, a commercial rating in single and multi-engine airplanes plus being licensed to fly rotorcraft and gliders. In January 1961 she set two women's records in rotorcraft. Both records -- one for altitude, the other for point-to-point distance -- stood until 1966.

Dr. Strother has a Ph.D. from New York University, an M.S. from the University of Illinois, a Ph.B. from Northwestern University and an A.A. degree from Cottey College in Missouri.

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