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BARBARA ERICKSON LONDON

Posted 11/30/2006 Printable Fact Sheet
 
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Gen. Hap Arnold & Barbara Erickson
Gen. Hap Arnold and Barbara Erickson at Avenger Field, Texas, after she was awarded the Air Medal. (U.S. Air Force photo)
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Barbara Jane "BJ" Erickson, of Seattle, Wash., was a sophomore at the University of Washington when she signed up for the Civilian Pilot Training course. Immediately upon graduation she was made an instructor and flew seaplanes as well as landplanes. Upon receiving her telegram inviting her to join the Women's Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron, she broke off in the middle of a class she was teaching and left for New Castle Army Air Field, Wilmington, Del. She was accepted into the program and became the 14th woman to qualify.

Ms. Erickson transferred from New Castle to Long Beach Army Air Base, Calif., and became the commanding officer for all WAFS, and later WASPs, assigned to the 6th Ferrying Group, Air Transport Command.

On March 5, 1943, Ms. Erickson served as copilot for Mrs. Nancy Harkness Love when they ferried a Douglas C-47 from Long Beach, Calif., to Memphis, Tenn.

In a display of stamina and professionalism, Ms. Erickson flew 8,000 miles in the course of 10 days. She left Long Beach, Calif., on July 29, 1943, in a P-51 Mustang, which she delivered to Evansville, Ind. She spent the night there, and on the next day picked up a P-47 Thunderbolt, which she delivered to San Pedro, Calif., on July 31, having spent a night en route. In this instance, she had the fortune to be sent to a delivery point at which aircraft moving west were to be picked up. On Aug. 2 she took off from Long Beach in a C-47 which she delivered to Fort Wayne, Ind. She then proceeded to Headquarters, Ferrying Division, in Cincinnati, Ohio, for temporary duty. On her way home Aug. 7, she reported to Evansville, where she was assigned another P-47 to be delivered to San Pedro. Thus out of 10 days she was able, without undue effort to spend five days ferrying. Her logged time for these days is not available. On the basis of the type of aircraft involved and the mileage as given, she may be estimated to have piled up at least 40 hours -- as much as one of the 2nd Ferrying Group WASPs could have hoped for in a full month. For these flights, Ms. Erickson was awarded the Air Medal, the only one awarded to a WASP during World War II. (Note: More medals were awarded after the war.)

During the first two weeks of August, 1944, the experiment was made of stationing two of the most experienced WASPs, Ms. Erickson and Ms. Florene Miller, at the 3rd Ferrying Group, Romulus, Mich., to fly on the domestic Military Air Transport Service from there to Chicago, Ill. They had to meet all requirements for transport first pilots (i.e. aircraft commanders), including a severe flight check. They flew on the scheduled service from Aug. 2-16. The Military Air Transport Operations Officer at Romulus reported of them:

"These pilots were scheduled on a trip departing Romulus at 0700, which meant they were required to report for duty at 0530. In spite of transportation difficulties, these pilots were never late and they showed an unusual regard for adherence to scheduled operations. With reference to their ability, the fact that they were checked out as first pilots on a scheduled cargo and personnel [passenger] run speaks for itself."

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