Courtesy of Natalie Himmel
Today’s #VeteranOfTheDay is Women Airforce Service Pilots Veteran Catherine Vail Bridge. Catherine served during World War II.
Catherine grew up in Oakland, California. Her interest in aviation began when a boyfriend took her on a flying date. “It was a brand new experience,” Catherine said in an interview with the Veterans History Project, “Here I was up at 3000 feet… and looking down I’d see these great big airliners below us that looked as big as toys. It’s an entirely different orientation. So when I had chance to learn how…I signed up.”
Catherine joined the Civilian Pilot Training Programs as well as the flying club at University of California, Berkley, where she attended college. By the attack on Pearl Harbor, she had already gotten her license. When her father told her a woman named Jacqueline Cochran, who would later found the Women Airforce Service Pilots program, was recruiting pilots, Catherine flew to Washington, D.C., and became her private secretary. Soon, Catherine transitioned from a secretary to a pilot, becoming part of the first group of women in history to be trained to fly American military aircraft. 5th Ferrying Division
During the war, Catherine worked in the 5th Ferrying Division, ferrying special equipment across the United States for Air Transport Command. She flew more than1000 hours during her service. She admits her life’s biggest disappointment came when the WASPs were deactivated in December 1944.
In 1977, the G.I. Bill Improvement Act recognized Women Airforce Service Pilots as Veterans, and, in 1984, each WASP was awarded the World War II Victory Medal.
Thank you for your service, Catherine!
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Veterans History Project
This #VeteranOfTheDay profile was created with interviews submitted to the Veterans History Project. The project collects, preserves, and makes accessible the personal accounts of American war Veterans so that future generations may hear directly from veterans and better understand the realities of war. Find out more at http://www.loc.gov/vets/.