Gathering of Eagles Foundation

Honored as an Eagle in:

2001 2002 2003 2005

Eagle Biography

Florene M. Watson

Florene Miller Watson, one of only 25 women to qualify for the Women's Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron, later known as the Women's Air Force Service Pilots-WASPs, became fascinated with planes at the age of eight. By age 19 she had finished flight school and completed her first solo flight. Watson subsequently received her instructor's rating and was teaching men to fly in the War Training Program in Odessa and Lubbock, Texas when World War II began. Watson turned 21 on 7 December 1941, the day that Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor and soon afterward she volunteered for Army Service. The Army was searching for 50 women with 500 hours of flying time to become aircraft, cargo, and troop ferriers. This was double the standard for men who only needed 250 hours to qualify to be Army Pilots.

The initial Cadre of the Women's Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron (WAFS), whose mission was to perform ferry duty for Air Transport Command, averaged over 1,100 flying hours and were afforded only 4-6 weeks of transitional training to acquaint themselves with military procedures. Their responsibilities included ferrying aircraft from manufacturers' factories to Army Air Force bases, freeing up qualified male pilots for combat and overseas duty. In this respect, the WASPs were often the first to fly these planes, including the Boeing built B-17 Flying Fortress and B-29 Superfortress. Their duties were often hazardous, their training facilities austere, and many of them paid their own way. In 1943, Watson became the first female Commanding Officer of the WAFS/WASPs at Love Field, Texas.

She later served as a pioneer test pilot, and in 1944 tested radar equipment before its operational use. After the war, Watson earned her Master's Degree in Business Administration and was a college educator for 30 years. In 1977, Watson and over 1,000 WASPs were recognized for their service with the Victory Medal. In 1992, she traveled to Washington, DC, to receive an award recognizing the WASPs. She is a member of the Texas Aviation Historical Society, the Ninety-Nines, the Confederate Air Force, the Women's Military Aviators, the WWII WASPs, and serves as National Chaplain of the WASP organization.

Watson has been honored with Distinguished Flying Corps Membership in the Krister Aviation and Space Museum, Amarillo, Texas, and was the first woman to be inducted into the Panhandle Veterans Hall of Fame, August 1996. In 1997, she was invited to dedicate a bronze statue representing the WASPs placed in the Honor Court of the United States Air Force Academy. She was also honored as a "Distinguished Veteran" at the 1997 Air Force Military Ball. Mrs. Watson lives with Chris, her husband of 56 years, in Borger, Texas.

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Lithograph Setting

During WWII, a hand-picked group of young women pilots became military aviation pioneers, national heroes, role models.called Women's Air Force Service Pilots. These ladies flew their way into the annals of women's history as the first women in U.S. history trained to fly American military aircraft. Mrs. Watson was one of the first 25 women to qualify as a WASP. By the end of WWII, she'd flown nearly every type of aircraft used by the U.S. Army Air Force, her favorite being the North American P-51 Mustang.

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