Air legend Betty Strohfus dies at 96

Even though the country rectified the wrong it inflicted on hundreds of brave women in World War II, every American should feel a little pang of guilt still that women like Betty Wall Strohfus had to wait so long to be recognized as just as brave and just as honorable as any flyboy.

Strohfus, of Faribault, died this morning. She was one of the first WASPs, the female pilots who ferried airplanes and towed targets for the guys on the ground who couldn’t shoot straight. Some men were so dead set against women as pilots that they put sugar in the planes’ gas tanks.

She quit her job the day after Pearl Harbor and did her part. Part of her job was taking planes up to be sure they were safe enough for men to fly.

That wasn’t good enough for Northwest Airlines, which wouldn’t give her a flying job when the war was over. And it wasn’t good enough for the United States, which wouldn’t recognize her and other women as having been in the military. They were denied benefits that men got until 1977.

Betty Strohfus wanted WASPs to have the right to be buried at Arlington National Cemetery, but it’s not allowed, despite the effort of some politicians to change the rule preventing it.

“It means a lot to me to be treated as the other veterans are treated,” Strohfus said in January. “You know, we haven’t been treated like the other veterans, and I think it’s too bad. We were kind of like the off-shot — if they needed us, they’d come and get us. But otherwise they didn’t really want women to fly.”

Strohfus is survived by several generations of women who fly airplanes, and a country that could be a little more appreciative than it has been.

Related: America said women can’t fly; MN aviator didn’t listen (NewsCut)

  • MrE85
  • MrE85

    Here’s a nice tribute to Betty, posted on her son’s Facebook page:

  • Frederick Beseler

    We’ve lost a National treasure…Happy landings, Liz! Now she belongs to the wind, the sand and the stars….

  • Rob

    A sin and a shame. America, goddamn.

  • Jake

    Unbelievable. This gallant woman has been departed barely a day or so, and this ‘reporter” practically breaks his neck racing to exploit her passing in order to deliver a harangue and lecture about what a terrible and morally flawed country America is. Get in touch with your guilt Minnesota…you and your fellow citizens are terrible people. Sir, go ahead and do a piece on this woman if you wish. But please display a modicum of respect and extend at least a short amount of time to elapse before you lace it with your personal disdain and agitprop pointed against this country. Didn’t know the woman but I doubt that’s what she was about. What a disturbing but telling take on this unfortunate event.

    • I DID know the woman.

      What the post revealed — if you could put down the rose-colored glasses to read it and if you watched the story of her life– is EXACTLY the story Betty told since the ’70s. Exactly the same.It’s told that way in her honor.

      We could’ve and should’ve and STILL SHOULD treat the WASPs better.

      You still have a chance since there are a few WASPs still alive. You can redirect your faux outrage to the worthy goal of showing them the respect they deserve by demanding their right to a final resting place of honor.

      Or you can just troll blogs.

      Your choice.

      We do actual history here. Not mythology.

      It won’t kill you or the country to acknowledge that we can still treat the women of the greatest generation much better.

    • >>Didn’t know the woman but I doubt that’s what she was about.<<

      Yeah, we can tell.

      /Met her a few times (WW2 living History displays and involved with the CAF). Fascinating woman…and Bob has done right by her with this story.

      //The last time I chatted with Betty:

      • What a great photo! I don’t think I ever saw her NOT smiling.

    • Rob

      Huh? Providing the context of this heoic woman’s service, and describing the profound mistreatment she and her fellow WASPs endured from the U.S. military and government, does not constitute exploitation or agitprop.

    • Jack

      You might want to check the News Cut archive before writing next time.