WWII pilot Betty Strohfus: 'I want to die with my shoes on and my mouth open'

Liz Strohfus, who goes by "Betty," raised 5 kids and outlived 3 husbands, but this former WWII pilot is still flying high at the ripe age of 95.

Strohfus was a Woman Airforce Service Pilot (WASP) and at age 94 this July, she had a chance to board a B-17 at the AirExpo at Flying Cloud Airport. On Tuesday, Strohfus spoke at the Chandler Place assisted living community on Tuesday in an event to honor military wives and veterans as part of Women's History Month. 

Ever since she was a little girl, Strohfus has had her head in the clouds.

"I always wanted to get high. I have to explain that -- high in altitude. I'd sit on the roof. I'd climb in trees. Shimmy up poles. I just liked to get above it all."

She eventually got her wish and made history in the process. After the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, Strohfus enlisted in 1943 and out of 25,000 applicants. She was one of just 1,800 picked to be a WASP. However, the reactions of their male counterparts often stung.

"Some of them tried to stop us by putting that darn sugar in the gas tanks. That really upset me, but they told me if I told on them, Congress was looking for any reason to shut down our group because they didn't want women flying military aircraft,” Strohfus said.

For the next year and 6 months, Strohfus flew bombers between bases and on training missions. She even successfully lobbied Congress to finally recognize those female pilots as veterans.

"We did help our country, and I wanted to help our country, because it's my country, too. Not just the men's country," she said. 

So far, Strohfus has shared her story in 31 states to shed light on a little known chapter in U.S. history, and she'll continue to do it until she earns her wings on a higher plane.

"I want to die with my shoes on and my mouth open."

More: Betty Strohfus boards another B-17 at 94


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