Betty Jane “BJ” Williams
1919 – December 8, 2008
Class: 44-W-6
Training Location: Avenger Field (Sweetwater, Tex.)
Assigned Bases: Randolph Army Air Base (San Antonio, Tex.)
Planes flown: PT-17, BT-13, AT-6, AT-7, PT-19

Since no one could ever tell her story better, here is Betty’s entry, “in her own words”, from pages 432 and 433 of Betty Turner’s “Out of the Blue and Into History.”

Born and raised in Kingston, Pennsylvania with an older brother and younger sister, I had two loving parents who supported my adventurous activities. As an honor student, avidly pursing an art career, but anxious to learn to fly, I competed with 50 males in the non-college Civilian Pilot Training Program, win a flight scholarship and my pilot’s license in June 1941.

The attack on Pearl Harbor prompted the government to stop all general aviation flying on both coasts. So, to stay in aviation, I applied to Colonial Airlines as a stewardess. (They were the only airline that did not require you to be a registered nurse at that time.) I was hired, trained and began flying in DC-3’s between Montreal, Canada and New York. When the Air Transport Command approached the airlines to establish instrument flight training schools, I was selected to attend Northeast Airlines Pilot Training at the University of Vermont and became a licensed Link trainer instructor, under contract with Wartime Training Service, teaching Navy pilots, airline and commercial pilots instrument flight techniques. A year later when my contract renewal come up, I opted to enter WASP training at Sweetwater, Texas.

Upon graduation, I was assigned as an engineering test pilot, flying single and multi-engine training planes (AT-6, AT-7, AT-10, 10-11, UC-78) as well as the P-40 at Randolph Field, San Antonio, Texas.

After WASP deactivation, I became a commercial pilot, flight instructor and head of instrument ground school for North American Airport Corporation, Westchester County Airport, White Plains, New York, and other airports in the area, 1945-48. During this period, I created, emceed and produced the first aviation network TV show over CBS and NBC, New York.

Subsequently, I moved to California and worked four years for North American Aviation, (now Rockwell-Boeing), as a technical writer, producing the Flight Operations Manual on the B-45, 4-engine jet bomber and Maintenance Manuals on various military aircraft. Wrote and directed a series of films on the F-89 jet fighter, used during the Korean War.

I received a direct commission in Air Force Reserves 1949, and in 1952, during the Korean War, I was called to active duty as a TV writer-producer with the USAF first TV Squadron, pioneering the use of TV for military purposes. I was also the unit’s Public Information Officer. Served 28 years in Air Force Reserves with Sec’y of Air Force, Office of Public Affairs on the West Coast and two years with the Marines in the same specialty. Worked with press, radio, TV and motion picture studios, retiring in 1979 as Lt. Colonel. My final assignment was to produce a TV film re: women now (1977-78) being trained as Air Force Pilots. This gave me an opportunity to inform the public that the WASP were the “first” women military pilots!

For 20 years, I was a motion picture-TV writer, director, producer for Lockheed Sales Promotion Department; subjects covered missiles, F-104, P-3 Orion, L-1011, propjet Electra, many research programs, weapon systems and other tactical aircraft. Films were distributed worldwide in several languages. I produced over 100 films, winning 12 national film awards.

Professional affiliations: one of founding members (1957) Information Film Producers of America. I held several national offices including National President; Los Angeles Advertising Women-President (1965-66); WASP WWII, National President 1948-1949, Editor WASP News 1947, Public Relations Director, 1973-80, Western Regional Director 1988-90; and President, Southern California WASP 1998-99.

Named: “Women of Achievement” by Business and Professional Women 1966; nominated “Outstanding Mobilization Augmentee in Air Force Reserves,” 1974 by the Secretary of the Air Force, Office of Information, Los Angeles, featured in 1976 edition The world’s Who’s Who of Women, Cambridge, England. Selected as “Pioneer Woman of the Year” 1993 by Los Angeles City Council. Inducted into “CINDY Hall of Fame” 1996, one of two people so honored by International Film/TV Producers Association. Inducted into “International Forest of Friendship,” June 1996 for exceptional contributions to aviation.

Lt Col Betty Jane “BJ” Williams is buried at Arlington National Cemetery Section 54, Grave 2972.

Sources:
Courtesy Texas Women’s University in Denton, Texas. WASP Collection.
Arlington National Cemetery
WASP Final Flight
National Air and Space Museum

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