Gertrude Marcia Wenzel Milner
October 8, 1920 – July 26, 2012
Training Location: Avenger Field (Sweetwater, Tex.)
Planes flown: PT-19, BT-13, AT-6, B-17, B-26, UC-78
Chico Army Air Force Base (Calif.)
Merced Army Air Field (Calif.)
March Army Air Base (Riverside, Calif.)
Hamilton Army Air Field (Bakersfield, Calif.)
Marcia’s love affair with flying began at age 12, when her father took her to an airfield in Bridgeport, Connecticut. While she was still in high school, she began taking flying lessons at Norwalk Airport near her home. By 1939, she had earned her private pilot’s license and a seaplane rating.
During World War II, she learned about the newly created Army Air Forces program to train qualified women pilots on military aircraft to relieve stateside AAF male pilots for combat. She applied for the program, was interviewed in New York City, and was accepted to enter with class 43-W-8. She paid her way to Avenger Field, Sweetwater, Texas and with 97 other women entered training, the same rigorous instruction taught to male pilot candidates. On December 17, 1943, Marcia and 47 classmates graduated. She received her silver wings, the first set to include the lozenge and diamond design in the center. She was a WASP.
She was assigned to Chico Army Air Field, Chico, California as an engineering test pilot, pressing newly designed planes or those with new functionality to the limits of their airframes. Later, she transferred to Merced Army Air Field, California, where she continued the same piloting duties.
She transitioned into flying B-26’s at Las Vegas Army Air Field, Nevada. Then, joined the Tactical School in Orlando, Florida, for pressure tank tests, gas warfare, and jungle survival school. During her service as a WASP, she flew the PT-19, BT-13, AT-6, UC-78, B-26, and BT-17 as co-pilot.
After the WASP were deactivated in December 1944, Marcia worked as a flight instructor in Albany, New York and ferried aircraft for Reconstruction Finance Corporation. She continued flying in her BT-13 and later her Curtiss Fledgling. She maintained her seaplane rating for a Cessna on floats.
She married Philip H. Milner Sr, a business banker. They celebrated their 40th anniversary prior to his death in 1990. They raised one son. She was a resident of Essex, Connecticut; Bedford, New York; Key Largo, Florida; and for the last 47 years, Weekapaug, Rhode Island.
In 2010, for recognition of their service during WWII, the US Congress awarded the WASP, including Marcia, the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest civilian honor bestowed by that body.
Marcia was beloved by her family and is survived by her son and his wife, her granddaughter and grandson, her two great-granddaughters, and her brother. By Nancy Parrish.
“She was a beautiful woman with chestnut hair, a rich, warm smile, and deep blue eyes that displayed a brilliance of mind, tenacity and courage. She would conquer and live her dreams. She would climb into the heavens without fear. She would fly. She was born and lived as a gifted, independent, extraordinary bird — a WASP (Women Airforce Service Pilots).”
— quote from her obituary