Helen Elizabeth McGilvery
May 17, 1917 – August 25, 1948
Training Location: New Castle Army Air Base (Wilmington, Del.)
Planes flown: PT-19, PT-26, BT-13, AT-6, AT-17, AT-9, C-60, P-38, P-40, P-47, P-51
Assigned bases: New Castle Army Air Base (Wilmington, Del.)
Helen McGilvery is a bit of an enigma. Her closest friend in the WAFS was Nancy Batson and much of what we know of “Little Mac” comes from her. Fellow WAF Teresa James was also her friend and supplied additional insight.
Helen was married to Mac McGilvery, also a ferry pilot with the 2nd Ferrying Group stationed at New Castle Army Air Base.
Little Mac was given her check ride on January 3, 1943, along with Sis Berheim, and was accepted on January 8 as number twenty-seven of The Originals. They promptly began their thirty-day indoctrination period. Helen served her entire two years with Betty Gilles’s squadron. She attended one of the earliest classes at Pursuit School in Palm Springs with Nancy Batson and Gert Meserve and after that split her time between Republic’s factory on Long Island and the modification center in Evansville – ferrying P-47s and occasionally the other pursuits. She also attended Officer Training School in Orlando and was one of The Originals who flew the P-38.
In the days immediately after deactivation when Teresa James came down with a thyroid problem and needed surgery, Mac got her in to see her physician father-in-law on Long Island. “I had three good friends named Helen in the WASFS and WASP.” Teresa says, “Helen Mary Clark, Helen Richey and Helen McGilvery, God bless her.”
Little Mac divorced from Mac after the war and went into business with another woman pilot in Luscombe dealership in Annapolis. Then in late summer 1948, Helen McGilvery died in a mid-air collision. “Mac always had a horror of burning – and she did.” Said Nancy Batson Crews.
Helen McGilvery was the first of The Originals to die after the war.
Texas Women’s University, Denton, Texas. WASP collection
WWII Women Pilots