Katherine Applegate Keeler Dussaq
One of the 38 Women Airforce Service Pilots killed in service to her country.
Born: March 14, 1905 in Dayton WA
Died: Nov. 26, 1944 Non-battle air crash near New Castle Ohio
Planes flown: PT-19, BT-13, AT-6, AT-11, AT-7, PT-19
Assigned bases: Sioux Falls Army Air Base (S. D.), Randolph Army Air Base (San Antonio, Tex.)
Katherine Applegate was born in Dayton, Washington, the 4th of six children. In high school she ranked first in her class, was twice the editor of the school annual, secretary-treasurer of the Natural History Club, on the debate and the tennis team. In May of 1922, Kay won first place in the annual northeast Washington oratorical contest speaking on Universal Democracy; the same day, she won the girls’ doubles tennis tournament. Her self-selected high school graduation motto was, “She had just as much fun as if she had good sense.”
She graduated Harrington High School, where she was valedictorian and then attended Washington State College in Pullman, WA, and continued in oratory competitions representing the college. She was a member of Kappa Alpha Theta’s Alpha Sigma Chapter.
After a year at WSU, she transferred to Stanford University for her undergraduate degree in psychology and competed on Stanford University’s Debate Team. She made front page news in the Santa Rosa Republican in California as one of the first trans-Pacific collegiate female stowaways. In the spring of 1927, she set sail for Honolulu, Hawaii as a stowaway on the ship Maui along with a cousin, Katherine Waters, a student at the University of California and whose father was the Mayor of Chico, CA. As punishment for the girls’ caper, Stanford University postponed giving her degree for six months. After graduation, Kay returned to Hawaii where she worked in a pineapple cannery, learned to fly an airplane and chauffeured sight-seeing buses in Honolulu.
After returning to the states, Kay met and worked for Dr. Leonarde Keeler, one of America’s leading criminologists of the day. Dr. Keeler is best known as the inventor of the polygraph test. Kay, who used Katherine as her professional name, trained as a forensic sleuth (crime scene technician) and later opened an all-women detective agency in Chicago. In 1931, twenty-five-year-old Katherine Keeler became America’s first female practitioner of the world’s original forensic science. Kay had a remarkable career at a time when most women didn’t have that opportunity. As a professional woman, she was said to be tall, slim, and blond.
After 11 years of marriage, Kay divorced Leonard and married Major Rene Alexander Dussaq. He was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina on May 6, 1911, but was schooled in Switzerland then moved to Cuba where his father was a diplomat. Dussaq, recipient of the Distinguished Service Cross and two Purple Hearts, served in the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment of the elite 101st Airborne Division which included parachuting into Normandy for D-Day. On August 9, 1943, nine months after her wedding, Katherine, now using the name Kay Dussaq, entered The Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) Army Air Force flight training program at Avenger Field, Sweetwater, Texas.
She served as a squadron leader in the United States Ferry Command, also known as the Air Transport Command of the Women’s Airforce Service Pilots (WASP). Her assignments were administrative. Kay was first stationed at the Sioux Falls Army Air Base, Sioux Falls, South Dakota and then moved to Randolph Army Air Base, San Antonio, TX, and at the Flying Training Command Headquarters in Fort Worth, Texas.
With the WASP disbanding on December 20, 1942, less than a month away, Kay was responsible to make sure they stayed connected – working on both a WASP newsletter and an organization for former WASP, called the Order of Fifinella. Around the same time, her husband had left France and was serving with the Special Allied Airborne Recon Forces (SAARF) where he was trained to jump in and liberate Prisoner of War camps and later served as an intelligence officer in Germany.
On her last day, as the executive for the Training Command, Kay was looking into employment opportunities for the WASP. She had a meeting with Jackie Cochran and the CAA in Washington, DC., and was able to get the CAA to grant commercial pilot licenses to all the active WASP. After that meeting, she prepared to meet with Nancy Love in New Castle.
Kay was an experienced pilot with hundreds of solo hours in the AT-6. As she prepared for her solo flight from the Maryland Army Air Corps military base, she realized the weather was a slight problem. It was cloudy with light rain; visibility was limited and airframe icing a possibility. With so much work to do, she decided she would fly around the weather. Just outside of New Carlisle, Ohio the engine quit on her North American AT-6 Texan. She crashed just 72 miles short of her destination. Her obituary stated that she ran out of gas and struck a treetop. Either way, engine failure or gas depletion, the plane was doomed. She was not wearing a seatbelt and on impact, hit her head on the control stick.
HER GRAVE Katherine M. Applegate Keeler Dussaq is buried or memorialized at Dayton City Cemetery, Dayton, Columbia County, Washington.
Congressional Gold Medal
United States Aviator Badge Army
World War II Victory Medal
American Campaign Medal
Army Presidential Unit Citation