Lovelle Richards Benesh
October 23, 1919 – April 20, 2008
WASP Class 43-W-1
Planes flown: AT-6 and BT-13
Assigned bases: Long Beach Army Air Base (Calif.)
In November, 1942, Lovelle paid her way to Texas to enter the experimental flight training program, not quite sure what would be expected of her–but she knew she was going to fly for her country. Lovelle was a member of the “GUINNA PIG” class–the first women to be trained thru the Army Air Force flight training program–Houston, Texas. She, along with 29 classmates, raised her right hand and took the ‘OATH’ to serve her country and defend the Constitution of the United States “so help me God.”
This incredible group of young women pilots had all been selected by Jacqueline Cochran. Requirements for entrance into the Women’s Flying Training program for the first class included a private pilot license and at least 200 hours. On their first day, the chief pilot tells the first class: “The first thing you’ll have to do is forget everything you thought you knew about how to fly. Forget it. Now. And be willing to learn. Don’t expect your instructor to be polite and gentle. He won’t be. And if he cusses at you, you probably deserve it, so don’t go running to Mrs. Deaton to complain. The last thing you want to be is a quitter…and it is up to you whether this entire Women’s Flying Training Program succeeds and opens the way for hundreds of pilots like you to fly military planes. Or you can fail, by acting like spoiled brats, by giving up because you don’t like the food, or your flight instructor, or ground school. It’s up to you. You are the Guinea Pigs.” (p 72-73 “On Final Approach” by WASP Byrd Granger)
Lovelle went on to complete the training and graduate. Her assignment was to Long Beach–to be part of the Ferry Command. In Byrd Granger’s “On Final Approach,” is an entry for June 23, 1943: WASP ferry pilots Lovelle Richards and Geri Lamphere are hauling their parachutes toward L-5 Stinson puddle-jumpers for the next leg on the long journey from the factory at Romulus into the Deep Soluth./ Tagging along are 2 Army pilots, also flying Sinsons, who pay no attention to regulations to keep away from women pilots.” Sometime during this trip, the weather closed in and a Texas-sized thunderstom forced them all to land at a small field. Eventually, the storm devestated the tiny aircraft as the pilots all watched helplessly. She resigned sometime before December of 1944 to get married.