Margaret Oldenberg

Margaret Burrows “Margy” Sanford Oldenburg
July 29, 1090 – March 7, 1943
Class 43-4

Margaret was the first Women’s Flying Training Detachment (WFTD) trainee killed in an accident. 

Margaret Burrows Sanford Oldenburg was born in Cleveland, Cuyahoga County, Ohio. She was the daughter of Percy Phelps Sanford and Mary S Burrows. She had a sister Mary Phelps Sanford Rumsey. She married USN Ensign Jack Henry Oldenburg.

Margaret was a 1931 graduate of the University of California at Berkeley. She took up flying in 1933 after meeting Amelia Earhart. She entered Army Air Forces flight training on February 21, 1943 at the Houston Municipal Airport, Texas and served with 319th Army Air Forces Flying Training Detachment (AAFFTD), Women Airforce Service Pilots WASP.

Margaret was the first WFTD trainee killed in an accident. She was a trainee in class 43-4. It was Sunday, March 7, 1943, and she was just starting her second week of training. Margaret, and her male instructor pilot, Norris Morgan, were killed when their PT-19A #41-14801 failed to recover from a spin during spin training, approximately six miles south of the Houston Texas Army Air Field.

Margaret had about 3.5 hours’ time in the PT-19 and at least 47 total hours of flying. Her instructor had over 21 hours in this plane and a total of 786 hours of flying. The plane had been used for almost 177 hours. At approximately 17:45, after flying for about 30 minutes, two witnesses observed the plane spinning into the ground about 6 miles south of Houston. The closest witness stated that, “It seemed to me that the pilot was practicing a forced landing.”

The training command ordered that the accident be kept quiet. All of the instructors were subsequently flight checked by order of the new WFTD commanding officer Major Walter Farmer and some were dismissed.

‘Margy’ was one of thirty-eight women who gave their lives for our country.

The death of Oldenburg highlighted the risk faced by all the women training to fly with regard to funeral and burial expenses. Since they were not part of the military, they had no legal right to have those expenses covered by the government. WFTD commander Jackie Cochran paid Oldenburg’s funeral expenses out of her own pocket and sent her executive officer, Leni Deaton, to escort her body home for burial.

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