Peggy Wilson Martin
February 8, 1912 – October 3, 1944
Entered Army Air Force flight training: Avenger Field, Sweetwater, Texas, November 1, 1943
Graduated: May 23, 1944
Training location: Avenger Field (Sweetwater, Tex.)
Assignment: Engineering test pilot
Assigned bases: Gardner Army Air Base (Taft, Calif.) and Marana Army Air Field (Ariz.)
Planes flown: PT-17, BT-13
(Excerpt from To Live and Die a WASP)
A day after WASP Marie Robinson’s crash and death, it was Peggy Martin (44-W-4) falling from the sky. At 32, Peggy was one of the oldest WASP, and yet, the details of her life have all but disappeared. Even as late as 1993, the WASP Association’s file on Peggy was “empty,” and the women were asking for contributions. Peggy was born February 8, 1912, in Seattle, Washington, to Carl and Edith Wilson. Her brother Willard, her only sibling, was also born in Seattle seven years earlier. The 1940 census record tells us that Peggy was divorced from a man named Martin who she had married sometime between 1935 and 1940. Who that man was and how long they were married is a mystery. The 1940 census also shows that Peggy was a high school graduate and was working as a waitress in a restaurant, but until she entered WASP training three years later, details of her life are missing.
Peggy began training at Avenger Field November 1, 1943, and graduated May 23, 1944. Her first duty assignment after graduation was the pilot training base at Gardner Army Airfield near Taft, California. She was only there a short time before she received orders for Arizona’s Marana Army Airfield, about 30 miles northwest of Tucson.
On October 3, 1944, Peggy climbed into a BT-13 Valiant with Marion Hagan (44-W-6). Marion had graduated from Sweetwater two months before, and Marana Air Base was her first assignment. She was riding as an observer as Peggy gunned the plane’s engine for takeoff. There was something sluggish in the way the engine struggled to get the Valiant into the air. About 11 miles from the field, the engine suddenly lost all of its oil. Peggy tried to turn the airplane toward a nearby auxiliary airfield, but with no power to keep the craft flying, it stalled and crashed.
Marion survived, but had severe injuries and suffered for weeks in hospitals before recovery. Peggy only lived for an hour after arriving at the hospital. She was returned to Southern California for burial in Whittier’s Rose Hills Memorial Park.
There have been many books about the Women Airforce Service Pilots of WWII (WASP); however, hardly any about the 38 women who lost their lives while flying for the Army Air Corps. This book tells their story.