Alice Jean May Starr
July 17, 1920 – June 28, 2023
Training Location: Houston Municipal Airport (Tex.) and Avenger Field (Sweetwater, Tex.)
Assigned Bases: Romulus Army Air Base (Mich.)
Planes flown: B-25, C-47, UC-78
Known as “AJ”, Alice had a life in the sky. By 1941, AJ had her private pilot’s license, but her less than 100 hours weren’t enough to qualify for the WASP program. Instead, she took a job as a Link Trainer Instructor at the US Naval Air Station until her opportunity to push forward arose. She left her instructor job and was accepted as part of the first WASP class to be trained entirely at Avenger Field in Sweetwater, Texas, class 43-W-4.
Ms. Starr said she logged about 2,000 flying hours in aircraft that included After graduating from the WASP program, AJ found herself in Brownsville, TX to take on pursuit training in the AT-6. She flew and ferried other pursuits such as the Bell P-39 Airacobra, P-40 Kittyhawk, P-47 Thunderbolt, and the P-51 Mustang. The Mustang was by far her favorite, fulfilling a dream to fly that was short-lived but satisfying.
“In the 1930’s, we had all sorts of heroes, and I remember meeting Amelia Earhart in Englewood,” she recalled, adding that the aviation pioneer left such an impression on her that flying became one of the most important things in her life.
Ferrying aircraft in all sorts of weather amid occasional catcalls and harassment from servicemen was often hazardous. By the time the group was disbanded to make room for returning Army pilots in December 1944, 38 women had been killed in accidents.
But by the end of World War II, like other women whose talents and energies went toward the war effort. “We wanted to keep flying in the worst way, but it was not to be,” Ms. Starr said. At war’s end, she worked for a short time ferrying war-weary bombers for a surplus company until she got a job with the Mallard Air Service at Teterboro Airport. “I flew for them, but I also got stuck with the secretarial work because it was expected of me,” she said.