Marty Wyall was flying planes when she was just a young lady. At 90, she loves to reminisce about her time as a Women Airforce Service Pilot (WASP).
“In 1942 there was a shortage of male pilots,” Wyall said. “There were 25,000 ‘lady pilots’ who volunteered to fly. Of that, there were 1,830 accepted into flight training. I was one of those pilots.”
Wyall, who lives in Fort Wayne, drove to Speedway last week to visit members of the Exchange Club of Speedway. The club has a deep history in aviation and jumped at a chance to get such an interesting speaker.
Orville Wright was a member of Exchange Club, as well as James H. “Jimmy” Dolittle. Amelia Earhart was an honorary member and addressed the 12th National Convention of Exchange in 1927.
“We flew all missions with the exception of combat,” Wyall explained. “The lady pilots logged 60 million miles in 2.5 years. I graduated Dec. 7, 1944, in the last class.”
Just 10 days following her graduation, the WASP program was deactivated.
“We went through the same training as the male pilots,” she said. “It was harder for some of the older ladies because we had to learn how to fly military style. And they had developed some bad habits.”
Wyall said her father, a Methodist minister, would not let her train for her pilot license until after she graduated from college. She attended DePauw University in Greencastle. After graduation, she got a job at Eli Lilly and started her flying lessons at an airstrip at 21st and Post Road.
“My trainer would come in on a motorcycle,” she said. “He was a wonderful trainer. But every time I went up, I got sick.”
She said her flight instructor would not let her fly solo until she could go at least an hour without being sick.
“We were making a trip from Richmond to Indianapolis one Saturday,” Wyall said. “He said if I didn’t get sick, he would let me solo. And one other thing. He forgot his cigar that day. It turned out I was allergic to his cigar smoke. So I didn’t get sick and I was able to fly solo.”
Wyall was able to log 35 solo miles and applied to the program. She got her acceptance letter and prepared to leave. She got her medical exam at Stout Field in November 1943 and was to be in class 44W9, which began in April 1944.
“I was on my way to Sweetwater, Texas, and got half way there and learned my papers were not in order,” she said. “I returned home and found out it was my medical that had not arrived. I called the flight surgeon at Stout Field and he said my medical was still sitting on his desk. He didn’t believe that women should be in the military. I told him he had no right to tell me what to do.”
After what she described as “a brief but strong conversation,” he agreed to send her medical release form. She was then able to be a part of class 44W10.
“I got to Sweetwater on May 26,” Wyall said. “We were all greenies and stayed at the Blue Bonnet Hotel. It was about half way between Fort Worth and El Passo. It’s the rattlesnake capital of the world.”
She said it was beautiful country, but was quite a culture shock for her and her classmates.
“They would come pick us up in a cattle truck,” she said. “There were benches inside, but it was still a cattle truck.”
Each day, she said, the trainees had five hours of ground school and five hours of flight time.
“The WASPs were never approved by Congress so, as a result, we were actually civil service,” Wyall said. “We earned $225 a month and had to pay for room and board, along with rental of our parachutes. I was lucky to have $40 a month.”
The flight school had three stages that lasted five weeks each.
“I loved night flying,” Wyall said.
Sixty four women graduated with her on Dec. 7, 1944. The class started with 126. Ten days later, the WASP program was deactivated.
“I don’t regret it one bit,” Wyall said. “I had good flight training.”
She flew for Reconstruction Finance Corp (RFC) during the spring of 1945 and instructed at Franklin Flying Field during that same summer.
She married one of her students, Gene Wyall, the following year. She has lived in Fort Wayne since 1949.
The couple had five children and 19 years later she returned to aviation. She reinstated her instrument rating, obtained an air taxi certificate, and few freight while her husband was a project engineer for a construction company.
From 1965 to ‘72, she was the only woman in Indiana to have an air taxi certificate.
In 2009, an act of Congress recognized the WASPs’ military service. They were given golden service medallions.
Wyall’s family has grown to include 18 grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren. Her son, Sumner, and grandson, Brian, are both airline captains. She has a granddaughter that has been accepted to the U.S. Air Force Academy.