Dawn Seymour was one of the “lucky 13″ WASPs who completed training on the four-engine B-17. (The women went through the same training program as the male combat pilots.) “We had one- and two-engine procedures– sometimes three-engine, just to see how the plane would fly. That took a lot of strength. We would squeeze tennis balls to build our upper body strength,” Seymour recalls. “Our instructor would teach us tricks such as pushing down your rudder and toeing under the other pedal and pull back, so you could really hold it.”
“You were scheduled on the blackboard to meet your B-26, which carried the sleeve and target over the Sanibel lighthouse.” Once the planes met at their rendezvous, they flew together to the range at Marco Island. “You flew formation on the sleeve. And this is where the gunners would get their first time firing the .50-caliber machine gun on a moving target. Some of them had never been up in the air-and they were kids! Some of them [were only] 18 or 19 years old.” She was only 26 herself.
As for any reaction from the young gunners about having a woman pilot, Seymour says it wasn’t obvious that a woman was flying the plane. “Most of it, we were just down to business. And it was a long mission-at least five hours in the air and then all the preparation. We worked every day, either morning or afternoon shift, and had every other Sunday off, so we were needed.” Seymour flew approximately 700 hours in the B-17.
Credit is to be given to Kate Landdeck for Dawn Seymour’s bio!
From: Flying their war into history: Women Airforce service pilots, Flight Journal, Feb 2000