"I saw my first airplane when I was a small child. It was a red bi-wing plane, World War I vintage. It was the most exciting thing I ever saw. I knew I had to fly".
And fly she did. When she was 18, her father paid a friend whose son had just received his private pilot's license to take her flying. "At that time the cost of one hour flying time was $8. The young man gave me a 30-minute flight. Instead of killing my desire to fly, it intensified it. My father said,'Okay, but you better get a job to pay for it; and if you get a job, you'll have to start paying room and board.' So I did go to work and started saving my money to pay for lessons and flight time, and, yes, I did pay room and board and learned to live on a budget".
After seeing a young lady in overalls sitting on the wing of a US Air Corps airplane on the cover page of Life Magazine, Pearl knew she had to apply for the WASP program. Of the 25,000 women who applied, she was among the 1,074 who completed the seven months of training. Her first orders were on 8 October l944 to Minter Field, California, at the advanced twin-engine school as a Flight Test Engineer. Pearl’s job at Minter Field consisted of towing training targets, ferrying damaged aircraft and test-flying repaired aircraft for return to combat. Multiple times, she put her life on the line to fulfill her mission. In one such incident, Pearl flew a Bamboo Bomber with an engine problem. Halfway back to Minter Field one engine died. Luckily, she was able to land and not only save her life but the aircraft.
In 2010, Congress awarded WASP members the Congressional Gold Medal for their service and dedication during a time when the nation needed them.
"Because some of the daughters of us WASPs and their daughters and sons are flying for the airlines now or are in the Air Force or the Navy...I'm always so proud. And when I went to the Women in Aviation conference last year, I have never signed so many autographs or had my hand shaken. There were 3,000 women there, and my hand was so swollen when I came home, I couldn't write with it. And, of course, they always said, 'If it wasn't for the WASP, we wouldn't be here', because we broke the barrier. We proved that we could fly anything that rolled off the assembly lines and fly it well".
Unfortunately Pearl passed away recently, but her service will not be forgotten! Thank you FlyGirls fan Sam Kisselburg and the Minter Field Air Museum for contributing to this piece.