by Lorraine Evernham Frigolet
Jocelyn Moore Evernham (1912-2003) earned her WASP wings in December 1943, class of 43-W-8 after completing 6 months of training at Avenger Field in Sweetwater, Texas.
Prior to joining the WASP, Jocelyn was employed by Consolidated Vultee Aircraft in Fort Worth, Texas. She started learning to fly there by joining the local flying club. Her initial flight training was in the Club’s Porterfield in which she completed 35 hours and earned her private pilot certificate.
One day in the Fort Worth newspaper, Jocelyn read an announcement about recruitment for the WASP. The recruiting office was right there in Fort Worth so she immediately went down to sign up. A few months later she received a call to start her WASP training at Avenger Field in Sweetwater, Texas. During her training she flew the PT-19, BT-13/15 (affectionately known as the “Vultee Vibrator”), the AT-6 Texan and the twin engine Beech UC-78. After graduating in the class of 43-W-8, she was assigned to Gardner Field in Taft, California. From there she ferried planes all over the country, taxied non-flying officers between bases, conducted test flights and weather checks. In May 1944, she went to Orlando, Florida to attend officer’s training at the Army Air Forces School of Applied Tactics and became a 2nd Lieutenant.
In August 1944, Jocelyn was reassigned to Yuma Army Air Force Base to report for training in the B-26 C. She towed targets with the B26 for the gunnery school until the WASP disbanded on December 20, 1944. She then returned to her family home in California, married in 1948 and had two children. She dedicated herself to raising her family, another dream of hers. She flew occasionally with friends over the years and then in her eighties took many flights with her daughter when she learned to fly. She had the opportunity to fly several times in the AT-6 again, always her “dream ship.” Jocelyn took her final flight in July 2003.
It is always fascinating to read about the experiences of the WASP in their own words and so it goes without saying that we are grateful to Lorraine Evernham Frigolet for sharing an excerpt from the book she co-authored with her mother, titled Finding My Wings...
Saturday July 3, 1943 Ft. Worth, Texas
Here it is only 24 hours before I get the train for Sweetwater! I am so excited. I have my big bag all packed and everything ready. This past week has been a social one. All my Texas friends have been giving me send-offs.
I have had a grand time getting all “my affairs” in order. Much washing, throwing away and all that. You know how it is!
The next day I boarded the train to Sweetwater, with my hopes high and at the same time my mind racing with questions. What will it be like? Will I make it through the training course? What planes will I learn to fly? I joined to fly and I was glad to know I would be helping the cause!
I was familiar with the wide, open, dry spaces of Texas after living in Fort Worth for almost a year but Sweetwater was really out there in the wild, Wild West!! The train pulled in to town in the late afternoon and I grabbed a taxi to the Blue Bonnet Hotel where I had been instructed to stay for the night. The Blue Bonnet was the gathering spot for all the incoming class and the place was swarming with “WASP to be”. We were to be picked up in the morning at 8:00 sharp to go out to the Avenger Field in the infamous “ cattle wagon".
I was exhausted but could hardly sleep and stayed up talking with my soon- to- be classmates of the Class of 43 W-8. They came from all over the country from all different backgrounds with wide ranges in flying experience. I felt somewhat green with only 40 hours of flight time in my little Porterfield and work with the Civil Air Patrol. I found out that many of the girls were like me and others came with many years and hours of flight time.
The next morning we all piled into the cattle wagon (it was really just a long Army trailer) and rode out to Avenger Field about 3 miles outside of town. As we approached the field, the sky became busy with airplanes everywhere! We pulled through the gates and I saw Fifinella (the guardian angel of the WASP created by Walt Disney) perched on top of the Administration building and I knew this was no longer a dream. I was really here about to embark on the most thrilling adventure of my life!
Finding My Wings is scheduled for publication late 2016/early 2017. Email Lorraine@compassroseinc.net for more information and to be added to the book interest list.