Dorothy Olsen, one of 38 living WASPs, dies at 103

Elizabeth Howe
August 12, 2019 - 11:54 am

Air Force Photo/Staff Sgt. Naomi Shipley

Dorothy Olsen was one of 1,879 women accepted to fly military aircraft for the United States during World War II. Born in 1916, she was one of only 1,000 women who completed the necessary training and went on to fly missions. There were only 38 of these women still alive — now one less following Olsen's passing at 103.

Olsen earned her private pilot's license after pursuing flight from a young age. She joined the WASPs the year they were established.

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She flew 61 missions for the Sixth Ferry Group in more than two dozen different planes including P-38s, P-51s, and B-17s, according to The New York Times. More recently, she was a dance instructor. 

Photo courtesy of United States Air Force

"She was qualified on everything the Army flew, as well as some Navy planes," Kim Olsen, Dorothy Olsen's son, told the Air Force. Her favorite planes to fly, he shared, were P-51 and P-38 fighters. 

"She felt bombers were like driving busses," Mr. Olsen said. 

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At 92, Olsen met Capt. Jammie Jamieson, an F-22 Raptor pilot. Olsen read a feature article on Captain Jamieson and requested the opportunity to meet with her.  At that meeting the two pilots swapped stories. 

"I loved every minute of it," Olsen told Jamieson.

At the time, WASPs weren't recognized as military personnel — they risked their lives without any of the military benefits their male counterparts were offered. It wasn't until 1977 that they received veterans' benefits. In 2010, they were collectively presented the Congressional Gold Medal.

Olsen passed away at her home in University Place, Wash. on July 23.

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