Hazel Ying Lee was one of the first female pilots employed by the United States military, at a time when less than 1% of the pilots in the United States were women. Hazel was born in Portland, Oregon on August 24, 1912, and after taking her first airplane ride, she was instantly hooked. Following her High School graduation, Hazel joined the Chinese Flying Club of Portland, where she took flying lessons; on October 1932, she became one of the first Chinese American women to earn a pilot’s license. Her goal was to go to China, join the Air Force, and help the Chinese fight Japanese aggression, but the Chinese Air Force would not accept a female pilot. Hazel stayed in Canton, where she cultivated her flying skills as a commercial pilot for a private airline. http://www.womenaviators.org/wiki/index.php?title=Hazel_Ying_Lee
Eventually, Hazel was given the opportunity of a lifetime; due to a shortage of male pilots, the Women’s Air Force Service Pilots, or “WASP,” was created in 1943, under the command of famed aviator Jacqueline Cochran. http://www.greatwomen.org/women.php?action=viewone&id=40 After 6 months of training, Hazel was accepted into the 4th class, 43 W 4. Her first assignment was part of the third Ferrying Group at Romulus, Michigan, in which they were to deliver aircrafts for shipment to the European and Pacific War fronts. Later on, Hazel was sent to Pursuit School for intensive training, and was part of Class 44-18 Flight B. “Pursuit” means flying faster, high powered fighter planes such as the P-63 Kingcobra, P-51 Mustang and P-39 Airacobra; Hazel’s favorite was the Mustang. http://www.militaryfactory.com/aircraft/detail.asp?aircraft_id=263
As in any branch of military service, the threat of mortality is a risk shared by every soldier when in combat. On November 10th, 1944, Hazel’s plane and another P-63 collided upon landing, and both were instantly engulfed in flames. Hazel was pulled from the burning wreckage however, two days later she died from her burn injuries. The fact that Hazel’s brother Vic, was also killed while serving with the United States Tank Corp in France, just added to the overwhelming loss felt by the Lee family.
The family picked out burial plots for Hazel and Vic in a Portland, Oregon cemetery. The cemetery initially tried to prohibit the family from burying these two war hero’s in their designated plots, because cemetery policy did not allow Asians to be buried in the “White section” of the cemetery. The Lee family pushed back hard, and after a lengthy battle, Hazel and Vic Lee were laid to rest on a sloping hill, overlooking the Columbia River. Even though Hazel flew under military command, she was classified as a civilian because she was a woman. Members of the WASP who died in combat were not granted the honor of a military burial. In March of 1979, following the United States Congressional approval of Public Law 95-202, the efforts of the Women Air force Service Pilots were finally recognized, and women were granted military status. http://www.ssa.gov/OP_Home/comp2/F095-202.html
The Women Air force Service Pilots or “WASP”, are to be commended for their bravery and unwavering service to their country during World War II. 38 members of WASP lost their lives; Hazel Ying Lee was the last one. http://www.portlandonline.com/omf/index.cfm?c=44053&a=148528
Gott, Kay. Hazel Ah Ying Lee, Women AirForce Service Pilot, World War II.Kay Gott.1996.