Friday, November 6, 2009


By: John Brannon Messenger Staff Reporter

As a synopsis, we offer these glimpses of their personal histories.
• Each is a native-born West Tennessean. William W. “Bill” Tanner was born Jan. 9, 1919, in Union City. Doris Brinker (Russell) Tanner was born Dec. 6, 1919, in Brownsville.
• Each was a member of the Class of 1941 at the University of Tennessee, she with an undergraduate degree in English and history, he with an undergraduate degree in agriculture.
• They had become sweethearts well before graduation.
• After graduation, they went their separate ways, she to a teaching position at Haywood County Elementary School, he to Fort Bragg, N.C., where he was assigned to a unit of the 9th Infantry Division. At UT, he completed the Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) program and was commissioned a second lieutenant in the Infantry branch of the U.S. Army.
• After the Japanese sneak attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on Dec. 7, 1941, he got approved for a three-day pass and went to Tennessee to see his girl. “Pearl Harbor scared him. He knew he would be going overseas soon,” Doris said. “He wanted to get married before he went overseas because we might never see each other again.” He went back to Fort Bragg, still a single soldier. As a platoon leader with an infantry outfit, he had a duty and responsibility to the Army. But his heart was in Brownsville.
• In March 1942, he took another three-day pass. Straightaway, he went back to West Tennessee to the arms of his beloved. They were married on March 19, 1942, in Brownsville. Her grandfather, the late C.D. Russell Sr., did the honors. Their honeymoon was a one-way trip to Fort Bragg in an old car he bought from a Brownsville man. It broke down on the trip, but he was able to return to his unit before his pass expired. Doris looks back on those days and smiles. Her anecdotes about the trip across the Smoky Mountains are a large part of her precious memories. “Before we married, he said he was afraid we’d never see each other again. Well, we’ve been seeing each other for 67 years,” she quipped.
• Doris went back to teaching. For a while, that is. Bill went to war.
• Bill served with units of the 9th Infantry Division in such far-flung places as North Africa, Sicily, France, Belgium and Germany. On D-Day Plus 4 — meaning four days after D-Day, June 6, 1944 — he and his unit went ashore Utah Beach during the Allies’ European invasion. From North Africa to Germany, he held a plethora of leadership positions — platoon leader, company commander, battalion executive officer and battalion commander, 3rd Battalion, 47th Infantry Brigade, 9th Infantry Division. In his time he was awarded the Silver Star, the Bronze Star, the Purple Heart, the Combat Infantryman’s Badge, several campaign medals and other awards and decorations. He was honorably discharged with the rank of lieutenant colonel in December 1945. As you might imagine, he headed home to West Tennessee to be reunited with his wife whom he hadn’t seen in almost three years.

• With Bill gone to war, Doris had her teaching job to occupy her days. Then a new US Army Air Force caught her attention. The year was 1942; the Women’s Army Corps (WAC) had been established by Congress. But an all-female unit, independent of WAC, was created. Doris was interested. She applied, was accepted and went to an Army Air Force Base in Sweetwater, Texas, for pilot training. In those days, there was no U.S. Air Force. America’s military aviation was part of the U.S. Army. Hence, the designation, U.S. Army Air Force. In 1949, by congressional fiat in the National Defense Act, the U.S. Air Force was created as an independent branch of the U.S. armed forces. “I was living with Bill at Southern Pines, N.C., when the call came to join WASP,” Doris said. “I won my wings in late 1943. I was in Class 44-4. We started with 95 and only 53 graduated. Our washout rate was high.” After training she was assigned to the Operations section at an air base in Douglas, Ariz. “We flew everything the Air Force had at the time,” she said. “One of our jobs was to ferry planes from factory to field, but we couldn’t fly them out of the country. Right at the last, they brought in the new B-25 to train us on twin-engine planes.” The B-25 “Mitchell,” named for Gen. Billy Mitchell, a pioneer of U.S. military aviation, was a twin-engine medium bomber manufactured by North American Aviation. About 10,000 of the B-25s were manufactured. They were used in every theater of operations during the war.

“I served with WASP two years and then came home,” Doris said. Not a veteran But unlike her husband, she did not return home a veteran, at least as far as the U.S. Army was concerned. Why? Because WASP was not a military unit. It was quasi-military, meaning maybe it was, maybe it wasn’t. And that’s the way it stayed until 1977 when the female pilots were awarded veteran status. An official press release states that WASP was established during World War II to fly non-combat missions in order to free male military aviators for combat. More than 1,000 women joined the program. They ultimately flew 60 million miles of non-combat missions. Thirty-eight WASP women lost their lives in the line of duty. An estimated 300 WASP ladies are still alive today.

Recently, President Obama signed a bill into law that awards a Congressional Gold Medal to WASP. The bill passed the Senate on May 20 and the House on June 16. “Every American should be grateful for their service. I am honored to sign this bill to finally give them some of the hard-earned recognition they deserve,” the president said. She’ll be there Doris Tanner said the president’s signature on the legislation authorizes the special gold medal to be struck. She said tentative plans are that he will award the medals at a special ceremony in Washington next March. You can believe she’ll be right there to accept hers. Published in The Messenger 11.5.09

Thursday, November 5, 2009



Senator Hutchison and the Texas Air Force Association

to Honor the Texas WASP at Veterans Day Event in Dallas

U.S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, along with the Texas Air Force Association, invite veterans groups and the public to join them this Veterans Day in honoring our state’s veterans and eighteen Texas Women Air Force Service Pilots (WASP) at a ceremony at the Frontiers of Flight Museum at Love Field in Dallas.

At the event, Senator Hutchison will present each WASP with a gold paged copy of the Congressional Gold Medal legislation that she sponsored and the President signed into law in July.

The Senator and Colonel Jacqueline D. Van Ovost, of the 12th Flying Training Wing Commander at Randolph, Air Force Base in San Antonio, will deliver keynote speeches. The National Anthem and additional music will be provided by the Upper Girls Chorus from the Hockaday School, an internationally known all girls preparatory school in Dallas. The Color Guard services will be performed by the “WASP Deanie Parrish” Color Guard from the Texas Christian University Air Force ROTC Program from Fort Worth.

Lunch will be served afterwards for the WASP and their family members. Light refreshments will be available for the public.

Below is a list of the WASP scheduled to attend, along with their hometowns and additional event information.

Jerrie Phillips Badger

League City, TX

Ann Morgan Hazzard

Pharr, TX

Eloise Bailey

Carrollton, TX

Dorothy A. Smith Lucas

San Antonio, TX

Susie Winston Bain

Austin, TX

Muriel V. Kiester Martin

La Feria, TX

Frankie Bretherick

Plano, TX

Deanie Bishop Parrish

Waco, TX

Eleanor Mickey Brown

Victoria, TX

Betty Jo Streff Reed

N. Richland Hills, TX

Mildred Dalrymple

Austin, TX

Mary Putnam Vandeventer

Lueders, TX

Rosa Lea Fullwood Meek Dickerson

Kerrville, TX

Rita Murphy Wischmeyer

Dallas, TX

Madelyn Eggleston

Vernon, TX

Elizabeth Louis “Betty” Whiting

Austin, TX

Lois B. Hailey

Friendswood, TX

Jo Myers Wheelis

Weatherford, TX

WHO: U.S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison and the Texas Air Force Association

WHAT: Texas Veterans Day WASP Celebration

WHERE: Frontiers of Flight Museum

6911 Lemmon Ave

Dallas, TX 75209

WHEN: Wednesday, November 11, 2009 at 11:00 AM CST

CONTACT: Roxi Dolphin (202) 224-1443 or (936) 525-9752 or

-- END --

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

El Dorado Hills woman, 99, recalls years as pilot

Published: Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2009 - 12:00 am | Page 1BBy Cynthia Hubert

On bright, clear afternoons outside her apartment in El Dorado Hills, Doris Locknesssometimes squints up at the sky and wonders: Does she have one more flight left in her?

Probably not, she reluctantly concludes. After all, Lockness is nearing her 100th birthday, and she sold her last airplane a decade ago.

But "oh, what fun I had," Lockness recalls of her pioneering days as a pilot. "It's wonderful to fly."

The recent release of the film "Amelia," in whichHilary Swank portrays aviator Amelia Earhart,has stirred vivid memories in Lockness, who is one of the nation's most accomplished female fliers.

"Amelia was a hero to all of us," Lockness said, "especially to me."

Lockness began training two years after Earhart's plane disappeared in 1937 during her attempt to circumnavigate the globe. Sixty years later, at age 87, Lockness became the 100th pilot to fly into Amelia Earhart Memorial Airport inAtchison, Kansas.

"I was thrilled to represent Amelia," she said, flipping through newspaper clippings about the event. "It was such an honor."

The petite and feisty Lockness has racked up numerous honors for an aviation career that spanned six decades and 10,000 flying hours.

She trained with the Women Airforce Service Pilots during World War II, was the 55th woman in the world to earn a commercial helicopter rating, and got licenses in flying seaplanes, gyroplanes, hot air balloons and gliders.

She has been recognized for her contributions to the public acceptance of women as pilots by Earhart's Ninety-Nines group and has awards from the Whirly Girls helicopter organization, theNational Aeronautic Association and the OX 5 Pioneers, among others.

So vast is her collection of medals, plaques, certificates, commemorative photographs and other memorabilia that she has trouble fitting it all into her small living space. Her name and pictures appear in several historical books, "but I guess I really should write a book of my own," Lockness said with a smile.

Her story began in Pennsylvania and moved to Ohio, where her parents farmed grain and potatoes. During the Great Depression she left the Midwest and traveled with her young husband to California. They were raising a family near a tiny airport in Wilmington when the flying bug bit.

"I would see the little planes take off and land, and think, 'I would like to do that,' " she said. "I had followed Amelia and the old-time fliers, and I thought it would be so great to be up there, so carefree."

After "getting my four kids off to school," Lockness said, she started training. "I was the only woman out there, of course. Cars would line up to watch this crazy woman fly planes."

Lockness obtained her license at age 29 and later joined the WASPs, becoming one of the first women to fly United States military aircraft. The WASPs, who flew domestic missions to free male pilots for overseas duty, disbanded in 1946.

Lockness had found her passion, but her husband did not approve and the couple divorced.

Lockness became a flight instructor and ultimately owned nine planes, including her beloved Vultee-Stinson warbird, the "Swamp Angel," which she piloted around the country.

In her second husband, Robert Lockness, she found a man who shared her love of flying and fast cars. "We would map out a route and just go," she said.

At 99 years old, Doris Lockness still drives a shiny white Jaguar to the market, and is an honorary member of the Sacramento Jaguar Club. She has never had a serious health problem, she said, and her knees are as strong as ever, "probably from pushing rudders for all those years."

Lockness still gets a little giddy when she hears the roar of an airplane or the thumping of a helicopter rotor. "I look up at the sky, and I can't believe I used to do all that," she said.

In February, Lockness will turn 100, and she knows exactly how she wants to celebrate.

"I want to go for a helicopter ride," she said. "I don't think they'll let me fly it, but I want to go up again."