WASP Lea Ola McDonald, Class 44-W-3
(12 October 1921 – 21 June 1944)
(Excerpt from To Live and Die a WASP)
On June 21, while House members were debating the militarization bill, Lea McDonald, Class 44-W-3, was flying in a type of airplane she had never flown before. She had just returned from a three-week leave and planned to resign the following day so she could get married, but because she hadn’t yet officially announced her plans, she first had to fly solo in an A-24 dive bomber.
|WASP Pilot Lea Ola McDonald|
In a letter to Mary Martin, her former classmate, Lea said she was afraid to fly this “danger ship” that ever since the deaths of the WASPs in North Carolina the previous year, still had a bad reputation with the women.
Gripped by her fears, she asked for someone to fly with her, but superiors denied her request. After flying around the Biggs Army Airfield near El Paso, Texas for a while, she turned toward a landing approach.
Martin later said she believed that Lea was so nervous flying the A-24 that she set the unfamiliar flaps incorrectly. Instead of slowing her speed for a landing, she sent the plane into a sudden
toward the Texas prairie. Her throat mike failed and she was unable to get help
from the ground controller. One mile from the end of the runway, at great
speed, the A-24 smashed into the ground and immediately erupted in flames.
“My best friend was killed in a crash,” Mary Martin said, “and we had to collect money to send her home.”
Four days after that fiery crash, Lea returned to Seagraves for her funeral in the Gaines County Cemetery.