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“I can't remember not wanting to fly,” Anne Noggle proclaimed.
As a girl, Anne's eyes must have twinkled as she followed Amelia Earhardt's historic aviation accomplishments. She said to herself, “I can do that,” and she learned to fly as a senior in high school in Evanston , Illinois . Her boyfriend fixed up an old Model A Ford for her to get back and forth to the airfield. Of her $5 weekly meal budget she decided to spend $3.50 on flying lessons and she lived on the remainder ? one meal a day, a hamburger and a malt.
She joined the Army Air Corps' Women Air Service Pilots (WASP) program and trained in Sweetwater , Texas where the pilots lived in barracks: six women in a bay; two bays connected by a bathroom. Privacy was scarce. Only licensed pilots were allowed in the program. “You either take to it or you wash out,” Anne said of the WASP training. One of her fellow WASPs had flown with Amelia Earhardt and, “I plagued her to tell me all about Earhardt.”
Assigned to Eagle Pass , Texas , near the Mexican border, she towed targets for aerial gunnery practice. The inexperienced gunners would track the target ? and sometimes the tow plane. “You'd hear a woman's voice on the radio, ‘Get off my tail!'” The tow operator, always a man, sat in the backseat. Not a job for the fainthearted, one of Anne's tow operators quit the first day. She punctuated this story, and others, with a big smile. More than once a daring story was interrupted by a smile, a twinkle, and her suggestion, “You'd better not write this down.”
The WASP program was disbanded in late 1944, and Anne returned to Evanston just long enough to get her flight instructor rating, then spent the next 12 years crop-dusting and instructing before activating her reserve commission in the Air Force. When her boss asked her if she would like to be a protocol officer in Paris , she replied, “I'd be a latrine officer in Paris !” At that time, France did not permit foreign military personnel to wear uniforms. Anne went out and bought herself an alternative ? some beautiful French clothes.
She described going to school on the GI Bill: a 36-year-old freshman with a double major in art and art history. She discovered photography and went on to earn a Master's Degree and an honorary doctorate, and received a Guggenheim and three National Endowment for the Arts grants. She photographed, taught, worked as a museum curator, and published three books ? two on women flyers. She traveled to Russia to interview and photograph her Russian counterparts. During WWII, Russian women flew fighters in combat, often at night, earning themselves the nickname, “Night Witches.” When they met, the Wasps and Witches got along well, sharing their experiences in the military and their common love of flying.
Anne found her all important independence and solitude in flying and in photography, the pursuits she loved, and over the years, mastered. And although she has cut back a bit on her schedule, she has not lost her enthusiasm and her eyes still have a twinkle of anticipation.
“I am tired of standing in the darkroom,” she said, “But I still have a few pictures I want to make.”
Women Air Service Pilots WWII
“I can't remember not wanting to fly.”