Civil Air Patrol

90th Birthday Spurs WWII CAP Memories For Texas Woman

1st Lt. David McCollum
Public Affairs Officer
Group IV
Texas Wing

Maj. Robert Beeley, Texas Wing Group IV commander, presents a Certificate of Appreciation to World War II CAP member Hettie Currie on her 90th birthday. Photo by Greg May

TEXAS – When Hettie Currie got her student pilot’s certificate in 1942, the times they were a-changing.

Civil Air Patrol had just been formed, the nation was still getting used to wartime rationing and, for the most part, women still stayed at home and tended to their families. Few people imagined women could – or even should – fly, but the wartime emergency took precedence over traditional male-female roles.

“My husband was a pilot, and he thought it was very important that I know what to do in case anything happened to him while we were flying in our Porterfield,” Currie said. “So I learned how to fly.

“I really didn’t think it was all that big of a deal. It just made sense for me to do that.”

Hettie Currie’s pilot’s license.

She received her private pilot’s license in September 1945 – a notable achievement for anyone during wartime, not just women.

“The government wanted to use the small, civilian airplanes to train pilots because it was cheaper than training them in the larger, military aircraft,” she remembered. “So it was hard to find airplanes that we could fly.”

During her training, Currie flew several types of aircraft, including the J-3 Cub, Shinn, Tri-Pacer, Cadet, Luscombe and Porterfield.

Hettie Currie’s appointment as a Civil Air Patrol second lieutenant.

At the urging of her husband, already a CAP member, Currie had brought her aviation skills to the organization, which was then an auxiliary of the Army Air Forces. She had achieved the rank of second lieutenant while serving in a Las Cruces, N.M., squadron from 1943-1945. Her duties included scheduling aircraft for search and rescue training and cadet training.

She also participated in bombing accuracy practice, dropping small bags filled with flour on a cross or circle marked on the ground.

“We would fly out into the desert and drop those flour bombs to practice, in case they called us for coastal submarine patrols,” Currie said.

“We were ready, but they never called on us,” she said with a laugh. “It was fun, and we thought we were pretty good at it.”

Hettie Currie with her book of memories. Photo by Maj. Bob Beeley

Belying her 90 years, Currie remains spry and full of memories, though some of the names and dates have become blurred with the passing of time. “I have forgotten so much, I didn’t have any idea that I would need to have a record of what I was doing. I didn’t keep any notes, but I do have a copy of being appointed a second lieutenant in CAP.”

Recently, on her 90th birthday, Maj. Robert Beeley, commander of the Texas Wing’s Group IV, presented Currie with a Certificate of Appreciation for her service in the 1940s.

Currie’s CAP service during World War II mirrors that of many others. What she and her fellow CAP members did during the war is why an effort is under way to secure approval of legislation awarding a Congressional Gold Medal to recognize World War II members who provided, as civilian volunteers using their own aircraft, extraordinary public and combat emergency services during a critical time of need for the nation.

 

 

#capgoldmedal

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© 2018 Civil Air Patrol National Headquarters. All rights reserved.