May 24th, 2013 by Terry Miller
Monrovian Bettie Mae Scott (July 21, 1921-July 8, 1944)
Remembered with 38 WASPS
Bettie was one of the special, memorialized 38 WASP (of 1,074 in service) who were killed during their service to their country. Bettie was a Monrovia hometown girl, born and raised, and daughter of the Police Chief, Frank L. Scott. She attended Pasadena Junior College. She trained with the WASP in Sweetwater, Texas as a ferry and test pilot.
She was killed in Waco, Texas shortly after take-off testing a “newly-repaired” BT-13 to see if it was airworthy for a male pilot. She died two weeks before her 23rd birthday. She was engaged to be married later that month. Her coffin was sent home in a cheap pine box, and she received no military funeral as WASP were not officially recognized by the military at that time (not until 1977). However, the city of Monrovia businesses shut down the day of her funeral, and the Police Department (her father was Chief) and the Fire Department were the pallbearers and honorary pallbearers. (She’s at Live Oak Cemetery.)
Here are some more entries and more information about Bettie and the WASP.
The WASP organization, WINGTIP-To-WINGTIP Association has been accepted by the Tournament of Roses to have a float in this next parade, 2014. They need all the help financially they can get as well as as much recognition to make this float possible. Their purpose of having a float is to pay tribute to the WASP and perpetuate the legacy and story of the WASP for future generations–like the Tuskegee Airmen who had a float a few years ago. I am hoping Monrovia may come forward if it hasn’t already in the past to honor Bettie as one of their own, a hometown hero–A town memorial plaque, Newspaper article tribute, scholarship? Even just separately from the float project. Again, the float project is about and for her and others.
I first heard about Bettie Mae’s story when I was working at Pasadena City College as the staff graphic artist (I retired a few years ago after 35 years.) In 2000, PCC celebrated its 75th anniversary, and I was involved with the celebration in many ways. Bettie was selected to be one of our 75 most distinguished alumni (along with Jackie Robinson) and was honored at an impressive awards dinner at the Civic Auditorium. On March 10, 2010 Bettie would have been honored at a Congressional Medal ceremony in Washington, DC, where all WASP were presented gold medals for their service. Hopefully, her surviving relatives received hers posthumously. By the way, and this is significant I think–Bettie’s name and circumstance of treatment at her death “sent home in a cheap pine box” was featured in the text of the bill sent to Congress for approval for the Gold Medal. She was a sort of poster child for the cause.
I have a larger interest in the WASP because I reside in an Assisted Living facility near Caltech where two other WASP live as well. They are in their nineties. When this float project came to our attention here a few months ago, I remembered Bettie Mae Scott and wanted to connect and share with Monrovia.
“Thirty-eight young women gave their lives in military service to the United States of America in a quasi-secret program in World War II, thrity eight deaths that received no particular honors or remembrance until March 9, 2010 when a “missing man” formation of jet fighters flew over the Air Force Memorial in Washington DC, the day before their colleagues, the Women Airforce Service Pilots received the Congressional Gold Medal in recognition of their invaluable role in winning that terrible war.
The thirty eight died in the normal way that so many perish in times of conflict, not as a direct result of enemy fire, but in various training and service accidents, engine failures, one taking off and collided with by a uncleared landing plane, another burning in a cockpit due to a possibly faulty maintence repair, and yet another roaring off into the skies over LA with her P-51, never to be seen or heard of again . . . . The normal tragedies of military service . . . young lives cut short because of that strong desire to find a way to serve a higher calling than one’s own personal interest, one’s nation, a nation that one feels”worth the sacrifice” that may be made, like Bettie Mae Scott (http://fifinella.com/bettiescott.htm) a few weeks before her 23rd birthday.
We honor these deaths not because they are any more or less tragic than non-service deaths, but because they remind us of what is important in life — the natural human desire to serve a higher purpose. Of course we Americans believe our nation is the most important higher purpose, transcending even religion and clan. We believe that our laws and ideals, our common commitments to a better body politic, are worth any sacrifice to continue its growth and improvement. And in our United States, we feel we carry the full complement of humanity, that, much as we have taken in the men and women of every part of the globe, the strength of our nation is really the product of every genetic strain and aspiration of the human animal, that we represent and, to an extent, serve as the best example of what mankind can accomplish.
I suppose we are a little arrogant. Certainly we have not always followed our ideals, and we have quite a way to go to achieve our ideals. And from time to time, the conduct of our leaders and politicians make us wonder if our higher purpose is indeed shared . . . but this is what makes earlier sacrifce so important. It rededicates each of us to those original ideals, and reminds us that despite momentary disagreements, what we build in our nation is worth honoring, preserving, and using to create a better world. At some level, we all can share in that pride in our country that led those thirty-eight to their early deaths, not that we want to perish, but that we want to build, to serve that nation in whatever ways that we can, and to remember just how important, how mortally important that service can be.
Please write to you local paper, please contact your social networks. If you live in an area where one of the Thirty-eight lived, please let the authorities know to remember them this Memorial Day. Research and re-tell their stories. Help tell about the Thirty-eight who stand for and represent so many others who served as the WASP and in all the services of our nation, both private and governmental, all who shared, and still share the ideals of those young beautiful women.
And please remember that on this next New Years Day, we hope to put a Rose of Remembrance before a national audience, remembering the 38 and all the women who served, who serve, and who will serve this nation. Please help us get that word out . . . we need some major donations to make that happen. We are at a critical point and need the support of major donors who can help with money to remember what others have given and will give with lives of service.
Remember the Thirty-Eight!