On Monday, July 15 the Minnesota Historical Society put on an inspiring event at the 133 Airlift Wing in St. Paul. The event was planned as a presentation from two extraordinary women about their unique and amazing flying careers in the Air Force. However, one of the speakers, World War II pilot Betty Strohfus, was unable to attend. Air Force Maj. Tammy Barlette gave the presentation solo and spoke about her career while also giving insights into Betty’s. The event started off with Andrea Kajer from the Minnesota Historical Society introducing the two women and talking a little about their backgrounds.
Elizabeth “Betty Wall” Strohfus was born in Fairbault Minnesota and after high school had an amazing experience at the local sky club. From there she was hooked on flying. She took flying lessons and in 1942 volunteered for the Women’s Air Force Service Pilots, better known as the WASPs. Betty flew pursuit aircrafts and was stationed in Las Vegas during WWII. She became a certified flying teacher and taught male cadets how to fly until the WASPs were disbanded in 1944. She then unsuccessfully applied to Northwest Airlines before returning to Fairbault to marry and have a family. Betty was instrumental and successful in lobbying Congress to recognize the women in WASPs as WWII Veterans in 1979. Since 1991, she has been traveling the country sharing her story. In 2001, she was inducted into the Minnesota Aviation Hall of Fame and in 2010 she went to Washington D.C. to receive the Congressional Gold Medal, one of the highest honors a civilian can receive.
Maj. Tammy Barlette is an Air Force Fighter Pilot and Director of Training at Laughlin Air Force base near Del Rio Texas. Maj. Barlette was born in Golden Valley and attended Chaplin Park High School. After graduating, she went to the University of Minnesota and majored in psychology. While there she joined the Air Force Reserve Training Core. Right out of college, she went to Air Force flight training and did three years of active duty in Korea as a combat ready pilot. Maj. Barlette left Korea to join the Arizona National Guard where she flew remotely piloted aircrafts or drones. In 2009 she became one of the first Air Guard reserve pilots to graduate from Air Force Weapons School in Nevada. She spent five years with the Arizona National Guard before deciding to return to Laughlin for her passion of teaching other to fly. Maj. Barlette has a husband who works in Border Patrol and two children, a boy and a girl.
At the end of her presentation, Maj. Barlette stated “Because of women like Betty, I had the exact same opportunities as men. She is the real hero.”