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Interview with V. Scott Gough [Undated]

V. Scott Gough:

Okay. My name is --

Thomas Healy:

Where you were born.

V. Scott Gough:

My name is Scottie Gough, and I was born in Los Angeles, California. And my mother died when I was very young, and my dad brought my two brothers and I up. And I was always interested in flying, ever since I can remember. I didn't know anybody that flew, and I had never been in an airplane, but I always knew that that's the only thing I wanted to do. And when I was very young, I studied everything I could about flying, and I read someplace that carrots were good for your eyes and I read someplace that pilots had to have good eyes. So I started eating carrots, and I've eaten them every day of my life. I still don't wear glasses. And my fellow WASPs used to make a lot of fun of me. They'd go around saying, "Well, you haven't got a tail yet or ears." But when we were up in Oshkosh where we used to give talks all the time, I used to tell this story every time, and I figured I'm not going to tell the story any more about carrots because, you know, I'm tired of all the kidding I'm getting. But just before I went up on the stage one time when we were up there, this young woman came up and she had four children with her, and she said, "I just want you to know that we were here last year, my children heard you talk, and they've been eating carrots ever since." So I still say that story, and I still say to everyone if they really want good eyes, eat carrots. But, as I said, I grew up in Los Angeles, California, and as soon as I got out of high school, I of course wanted to go to college, but it was during the depression, and I didn't have the money to go. But I was up for a scholarship and lucky enough to be one of the ten finalists. And when I went before the hearing, they asked me what I wanted to be and what courses I would take, and I told them I wanted to be a pilot and I was going to take aeronautical engineering courses. And I looked at their faces and I said forget this. Women just didn't do that. So I went to work in a bank, made 25 dollars a week and worked five and a half days. And my dad was so good with us kids. My brother left right from high school to go to the Coast Guard Academy, and he could have told me, you know, no, you don't need to fly, you need to, you know, take care of the rest of us. But he told me I could take 10 dollars and take flying lessons. So I went out to Glendale Municipal Airport, he took me out, and I started taking lessons and going to ground school. And one Sunday I was practicing takeoffs and landings, and the tower gave me a red light, and I pulled over and I said, you know, "Why did they give me a red light?" And they said, "Pearl Harbor's been attacked, and all civilian flying is grounded for 200 miles inland." Indeed, it was a day that changed all our lives. Now, I started commuting out to Blythe, California, which was 200 miles inland, on the weekends with an ambulance corps that was trying to teach women how to fly because they knew there would be a shortage. And after I commuted for a while, they started an Army air base there, and I got a job in the operations tower and moved out to Blythe. And I heard about Jacqueline Cochran then. I read about her and the WASPs, and I thought that was the most wonderful thing in the world, to be able to fly and be paid for it and to do something for the country. So I immediately wrote to her. She wrote back and said, "You have all the requirements" -- because at that time I had a private license -- and she said, "but you aren't old enough." I wasn't 21. And I can't tell how disappointed I was. But, in the meantime, the owner of the municipal airport where I flew from was starting an air show on Sunday, and he told me -- he knew that I'd always wanted to make parachute jumps, that was my other childhood ambition, and he told me if I would do that in his air show, he would give me free flying time. Well, that was wonderful, because I was trying to work on my commercial license. And nowadays, if you want to make a parachute jump, you've got to go to ground school and you have to take several jumps with a static line. But in those days, all I had to do was [5 minutes elapsed] tell the parachute rigger at the base to lend me a parachute, and I had to talk a friend to take the door off his plane so I could jump out. And the only instructions I had were from the parachute rigger, who told me in no uncertain terms, he said, "When you jump out that door, you count to ten real slow, because I don't want that parachute caught in the tail and ripped up." He didn't care what happened to me, but he certainly didn't want me messing up his parachute. Well, I did, and I can't tell you what a wonderful feeling it was. Airplane is fantastic, but they are noisy, and it was so quiet. It was like another world, and I was so happy. And I continued making parachute jumps until I was finally old enough and reported down to Sweetwater, Texas.

Thomas Healy:

Wow. Did -- that is amazing. How many jumps do you think you did?

V. Scott Gough:

Oh, I guess about ten or twelve, and I had to wait about, you know, a while before I got in, but then as soon as I was old enough, of course, I went right down. And it was interesting because it was set up in a military every way by General Arnold. The reason it wasn't completely is because there was nothing in Army regulations about women pilots being paid. And he just said, "Pay them by Civil Service, and I'll tend to it later." And actually, at the hearing in '74 when they finally were retroactively going to give us our military status, General Arnold was there, Barry Goldwater, who had flown with us, and the people that had put us up, they were having a hearing and they said to General Arnold, well, why didn't your father make it military, if that's what he wanted? And he told them that his father lived by the motto in an emergency, get the job done and worry about the details later. And he was pretty busy at the time and he never had a chance to do anything about it. And that's why, although, as I said, we were completely military, we marched everywhere, we -- from 6 in the morning until 10 at night, every hour was filled. We spent half a day on the flight line, and then we had half a day where we had ground school, and we took trigonometry, meteorology, and we also had to learn the Morse Code to fly instruments at the time, and we also had PE, and we had pretty strenuous physical things. And at that time we learned to march, and we marched everywhere. And I know -- I was squadron commander of our flight, and it was my duty to march everybody everywhere we went. And it's been almost 60 years now since I was there, but I'm reminded of that marching every day, because when we would go to mess hall, I would march them there and I would be the last one in, and when we finished our meal, I would have to be the first one out to line them up where we were marching next, and I had to swallow my food whole to get anything. And even to this day if I sit down, I'll be done, finished eating before anyone else has practically started, and so that's why I remember that. But our days were -- we had military inspections, too. Every Saturday they came in to inspect our barracks, and if you couldn't bounce a nickel off the thing, you were in trouble. We lived in barracks, six girls to a room. We had six cots, six desks, and six places to hold our clothes. And it was -- between the two barracks was a bathroom, and it had six showers, six -- no, I think -- yeah, about six showers, six toilets, and six sinks. So, you know, our lifestyle changed greatly, because it was quite a job getting everybody ready, and you had to be very fast, dressing and everything else. But it was -- it was a wonderful time, and we all enjoyed it. One thing, when we got there they didn't know what to do with us as far as what we were going to wear, and Jacqueline Cochran was in the process of designing our uniforms. In the [10 minutes elapsed] meantime, there was a general coming to inspect the base, and they sent everybody into town to buy khaki pants and white shirts so at least we'd look the same. But the general never came, but from then on they called them the general's pants. And then for our flight line they didn't know what to do, so in the meantime they gave us mechanics' overalls. Now, when you went up to get these, they'd ask you what size you'd want, and we were all 10, 12, or 14, and you'd say, you know, size 12, and they'd say sorry, all we have is 40 and 42. Well, we were the motliest crew you ever saw. We had to wear a belt so they didn't fall off, roll up the sleeves, roll up the pants, and if you -- no, actually, what happened is we almost lost a girl because of this. She was flying in a PT-17, which is an open cockpit plane, and she was being taught loops by her instructor, and when she was at the top of the loop, her sleeve caught on the safety latch of her -- the latch of her safety belt, and she was ejected. Now, luckily, she had enough sense to pull the cord, and she landed safely.

Thomas Healy:

Heavens. We had a guy named Ray Fermani (ph) from Wilmington --

V. Scott Gough:

Yeah.

Thomas Healy:

Who was a B-24, B-25 pilot, a bomber pilot. His funny joke was when they were training and right after they got finished soloing you could go up and do whatever you wanted to do.

V. Scott Gough:

Yeah.

Thomas Healy:

And he said he was -- he was getting ready to go out one day and across the field in the snow comes his buddy, carrying his chute, no shoes on, and whatever. So he said, "What happened?" He says, "Well," he says, "I was up doing a loop, and my -- my" his safety belt came loose, and what Ray said, he probably didn't even have it on and he fell out of the plane, you know, pulled his chute.

V. Scott Gough:

Yeah.

Thomas Healy:

And when he did, his boots came off so he had no boots. But that's -- now, you in a 40, I can't imagine that. It must have been huge.

V. Scott Gough:

What do you mean?

Thomas Healy:

In the suit.

V. Scott Gough:

Oh, yeah. Oh, they -- oh --

Thomas Healy:

But you, you're just a little thing.

V. Scott Gough:

I know. I know. And yeah, they were -- well, so, anyway, you can imagine how happy we were when we finally got our uniforms, because not only did we have a dress jacket and slacks and Eisenhower jacket and everything, but the thing they were happiest with was our flight suits, because not only did they fit, but they had pockets for our maps. And Jacqueline Cochran, with all her experience in flying and long-distance flying, designed them with a drop seat. I can't tell you how much easier that made life for us.

Thomas Healy:

Okay. It's something you never think about.

V. Scott Gough:

No.

Thomas Healy:

Let's see. So now, okay, so you got out of flight school -- not flight school, but your training?

V. Scott Gough:

Yeah, training.

Thomas Healy:

Then where did you tell me -- continue on.

V. Scott Gough:

All right. I was stationed at Williams Air Base in Scottsdale, Arizona, and assigned engineering, where we took all the airplanes that had been damaged or had new engines in them, took them up to be sure they were safe for everyone else to fly. And we also did a lot of ferrying. In fact, the only time I was really in very great danger was going across country, when there were nine of us flying from Arizona up to San Francisco, and it was a contact flight, and of course only the leader had the map and where we were going. We just were flying formation in threes. And the weather started closing in when we got up by the Colorado River up in California, and he should have turned around, but he didn't. And we kept flying until finally we were right on the ground, and all we could do was start climbing up. And of course he -- I think -- I was flying wing, and I think when we were up a ways, a plane in front of me must have veered over in front, and with the prop wash, anyway, the first thing I know, I was in a spin, on instruments, which is not the [15 minutes elapsed] most easy thing to be on, and I knew I should have jumped, because I had flown out of Blythe, California, which is right on the Colorado River, but -- and there were mountains on either side of me, but the AT-6 which we were flying was my favorite airplane, and most everybody that -- every WASP, that was their favorite airplane, and I just couldn't see it crashing. And this was all going through my mind in just seconds. I had an instructor in Sweetwater who was really good. He was a little fellow, we called him the Gremlin, but of course we'd go up and we'd have a hood over our heads so we couldn't see, and he would put us in a spin, and talk us through, telling us how to get out of it. And I mean it went through my head so fast, but I could just hear him talking to me, so I came out of the spin, flew up, and I saw there was a Japanese internment camp there I knew was north of Blythe. I flew back there, where there was an Army base, and landed, and the planes were scattered all over. We all ended up back, and took them up to San Francisco and then flew back to the base. And when I got back there, the second lieutenant who had been in charge of the flight was no longer in the field. He had been severely disciplined and transferred. And the first thing I did was go over to the link trainers, that's where we practiced instruments because I hadn't flown any instruments since we graduated, and I sat in there for about an hour, two hours, practicing coming out of spins. So you never know when what you study -- when I talk to kids around at schools or anything, I tell them you never know, but study and learn, you never know when you're going to have to use it, because it saved my life.

Thomas Healy:

Now, did you stay in Arizona?

V. Scott Gough:

I stayed in -- yes, I stayed at Williams Base, and when we were discharged, they did give us the opportunity of taking a permanent base commission in the Air Force, but in a non-flying status, and most of us wanted to continue flying. I returned to Los Angeles, and I flew sightseeing flights around southern California, and it was about six or seven other WASPs who joined the ferry command, which -- I mean a ferrying service, and they would take us down to the civilian factories around the country and we would fly the planes back to California. And we did that for quite a while, and then when -- actually, the last time I flew commercially was when Idlewild Airport became John F. Kennedy Airport. I was flying for the Luscombe distributor at the time, and he asked me to fly in opening day ceremonies, which I did. But I was about seven months' pregnant at the time, and that was the last time I flew commercially. And I had four children within a matter of about six years, and two of them became pilots, commercial pilots, the two boys, so I still get to fly. And there's a lot of us that are flying. There are a lot of WASPs that are still flying Civil Air Patrol, and some of them flying in air shows and things. So and we've all stayed pretty active.

Thomas Healy:

Do you still have your license?

V. Scott Gough:

No, I don't have my license, but -- I mean, I have my license, but I would have to take a physical, but my boys both have their planes, so I do get to fly, do still get to fly. And --

Thomas Healy:

Did --

V. Scott Gough:

Yeah.

Thomas Healy:

Did you say there was 1943, they stopped -- did you say? What happened in '43?

V. Scott Gough:

In '44, there -- well, there were -- Germany had surrendered.

Thomas Healy:

Right.

V. Scott Gough:

And so some of the pilots were coming back. And so actually what happened was some of the civilian -- the primary schools, Air Force was closing some of the primary schools, and the civilian instructors were being let go. Now, they had been offered commissions in the Air Force, but they didn't want to take them, they didn't want to go in the service. So now they decided that we were taking their jobs, and they -- they -- they got a lot together people and they got ahold of some well-known columnists in Washington, Drew Pearson was one of them, and they told them that we were taking all their jobs, which of course we weren't. [20 minutes elapsed] They were civilian instructors, and we had gone through the whole primary, basic, and advanced and had taken all our training and everything, so they weren't qualified to do the things that we were doing. But they made such a fuss, Andrew Pearson was very influential back in Washington, so that's when General Arnold went before -- and offered -- told them that he wanted the WASPs militarized. But they -- they weren't too sure about it and they asked him why he hadn't done it. He said he hadn't had time. But he had never been refused anything he asked, and Jacqueline Cochran told all of us we weren't to say anything, you know, write anything or talk to reporters, anything, because she just figured that he would get what he wanted. But he didn't, and then that's why we were disbanded. And then it wasn't until '74, '75, that they presented a bill to -- making it -- retroactively giving us our militarization. And I just want to say -- well, I'd like to tell you what -- wait a minute. I have to --

Thomas Healy:

Take your time.

V. Scott Gough:

Okay. What General Arnold said to the last class graduating in Sweetwater, Texas. He told them, "You have proved you can fly wing tip to wing tip with your brothers, in a great time of crisis in this country, and we have yet to build an airplane that you can't fly." And I want you to know that all of us were just -- some people asked us, you know, why we did this, why we flew, and it was an honor and a privilege for us to serve our country, doing what we loved best, and that was to fly. But to tell you the truth, and every WASP will agree with me on this, if I had had the money at that time, I would have gladly paid them for that wonderful training and the opportunity to fly those wonderful airplanes. Now, I want to say, too, about our disbandonment. At that time 90 percent of all the fighter planes were flown from the factories to the point of deembarkation by WASPs, and then in return they would fly the disabled planes back to the factories. Sometimes they made it, sometimes they wouldn't. But there were a lot of things that they really preferred us to do, and one of those was a lot of the girls were assigned to towing targets. And the reason they preferred us is because you had to fly very precise patterns, and as General Arnold explained, his young pilots were very eager to get over in combat, and their idea of flying towing targets so that their own soldiers on the ground could shoot at them with live ammunition was not their idea of what they wanted to do. And he said his older pilots coming back from overseas, their idea of flying precise patterns for their own soldiers to be firing at, that was not what they wanted. So we were so happy to be flying these B-25s and all these other airplanes, that we did exactly what they told us, and so they really preferred us to do those things. And one of the most interesting things -- they used us in so many ways -- was by Colonel Tibbets, the same Colonel Tibbets who dropped the first atomic bomb on Japan. He was the commander of the largest -- the B-29, which was the largest airplane at the time. It was a new bomber. And he told them that, you know -- actually, the pilots became -- it was like a new machine, there was a few glitches and things.

Thomas Healy:

Right.

V. Scott Gough:

And fires, and they were complaining about how unsafe it was and it wasn't easy to fly and it was too dangerous. So he figured he knew what he was going to do to correct this. -- [Interview was interrupted by spectators entering room.] [25 minutes elapsed]

V. Scott Gough:

One of the most interesting ways they used us was Colonel Tibbets, the same Colonel Tibbets who dropped the first atomic bomb on Japan, he was the commanding officer of the largest B-29 base. And at that time it was new, and, as with all new machines, sometimes there are a few things they have to straighten out. But the pilots were complaining about there was fires and how what a dangerous plane it was to fly, and he figured out -- he was getting tired of hearing all these complaints, so he decided to take two WASPs who were -- never had any multi-engine training, and in less than a week he checked them out in a B-29. And he had them -- a dress rehearsal on the tarmac, and every pilot was lined up when a B-29 circled around, came in, made a landing, a perfect landing, and these two little WASPs stepped out, and he never heard another complaint from any of his pilots. And he was so happy with the results that he sent the two WASPs around to all the different B-29 bases, and they'd stay overnight and talk to the pilots and things, and they still hear from people, pilots that had been at those bases, who thanked them for coming and talking to them. And Colonel Tibbets sometimes is on programs with us, and they'll introduce him and say, "This is Colonel Tibbets, and he checked out two WASPs in a week." And he gets so mad, he says, "No, it wasn't a week, it was less than a week." So he still is in contact with us. But they did use us in many different ways.

Thomas Healy:

Did you tow any of the targets?

V. Scott Gough:

No, I didn't. I was -- as I said, I was just mostly testing planes and ferrying, that was it. But a lot of them, there were a lot of girls, and lots of times -- they were shooting, you know, practicing with live ammunition on the ground, and lots of times those planes came down with bullet holes in them. And that was interesting, but we never lost any planes.

Thomas Healy:

Just one more thing. Do tell me about what you would pass on to generations about the war, or about just anything.

V. Scott Gough:

Well, that was the last war where everybody was agreed that we should be in it. And if you weren't in the service, you were working in factories, and everyone was just -- it was a wonderful feeling. And it's been difficult because, since then, I don't think we've all been behind things. People disagree, but it's -- it's something that really brought us close together. And it's also a time when -- like now, we can reconstruct the planes we flew, and there's so much comradeship now. The fellows flying now can never reconstruct their planes, because it would take a millionaire to have one, and they couldn't get it. I think we were just all together, and everyone felt the same way about what we did. And I'm sorry that the -- sometimes, you know, we differ on things, but it was such a wonderful time and everybody agreed that what we were doing was right.

Thomas Healy:

Any other thoughts?

V. Scott Gough:

Nothing. Actually, you guys have got to go and I've got two -- I'm dog-sitting; I've got my dog and I'm dog-sitting with one across the street, and I think --

Unidentified Interviewer:

Should you do the look into the light thing?

Thomas Healy:

Right. Look into the light.

V. Scott Gough:

Look into the light.

Unidentified Interviewer:

Actually, we have to turn you first, and then look into the light, because we want to get the profile.

V. Scott Gough:

Okay.

Thomas Healy:

You know, I did a lot -- I was on the -- when our -- I've flown in the PTVs.

V. Scott Gough:

Oh, did you?

Thomas Healy:

Which were the sub chasers, you know. They were not pressurized or anything, two recips and two jet assists, but I was the crew electrician.

V. Scott Gough:

Oh, yeah.

Thomas Healy:

So when we'd go in to check and we'd come out of check with engine change and everything, we'd be on the first -- there was only a check crew that would go up. I used to hate -- we'd do the stalls and we'd do -- you know, run the engines up and shut them down, and feather them, and oh, my Lord. [30 minutes elapsed]

V. Scott Gough:

Oh, that's great.

Thomas Healy:

She's getting on the internet now. I can hear her spinning up. Okay. Thank you so much.

V. Scott Gough:

Okay. [Interview ended at 32:40]

 
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