Jeanne Lewellen Norbeck

Jeanne Lewellen Norbeck, Class of 1929, was a graduate with Honors from Washington State University in 1933. She earned her pilot’s license while attending college and served as the first female Reserve Officer’s Training Corp (ROTC) sponsor. During World War 2 (1941-1943), she served as a voluntary air raid warden in Hawaii.

In October 1943, after completing the same course of classroom study, calisthenics, flight instruction, flying the same military planes and same check flights as male Army Air Force cadets, with the exception of combat training, she was accepted into the Women Air Force Service Pilots Program (WASP) during World War 2. Only 1,047 women were chosen out of 25,000 candidates. However, Jeanne did not receive an Army Officer’s commission, pay or benefits, because WASP was part of the civil service, not the military. Jeanne was appointed Group Commander of her class, the highest honor a WASP cadet cold hold, where she served as a test pilot until she was killed in a plane crash in October 1944.

A display of her WASP materials is housed at the Atterbury-Bakalar Air Museum, which was dedicated in 1995. In 1998, the restored chapel at Bakalar Air Base was named in her memory. She was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal of Honor in 2009 (the nation’s highest civilian honor) and has been inducted into the Indiana Military Veteran’s Hall of Fame, Class of 2018.