Women in Transportation History: Maggie Gee, Chinese-American Aviation Pioneer

Margaret “Maggie” Gee became an aviation pioneer during World War II when she was one of only two Chinese-Americans to serve in the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP). The organization, which was formed in August 1943 from both the Women’s Auxiliary Flying Training Detachment and Women’s Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron, consisted of female pilots who performed home-front flying duties under the U.S. Army Air Forces to relieve male pilots for combat service overseas. “We had the same training the men had,” Gee recalled in a 1998 interview. “I consider myself very fortunate, that I could do something I really enjoyed.”

Gee, whose Chinese name was Gee Mei Gue, started out life in 1923 in Berkeley, California. After the U.S. entry into World War II, she initially worked as a draftsman and welder at the Mare Island Naval Shipyard in Vallejo, California. Gee eventually earned enough money to leave those jobs and move to Minden, Nevada, to pursue a longtime ambition by learning how to fly a plane. “My heroes were Amelia Earhart and Charles Lindbergh,” she later explained. “I loved to watch airplanes fly.”

After she underwent training and acquired 50 hours of flying time, Gee applied to serve in the WASP. Gee became one of just 1,074 women out of more than 25,000 applicants to be accepted into the organization. As a WASP pilot, she was assigned to fly planes used for gunnery training at the Nevada-based Las Vegas Army Airfield. “I had an opportunity to copilot a B17 which was the largest plane I flew,” she recalled. “I did get to fly all the wonderful training planes.”

After the WASP was deactivated in December 1944, Gee returned to Berkeley and completed her college education. She ultimately worked in a variety of research fields at the California-based Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. In 2009, Gee and other living WASP pilots were each awarded the Congressional Gold Medal for their wartime service. She died in 2013 at the age of 89.

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