Hazel Lee loved to swim, and play handball, and play cards, and cook. And she loved to fly planes.
About flying, her sister described the love of aviation for Hazel as she “enjoyed the danger and doing something that was new to Chinese girls.”
During WWII, the U.S. didn’t have enough male pilots. So the Women Airforce Service Pilots was created.
Hazel was invited to join. And the young woman, born to Chinese parents in Portland, Oregon accepted, even though WASP pilots were not officially considered part of the military and thus received no military benefits.
Her attitude towards work was described well by a fellow pilot — “I’ll take and deliver anything.”
Calm and fearless, she had a great attitude and a sense of humor. And she loved to play pranks. She “used her lipstick to inscribe Chinese characters on the tail of her plane and the planes of her fellow pilots. One lucky fellow who happened to be a bit on the chubby side, had his plane dubbed (unknown to him) ‘Fat Ass.’”
On November 23rd, 1944, flying in bad weather in North Dakota, she crashed with another plane upon landing. She suffered severe burns and two days later she passed away.
Of the 38 female pilots to die during WWII, Hazel was the last one.
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- To cite: “Hazel Lee, WASP pilot during WWII.” Published by Historical Snapshots.
- “Hazel Ying Lee, one of the first two Chinese Americans in the Women Air Force Service Pilots.” (U.S. Air Force Photograph), Wikimedia Commons, Wikimedia Foundation, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Hazel_Ying_Lee,_one_of_the_first_two_Chinese_Americans_in_the_Women_Air_Force_Service_Pilots.jpg
- “Hazel Ying Lee.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hazel_Ying_Lee