Betsy Ross Air Corps
The Betsy Ross Air Corps (1931–1933) was a pre–World War II organization of female pilots formed to support the Army Air Corps and to be of service in times of emergency. Founded during the Great Depression by aviator Opal Kunz and named after Revolutionary War hero Betsy Ross, the short-lived corps was never formally recognized by the U.S. military.
The founder of the Betsy Ross Air Corps, aviator Opal Kunz, had been disappointed that an earlier organization of women aviators, the Ninety-Nines, had not answered her goal of creating a women's national defense corps. So in 1931, Kunz formed the Betsy Ross Air Corps as a paramilitary service to support the Army Air Corps (the precursor to the U.S. Air Force) in national defense and to serve as humanitarian "air minutemen" in times of emergency. It also had the goal of offering flight instruction to women in order to build a reserve group of women aviators.
Apart from Kunz, aviators present at the first meeting of the corps (either in person or by proxy) included: Pancho Barnes, Marjorie Stinson, Mary Goodrich Jenson, Ruth Elder, LaBelle Sweeley, Ruth Bridwell McConnell, Eleanor McRae, Jean LaRene, Jane Dodge, Manila Davis, Margery Doig, Gladys O’Donnell, May Haizlip, and E. Ruth Webb." Later members included Hattie Meyers Junkin, Aline Miller, and Martha Morehouse.
Kunz served as the corps' first commander, and her husband designed its insignia. The corps had its own uniforms, and an anthem was commissioned for the corps. The corps has occasionally been referred to by the nickname "The Lady Bugs".
Kunz grew the corps to about 100 members and kept it going for several years, partially funding it herself. Among its other activities, the corps took part in air shows to raise money for charities.
In a letter that Kunz later wrote to President John F. Kennedy, she said that she had intended to form a "Women’s Reserve Corp" [sic]. As it turned out, it was flier Pancho Barnes who afterwards formed the Women's Air Reserve as an unofficial branch of the U.S. Air Force.
- Wells, Fay Gillis. The Ninety-Nines: Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow, p. 12.
- Douglas, Deborah G. American Women and Flight since 1940, p. 282.
- Simbeck, Rob. Daughter of the Air, Large Print: The Brief Soaring Life of Cornelia Fort, p. 121.
- “White House Central Name File, Box 1532, Folder: KUNZ.” Letter from Opal Kunz to President Kennedy, dated April 14, 1961. John F. Kennedy Library, Boston, Massachusetts.
- “Girl Flyers Ready to Aid Army”. New York Sun, Jan. 2, 1931.
- Johnson, J. C. “Women’s Flying Corps, Named After the Creator of the First United States Flag, Stands Ready to Meet Any Emergency that May Confront the Nation.” Washington Post, June 11, 1933.
- “Women Fliers Military Club Organized by Mrs. Opal Kunz.” Newark Evening News, January 3, 1931.
- “Women’s Air Reserve Will Organize May 9: Heads of Army and Navy Services Will Attend Founding of the Betsy Ross Corps.” New York Times, April 26, 1931.
- “Women Reserve Pilots to Train: Construction of Eastern Center is Under Way at Orange City, Florida.” Evening Star (Washington, DC), January 19, 1932.
- Davis-Monthan Aviation Field
- Hattie Meyers Junkin (1906 - 1982) Papers. National Air and Space Museum Archives, Washington, DC. Series I, Box 3, Folder 11, “Betsy Ross Corp [sic]”.
- Davis-Montham Aviation Field Register
- "Martha Morehouse". Columbus Dispatch, May 28, 2003. (Obituary)
- “Girl Flyers Ready to Aid Army: Opal Kunz Heads Betsy Ross Corps, Formed as Military Auxiliary Unit.” New York Sun, January 2, 1931.
- Altick, Sherman B. “Betsy Ross Air Corps to March: Girl Flyers Will Meet in Washington to Plan Military Auxiliary Work." Sun (New York), April 20, 1931.
- “Betsy Ross Corps Adds Members.” New York Herald Tribune, April 16, 1933.
- “Is there a Women’s Air Reserve?” Evening Star (Washington, DC), June 6, 1933.