SD Aviation Hall of Fame Ola Rexroat

by Anne Cassens
South Dakota Aviation Association members gathered at the hangar at Clyde Ice Field near Spearfish last Friday evening to honor four Pioneers in Aviation by inducting them into the SD Aviation Hall of Fame;  to present the FAA's Wright Brothers Master Pilot Award; and to present certificates to six South Dakotans as the 2007 Combat Air Crew Memorial Award recipients.


The four Hall of Fame Inductees included Ola Mildred (McDonald) Rexroat of Edgemont.  
    Rexroat was honored for her time in the WASP (Women Air Service Pilot) Program.  Ola graduated from WASP training in the “1944-7” class o­n September 8, 1944 at Sweetwater, Texas.  Ola then spent four months towing targets behind a T6 plane at Eagle Pass Army Airfield, Texas.  The WASP program ended in December of 1944.  Ola became an air traffic controller, but maintained her flying skills by becoming active in the Air Force Reserve Unit in Albuquerque, NM. 
Ola was born and grew up in Oklahoma, but spent part of her childhood living with her grandmother at Vetal, SD. She graduated from St. Mary's Indian High School for Girls in Springfield, SD, before attending college at Chadron and in Albuquerque. 
    There were o­nly 800 American Indian women who served in World War II and there were 1074 women in the WASP program.  Ola is believed to be the o­nly member of both groups: the o­nly American Indian woman who served as a WASP. 

    Another honoree was  also a WASP, Helen Severson.  Originally from Summit, SD.,  Severson was killed during flight training in August of 1943.  The other two honorees were Bob Erlandson and Thomas Walenta. 

    Combat Air Crew Memorial Award recipients included Joseph M. Gamet of Hot Springs.   Joe was born in 1916 in Hot Springs and grew up east of Oral where he attended the o­ne-room WG Flat School.  As World War II came o­n, Joe volunteered for Glider Pilot Training.  He says, "I was too old and too poorly educated to qualify for motorized pilot training".  Gamet shared some of his experiences flying gliders in WWII including flying over the bombing fleet during D Day!

    The FAA Wright Brothers Master Pilot Award is given to pilots who have achieved 50 consecutive years of flying.  This award was presented to Denny Martins of Vermillion.
    Hall of Fame honorees were presented with plaques.  Duplicate plaques will be displayed at the SD Air and Space Museum at Ellsworth Air Force Base.  Previous Hall of Fame Members include Gen. Joe Foss, Clyde Ice, Nellie Willhite, and others.  Usually between two and four names are added each year to this honor roll.

Posted by: Janet on Wednesday, September 12, 2007 - 10:18 AM

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