Toby Phyllis Sally Tobias Felker was born in Detroit,
Michigan on April 8, 1920. She began flying with Roscoe Turner
Aviation in Indianapolis, Indiana under the Department of Commerce, Civilian
Pilot Training Program at Indiana University, Bloomington Campus, in
In the fall of 1942, she was in
Columbia, Missouri, writing scripts for the public relations
division of Stephens College when she learned of Jacqueline Cochran's
Sweetwater, Texas, training operation in conjunction with the 318th AAFTD.
As Toby later wrote in Betty Turner's OUT OF THE BLUE AND INTO HISTORY, "I was quick to maneuver my way into that deal!"
Toby entered WAAFTD, Avenger Field, Sweetwater, Texas,
September 6, 1943 as a member of Class 44-2. After graduation,
she was stationed with the 2nd Ferrying Group, Newcastle Army Air Base,
Wilmington, Delaware, ferrying PT-19's. Her next duty station was
Fairfax Field, Kansas City, Kansas, where she checked out as first pilot on
the UC-78, DC-3 and B-25, flying ferry missions in the B-25 as co-pilot
only. Her finally WASP duty station was Peterson Field, Colorado
Springs, Colorado, where she flew as Administrative Pilot and checked out as
co-pilot in the Douglas Dauntless A-24.
She met her husband, Alex, in the service.
After deactivation, Toby returned to her legal secretary job. The Felker's
had 3 children: Lexie, Sally and Frank, and opened an independent copy shop
in February of 1974.
Her parents gave her $40 to attend the civilian pilot
training program at Indiana University because only women with pilot
licenses were accepted in the WASPs.
"The fondest memory I have is having Gen. Arnold pin on
our wings," Felker said. "He tried to get to all of the graduations. Gen.
Henry H. "Hap" Arnold, the only air commander ever to attain five-star rank,
was commander of the Army Air Forces in World War II.
"All the women who were in the service then did it for
patriotism," she noted. "We were lucky, because we loved to fly."
FROM THE DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE LINK)
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On March 28, 2003, Toby was honored at an event at the
Women's Memorial (WIMSA) in Washington, DC. The following paragraphs
are from an interview done by the American Forces Press Service.
Toby Felker, 83, a native of Detroit who now lives in
Springfield, Va., was thrilled to be at the Women's Memorial with several of
her old friends. She said, "It's so good that so many of us are here
together again. Every two years we have a reunion, but some of us don't
travel well. This is something we all wanted to come to see, everybody. Boy,
we look younger every time."
Felker's interest in aviation was sparked by a chance
meeting with Army Brig. Gen. William "Billy" Mitchell, an aviation pioneer
and air power advocate and crusader.
"My father changed a tire for a young man a long time ago
in Detroit, and it turned out to be Billy Mitchell," said Felker, who joined
the WASPs in September 1943. "While they were talking, Billy Mitchell really
sold my father on aircraft. From then on, we went to all the little air
shows around Detroit. It was perfectly all right with my mother and father
that I wanted to join the WASPs."