In honor of Women’s History Month, Santa Clara Chapter, Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) honors Hazel Ying Lee. Hazel Lee became one of the first Chinese American women to earn a pilot's license (Oct. 1932). In 1933, she and several other Chinese expatriates went to China, hoping to join the Chinese Air Force, in response to the Japanese invasion of China. The Republic of China Air Force refused to accept female pilots. During bombings, she helped friends and neighbors find shelter. In 1943, she became the first Chinese American woman to fly for the United States military, as a member of the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP). WASPs were considered civilians, with no military benefits and no military funeral. WASPs bought their own uniforms and paid their own room and board. They flew the least desirable missions. Lee delivered aircraft from the converted Detroit car factories to places where they would be shipped to Europe and the Pacific. During an emergency landing in Kansas, she was chased by a farmer with a pitchfork who thought she was an invading Japanese soldier. She was one of the first women to pilot fighter aircraft for the U.S. military. Known as a good cook, she took fellow WASPs to Chinese restaurants, supervised menus, and sometimes cooked the meals herself. Using bright red lipstick, she inscribed classmates' nicknames in Chinese characters onto their planes. In November 1944, due to control tower error, her plane and another collided. She died from burns received in the accident. Three days later, her brother died in combat. The family was at first denied a burial site for the brother and sister in a Portland cemetery, because it was in a 'white section.' Lee was buried in a non-military funeral. She was the last WASP to die in service. In 2004, Hazel Ying Lee was inducted into the Oregon Aviation Hall of Honor. In 2011, she was inducted into the Pioneer Hall of Fame.
Read about Hazel Ying Lee and Maggie Gee, the only two Chinese American women pilots in World War II, in the 5/21/20 NY Times article: Overlooked No More: When Hazel Ying Lee and Maggie Gee Soared the Skies.