NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. – Betty Wall Strohfus was all smiles as she received a bird’s eye view onto the Nellis flightline for the first time in 68 years from the air traffic control tower here Sept. 27. She last saw the airfield like this in 1944 from the cockpit of a World War II era aircraft she flew when she was stationed at the then Las Vegas Army Airfield as a Women’s Airforce Service Pilot.
Strohfus, then Wall, joined as a WASP in 1943. As one of five children, she left her home in Minnesota. She was stationed at Las Vegas Army Airfield flying historic World War II-era airframes like the PT-19, BT-13 Valiant, AT-6s Texan, and a variety of other aircraft.
“It’s no longer Las Vegas Army Airfield,” Strohfus said laughingly. “Nellis is beautiful. It’s really been brought up to date. I am just so proud of [military members today]. They are all my heroes.”
Strohfus’ visit to Nellis included a two-day tour and meeting with the U.S. Air Force Air Demonstration Squadron – Thunderbirds, a stopover at the control tower where she got an over view of the airfield to watch aircraft take off and land, and a visit with Airmen and families at the Club.
“I’m so proud of what they’ve done with this beautiful base. I’m so proud to see all the people who are in the military, and what they’re doing here today.” Strohfus said with a tear running down her face.
While at the Club, Strohfus spoke about joining the WASP, the first women in history trained to fly U.S. military aircraft. While there she also answered questions about her life and was presented the Diamondback award. The Diamondback award is an award created in honor of retired Chief Master Sgt. Henry S. Fouts, an aerial gunner and Distinguished Flying Cross recipient who completed 35 combat missions over Nazi occupied Germany, to emphasize the accomplishments of Airmen who help keep Fouts’ spirit of innovation alive.
“Everyone’s been so gracious to me, and then I got this beautiful award,” Strohfus said. “I love that award. To think that so few people have been given that. “
Strohfus said she felt “nearly 10 feet tall” when meeting with the Thunderbird crewmembers. Many of the Thunderbird team spoke with, posed for pictures and even received autographs from Strohfus.
“I love it at Nellis AFB, I just hope I get to come back some time,” Strohfus said with a laugh.
(See more photos on pp.14-15 of this week’s PDF file)