An “Often Formidable Sting”: Chinese-American Female Aviators in the WASP during World War II

Claudia Vinci Butler University
Faculty Sponsor(s): Vivian Deno Butler University
Over 1,000 servicewomen flew with the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) in the United States during World War II. Although these women were not granted official military status until 1977, WASPs broke down barriers of traditional military service. The poet Karen An-hwei Lee honored the determination of aviator Hazel Ying Lee and the WASPs by writing about how men feared these pilots and their “often formidable sting”. World War II was a time of opportunity for Asian-Americans and for Chinese-American women, Pearl Harbor marked a pivotal transition as they were finally recruited by the United States military. As a result, Chinese-Americans distanced themselves from negative stereotypes as they worked towards separating themselves from Japanese enemies. Nevertheless, racial and gender discrimination towards Asian-Americans from the public and government actors endured. An “Often Formidable Sting” utilizes oral histories and other primary sources to center the experience of Chinese-American WASPs in World War II history in a way that has been relatively neglected in previous military research. This project focuses on Hazel Ying Lee (1912-1944) and Maggie Gee (1923-2013), the only two Chinese-American WASPs during World War II. By including these women’s stories, this work also adds to the existing scholarship on Asian-American servicewomen in the US military. This research exhibits the unique position of Chinese-American women in the military, as they were motivated not only by their American patriotism, but also by their Chinese ancestry.
Oral Presentation

When & Where

09:30 AM
Jordan Hall 301