Florene Miller

There are 750 limited edition prints in this series. Print size 12×18″

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Limited Edition Prints are signed and numbered by the Artist and by Florene Miller. $65.00

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Poster Print $14.95 Poster prints are autographed by the artist only.

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Photo of Florene Miller

Florene Miller

By Sir Ernie Hamilton Boyette

Florene Miller was born on December 7, 1920, in San Angelo, Texas, into a family of aviation enthusiast. She took her first airplane ride at the age of eight. While Florene was in college, her father bought an airplane and she along with her father and two brothers learned to fly. On July 4, 1941 Florene witnesses her father and a brother killed in their airplane.

Florene continued her interest in flying and earned her commercial, flight, and ground instructors ratings in 1940 and taught large classes of 50 men for War Training Programs. Once World War Two started, her brother Dolph taught military aviation cadets and Florene was accepted into the new Women’s Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron. Florene was one of the first 25 women accepted. Each woman averaged 1,100 hours of flight time.

The Army Air Corps put the requirement for women much higher than the men who entered aviation training. The male cadets needed only 250 hours of flying time to qualify. The women were required to have 500 hours, a commercial rating, and a 200 horsepower rating! The duties of the women pilots were to ferry aircraft from factories to airfields and to oversea shipping ports across the United States. The services the WASP preformed freed up male pilots for combat duties. Women were never considered for combat.

In January 1943, Florene was sent to the 5th Ferrying Division at Love Field, Texas, to be the WAFS commanding officer. Florene earned her instrument rating at Love field where her mother was her instructor in the Link Trainer Simulator. More women were trained at Sweetwater, Texas and they joined the WAFS. Later the name of the auxiliary unit was changed to the Women’s Air Force Service Pilots, known as WASP.

Florene was qualified to fly all of our fighter and multi engine-aircraft except the B-29. She was one of only two women pilots selected as military airline pilots to fly military personnel and equipment. Florene also flew many of the P-47 Thunderbolts much like the one above. During a landing while flying a P-47 Florene found herself facing the sun and haze at dusk. Florene struck an electric pole at the edge of the runway. Her aircraft almost flipped upside down, while flying only 20 to 30 feet above the ground. Florene brilliantly saved her self and the aircraft thanks to acrobatic training she had received before the war.

She had ripped open the belly of the aircraft, torn off parts of one wing, one elevator, and one propeller blade. The accident had knocked out all electricity at the field leaving it with no lights or radio. After an hour of circling the field, the P-47 was vibrating and the plane’s instruments did not indicate whether her landing gear was up or down. Florene made her first night landing with the help of a few jeeps shining their lights on the runway.

Before the war ended, the WASP’s were disbanded. The women received little credit for their efforts.

After the war, Florene married one of her flight students, Chris Watson, and they raised two children. She returned to college and earned her Masters degree and taught in Texas colleges for 30 years before retiring. Florene Miller Watson was truly one of our great American aviators and it was a pleasure to know and work with her on this series.

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Florene Miller at my art show.  I flew Florene to Florida from her home in Texas. I wish that she lived closer.  She is one of the most positive wonderful people I have ever met. It was women like Florene that helped win the WASP their proper place in aviation history. I asked Florene if she would have flown in combat if the opportunity arose and she that that she would. Florene would loved to have flown a P-47 Thunderbolt into combat against the German Luftwaffe.

Everyone at the show loved Florene’s stories. Florene was know for putting on her make up in the cockpit of the fighter planes she flew. Mustangs, Thunderbolts, and Lightning’s, before she landed Florene made sure she looked good. Florene and the other WASP pilots would carry their high heels and dresses in the compartments that the machine gun ammunition was normally stored in. Florene kept everyone in stitches with her stories of how she would show up her fellow men aviators. Florene said that she did it politely.

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Florene Miller

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WASP Wings

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WASP Squadron Art

On January 22, 2007 Florene called and wished me a happy new year. We had not talked in years and it was great to hear from her. She told me that she was now 86 years old and her husband of 62 years is 90 and they are both doing fine. Last year Florene and her vacuum cleaner had a tumble down ten feet of stairs. She broke her leg but she is now fine and walking without assistance.

In the past when I met Florene I had not studied about Jackie Cochran. Now that I have read much about Cochran I wondered if Florene had ever meet or worked with Jackie. Florene was one of the first 25 women pilots to become the first WAFS cadets led by Jackie Cochran. Florene did not meet Jackie often but Jackie did visit the base in Texas where Florene was stationed. Jackie visited all of the WASP units. It was part of her hands on management mannerisms.

Florene told me on the phone that in the 1970’s Jackie and the WASP pilots would get together for meetings and small reunions. It was during these reunions that Jackie choose to partner with Florene during the event. I will now call Florene again and interview her at length about her friendship with Jackie Cochran and learn more about her personal experience’s during the war. I did interview Florene in the past but there is so much more to know.

Stay tuned…Sir Hamilton