Hazel Ying Lee (1912 – 1944)

Photo source: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/05/21/obituaries/hazel-ying-lee-and-maggie-gee-overlooked.html

“I held a moment in my hand, brilliant as a star, fragile as a flower, a tiny sliver of one hour. I dripped it carelessly, Ah! I didn’t know, I held opportunity.”

– Hazel Ying Lee

Pilot, Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASPs), 1943-1944

Hazel Ying Lee is the first Chinese American woman to fly for the U.S. military and one of two Chinese Americans in the Women Air force Service Pilots (WASPs). She completed her training at the Women’s Flying Training Detachment (WFTD) and was later stationed in Romulus, Michigan, where she flew ferrying and administrative flights. In 1944, Lee attended Pursuit School in Texas becoming one of a select group of women qualified to fly high-powered, single-engine, fighter aircraft. 

“Lee was one of 132 pilots chosen to fly so-called “pursuit” planes, now known as a fighter aircraft.”

Lee died on November 25, 1944, as a result of injuries sustained in a collision in Great Falls, Montana. She was one of 38 WASPs who died in service. In 1977, President Jimmy Carter granted WASPs veteran status with full benefits.


Katie Hafner, “Overlooked No More: When Hazel Ying Lee and Maggie Gee Soared the Skies,” The New York Times, May 21, 2020, sec. Obituaries, https://www.nytimes.com/2020/05/21/obituaries/hazel-ying-lee-and-maggie-gee-overlooked.html.“Hazel Ying Lee (1912-1944),” http://www.oregonencyclopedia.org, accessed January 11, 2021, https://www.oregonencyclopedia.org/articles/lee_hazel_ying/#.X_uiJy1h2Rt.

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