Last Known Activity
Lea Ola McDonald was born on October 12, 1921 in Hollywood, Arkansas. She moved to a farm near Seagraves, Texas where she was raised with her brother. She graduated from Plainview High School in 1938, then attended Wayland Baptist College for two years where she learned to fly in the CPT program. After that, she moved to Canyon, Texas to attend West Texas State College, graduating in 1942.
She then moved to California where she worked in a Douglas Aircraft Company factory. While there, she heard of the WASP and applied. She was accepted and took her basic training at the Houston Municipal Airport, Houston, Texas. She completed the course and was assigned to Avenger Field, Sweetwater, Texas in Class 44-W-3. She graduated in April 1944, and was sent to Biggs AAFB, Texas on active duty.
She flew a number of planes in training, including the B-24, B-26, At -11, and the A-24B, the Army version of the Douglas "Dauntless" dive bomber. On June 21, 1944, while on a training flight in the B-24B, she crashed approximately 3 miles east of Biggs AAFB. The accident investigation report merely stated "due to mechanical failure." One account states this was her first solo in the B-24B, and that she crashed on landing.
Her body was recovered and she was escorted to Seagraves, Texas by military escort where she was buried in the Gaines County Cemetery.
Lea O. McDonald was flying RA-24B # 42-54423 on her fatal flight. She had been assigned to Biggs AAFB at El Paso, Texas since April 1944. In that short time, she had flown several different types of aircraft.
Although usually accorded the privileges of a 2nd Lieutenant, WASP had no actual military rank. They were assigned to Civil Service. Paid $150 per month in training, and $250 per month when assigned to active duty, they had to pay for their own food, lodging, and uniforms. They received no travel pay or any other compensation.
In 1977, President Jimmy Carter signed Public Law 95-202 that recognized veteran status for WASP. Veteran benefits such as the G.I. Bill now became available. In 1984, more benefits were given, and all WASP received the World War 2 Victory Medal. Those who had served more than 1 year received the American Campaign Medal.
In 2010, the WASP were recognized, individually and as a unit, by the presentation of the Congressional Gold Medal.