The Portraits

Bernice “BEE” Falk HAYDU

U.S. Women Airforce Service Pilot (WASP)

Bernice "Bee" Falk Haydu (born December 15, 1920) served as a Women Air Force Service Pilot (WASP) during World War II. Bee turned 100 years old before passing away in January of 2021. Bee was born and raised in Montclair, NJ and after high school, while working as a secretary, she enrolled in aviation classes on weekends. In 1944, Bee was selected for the WASP flight training program and along with 5 of her girlfriends, they paid their way via train to Sweetwater, Texas, to basic training at Avenger Field for the 7 months of WASP training. Bee graduated in March 1944 and transferred to her first assignment at Pecos Air Force Base, Pecos, Texas, to work as an engineering test pilot and a utility pilot. She flew the 225-horsepower Bobcat, designated as the UC-78 and AT-17, at Pecos and was preparing to fly the B-25 Mitchell bombers when the decision was made that the WASPS would be disbanded in late 1944. After Bee returned home to New Jersey, she continued flying and ferrying aircraft and opened a Cessna dealership. She owned a flight school with several other veterans and worked for a company that sold aircraft parts. She also participated in airshows and Powder Puff Derbies. Bee served as president of the Order of Fifinella, an alumnae group for WASPs and also as the president of Women Military Aviators in the mid 1970’s. She was one of the three surviving WASPs present in the Oval Office in 2009, when President Obama awarded the Congressional Gold Medal to the WASPs for their service.

Bee married fellow aviator, Joe Haydu, in 1951. They had three children together, Joseph, Steven and Diana. Bee published a memoir Letters Home 1944-1945 in 2008 and she has donated memorabilia to the Library of Congress and the Texas Women's University in Denton, Texas. There is a plaque commemorating the work of Bee at the Aviation Hall of Fame and Museum of New Jersey at Teterboro Airport, and her WASP uniform is on display at the National Air and Space museum.