Dawn Seymour was one of America’s first female military pilots as a member of the volunteer Women’s Auxiliary Service, known as Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP). Seymour grew up in a family of seven children in Rochester, New York. She earned her Bachelor of Science degree in economics from Cornell University in 1939. Seymour was bit by the flying bug after graduation and became the first woman accepted in Cornell’s Civilian Pilot Training Program where she earned her private pilot’s license in 1940. After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Seymour knew she wanted to be as close to the action as possible. She joined the WASP program in 1943 and graduated initial pilot training at Avenger Field, Sweetwater, Texas, with class 43-W-5. After receiving her silver wings, Seymour was among only 17 women selected to train on the four-engine B-17. Despite the difficult course, Seymour was one of the “Lucky Thirteen” who graduated from the B-17F and B-17G combat training course and received her four-engine rating and instrument card. From 1943 to 1944, Seymour was at Buckingham Air Force Base in Florida, flying daily missions in the B-17 to train gunners for the D-Day invasion and duty in the Pacific Theater. As the war progressed, Seymour transferred to fly training missions in Roswell, New Mexico where she conducted flights that tested changes made to existing aircraft. Throughout the war, she flew approximately 700 hours in the B-17 – all before the age of 27. During World War II, Seymour was part of the WASP program that flew 60 million miles in every type of military aircraft – from the fastest fighters to the heaviest bombers – they piloted every type of mission flown by their male Army Air Force counterparts, except combat. On 20 December 1944, Seymour, along with the other WASP, received a letter from General “Hap” Arnold announcing the end of the WASP program. In 1946, Seymour returned to Rochester, New York to work for her family business as a manufacturing executive, raise her son Bill, and become a community volunteer. She married Mort Seymour ten years later, and they had four children, Sam, Elizabeth, Marguerite, and Amy. The next twenty years were a blur for Seymour as she was a full-time mother, working for the family business, and enjoying life in Rochester. In 1972, Seymour attended her first WASP Reunion in Sweetwater Texas and became involved in the WASP organization and helped advocate for Veteran status. From 1982 to 1984, Seymour was the president of the WASP organization and led the transformation of the group from The Order of Fifinella to a nationally recognized veterans’ organization. In the 1990s, she served as memorial chair, researching and writing the stories of the 38 WASP women who lost their lives for their country during the war. Finally, in 2009, President Barack Obama signed legislation awarding the WASP the highest civilian honor – the Congressional Gold Medal, and Seymour was one of over 250 surviving WASP in the nation’s Capital for the ceremony recognizing their contributions to our country during World War II. Currently, Seymour is on the Advisory Committee of the National Warplane Museum, Geneseo, New York and travels the country delivering speeches and encouraging young people to work hard to follow their dreams. She resides in Canandaigua Lake in New York and enjoys time with her five children, and her eight grandchildren.
Years Honored: 2016
Aircraft/Specialty: Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress
Ms. Dawn Seymour is one of America’s first female military pilots as a member of the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP). As a B-17 pilot during World War II, she trained gunners for the D-Day invasion and duty in the Pacific Theater. As a WASP, Seymour flew approximately 700 hours in the B-17 directly contributing to the war effort by freeing up male pilots for combat service. She later served as the WASP Association President and was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal in 2010.