Fading Glory: Jean Macpherson

By KBJR News 1

April 24, 2014 Updated Apr 24, 2014 at 10:43 PM CDT

Duluth, MN (NNCNOW.com) - In 1940 Jean Macpherson was a 17 year old Canadian girl. The Second World War had just begun and her father and brothers had all signed up.

She hadn't planned on going to war, but there was something Jean had that her country wanted. Jean was a pilot.

At just 17 years of age she was recruited to join the Air Force.

At 15, she earned her pilot's license in her home town of Prince Albert, Saskatchewan.

That ability would make her very valuable to the Canadian Government when war broke out.

Jean said as soon as she said she had her pilot's license the recruiters made sure she joined the forces.

When the teenager told her parents that she had joined the Royal Canadian Air Force her father objected saying as a female she didn't have to join up. But Jean told her father she really wasn't given a choice.

Jean is 91-years-old today. She lost a lot of friends in the Second World War and had a few frightening experiences of her own. But she looks back on the war years as a critical part of history.

She says "the main motivation was win the war and loss of life was pretty much accepted."

Jean was stationed in Winnipeg, Manitoba where she was Assistant to the Inspector for Military Aircraft.

Because of her flying skills she soon became a test pilot, flying mainly Tiger Moth aircraft in readiness for them to be shipped overseas.

"I had to check them. Take it up for a flight and check each instrument to see how they were operating."

The planes were being built in rapid succession and with the hurry came some mistakes. Like the time a mechanic left a pair of pliers in the fabric covered wing.

Jean says it was a harrowing flight.

"Some time during the flight they loosened themselves from where they were and began to rattle around inside the canvas covering and they managed to get hooked up in the aileron control which meant that I couldn't steer properly."

Another time, in their rush to turn out aircraft for the war machine, the screws weren't tightened in the paneling on the side of the plane. A piece of the side actually flew off in flight making it really tough to land the unbalanced aircraft.

Jean was not pleased with the mechanics.

"I had a word or two with the people who were responsible."

Jean's fiancé also signed up to fight in the Second World War. They got engaged before he left to fight in France, Africa and Sicily and she didn't see him again for five years. Jean says that's just the way it was.

"There were women, young women like me, whose future husbands were away fighting the war."

Jean knew that the work she was doing, getting planes and pilots ready to fight, was critically important.

"We all realized that EFTS – Elementary Flying Training School, was one of the most important places where young men were being taught to fly. They were a handful though. They were all high–spirited, young, adventuresome."

Jean said many of those spirited young men never came home.

2014 marks the 70th anniversary of D–Day. A day when we think about the sacrifices so many high–spirited young men and women made for the freedoms we all enjoy today.. a day to take some time to thank those veterans of the Second World War while we still can.

We've created a page on our website dedicated to all the heroes of World War Two called "Fading Glory" and we have a place for your family hero.

Email your "Family Hero" stories to producers@kbjr.com. Include a picture if you have it.

Barbara Reyelts