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Originally published Saturday, August 1, 2009 at 12:00 AM

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Women's Air Force Service pilot flew in World War II

WASP Marjory Munn, an aviation pioneer, dies at 88.

Seattle Times staff reporter

Marjory Munn was a West Virginia-born beautician when she won a contest that would change her life. The prize was flying lessons, and they opened a world Mrs. Munn had never experienced and for the first time made her feel totally free, she said in 1993.

Mrs. Munn, who in 1943 became a Women's Air Force Service Pilot, or WASP, continued flying and became one of a group of women who flew noncombat missions in the U.S. during World War II. She died July 25 of cancer. She was 88.

In early July, President Obama signed an order giving the more than 1,000 WASPs the Congressional Gold Medal for their service. Mrs. Munn will receive hers posthumously in January.

"She was a very remarkable woman and a great lady," said Dr. Bonnie J. Dunbar, chief executive officer of the Museum of Flight, in which Mrs. Munn was deeply involved for years. "If you look back in history, women started flying not long after the Wright Brothers but never flew in combat. The WASPs were put together to train other pilots and test airplanes, and they did it before the era of good navigation. Their performance opened the door to many ... in aviation and space."

Mrs. Munn endowed the WASP exhibit at the Museum of Flight and also gave presentations at the museum about her experiences during the war.

As a WASP, Mrs. Munn was sent to Alabama to test Beechcraft AT-6s, planes used to train fighter pilots, and to fly them to Great Falls, Mont., where male pilots picked them up.

She was also qualified to fly the P-39 pursuit plane and B-25 bomber.

After WWII, Mrs. Munn became a flight attendant with Pan American World Airways, and in 1951 became an active-duty member of the Air Force.

She married her husband, Jim Munn, on Okinawa in 1953 and several years later moved to Spokane, where he went to law school at Gonzaga University. They moved to Seattle in 1962 and settled on Queen Anne Hill.

She graduated from the University of Washington in 1965. In 1983, she was selected by the Secretary of Defense for a three-year appointment to the Defense Advisory Committee On Women in the Services (DACOWITS). This appointment was the equivalent of being a lieutenant general when visiting bases for inspections.

But to her three sons — Kirk, Rob and John — Mrs. Munn was simply mom. It didn't really sink in how accomplished his mother was until recently, Rob Munn said. "She always said they just did what they had to do. Later I thought, 'This is really a big deal.' "

Mrs. Munn was preceded in death by her husband, who died in 2002. She is survived by her sons who all live in the Seattle area, and eight grandchildren.

A memorial service is scheduled for 11 a.m. Aug. 8 at First Free Methodist Church, 3200 Third Ave. W., Seattle. Remembrances may be made to Pacific Medical Center, 1200 12th Ave., Seattle, WA 98144, (Attn: Karyn Becker), for use by the infusion suite in memory of Marjory Munn.

Nancy Bartley: 206-464-8522 or nbartley@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company

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