Female World War II pilot celebrates 100th birthday

By Syan Rhodes - Anchor/Reporter

HOUSTON - Mayme Tanner at 100 years old is one of the few surviving members of the women's Air Force service pilots known as WASPs.

During World War II, the WASPs became the first women ever selected and trained to fly military airplanes.

Tanner was up for the challenge.

"The freedom it offered, getting in an airplane taking off flying anywhere you wanted to go. I just enjoyed flying around and looking at the scenery," she said.

For her birthday, family and her nursing home didn't just organize a party. They created a mobile museum that was full of pictures, uniforms and articles filled with details that are fading from Tanner's mind.

But the way her service made her feel, she hasn't forgotten that.

"It was thrilling," she said. "I enjoyed it very much."

Charlote Mendes, Tanner's niece, said that her aunt is an inspiration for all women.

"It's wonderful," she said. "She didn't think she'd ever make it to her 100th and I told her ‘Oh yes you will,' because she's persevered through everything."

"I don't think she realizes at all what she has done for all the women of the country."

Tanner's advice to the next generation of young women pilots is to dream big.

"Anybody can do it," Tanner said "Any girl can do it if they're determined to. Just say with it. If you like it, stay with it."

More than 25,000 women applied to become pilots during World War II. Only about 1,000 made the cut. Friday, Tanner received a letter from President Barack Obama thanking her for her service.