Winifred Dudley is a rare woman. Now 91 years old, Winifred grew up in Westville, Oklahoma and was working at Douglas Aircraft on the night shift with her mother to support the war effort. Douglas Aircraft wouldn’t allow family members to work together on the same shift. When Winifred’s efforts to transfer were unsuccessful, she “quit” working for Douglas by enlisting in the United States Army.
Winifred was 19 at that time, and after finishing her basic training in Georgia, she travelled throughout the United States as part of a Mobile Separation Center, closing bases across the country. She was part of the Air Transport Command, a unit that has five groups located throughout the world, and her unit was involved primarily in the transportation of troops and blood plasma to bases throughout the United States. While on furlough, Winifred came back home to Westville to visit family and friends, and decided it was time to marry her childhood friend, who had also just gotten out of the service.
As a World War II veteran, Dudley participated in her first Honor Flight over 3 years ago. When she returned, she enthusiastically set about contacting everyone she could find to see how Honor Flights could be done out Tulsa. She contacted Eric Proctor and other veterans she knew and soon Honor Flights originating out of Tulsa came into existence. She explains organizing these flights is a costly effort. “It costs us $100,000 to send two flights a year. I’m on the Fundraising Committee. We plan on sending another one in September. It costs the veteran absolutely nothing, everything is furnished. We send 80 guardians to push the wheelchairs and they have to pay $500.”
She believes that World War II veterans are receiving more respect for their service, which is important as more and more veterans from that time are dying. “We started out at 60 million people in uniform and we’re down to less than 3 million. There are 60,000 left in Oklahoma. But most are, there’s a few that are in their late 80’s, the ones that lied about their age, they went in at the end of the war. For the most part most of them are in their 90’s.” Winifred says that Honor Flights will continue even after World War II veterans are gone. “We’re sending Korean veterans now since ours are dying off. And we plan on sending them (Vietnam) veterans and we will send a veteran of any war if they are terminally ill.”