December 7

Betty "Tack" Blake | USAF photo | TSgt. Bennie J. Davis
Betty “Tack” Blake | USAF photo | TSgt. Bennie J. Davis

This year Arizona lost one of our few remaining direct connections to the events surrounding the Imperial Japanese Navy attack on the United States at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. Betty Tackaberry Blake died in Scottsdale in April 2015.

I’ve copied here the Wikipedia entry [link to article, which includes footnotes] I assembled in memory of Ms. Blake upon learning of her selection to be honored by the USAF’s Air Command and Staff College at their “Gathering of Eagles.” You can also see two earlier ScottsdaleTrails entries for Betty here:

Betty Tackaberry “Tack” Blake (October 29, 1920 – April 9, 2015) was the last surviving member of the first training class (Class 43-W-1 at Sweetwater, Texas, on April 24, 1943) of the Women Airforce Service Pilots paramilitary aviation service.[1] The WASPS flew aircraft ferrying/delivery missions, towed aerial targets, and some even participated in flight testing and evaluation of advanced jet and rocket-powered aircraft. In performing these missions, the woman effectively replaced male pilots, who could be utilized in combat roles.

Betty Guild earned her pilots license through the Civilian Pilot Training Program at the University of Hawaii. She was a civilian inter-island tour/ferry pilot in Hawaii in 1941.

Betty witnessed the 7 December Japanese Imperial Navy sneak attack on Pearl Harbor from her family’s home overlooking the harbor. She had been scheduled to fly that morning, but her passenger had cancelled the day before. Betty’s fiance, Robert Tackaberry, was a naval officer assigned to the USS California (BB-44), but fortunately was with Betty at the time it was sunk.

A few months after the Pearl Harbor attack, Betty was recruited by Jackie Cochran into the effort to form the WASPs. Betty was initially turned down for training because of lack of flying hours. During her service, Betty flew all types of fighters, bombers, and other aircraft from factories to the East Coast for trans-Atlantic delivery, 36 types of aircraft in all. Betty proclaimed her favorite of all these aircraft was the North American P-51 Mustang.

After the war, Betty divorced Robert Tackaberry. She subsequently married US Air Force pilot George Blake. They moved to, and built the first house in Paradise Valley, Arizona, and had three sons who all became pilots.

Of course, one of the ships Betty and Lt Tackaberry witnessed sinking was the mighty battleship USS Arizona, BB-39. In less than six minutes, at least four bombs scored hits on the Arizona.

The last of those bombs ultimately ignited the powder magazine where propellant for Arizona’s huge guns was stored. The resulting devastating explosion killed 1,177 officers and crewmen, nearly 80% of the Arizona’s complement and nearly half those US personnel killed in the entire Japanese attack.

I am certain that Betty Blake’s post-Pearl Harbor service contributed greatly toward Allied victory in Europe and in the Pacific against the military forces of the Empire of Japan.

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