From high in the sky, the Maine landscape looks like “a land of lakes, all within a stone’s throw of each other,” wrote Catherine Winne ’41 in the Oct. 30, 1940, issue of The Bates Student following one of her pilot training flights.
As the Student reported earlier that October, Winne “will go down in the annals of history as the first co-ed to learn to fly while attending Bates College.”
Winne got the opportunity to fly through the federal Civilian Pilot Training Program. Created by the Civil Aeronautics Administration in 1938 to increase the number of civilian U.S. pilots, the CPTP gave flight training to hundreds of thousands of men and women, mostly college students.
The program is specifically credited with creating a path for African Americans to eventually become military pilots, notably the Tuskegee Airmen. In Maine, Bates, Bowdoin, Colby, and UMaine offered chapters, as did several high schools and American Legion chapters.
The Bates chapter was started in October 1939. Initially, women were given 10 percent of the slots, which meant two spots among 20 at Bates. With the start of World War II, women were excluded. The Bates fliers flew the famous Piper J-C Cub and a pre-war Aeronca model.
Though the record is unclear as to whether Winne, who died in 2007, ultimately earned a license, she was certainly an active part of the program.
On Nov. 13, 1940, the Student reported that “it is planned to have a brief farewell ceremony before Catherine Winne ’41, first co-ed to take the flight course, embarks on that long-awaited solo hop.” At the time, she and the other Bates would-be pilots had “averaged about seven hours of flying time, and several of the embryonic aviators are waiting to go up for the first time alone.”
A fine athlete who coached tennis for the Woman’s Athletic Association in her senior year, Winne was among at least two other female Bates trainees. Another was the late Pauline Giles ’41, who attended classroom sessions but may not have flown.
The third was graduate Doris Howes Parmenter ’37, who worked at Bates after graduation. Indeed, the Bates Magazine obituary for Parmenter suggests that she had the distinction of being the “first Bates woman to solo” with the CPTP.
“We knew it was a pre-screening thing for military pilots.”
The CPTP’s military importance was readily known, especially after Germany invaded Poland and France.
“We knew it was a pre-screening thing for military pilots,” said retired Marine Col. Armand Daddazio ’42 in 2010. A CPTP trainee as a Bates student, Daddazio saw active duty in air defense artillery in the Pacific during World War II.
He was on Tinian when the USS Indianapolis delivered the atomic bomb destined for Hiroshima.
“Headquarters called to ask for officers for a work party,” Daddazio said. “We pointed out that officers don’t go on work parties. The reply was, ‘Well, they do on this one!’ For security, they wanted officers to unload the bomb.”
Daddazio, who died in 2016, did not fly during or after the war. Initially interested in the Army Air Corps, he instead chose the Marines. “The casualty rate ended up pretty bad for the flying services,” he recalled. “Maybe the dear Lord didn’t want me to fly.”