Irma: Flying Tiger lady

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Brigitte N. Brantley
  • 23rd Wing Public Affairs
When the men of America were called to fight overseas during World War II, it was left up to the women to take care of things on the homefront.

Irma Aul, a Pittsburg native who is now 87, was one of 3 million women who worked at war plants. She installed avionics on aircraft including the P-51 Mustang and P-40 Warhawk.

Her work on the Warhawk and subsequent support of the American Volunteer Group have left her known as the "Tiger Lady." She attends the Flying Tigers Reunion nearly every year.

"So many people who used to come to the reunions are gone," said Irma, whose sister Maria used to accompany her before passing away earlier this year. "We love coming to them because all the people are so friendly, but it's sad to see fewer and fewer people show up each year."

As a war plant worker in Niagra, N.Y., she welded wires and installed secret radar and other electronics into planes that were directly responsible for downing enemy aircraft in multiple theaters.

Irma said she is proud to be a Flying Tiger affiliate and for her part in the war effort. Now as a Tiger Lady, she shows her enthusiastic Tiger support wherever possible.

"I cannot find another place for tigers in my house," she said as she gestured to the tiger stripe-rimmed glasses on her head. "I've got tiger earrings, piles of stuffed tigers, tiger plates, tiger jewelry, tiger clothes and Tiger1 and Tiger2 license plates. I would need an extra house to display everything I've got tucked away."

Her neighbor Pat Majeskie, who accompanied her to this year's reunion, said getting to know Irma has been an honor.

"It is unbelievable to me that history doesn't focus more on the Flying Tigers and everything they did for our country," said Majeskie. "I first met Irma because she and Maria lived next door and they were always on the go.

"Now, she is like family and it is just amazing to hear the stories she has to tell. There's so much to learn from those who served in WWII."

Irma isn't the first in her family with a military connection‚ąíher father was a sheet metalist who served in World War I.

"Back then, it was just the World War because there hadn't been a second one yet," said Irma. "Our attic was full of stuff such as my dad's trench hat and helmet. We also had an uncle who got mustard gassed and came back no good. Some things, people just wouldn't talk about."

However, Irma has no problem talking to anyone who is interested about her love for tigers and her part in Flying Tiger history.