Weaving the Stories of Women's Lives: Staff Sgt. Esther Blake

GRAND FORKS AIR FORCE BASE, N.D. -- Staff Sgt. Esther Blake, also known as the first woman in the Air Force, began her active duty military career in 1944 when she joined her sons in uniform in the Army Air Forces. She later joined the Women's Army Corps when she was informed that her eldest son, Lt. Julius Blake, was reported missing after his B-17 Flying Fortress was shot down over Belgium.

She is said to have enlisted on the first minute of the first hour of the first day regular Air Force duty was authorized for women on July 8, 1948.

Blake, a widow, was quoted as saying that her reason for joining was the hope of helping free a soldier from clerical work to fight, thus speeding the end of the war. Blake's sons eventually returned home from combat with only minor wounds and many decorations.

In 1954, Blake separated due to disability and began working as a civil service employee at the Veterans Regional Headquarters in Montgomery, Ala., until her death in 1979.

(Courtesy of Air Force News Service and the Enlisted Heritage Research Institute)