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Endurance pilots' wives never missed a refueling
When Berta Woodhouse talks about the flight that her husband Bob and fellow pilot Woody Jongeward took in 1949, she talks about how the entire Yuma community worked together to make the endurance flight a reality - and kept the two men in the air for 47 consecutive days, breaking the world record.
For Berta Woodhouse and the late Betty Jongeward, wives of the two pilots, it was life as usual, except their husbands were flying overhead for 47 days.
And Woodhouse said neither her nor Jongeward missed any of the refuelings, which happened at least twice a day. Toward the end of the flight, Woodhouse said, they were up to refueling three times a day.
The morning refueling was early: between 4 a.m. and 4:30 a.m. "Betty and I didn't miss any of them."
Woodhouse said back when their husbands made the historic flight, the two women could not have worked for better employers, who allowed them to be able to attend each refueling.
Already close friends, Woodhouse said she and Jongeward moved in together.
It helped with things, she said.
The ground crew only had to make one phone call to the women if things changed with the flight or refueling - "one car, one phone call," Woodhouse said.
Though their husbands were high above, Woodhouse said it was business as usual.
When her husband approached her with the proposition of the endurance flight, Woodhouse said she thought "it was a wild idea."
She said if anyone listened to Ray Smucker, then KYUM radio station manager and Yuma Jaycees president, long enough, he could convince you of anything.
Woody Jongeward really wanted Bob to join him on the flight, Woodhouse said.
Both former Navy pilots, the two shared a common professional background, which Woodhouse said helped them focus on accomplishing their goal.
"The men were very regimented to what they were doing," she said.
In addition, the two men were good friends. "(They were) very compatible," Woodhouse said.
And so the idea became a reality, and Woodhouse said it was only possible with the help of a lot of people.
Woodhouse said that was one of her original concerns. "My first thought was how were they going to get that many people."
There were a lot of people with different jobs who were charged with keeping the men in the air.
And everyone was focused on his or her role, she said - and that's what made the flight a success.
It was something special that happened in the Yuma community.
"It's unreal and unbelievable how everyone worked together," she said. "Everybody had this one goal and that was to break this record."