Father: Emile John Lussier DFC [b. Illinois, RAF in WWI, Squadron Leader in the RCAF in WWII]
Mother Vera [Fleming, Canadian]
Her father's parents were born in France and England, her mother's parents were American and Canadian.
The family moved to Rock Hall, Maryland in 1924, where they ran a dairy farm.
Ed. Rock Hall High, Washington College, University of Maryland
She and her sister Nita competed in the 1940 and 1942 South Atlantic Association Outdoor Swimming championships for the 'Kings of Columbus' team; Betty won the 100m breaststroke race both times, and was third in the 220 yd freestyle in which Nita came second.
Nita, 18, and Betty aged 20
She learnt to fly under the Civilian Pilots Training program.
prev. exp 240hrs
Betty and Nita both wrote to Jackie Cochran in Mar 1942 hoping to join the ATA but were rejected; Nita joined the RCAF Women's Division instead, but Betty built up her flying hours and then used her Canadian birth to volunteer directly as a British citizen.
Address in 1942: 815 North Charles St, Baltimore MD
She wrote a series of articles for the Baltimore Sun during her time with the ATA. One, called 'Wartime England from the Sky' describes a delivery flight. It ends:
"Slowly the coast began to take shape... There was the Channel with its foaming breakers rolling in upon a gray-white beach. Several rugged cliffs added that painted-there-on-purpose look to the scenery. In between two of those imposing cliffs my destination aerodrome sprawled like a lazy spider stretching out its legs. I glanced once more at the quiet green countryside, the calm, blue sky, the monotonous rolling waves and throttled back to land in the midst of the bustling activity of England at war."
ATA Total flying hours: 197, on Tiger Moth, Magister, Master, Hart, Fairchild, Auster.
[Resigned to join OSS]
Post-ATA, a member of US OSS (Office of Strategic Services) - X2 counter-espionage unit, analysing messages from German units. She also helped to establish a network of undercover agents to spread misinformation in Algeria, Italy, Sicily and France.
Her fiance, Lt. Charles Thomas Chittum USAAF, was killed in a car accident in July 1943.
m. 1945 in France, Ricardo Sicre aka Richard Sickler, USAAF, also ex-OSS (4 sons) (divorced 1975)
Post-WWII, Special Correspondent of the Baltimore Sun, living in France.
Amid my Alien Corn (1957);
'One Woman Farm (1959);
'Intrepid Woman: Betty Lussier's Secret War, 1942-1945' (2010)
['Intrepid Woman' is an interesting account of her time with the ATA and OSS.
Unfortunately, it has a few passages where Betty has clearly mis-remembered the events. For example, in April 1943 (just before she left the ATA) she says that her classmate and friend, "Tanya" met her death. "It was an ugly end for vivacious Tanya, with her long blond hair, her cornflower-blue eyes, and her sunny nature. The engine of the Oxford she was to deliver cut out on takeoff. She had no speed to do a dead-stick, straight-ahead emergency landing. The Oxford went engine first into the ground and exploded."
Apart from the fact that an Oxford has two engines, Taniya Whittall (who was indeed a classmate of Betty's) was still alive until April 1944, and did not die in an Oxford, but as a passenger in a Lancaster. Betty may have mixed up Taniya with Irene Arckless, who died in an Oxford accident in January 1943.
Betty then describes a fellow pilot cadet: "Another American pilot, Betty McDougall, was accompanying me. She was one of the "older women" whom Jackie Cochran had brought over from the States". Not quite right; Elizabeth Anderson Macdougall (also a classmate of Betty's) was Scottish, and had joined the ATA independently.
Betty also says she left the ATA in April 1943 because she was told she would not be allowed to fly to Europe after D-Day, and describes the build-up of forces ready for the invasion; the problem here is that, a) when she left the ATA, the (June 1944) invasion was not even agreed, let alone planned in any detail or resourced, and b), the person who decided that women were not to be allowed to fly to Europe (which they eventually did, actually) was Trafford Leigh-Mallory, who didn't take up his post until August 1943.]
In 2008, at the time that Gordon Brown presented medals to the surviving members of the ATA, she said "They paid us the same as men and advanced and promoted us just as if we were real citizens. It was the first time I saw equality with men, and that really amazed me."
d. 30 Nov 2017 - Rock Hall, MD