Seventy years ago in Kansas City there was a frantic effort going on as America fought in World War II. Everyone, it seemed, was being asked to do their part to help with the war effort, including Ruth Butler.
As the United States and its allies fought both Germany and Japan in World War II, American troops seemed to be spread across the globe. With so many men so far away from home, women were asked to help with the war effort and they responded in force.
"I just couldn't imagine that they would accept me working on those bombers, climbing up in them," said Ruth Butler, who held build B-25 bombers in WWII.
In 1943, Butler joined a legion of women who went to work in factories making tanks, rifles, uniforms, ammunition and so much more. In Butler's case, the young local woman helped build B-25 bombers at the Fairfax Assembly Plant in Kansas City, KS.
"We put in a secret radio - had to start wiring it from one wing all the way through the cockpit to the other wing tip - and that's what I did," Butler said.
She was trained as an electrician to work on the B-25. It was ironic because, at the time, her husband Chris was a master electrician for Western Electric.
"He said ‘no, that's not going to be.' I think I was making 92 cents an hour," Butler said as she talked about her husband realizing she was going to make more money than he.
So her husband joined her at the factory. She said it was a period of her life that was both empowering and exciting.
"One day it was completely blank and the foreman said take a nap, so I climbed up into a B-25 and here was an airman. He was taking his nap. Then I went home and told my husband and he said, ‘well I'd like to meet him.' (I responded with) ‘Well, I don't even know who he was,'" Butler said.
Those memories were brought back into sharp focus when her son-in-law recently took her to an air show in Olathe, KS, that featured one of the very B-25s Butler helped build.
"I thought ‘My goodness. I thought it was much bigger than that.' It looks so small out on that airbase," she said.
Ever humble, Butler had to pause for a moment when asked if she was proud of what she did so many years ago when her country asked her to help in the war effort.
"It was. It was very impressive. I think back and go ‘Yeah, I did that. I did that," she said.
Butler worked on B-25 bombers in the Fairfax plant for three years until her husband was drafted into the military. She was able to go and live with him when he was stationed in Austria, but that's another story for another day.
Click here to read more about the Olathe air show.
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