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Old 03-02-2015, 23:29 PM
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GyBill GyBill is offline
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Salute to veterans: One of first women to teach pilots in World War II

SAVOY Things were "tough and very good" for a female Marine who taught men how to navigate the skies of World War II.

Iris Nigg Lundin, who is nearly 97 and lives in Savoy, enlisted in the Marines in 1943 and was one of the first four women to earn wings for teaching navigation, meteorology and radio/laser technique to male pilots.

She mastered state-of-the-art technology and then passed it on to pilots, bombers and navigators.

"There was enough in there that it was the equivalent of a Ph.D.," she says now.

Women transported planes but did not serve in combat in that war.

Though she has traveled widely in her life, Lundin never left the continental U.S. in her years in the Marines.

A teacher, she was working a summer job as a waitress when a boss made her decide it was the perfect time to enlist during that lunch hour.

She walked over to a Marine recruiting station, and, with her college degree, started on the road to becoming a first lieutenant in the Marines.

Though Marines were known to be salty, she never smoked or drank, which she says may partly explain why she has outlived her predicted family lifespan.

She also stood up for African-Americans, who were treated as second-class citizens during the war, telling off her fellow Marines when they were out of line.

Though always well-groomed and well-mannered, the female Marines could hold their own with young and hormone-loaded male Marines.

"Temptation was a dime a dozen," she says.

Lundin's roommates included a brainy beauty named Betty who was also a ventriloquist, and toyed with fellow Marines by throwing her voice.

Betty had a celebrity encounter with Gregory "Pappy" Boyington, an ace Marine pilot known for decades after for his Black Sheep Squadron shooting down Japanese planes. His exploits even sparked a TV series in the 1970s.

As Lundin remembers it, Boyington tried to kiss Betty, and was bit back in response.

"He got fresh and she bit him," she said. "Those days were scary and exciting."

Betty is long gone now, as are most of her service friends, she says.

Lundin grew up in Minnesota and Wisconsin and taught school before she enlisted. She married a man who'd been her school principal when she was a teacher, and they were happy for 38 years before he died.

After a brief marriage to a friend of her husband who also died, she moved to central Illinois to be near daughter Nancy Delcomyn.

She still has the spiffy uniform female Marines were expected to wear (except in planes, when they wore slacks).

"The Marines made ladies of us," she said of the dress standard, which included spit-shined shoes, a hat and nail polish and lipstick that matched a stripe on her outfit.
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