Parachute Riggers at Majors Field

Parachute riggers at work in 1944.

Parachute riggers at work in 1944. (

Much has been written about the young men who learned to fly during World War II at Majors Field south of Greenville. The aircraft-training center trained twenty-two classes, consisting of 5,604 cadets in the BT-13A Valiant trainer before advancing to the next flight training level. Some one hundred eighty flight officers led the would-be pilots through the Majors Field classes.

While a large number of persons at the field at any time were cadets, instructors, and mechanics, civilians were employed for clerical chores and other assorted jobs. One group of four women who worked at Majors Field is not well known. They rigged parachutes for every trainee and instructor who left the ground in those days.

Persons who successfully used a parachute to bail out of a disabled aircraft became members of the Caterpillar Club. Of all the trainees and trainers here in Greenville three became full-fledged Caterpillar Club members. Each of the three who safely bailed out had a parachute rigged by the same woman, Mrs. Chrystilee Adams. Here’s the piece that ran in the April 5, 1945 issue of the Greenville (Texas) Evening Banner on page 8.

Three new members of Majors Field’s Caterpillar Club who recently plummeted to mother earth during training here owe their well being to the efficient parachute rigging of Mrs. Chrystilee Adams, of the post parachute department.

After almost three years of uneventful ‘chute packing, Mrs. Adams finally hit the jackpot. Flight Officer E. L. Baden made the first jump on March 15 when he quit his disabled plane over the Gulf of Mexico during tow-target practice. He landed without mishap on an Adams-packed parachute.

Some time later on March 22, Lt. Robert K. Tinder, another pilot trainer, was forced to jump from his F-47 near Wade, Oklahoma. Mrs. Adams packed his ‘chute, too.

Last and crowning test of the petite redhead’s rigging skill was the spectacular leap of Lt. Norman W. Olsen two miles southeast of Majors Field, a sight witnessed by many people at the base.

The wife of Sgt. Robert R. Adams, one-time Majors Field soldier and now serving with the Ninth Air Force in England. Mrs. Adams received her training at Majors Field. She is a native of Greenville, and began work here in August 1942.

Majors Field ‘chute department, supervised by Robert Pendleton and under the military direction of Lt. Allan Wilcox, has batted .1000 as far as its three riggers, Misses Bertha Sue Pemberton, Betty Larue, and Mrs. Adams are concerned.

Of the 11 recorded jumps in ‘chutes packed by the department, made by seven lieutenants, one flight officer, two aviation cadets, and a corporal, there have been no fatalities.

Thanks to John Armstrong for sharing this article.

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