After Hazel Ying Lee earned her pilot’s license in Portland, Oregon in 1932, she traveled to China with the hopes of joining the Chinese air force and helping to fend off growing Japanese aggression. Turned down because she was a woman, she became a private airline pilot for a number of years, but then returned to the United States in 1938. She joined the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) shortly after its creation in 1943, becoming the first Chinese-American woman pilot to fly for the US military.
Assigned to the third Ferrying Group at Romulus, Michigan, Lee flew American fighter planes like the P-63 Kingcobra, P-51 Mustang and P-39 Airacobra from aircraft factories to their deployment areas.
On Thanksgiving Day 1944, Lee was killed in a mid-air collision; she was 32 years old.