Meet the Women Who Gave All

Meet the Women Who Gave All

by Susan Neuhalfen

On Memorial Day we reflect on the sacrifices made by the men of women of the military. For most of us, having such a strong military over the years has kept us sheltered from the direct attacks that many countries suffer. Therefore, we take for granted just what these incredible people have done to keep us safe.

For example, did you know that there were women pilots in WWII? Russian had their Night Witches and even Hitler’s personal pilot was a woman, but we also had a squadron here in the U.S. They were volunteers who were known as the “ferrying crew” later called WASP. They were the first women to fly for the military, though they were not technically recognized by the military.

“They were the forgotten flyers,” said Kimberly Johnson, Director of Special Collections at Texas Women’s University. “They weren’t recognized even as veterans until 1976.”

Because these women were not considered military, they had to pay their own way to training as well as for their own accommodations.

They first trained in Houston with the men, but getting air time was too much of a challenge so the women were sent to a hangar in Sweetwater, Texas, for training. Some of these women were barnstormers, some flew crop dusters and some just flew because they loved it, but they were all fearless.

They were picked up each morning by a cattle truck which would shuttle them from the Bluebonnet hotel to the hangar. They wore the men’s hand-me-down uniforms. They ferried planes, transported equipment, flew non-flying personnel, flight-tested aircrafts, and towed
gunnery targets.

They ferried every plane that came off the line usually before the male pilots had a chance to test them. They were responsible for learning maintenance as they didn’t always have a crew available. They were, for all intents and purposes, treated as second class citizens but their passion for flying and for serving their country, prevailed over all of that.

Now the Sweetwater hangar where they trained has been turned into a museum for them. It’s free, it’s fun and it makes for a great history lesson for the kids. Go to waspmuseum.org for all the details.


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