Women WWII Fliers Honored!

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Ralph
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Women WWII Fliers Honored!

Post by Ralph » Wed Mar 10, 2010 10:39 am

CNN.com

Washington (CNN) -- Some 65 years after their service, a group of former civilian women pilots whose unheralded work was key to helping the U.S. effort in World War II are being honored Wednesday with the Congressional Gold Medal.

Fewer than 300 Women Airforce Service Pilots are still alive. About 175 of them, along with thousands of family members, have traveled to Washington for the ceremony at the Capitol.

Jane Tedeschi is one of the WASPs who will be recognized.

"I think it is wonderful. I think it really is," she told CNN, saying it's especially meaningful because "so many of us are still alive to get this honor."

The Women Airforce Service Pilots was born in 1942 to create a corps of female pilots able to fill all types of flying jobs at home, thus freeing male military pilots to travel to the front.

As part of the commemoration, the former pilots attended a wreath-laying ceremony Tuesday at the Air Force Memorial just outside Washington to remember their colleagues killed in the line of duty.

"I think that this is important. It is hopefully something that people will remember," Tedeschi told CNN last week. "It is another thing to honor the women who lost their lives at that time and of course what it did to persuade people that women could do this."

With only about a quarter of the former 1,102 WASPs surviving and all in their late 80s or older, Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas; Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Maryland; and Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Florida, pushed a bill through Congress to honor these women by awarding them the medal, given as an expression of national appreciation for distinguished achievements and contributions, according to the House of Representatives' Office of the Clerk.

"This is a largely overlooked veterans group. They haven't gotten the medals they deserve, the recognition they deserve," Ros-Lehtinen told CNN.

Longtime dream of flight

From the time she was about 8, Tedeschi wanted to fly.

"[Charles] Lindbergh was flying across the Atlantic, and a lot of other people were flying air races and things like that." she said, "It was very romantic."

Flight was still relatively new in the 1920s and 1930s, and female pilots were few. But Tedeschi was determined.

In 1941, she found a childhood friend who taught flying and started taking lessons. After the friend was sent off to war and the airport near her home in Bethesda, Maryland, was closed to private flying, she traveled about 40 miles to Frederick and spent nights on the floor of a farmhouse to continue her lessons.

Around the same time, Deanie Parrish was working in a bank in Avon Park, Florida, and kept seeing aviation students who were attending a flying school there.

"I asked an instructor 'Why can't I learn to fly?' and he didn't have an answer ... so I decided to find out for myself."

She found an instructor and started taking lessons.

These two women were not only fulfilling a personal dream. Along with 1,100 other women, they would become an instrumental part of the war effort during World War II, becoming the first women to fly U.S. military aircraft.

In the days after the outbreak of the war, Jacqueline Cochran, one of the country's leading female pilots at the time, went to a key general to argue that women would be just as capable pilots as men if they were given the same training.

She won the argument, and the program was launched.

At 21, Parrish joined up in November 1943.

"Everybody was doing something," she said. "I wanted to do something for my country."

Some 25,000 women pilots applied, and 1,830 were accepted. They had to pay their own way to Texas for 21 to 27 weeks of rigorous training, for which they received less pay than the male cadets in the same program, Parrish said.

Just short of requirements

Candidates had to be at least 21 and at least 5 feet, one-half inch tall.

When Tedeschi underwent a physical, she was told her height was only 5 feet.

"I frowned," she recalled. "I said 'I need that half-inch,' so he wrote it down." She was in.

Eventually the women who completed the program were assigned to one of 120 bases across the country to start their missions.

Depending on the base, they participated in a range of activities:

-- Ground-to-air anti-aircraft practice.

-- Towing targets for air-to-air gunnery practice with live ammunition.

-- Flying drones and conducting night exercises.

-- Testing repaired aircraft before they were used in cadet training.

-- Serving as instructors.

-- Transporting cargo and male pilots to embarkation points.

"We were still civilians. All of our training was to make [Army] Air Corps pilots," Tedeschi said.

They flew more than 60 million miles in every type of aircraft -- from the PT-17 and AT-6 trainers, the fastest attack planes such as the A-24 and A-25 or heavy bombers such as B-17s or B-29s.

Paid $250 a month, the women were not officially part of the military. They received no benefits, no honors.

Eventually, Parrish was sent to Florida where she flew a B-26 bomber for air-to-air target practice, training gunners for combat.

Tedeschi, who graduated in May 1944, was sent to a Selma, Alabama, base that did more engineering work.

"We did whatever they asked us," she recalled in a CNN interview. "You knew enough about flying you could adapt ... sometimes it was a little tougher."

For instance, she would take planes up after repair. That could involve acrobatic work, "which, of course, we liked to do." She could also be called to do night flying.

While the work was technically noncombat, it could be dangerous.

Thirty-eight of the pilots were killed. Parrish recalled the military would not allow the flag to be put on a colleague's coffin.

"It still bothers me," she told CNN.

End of the program

As the war was winding down in December 1944, the program was closed -- with no recognition from the government and not much help for the women who served.

"You got home the best way you could," said Parrish. "I paid my own way home."

Several of the women, however, said they were not bitter since the only reason they had signed up was to do their part for the country, pointing out that they were just like the thousands of other women who also learned new skills and went to work in the factories to replace male workers sent off to war.

"We were proud of what we did, and the war was over. It was time to get on," said Tedeschi.

But many Americans were not aware of their efforts, and that has bothered them. The WASP records were sealed for more than 30 years. In 1977, Congress voted to make them eligible for veterans' benefits.

"I didn't care for veteran status, but now I could have a flag on my coffin ... that is important to me," Parrish said.

Parrish married a pilot after the war. She and her daughter, Nancy, for over a decade have documented the work of the WASPs and worked to gain national attention for their work. Read more about the WASPs at the Wings Across America Web site.

While some of the WASPs say the medal itself is a nice gesture, more importantly they say they hope the publicity will teach younger generations about their accomplishments and remind some still skeptical men just how capable women are.

"Millions of Americans will learn about the history of these women. I think that is so important," Parrish told CNN.



Find this article at:
http://www.cnn.com/2010/POLITICS/03/10/ ... tml?hpt=C1
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Re: Women WWII Fliers Honored!

Post by BWV 1080 » Wed Mar 10, 2010 8:38 pm

not perhaps as impressive as the night witches though

Barry
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Re: Women WWII Fliers Honored!

Post by Barry » Wed Mar 10, 2010 9:10 pm

BWV 1080 wrote:not perhaps as impressive as the night witches though
Was that really necessary? I'm curious as to why you seemingly ALWAYS find it necessary to belittle the U.S. contribution to the War?
"If this is coffee, please bring me some tea; but if this is tea, please bring me some coffee." - Abraham Lincoln

"Although prepared for martyrdom, I preferred that it be postponed." - Winston Churchill

"Before I refuse to take your questions, I have an opening statement." - Ronald Reagan

http://www.davidstuff.com/political/wmdquotes.htm
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2pbp0hur ... re=related

BWV 1080
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Re: Women WWII Fliers Honored!

Post by BWV 1080 » Wed Mar 10, 2010 9:15 pm

Barry wrote:
BWV 1080 wrote:not perhaps as impressive as the night witches though
Was that really necessary? I'm curious as to why you seemingly ALWAYS find it necessary to belittle the U.S. contribution to the War?

lighten up, I am not belittling anything

Barry
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Re: Women WWII Fliers Honored!

Post by Barry » Wed Mar 10, 2010 9:19 pm

BWV 1080 wrote:
Barry wrote:
BWV 1080 wrote:not perhaps as impressive as the night witches though
Was that really necessary? I'm curious as to why you seemingly ALWAYS find it necessary to belittle the U.S. contribution to the War?

lighten up, I am not belittling anything
Oh, there has been a definite pattern in your posts whenever World War II comes up. It's as if you can't stand for an American being proud of what we did in the War because the Soviets did more of the fighting and dying. Nobody is denying the huge role they played in winning the War, but that doesn't mean we can't discuss what the U.S. did or that every time that our role is discussed, that it needs to be pointed out that we didn't contribute as much as the Soviets. For one thing, it's hardly surprising that under the circumstances, the Soviets would have to do more of the heavy lifting. They either did it or lived under Nazi boots. Thankfully we weren't in that situation. We fought in Europe and died in relatively large numbers in spite of the fact that we weren't going to be invaded by Germany any time in the foreseeable future (and yes, I know Germany declared war on us, but we could have stuck to fighting them at sea if we really didn't want to get bloodied up in the land war in Europe). There is plenty admirable about that.

On top of that, is it really surprising that a group of Americans would focus on America's role in the war at times? I guarantee you that when groups of Brits talk about the war, they focus heavily on Britain's role in it and don't always feel the need to point out that their role in winning was secondary to that of the Soviets. And I say that as someone who is probably as fascinated by the war on the Eastern European front as you are. I love reading about Stalingrad and Kursk. But I don't feel the need to bring them up by way of comparison every time we're talking about the Western European front in an effort to slight the contributions of those who fought in the West.

You're obviously going to do what you want and don't need my advice. But it makes sense to me that if you want to talk about an aspect of the Soviet role in World War II, you should just start a thread on it, rather than always bringing it up by way of comparison when someone else starts a thread on something to do with the U.S. role in the war.
"If this is coffee, please bring me some tea; but if this is tea, please bring me some coffee." - Abraham Lincoln

"Although prepared for martyrdom, I preferred that it be postponed." - Winston Churchill

"Before I refuse to take your questions, I have an opening statement." - Ronald Reagan

http://www.davidstuff.com/political/wmdquotes.htm
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2pbp0hur ... re=related

NancyElla
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Re: Women WWII Fliers Honored!

Post by NancyElla » Wed Mar 10, 2010 11:13 pm

Thanks, Ralph. I hadn't seen this story and I'm happy to have read it. Nice to see the ladies getting some recognition, and I think it is important to get into the history books.
"This is happiness; to be dissolved into something complete and great." --Willa Cather

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Re: Women WWII Fliers Honored!

Post by BWV 1080 » Wed Mar 10, 2010 11:21 pm

Barry wrote: But it makes sense to me that if you want to talk about an aspect of the Soviet role in World War II, you should just start a thread on it, rather than always bringing it up by way of comparison when someone else starts a thread on something to do with the U.S. role in the war.
oh f**K off Barry

By all means show me where I "always" bring the soviets up when a thread is started on the US in WW2. I have done no such thing. Its funny though how much time and energy you have devoted to one little insignificant quip in this thread

Barry
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Re: Women WWII Fliers Honored!

Post by Barry » Thu Mar 11, 2010 12:01 am

BWV 1080 wrote:
Barry wrote: But it makes sense to me that if you want to talk about an aspect of the Soviet role in World War II, you should just start a thread on it, rather than always bringing it up by way of comparison when someone else starts a thread on something to do with the U.S. role in the war.
oh f**K off Barry

By all means show me where I "always" bring the soviets up when a thread is started on the US in WW2. I have done no such thing. Its funny though how much time and energy you have devoted to one little insignificant quip in this thread
Okay, Steve. "Always" was an exaggeration. You don't do it as often as you misuse the word "neocon" to describe anyone you disagree with on a foreign policy issue.
But I can assure you that I wouldn't have gone off on a rant if this was the first time I had seen you do something like this. I came close to ranting at you on the same issue a couple times before, but held back. I'm feeling more combative tonight.
I also know I'm not the first person on this or other boards who has given you crap about your dismissal of the western contribution to the war effort.
"If this is coffee, please bring me some tea; but if this is tea, please bring me some coffee." - Abraham Lincoln

"Although prepared for martyrdom, I preferred that it be postponed." - Winston Churchill

"Before I refuse to take your questions, I have an opening statement." - Ronald Reagan

http://www.davidstuff.com/political/wmdquotes.htm
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2pbp0hur ... re=related

Madame
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Joined: Wed Apr 27, 2005 2:56 am

Re: Women WWII Fliers Honored!

Post by Madame » Mon Mar 15, 2010 3:54 am

Image Image

Former long-time Anacortes resident Lois Auchterlonie was one of the former Women Airforce Service Pilots honored with a Congressional Gold Medal for their WWII WASP service in a ceremony in Washington, DC.

Auchterlonie, who left Anacortes about a year ago to live closer to her family in Snohomish County, was at the ceremony in Washington, DC. She graduated WASP training on Dec. 17, 1943, and was assigned to Williams Army Air Base in Ariz. She lived in Skyline for about 25 years. Auchterlonie is in her 90's.

The WASP program was launched during World War II to train civilian women to fly military aircraft in non-combat missions because so many male pilots were deployed overseas. These women pioneers paved the path for future female pilots who have pursued careers in wanted to join the Armed Forces.

Of the more than 1,000 women who received their wings through the WASP Program, approximately 300 are still alive; 11 of them live in Washington state. Among those from Washington, Mary Call from Mount Vernon, Nancy Dunnam from Bellevue, Dorothy Olsen from University Place, Mary Sturdevant from Tacoma, Josephine Swift from Seattle, Alta Thomas from Sequim, and a relative on behalf of Margaret Martin from Oak Harbor, attended the ceremony.

Over the past 60 years, WASPs have received little recognition for their accomplishments. Today all will be awarded a bronze duplicate of the original Congressional Gold Medal. Each medal is designed to specifically commemorate the individual or event being honored. The original gold medal will be donated to the Smithsonian Institution in honor of the WASPs. The WASPs have also been honored at an exhibit in the Seattle Museum of Flight.

http://www.anacortesnow.com/content/view/1676/111/

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