Missing History

WASP-B-17Now that we acquired the van so Ken and I can go “bumming” easily, I must concentrate on something else. I feel a little guilty about not providing something more substantial to my followers than I have for the past couple of weeks, but with the end of the semester and jumping through hoops to make a wheelchair van a reality, I sloughed off.  I subscribe to and read several blogs, and it is quite clear to me most people have much better stuff to talk about than I do. It’s frustrating, but true. So, I will concentrate better on expanding my world.

Lately, other than seeking and buying  a van, I’ve been researching my next novel. I love this stage of the writing game because I always unearth something I didn’t know. The subject matter this go-round is women pilots during WWII. As I hunted for details of their experiences, I learned some American women signed an 18-month contract with the ATA in Britain to ferry Spitfires and Hurricanes to airfields in England. I also came across an amazing video about Russian women pilots. I was flabbergasted to learn they flew COMBAT missions during the battle of Stalingrad. Incredible. Why hadn’t I ever heard about this before? For that matter, why hadn’t I heard about how women pilots were used (and abused) in the United States?

These women contributed so much to the war effort. They were educated and they had to already have their pilot’s license. (Men were trained by the Army Air Corps or the Civil Air Patrol and their flying fees were paid for by the government. Women had to pay for their own training.)

After 1944, the WASP unit was disbanded and the women had to find their own way home. There was no ceremony to thank them for their service. It was more like, “Here’s your hat, what’s your hurry?” to get them off the airfield to make room for male pilots returning from their combat tours. After the war, airline pilots were all males because women were supposed to go home and raise a family. It wasn’t until the 1970’s the Air Force even acknowledged their contributions, and that happened after a fight.

This fries me. Many of these women had experience flying every aircraft the United States employed during the war, including the B-17 and B-26 heavy bombers. That’s a huge plane for a female to operate, especially when she was only 5 ft. 4″ tall — which was the requirement. (I have it on good authority many of them stood on their tip-toes in order to meet the height requirement.)

I wish the history we learn in grade school, high school, and even college could be more inclusive of females and other minorities during a specific time periods. So often, the accomplishments and sacrifices of these people are never heard. I realize now this is the reason I am writing these World War II novels–to tell the unknown stories of my parent’s generation. Worldwide there are so many incredible tales that were essential in preserving our way of life.

This generation is dying out. I only wish I had been smarter to ask about such stories while they were here. Anybody know a Russian woman pilot?

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