Saturday, March 13, 2010

A Swarm of WASPs: WWII Female Pilots

What subject could be more appropriate for National Women's History Month?

When the WASP program ended, these women were forgotten. Never formally part of the Armed Forces, they received no benefits or recognition--until Wednesday, March 10, when they were awarded the U.S. Congressional Medal of Honor. For more about the medal, click here.

My dad's sister, Helen Anderson Severson, one of these pacesetters, was one of the 38 killed in crashes. Helen began her WASP training in Sweetwater, Texas, in April 1943. Her plane, a UC-78, went down in a field near Big Springs, Texas, in August 1943, during a training flight, killing Helen, classmate Peggy Seip, and their instructor, Mr. Atwood. The cause of the crash was determined to be structural failure.

More about the 38 who gave their lives in service is found here.
In her book Flying for Her Country, Amy Goodpaster Strebe writes about a WASP's memory of losing her friends, Helen and Peggy. After that accident, mortality sank in for the WASPs at that base. The book quotes Ann Baumbgartner Carl: "We could fail. We could die. Yet, we secretly felt 'it won't happen to me'...many of the women turned to their God--who for them was indeed their 'co-pilot.'"

PBS did an excellent documentary, Fly Girls, on this part of our history, showing the rigors, joys, dangers, and importance of what these women did.

Here's to these daring women and the model they set for the rest of us!


  1. I have Fly Girls. What wonderful women, and what a great post. It's amazing how hidden history unfolds as time goes on. So much was left out in standard versions.

  2. Yes, and it depends on who is writing the history....