Remember! Don’t Let Them Be Forgotten

Post by Doris McCraw

Doris

There is something about devotion to the awareness we are meant for something bigger than ourselves. As we in the United States celebrate Memorial Day, it seemed appropriate to honor and learn about a few who did just that.

Sarah Bryn Rickman has devoted many hours, days, weeks and years to researching and telling the stories of the WAFS and WASP of World War II. Take the time to visit her website and the biographies and books she has written. There are stories there that will make you proud to be a woman.  WASP WAFS

So, what is WASP, and how did it fit into the larger picture of WWII? It is an acronym for the Women Airforce Service Pilots. With the war pulling so many young men into service overseas and at home, there was a need for pilots to ferry planes from factories to shipping points overseas. The women who made up the WAFS and WASP flew every type of military aircraft of the period. They taught others, were test pilots, ferried aircraft and flew decoy planes for training exercises.

12-wafs

Front row, left to right: WAFS Esther (Nelson) Carpenter, Barbara Jane (Erickson) London, Teresa James, Esther Manning, and Bernice Batten. In the back are a captain and stewardess from American Airlines. After ferrying the planes from the factories to the airfields for transport to overseas battle areas, the WAFS sometimes returned by way of commercial airlines. [Special Collections, Texas Woman’s University]

Some of the women who made up this organization went on to live such quiet lives after the war, many who met them had no concept of the contribution they’d made. One lady, who according to staff. visited the library I use, was one such. Many were surprised to learn of her exploits. I often regret never getting the chance to meet and get to know her.

These brave women are now getting some of the recognition they richly deserve. They were granted Veteran status in 1977 and given the Congressional Gold Medal in 2009. Unfortunately not all lived to see these awards, but all are worth remembering and honoring.

Here is a list of the first group of WAFS, a predecessor to the WASP:
Bernice L Batten, Delphine Bohn, Aline Rhonie Brooks, Esther L N Carpenter, Helen Mary Clark, Nancy Batson Crews, Barbara Towne Fasken, Kathryn Bernheim Fine, Cornelia Fort, Phyllis B Fulton, Betty Huyler Gillies, Teresa D James, Gertrude Meserve Tuffs LeValley, Barbara J Erickson London, Nancy Harkness Love, Lenora L McElroy, Helen McGilvery, Helen Richards Prosser, Katherine Thompson Rawls, Barbara Donahue Ross, Adela Reik Scharr, Dorothy Scott, Evelyn Sharp, Barbara Poole Shoemaker, Dorothy Fulton Slinn, Florene Miller Watson, Esther Manning Westervelt, Betsy Ferguson Woodward.
You can find additional information and additional class lists at: http://www.twu.edu/library/wasp_listing.asp

I strongly urge each reader of this post find out more about these amazing women, for their stories will not disappoint. I am not the expert on these women, but I know enough to want to know more.

Doris Gardner-McCraw writing as Angela Raines 
Author, Speaker, Historian-specializing in
Colorado and Women’s History

For a list of Angela Raines Books: Here

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14 Responses to Remember! Don’t Let Them Be Forgotten

  1. Mike Staton says:

    A few years back before I retired, I toured the D-Day Museum in New Orleans where the D-D landing boats were manufactured. The museum had a section dedicated to women who served in the World War II military. Very inspiring. It included women pilots. Their service has been neglected for far too long.

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    • Doris says:

      Mike, that is a museum I would love to tour. We have a WWII aviation museum here, but not much on these women. If I didn’t know Sarah personally, I’d know even less. I agree, they’ve been forgotten for too long. Doris

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    • Nancy Jardine says:

      Mike- are you talking about DUKWs? If so, the development of them is a fascinating topic.

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  2. Doris says:

    In the Denver Colorado paper, this lady was highlighted: http://www.denverpost.com/2017/05/29/women-pilots-wasp-world-war-ii/

    Doris

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  3. I appreciate your look at a different aspect of our armed service personel.

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  4. Nancy Jardine says:

    Great post, Doris. I knew about them from teaching WWII to my 11 year old pupils. The WAAFs in the UK did similar jobs, also gaining little recognition for their ‘support’ services which in southern England meant missions just as hazardous that the male pilots undertook.

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    • Doris says:

      Thank you Nancy. I was aware there was something similar there, but don’t know as much as I would like. That those women who flew those missions were in as much danger as the men doesn’t surprise me. Hopefully they will get more recognition before it’s to late. Doris

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  5. Excellent post, Doris! Our Veteran’s Museum had an exhibit about these women a few years ago. Your post reminded me of the recent movie “Hidden Figures.” So glad these historical events (and important people) are finally getting recognized!

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    • Doris says:

      Thank you Gayle for your kinds words. It give this history lover’s heart so much joy when the ‘forgotten’ get their day. The Texas University link offers some interesting individual information. Doris

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  6. Barb says:

    Those women were special and heroic. God speed to them all and Bless them for their service to our country

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  7. Wranglers says:

    Thanks Doris, you bought them to the forefront. I’ve watched movies wherr tbere were WACS and WAVES, but not tbe WASPS. But they all did their parts, and I thank them. Cher’ley

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    • Doris says:

      Like all women, we tend to not toot our own horn, or others diminish our actions. You are correct, all these women need to be remembered. I am thankful for people like Sarah and Texas University for keeping their stories alive. Doris

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