Honor Long Overdue

I was delighted yesterday to see a news report showing the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASPs) of World War II receiving the Congressional Gold Medal for their service. This was something those courageous women deserved and never received for too many years.

I was not familiar with the WASPs until a dear friend, Marianne Verges, wrote her book, On Silver Wings, which beautifully tells their story. These women pilots were not allowed in combat, but they served a vital role in ferrying troops and planes, tested aircraft, and performed many other noncombat flying duties in order to release male pilots for action. They went through the Aiy Air Force flight training program like their male counterparts and were the first women to fly military aircraft.

Before Marianne’s book was released in 1991, not a lot was widely known about the WASPs. Marianne had met several ladies at an event at the Frontiers of Flight museum at Dallas Love Field, was intrigued with their story and thus began the two years of research that culminated in several articles and the book.

The Frontiers of Flight Museum and the Greater Dallas Writers Association – which Marianne and I belonged to – hosted a book launch party in November of 1991 and the guests included as many of the WASPS who could attend. I still have my copy of the book that was signed by 18 of those ladies.

Marianne died of cancer just a few years after the book came out, but until her death she was a strong advocate of the WASPs and campaigned for some kind of national recognition of their contribution to the war.

I can almost see her smile today.

5 thoughts on “Honor Long Overdue”

  1. I recall learning about the WASPS and the WACS in high school history, which for me was LONG before 1991. Rosie the Riveter was another reference to the fact that women could do more than cook and clean.

    Thanks for the reminder – we’ve come a long way, but there is still a lot farther to go.

  2. Helen, the author of the book was a close friend, who also happened to work for me when I edited a regional magazine. She jokingly referred to me as Maryann the Greater and she was Marianne the Lesser. That’s even how she inscribed the book.

  3. A mutual friend of mine and Marianne Verges tried to comment here and had trouble with her Google account. Here is her comment….

    Thanks for writing this, Maryann. My thoughts, too, were with our buddy, Marianne Verges the day the news broke about their honor. She was so enthusiastic about those women, and so when NPR did their story, I kept nodding, thinking, “I know that. That’s what Marianne told me.” She did so much research, tried to get every woman’s story in her book. I’ll bet she’s smiling in heaven this week, along with the WASPs there with her. It’s about time!!!I


    Laura Castoro
    Avon A Feb. ’09

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