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.