Skip to main content
Displaying 1 of 1
The women with silver wings : the inspiring true story of the women Airforce Service Pilots of World War II
2020
Availability
Map It
Annotations

Tells the true story of the daring female aviators who helped the United States win World War II—only to be forgotten by the country they served. Illustrations. - (Baker & Taylor)

"The thrilling true story of the daring female aviators who helped the United States win World War II-only to be forgotten by the country they served When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor in December 1941, Cornelia Fort was already in the air. At twenty-two, Fort had escaped Nashville's debutante scene for a fresh start as a flight instructor in Hawaii. She and her student were in the middle of their lesson when the bombs began to fall, and they barely made it back to ground that morning. Still, when the U.S. Army Air Forces put out a call for women pilots to aid the war effort, Fort was one of the first to respond. She became one of just over 1,100 women from across the nation to make it through the Army's rigorous selection process and earn her silver wings. The brainchild of trailblazing pilots Nancy Love and Jacqueline Cochran, the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) gave women like Fort a chance to serve their country-and to prove that women aviators were just as skilled as men. While not authorized to serve in combat, the WASP helped train male pilots for service abroad, and ferried bombers and pursuits across the country. Thirty-eight WASP would not survive the war. But even taking into account these tragic losses, Love and Cochran's social experiment seemed to be a resounding success-until, with the tides of war turning, Congress clipped the women's wings. The program was disbanded, the women sent home. But the bonds they'd forged never failed, and over the next few decades they came together to fight for recognition as the military veterans they were-and for their place in history"-- - (Baker & Taylor)

&;With the fate of the free world hanging in the balance, women pilots went aloft to serve their nation. . . . A soaring tale in which, at long last, these daring World War II pilots gain the credit they deserve.&;&;Liza Mundy, New York Times bestselling author of Code Girls

&;A powerful story of reinvention, community and ingenuity born out of global upheaval.&;&;Newsday

When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor in December 1941, Cornelia Fort was already in the air. At twenty-two, Fort had escaped Nashville&;s debutante scene for a fresh start as a flight instructor in Hawaii. She and her student were in the middle of their lesson when the bombs began to fall, and they barely made it back to ground that morning. Still, when the U.S. Army Air Forces put out a call for women pilots to aid the war effort, Fort was one of the first to respond. She became one of just over 1,100 women from across the nation to make it through the Army&;s rigorous selection process and earn her silver wings.

The brainchild of trailblazing pilots Nancy Love and Jacqueline Cochran, the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) gave women like Fort a chance to serve their country&;and to prove that women aviators were just as skilled as men. While not authorized to serve in combat, the WASP helped train male pilots for service abroad, and ferried bombers and pursuits across the country. Thirty-eight WASP would not survive the war. But even taking into account these tragic losses, Love and Cochran&;s social experiment seemed to be a resounding success&;until, with the tides of war turning, Congress clipped the women&;s wings. The program was disbanded, the women sent home. But the bonds they&;d forged never failed, and over the next few decades they came together to fight for recognition as the military veterans they were&;and for their place in history. - (Random House, Inc.)

Author Biography

Katherine Sharp Landdeck is an associate professor of history at Texas Woman&;s University, the home of the WASP archives. A Guggenheim Fellow at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum and a graduate of the University of Tennessee, where she earned her Ph.D., Landdeck has received numerous awards for her work on the WASP and has appeared as an expert on NPR&;s Morning Edition, PBS, and the History channel. Her work has been published in The Washington Post, The Atlantic, and HuffPost, as well as in numerous academic and aviation publications. Landdeck is a licensed pilot who flies whenever she can. - (Random House, Inc.)

First Chapter or Excerpt
Chapter One

Airminded

Only a few short weeks after the attack on Pearl Harbor, Teresa James stood on the freezing platform of Pittsburgh's Union Station saying goodbye to the love of her life. They were an attractive couple: Teresa a pretty, curly-haired brunette with brown eyes and a ready smile, and Georgewho went by Dinklooking so handsome and clean-cut in his new uniform, with his cropped hair and square jaw. The couple had been preparing for this moment ever since America's entry into the war, but even so, they hated that the time for goodbye had come so soon.

Both Teresa and Dink had spent years anxiously following the news, waiting for the moment when their country might finally join the fight. They were children of European immigrantsTeresa's mother was from Ireland and Dink's was from Hungaryand perhaps, as a result, they took events overseas personally. Dink was a well-qualified pilot with 2,100 hours of flying time, and the Army's Air Transport Command wanted him to join their Ferrying Division. But by the time the telegram from the Ferrying Division arrived, he had already gone with a friend and enlisted. He was now Private Martin, headed to training at Keesler Army Airfield in Biloxi, Mississippi.

Seasoned pilots like Dink were in high demand in January 1942. A sleeping nation had finally woken up to the fact that America was woefully underprepared for war. In the weeks that followed Pearl Harbor, the nation's military began a fevered rush to train and recruit new personnel, especially pilots. It was clear that this new conflict was going to be fought, and won, in the air. In the years since the end of World War I, advancing airplane technology had transformed the nature of armed conflict, with newly developed combat aircraft enabling both sides to enact swift and deadly violence. In particular, the might of the German air force'the infamous Luftwaffe'drew the awe and respect of all who knew airplanes. In order to counter it, the United States would not only need to train thousands of pilots to fight overseas but also to manufacture and deliver aircraft in vast numbers.

Across the country, pilots were being called up to serve. Many didn't wait to be asked and, like Dink, simply enlisted. These patriotic Americans came from every state in the nation, from every race and social class. But they had one thing in common. They were all men. In 1942, the draft applied only to males ages twenty-one to forty-five, and while the military did recruit women volunteers as nurses and for other positions, it did not admit them as pilots.

On the icy train platform, Teresa and Dink said their goodbyes and promised to write. Teresa wanted to know all about Dink's training. After all, she was an accomplished pilot in her own right, well-known for her stunt flying, which she had only recently given up to make her living as a flight instructor. Teresa had been flying for nine years, during which time she had amassed almost 1,200 hours in the air, teaching scores of young men to fly and to improve their flight skills in preparation for war.

The couple had met on the airfield in 1937. Dink noticed Teresa right away, but it took him a while to pluck up the courage to ask her out. Then, one summer day all flying stopped for a sudden rainstorm. Dink took the opportunity to invite Teresa over to his family home for lunch. That day they spent time talking and getting to know each other. Teresa always asked her new students if they were good dancers: she had a theory that people who were light on their feet would likely turn out to be light on the airplane controls as well, making them good pilots. Teresa soon learned that although Dink couldn't jitterbug, he loved to slow waltz with her and that he was a natural in the air. She had met her match.

After Dink's departure, Teresa went back to work as an instructor, but the busy airfield now felt lonely. The year before, Teresa had helped to set up a local division of the Civil Air Patrol, a civilian auxiliary organization that was preparing to surveil the surrounding area from the air in the event of war. Although she continued to volunteer for work in the air patrol, Teresa felt at loose ends. She wished she could do more. She missed Dink terribly. The couple wrote to each other, sending letters back and forth daily.

Then an opportunity arose. Teresa learned that one of her flying friends, a local pilot named Helen Richey, had received a telegram two pages long signed by the prominent aviator Jacqueline Cochran. In the telegram Cochran explained that since the attack on Pearl Harbor every front in the war was now an American front and it was time for patriotic American women to step up and do their part. She was taking a group of women pilots to England to fly for the war effort there, and she wanted Helen to come with her. Helen was already beginning to prepare to leave for Canada, where she would be put through rigorous flight and medical tests along with the other potential recruits.

Teresa wrote to Cochran, hoping for her own invitation to join. In her letter Teresa touted her credentials: she was thirty-one years old, had been flying for nine years, had 1,200 hours of flight time, was an active flight instructor and a member of the Ninety-Nines, the all-woman flying organization. She desperately wanted to go with Helen to Canada, but it wasn't to be. That same month her mother suffered a heart attack. Teresa wasn't about to leave her side. When Cochran's offer arrived a few weeks later, Teresa turned it down.

Stranded in Pennsylvania, Teresa took care of her mom, who slowly recovered her health. Dink was now in Colorado. In July 1942, after seven months of separation, he asked Teresa to come and see him and to bring along his mother and Teresa's sister Betty, too. The three women made the long drive west in Dink's Buick across two-lane highways with their windows down and hot summer air blowing. Finally, Teresa and Dink were reunited, with Dink able to get a two-day pass to spend time with his visitors.

It was in Colorado Springs that Dink proposed. He explained to Teresa that he didn't want to leave to fight overseas without marrying her first. Although Teresa was Catholic and had always dreamed of a big church wedding, Dink convinced her to agree to a more modest setting, at least for the short term. The couple was married at the Colorado Springs City Hall, with a private from the 6th Photographic Squadron as best man. Instead of a wedding gown, Teresa wore her Civil Air Patrol uniform. Her sister Betty was maid of honor in her own uniform, as she was also a pilot and had joined Teresa in her air patrol work. Dink's mother served as witness. The couple had planned to keep the wedding a secret and to have their traditional church wedding after the war, but a local journalist gave away the game, running the headline famous stunt pilot married, much to the shock of Teresa's stunned motherwho learned of her daughter's wedding from the newspaper the following day.

There was little time for romance or celebration. After two weeks of day trips to the mountains and evenings with Dink, Teresa returned to Pennsylvania with her sister and Dink's mother. She went back to work at the airfield, taking on even more hours as a volunteer pilot in the Civil Air Patrol while continuing as an instructor training men to fly for the war, still hoping that the time might come when she could do the same.

Then on September 6, 1942, Teresa received a telegram that was the answer to her prayers. It was from the well-known commercial pilot Nancy Love and Colonel Robert H. Baker of the U.S. Army Air Forces'Ferry Command, inviting her to join a newly formed Women's Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron at New Castle Army Air Base in Wilmington, Delaware:

FERRYING DIVISION AIR TRANSPORT COMMAND IS ESTABLISHING GROUP OF WOMEN PILOTS FOR DOMESTIC FERRYING STOP NECESSARY QUALIFICATIONS ARE HIGH SCHOOL EDUCATION AGE BETWEEN TWENTY ONE AND THIRTY FIVE COMMERCIAL LICENSE FIVE HUNDRED HOURS TWO HUNDRED HORSEPOWER RATING STOP ADVISE COMMANDING OFFICER SECOND FERRYING GROUP FERRYING DIVISION AIR TRANSPORT COMMAND NEWCASTLE COUNTY AIRPORT WILMINGTON DELAWARE IF YOU ARE IMMEDIATELY AVAILABLE AND CAN REPORT AT YOUR OWN EXPENSE FOR INTERVIEW AND FLIGHT CHECK STOP BRING TWO LETTERS OF RECOMMENDATION PROOF OF EDUCATION AND FLYING TIME STOP

With her mother returned to good health, there was nothing standing in Teresa's way. She made plans to leave for Wilmington immediately.

Large Cover Image
Trade Reviews

Booklist Reviews

In this breezy and fascinating history that touches on dramas large and small, members of the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) come alive. Drawing from extensive archives at Texas Woman's University (where she serves as an associate professor of history), as well as interviews gathered over the previous decades, Landdeck breathes new life into the WWII period. With a bitter battle over ambition and power at its center and all of the expectations for their gender constantly thrown in their way, the WASPs managed to accomplish serious feats of flying while aiding in the war effort. The fact that they were then forced to move to the sidelines and, in many cases, were rarely allowed to fly again after the war's end is as devastating today as it was then. With a gripping review of the battle to receive full recognition and benefits decades later for their war contributions, Landdeck moves beyond most histories. Readers interested in women in the military, and military, aviation, and women's history will find much to relish in this fresh, detailed account. WOMEN IN FOCUS Copyright 2020 Booklist Reviews.

Library Journal Reviews

In the days following the attack on Pearl Harbor, millions of American men rushed to join the armed forces. As male pilots rushed to fill combat roles, Nancy Love and Jacqueline Cochran, both accomplished pilots, realized that female pilots could fill a need for the Army Air Forces. Thousands of women applied to join Cochran's Women's Flying Training Detachment with the hopes of then moving into Love's Women's Auxiliary Ferrying Service. These two units were later combined into the Women Airforce Service Pilots or WASP. Initially only allowed to ferry small, single-engined planes, the WASP pilots eventually flew some of the fastest and most complex planes used during the war, including the massive B-29 Superfortress. In her first book, Landdeck (history, Texas Woman's Univ.) tells the story of the significant contribution this group of women made to the war effort. Based on hundreds of oral histories with surviving WASP women, along with letters, diaries, and government documents, Landdeck explains the women's vital role ferrying planes, the group's disbandment, and their fight decades later to be rightfully recognized as veterans. VERDICT A must-read for those interested in women's and World War II history.—Chad E. Statler, Westlake Porter P.L., Westlake, OH

Copyright 2020 Library Journal.

Publishers Weekly Reviews

Texas Woman's University history professor Landdeck debuts with an entertaining chronicle of the Women Airservice Pilots (WASP) program during WWII. Drawing on journals, letters, and oral histories, Landdeck notes that more than 1,000 women served in the program, which was led by professional pilots Nancy Love and Jackie Chochran. The WASPs, many of whom were flight instructors or members of civilian air clubs, ferried aircraft from factories to military bases and other embarkation points across the U.S., flight tested planes, and helped to train gunners, while battling sexism and bureaucratic red tape. Landdeck's profile subjects include Cornelia Fort, who volunteered after her civilian plane was strafed by Japanese fighters during the attack on Pearl Harbor, and Teresa James, a former stunt flyer whose husband served as a bomber pilot in Europe. After the program's abrupt disbandment in 1944, these and other WASPs readapted to civilian life as they tangled with the government for postwar benefits. A generous selection of high-quality photographs and Landdeck's own experience as a licensed pilot enrich the narrative, capturing the joy of flying and the unique sense of freedom and independence these women would remember for the rest of their lives. This colorful history soars. (Apr.)

Copyright 2020 Publishers Weekly.

Table of Contents

Prologue 3(4)
Chapter 1 Airminded
7(16)
Chapter 2 The Experiment Begins
23(9)
Chapter 3 She Will Direct The Women Pilots
32(15)
Chapter 4 Outstanding Woman Flier Of The World
47(18)
Chapter 5 Ferry Pilots
65(12)
Chapter 6 The Fadoloos First
77(12)
Chapter 7 A Chance To Serve
89(17)
Chapter 8 Carrying On
106(11)
Chapter 9 The Army Way
117(8)
Chapter 10 The Hopefuls
125(9)
Chapter 11 Earning Those Wings
134(11)
Chapter 12 Avenger Field
145(13)
Chapter 13 Expansion
158(15)
Chapter 14 The Women Airfdrce Service Pilots
173(6)
Chapter 15 England
179(7)
Chapter 16 Aerial Dishwashers
186(14)
Chapter 17 A Secret Little Deal
200(6)
Chapter 18 The Lost Last Class
206(12)
Chapter 19 "I Regret To Inform You ..."
218(7)
Chapter 20 Simple Justice
225(10)
Chapter 21 Disbandment
235(15)
Chapter 22 The End Of The Experiment
250(12)
Chapter 23 Finding Their Way
262(10)
Chapter 24 Moving On
272(9)
Chapter 25 Reunited
281(11)
Chapter 26 The Fight Begins
292(15)
Chapter 27 The Year Of The Wasp
307(12)
Chapter 28 The Final Flight
319(11)
Epilogue 330(5)
Author's Note 335(4)
Acknowledgments 339(12)
In Memoriam 351(2)
Notes 353(64)
Index 417

Librarian's View
Displaying 1 of 1