Heroes in History: WASP’s

You know those trendy catch-phrases that we all love to hate?

YOLO. Totes. The feels. Amazeballs. Cray. Or cray-cray for when things get totes amazeballs.

Ugh, it’s annoying how funny they can be sometimes.

Anyways, another one that is slightly less annoying comes to mind today:

Girl crush.

As in, this post will highlight one of my biggest girl crushes ever.

Last summer my husband and I really wanted to do something patriotic for the 4th of July. We couldn’t find any services anywhere so we ended up going to the Arizona Wing of the Commemorative Air Force Aviation Museum. I grew up not far from this place and knew it had a hangar full of World War 2 planes, but had never actually been to the museum itself.

We geeked out big time.

It really is an amazing museum. If you’re ever in the Phoenix/East Valley area, it’s definitely worth a visit. I’m a big fan of supporting museums and especially supporting our military.

One of the things I loved about this museum was learning about the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP). It’s possible I’d learned about it in school before and forgot about it, but I honestly do not remember ever hearing about them before. Neither did my husband. Of course I knew about all the women who worked in the factories–who doesn’t love Rosie the Riveter?

rosie

These women were different though. In the early 1940’s they began a program that allowed female pilots to ferry aircraft across the United States. They tested planes. They dragged around targets for ground and air gunners to practice shooting at. With real bullets, people! Something tells me that’s not really allowed these days…

Over a thousand women were trained and their contributions were so valuable to our country during the war. Their non-combat roles allowed for more men to be sent into the combat positions in the war. Though they were officially non-combat, they were not immune to tragedy and many gave their lives in the service of their country. Interestingly, they were not militarized and as the war ended their program was shut down and they were just sent home. The following pictures were from a display at the museum (don’t worry, you’re allowed to take pictures there):

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I really couldn’t believe what all I had learned about these women. I went home and looked up information on them and then called my grandma. You need to know that I think my grandma is the coolest lady and have always been fascinated by her pictures of being a young adult in the 1940’s. I asked if she knew anyone who was a WASP and she said no, but her sister Dorothy was in the Canadian WAC.

big fudge

She didn’t know much about what she did, but said that she joined after her husband was shot down and killed in the invasion of Sicily. They didn’t have any children. Grandma and her nieces said Dorothy never really talked about her service, but she had been a welder before she joined and was a driver in the WAC.

Dorothy's army picture

Aunt Dot

And my WW2 female military member girl crush began that day. Seriously, my girl crush is for an entire group of women.

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How do you not have a girl crush after learning about them?

We decided to go back this year for the 4th of July again. There were some updated displays, but I loved re-reading the stories and seeing their memorabilia. It really was inspiring. Another thing I loved was hearing my husband and little brothers talking about them and how cool they were. One of my brothers that was there recently finished his Army service and he had never heard of these women before either. It’s mind-blowing that all these women could be forgotten so quickly and for so long, but grateful that they’ve finally been recognized as military members and received the Congressional Gold Medal. We would never dream of not acknowledging our grandfathers who served in WW2. I am so proud of mine and now get another ancestor to be proud of–in addition to a whole group of strong female role models.

As I neared the later years of my college experience I met other young women who served in the military in various capacities and wondered what my life would have been like if I had joined. In several respects I can totally see myself in that position, but it just wasn’t in the cards for me. Even though I didn’t serve in the military, I am grateful for their examples and the paths they charted for female service members today. These really are heroic women for us all to be proud of and share with everyone!

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Loved this plaque on the wall. This really was a war that everyone helped win.

For more information on these women, check out the following:

National WASP WW2 Museum

NPR segment: Female WWII Pilots: The Original Fly Girls.  Make sure to look at the comments, there are lots of comments from descendants of these women.

Canadian War Museum: The Canadian Women’s Army Corps, 1941-1946

Wings Across America

And just go Google WW2 WASP’s to find other websites or just drool over the images that come up. Get ready for your patriot/feminist/girl crush levels to skyrocket.

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