Tuesday, January 12, 2010

7 Surviving WASP in Oregon to receive Congressional Medal

The members of "The greatest generation" as Tom Brokaw calls them - those men and women who lived and fought during World War II - are passing away ever day. That's no surprise -- it has been 65 years since the end of the war.

By the end of the war, there were 1,074 WASP (Women Airforce Service Pilots). TO be accurate, the WASP were disbanded in late 1944, when the war was still going on but the outcome was inevitable. Just a day or so after the last class of WASP graduated, the women were told, in essence, "Thanks, but we don't need you anymore. We've got to make room for returning male pilots."

Of course the treatment of the WASP was not that surprising. Minority soldiers were similarily discarded (until the Korean War broke out, and the Army was integrated at that time...though there was nothing like full equality until the late 1970s).

For some resaon the activities of the WASP were classified -- even though there'd been an article about them in Life Magazine in 1943! -- and so they werent' talked about openly. However, women in aviation were in the news, for those that bothered to look. The Powder Puff Derby was reborn in 1947, and for 30 years hundreds of women flew their aircraft cross-country, and their exploits were reported in the newspapers -- women pilots even showed up in advertisements in Time and Newsweek....

It was not until 1977 that the records of service of the WASP were unsealed and they were granted full military status. Since that time a host of books have been published about the WASP, and the ATA (the British equivalent, featuring both women pilots and male pilots unfit for the military, but who could fly transport), and the Russian Night Witches -- the Russian women were in the military, flew jets and fought in dog fights, but after the war they too were told to go back home....

In any event...back to the purpose of this entry, which is to call out that there are seven surviving WASP in Oregon. The WASP have recently been granted the Congressional Gold Medal -- the highest civilian honor -- and due to the age of hte recipients, many ceremonies are being held now even though the medals themselves won't be ready until March.

There are about 300 surviving WASP pilots. Seven who live in the state of Oregon are among them.

Jeannette Gagnon Goodrum of Lake Oswego (89 years old) (WASP Class 43-8, graduated 12/17/43)
Anna Flynn Monkiewicz of The Dalles (90) (WASP Class 43-6, graduated 10/9/43)
Madelon Burcham Hill of Bend (WASP CLASS 44-1, graduated 2/11/44)
Catherine Murphy of Jacksonville (WASP Class 44-1, graduated 2/11/44)
Elinor Fairchild Stebbins of Portland (WASP Class 44-6, graduated 8/4/44)
Shirley Haugan Wunsch of Manzanita (WASP Class 44-3, graduated 4/15/44)
Kay Chaffey of Medford (Class 43-2, graduated 5/28/43)

(Class 43 means they graduated in 43, Class 44 means they graduated in 1944 -6 means they were in the 6th class that graudated, or the 3rd, or the 8th, and so on.) Training was intense and many women washed out. Those who graduated were the cream of the crop

1 comment:

Marie Buckner said...

Thanks for this information. I recently met Shirley Haugan during one of my performances and found out she is a WASP. What an honor to meet her!
Keep up the great work. :)