Sunday, February 14, 2010

The Search For Gertrude Tompkins: The Missing WASP

I posted about this a few weeks ago. One day in 1944, Gertrude Tompkins took off from Los Angeles in a P-51 Mustang, and was never seen or heard from again. It is assumed that she crashed within seconds of takeoff, into the waters of the coast.

Military Mag published a brief article by Captain Mark “Sharky” Alexander, on his search for the plane and its pilot.

At 215 bone-crushing feet below the surface of Santa Monica Bay, CA, the visibility was surprisingly good — about 35 feet. As I drifted down the marker line, I could see below me the shadowy outline of jagged metal protruding from the muddy bottom. Was it the World War II P-51-D Mustang we were searching for? I reached down and grabbed a piece of wreckage. It was thin plastic with tiny writing on it — it looked like part of the dashboard of a plane, but perhaps not a Mustang.

History lesson

What was I doing there in 2009, risking life and limb in a search for history? It all started on 26 October 1944, long before I was born, when an attractive ferrying pilot named Gertrude Tompkins took off from what is now Los Angeles International Airport. She was a member of the elite Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP). She flew into an offshore fogbank and was never seen again.

Read the complete article at the link above.

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