Hodgson recalls honor, courage of WWII WASPs
By Judith McGinnis
Posted March 28, 2010 at 12:01 a.m.
Times Record News, Wichita, TX
Spring can be pretty raw in Texas but by the time you get to Sweetwater, as the old-timers say, there isn’t anything to hold the wind back but barbed wire.
“It was just tumbleweeds and sand,” said Georgia native Marion Hodgson, recalling her first view of Avenger Field in March of 1943. This was where she and 1,000 young women trained to become Women Airforce Service Pilots — WASPs — during World War II.
“It was flat and unbelievably hot in the summers but that’s where we met some of the best people in the whole wide world.”
Despite Challenges, Female WWII Pilot Has Fond Memories of Experiences
by BRIAN TROMPETER, Staff Writer
Ask Gayle Reed about her service with the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASPs) during World War II, and she will pooh-pooh any notions of hardship and sacrifice.
“We flew the best planes in the world inside the United States and nobody was shooting at us,” she said over iced tea at the Vienna Inn. “These were the best two years of my life.”
The WASPs were the first women in history to fly U.S. military aircraft. Reed was among about 200 WASPs present on March 10 when President Obama honored the pilots with the Congressional Gold Medal. The half-pound medal features an AT-6 aircraft and four pilot portraits on the front side and three aircraft on the back.
A native of Kansas City, Mo., who has lived in Vienna since 1962, Reed enrolled in the Civil Pilot Training program when it became obvious the United States would enter the war. She obtained her private pilot’s license in the summer of 1941 - before she knew how to drive.
Remembering the Women Air Force Service Pilots of WWII
Saturday, 27 March 2010 17:28 Cheryl Lawson, Sulphur Springs Library Director
Sulphur Springs, Texas
American air power during World War II was fortified by the mighty B-26s and B-29s flown in air raids throughout the Pacific in 1941. Legions of accounts have been documented of airmen and their experiences in the deadly air battles that took many lives. However, history tells another story, one hidden for more than 60 years. It was recently revealed that the U.S. Air Force trained women (Women Airforce Service Pilots) to fly military aircraft, including B-26 and B-29 bombers, in World War II.
On March 10, 2010, after patiently waiting their turn for recognition, this group of courageous women received the Congressional Gold Medal, considered the nation’s highest civilian honor, and will finally be included in historical records as active U.S. military.
Slightly more than 1,100 young women, all civilian volunteers, performed routine activities such as ferrying planes extensive distances from factories to bases, testing newly overhauled planes, even towing targets to give ground and air gunners target practice with live ammunition.
Although many have passed away, several remain to tell their stories of life as a WASP.
A National Public Radio piece by Susan Stamberg, “Female WWII Pilots: The Original Fly Girls,” offers accounts of women who were on active duty during the two-year period before the program was cancelled.
One member of the group, Margaret Phelan Taylor, recalled explaining to her father the reason she needed $500 for a pilot’s license to fulfill her adventure. “I told him I had to do it," Taylor said. "And so he let me have the money. I don't think I ever did pay it back to him, either."”
After discovering she was half an inch shorter than the 5-foot-2-inch requirement, she recalled, “I just stood on my tiptoes.” Upon arriving at Sweetwater, where most WASPs signed up for training, she learned that she was not the only short one. “We laughed about how we got in,” Taylor remembered.