Monday, September 24, 2012

Air Zoo celebrates Women Airforce Service Pilots with reunion, presentation

The event took place two Saturdays ago.

From Kalamazoo Gazette: Air Zoo celebrates Women Airforce Service Pilots with reunion, presentation

KALAMAZOO, MI --  Doris Nathan has fond memories of her time flying bombers in the 1940s.

"It was fun," the 95-year-old Kalamazoo woman said. 

Nathan was one of the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) during World War II. She mostly co-piloted C-47s from 1943 to 1944, as an engineering test pilot who flew state-side. Nathan tested planes after they underwent repairs.
On Saturday at 1 p.m., Nathan will join the Air Zoo as it celebrates the Women Air Force Service Pilots with a special reunion and presentation.
The public is welcome to attend this program in honor of the first female pilots to fly U.S. military aircraft.  Guests will learn all about the WASP, their history, what roles they played in World War II.
Afterward, the Air Zoo will host a special Q-and-A session with members of the WASP, along with a meet and greet. Joining Nathan will be Mildred Jane Doyle, of Grand Rapids; Betty June Brown, of New Hampshire; Jean McCreery, of Oklahoma; and Thelma Miller, of Ohio.
Nathan now lives at Kalamazoo's Friendship Village off Drake Road and once a week can be found volunteering behind the cash register at the "Village" store.
One of Nathan's fondest memories is of a moment when she was flying through a cloud and experienced a large circular rainbow that remained at the front of the aircraft.
"I'll never forget that," Nathan said.
A 2010 article by NPR features another Kalamazoo pilot, one of 38 in the WASP program who lost their lives.
Mabel Rawlinson, 26, was stationed at Camp Davis in North Carolina when her plane crashed while she and a male instructor were returning from a night training exercise.
It's believed that Rawlinson's hatch malfunctioned, and she couldn't get out. The other pilot was thrown from the plane and suffered serious injuries. Because Rawlinson was a civilian, the military was not required to pay for her funeral or pay for her remains to be sent home. So — and this is a common story — her fellow pilots pitched in.
"They collected enough money to ship her remains home by train," says Pohly. "And a couple of her fellow WASP accompanied her casket."
And, because Rawlinson wasn't considered military, the American flag could not be draped over her coffin. Her family did it anyway. 
Saturday's presentation is included in the cost of general admission to the Air Zoo.  For more information, call 269-382-6555.


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