The Vinnie Ream Award

Author Sarah Byrn Rickman won the prestigious Vinnie Ream Award in Letters from the National League of American Pen Women (NLAPW), presented in April 2016, at the Pen Arts Building in Washington D.C., for her essay: Artist’s statement: “The Divine call to art …”

The essay incorporated her inspiration to write Dorothy Scott’s captivating story — Finding Dorothy Scott: Letters of a WASP Pilot.

The words “Divine call to art” were penned by Vinnie Ream, an early member of NLAPW, and an artist whose talent and output embraced all three fields — Letters, Music and Art. As a very young woman, she sculpted a bust of Abraham Lincoln that was his favorite.

 

The Divine call to art …

The Vinnie Ream Award winning essay by Sarah Byrn Rickman

To the writer it is about story and voice.

A young woman earns her wings and flies — this is what she loves. Her country is at war. She joins the WASP (Women Airforce Service Pilots) and flies military aircraft for her country. She dies in a fiery crash. She is 23.

By the time the war is over, few will remember her. Lives go on. Years pass. Memories fade. Her story is lost.

Her twin brother, always devoted but who must go on without her, lives his life — a wife, two sons, grandchildren. His wish — to have her story told. He has saved her letters home, written to family during her year of patriotic service. As he approaches his final days, he donates her letters to the WASP Archives.

A writer has contacted the Archives about this WASP. They have so little information. But the director remembers the writer and emails her. “Are you still interested?”

“Yes.”

The letters lie in archival folders, most still in their envelopes. Experiencing the letters is like taking literary communion. They beckon: “take, read.” Paper so very fragile, but intact. The first page bears the wing insignia of the Air Transport Command. The date: Thanksgiving, 1942.

“Dear Mom, To attempt to set down in writing all the events of the past two weeks seems a Herculean task, but here goes.”

A voice, silent for 65 years, speaks across the years to the writer, who listens.

 

Note: To be reprinted only with the author’s permission.

WASP of the Ferry Command: Women Pilots, Uncommon Deeds

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WASP of the Ferry Command

Women Pilots, Uncommon Deeds

By Sarah Byrn Rickman

Winner of the Seventh Annual Combs Gates Award by the National Aviation Hall of Fame for her outstanding work on the women pilots of World War II.

What readers are saying…

This is an illuminating and deeply researched book on the role of women during a pivotal time in US military history. Sarah Rickman’s passion for this subject is evident in her detailed accounts. I discovered part of my family’s history that I had never known.

Suzanne Tunner Hudson, daughter of the Commanding Officer of the Ferrying Division (1942-1944) Gen. William H. Tunner and WASP Margaret Ann Hamilton (Tunner).

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These courageous women were decades ahead of their time. They served their country when called. Sarah Rickman tells their story through meticulous research and personal interviews with these amazing pilots and their families.

Robert Baker Patterson, grandson of Col. Robert H. Baker, Commanding Officer of the WAFS, New Castle Army Air Base, Wilmington, DE, 1942-Fall 1943.

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For the serious researcher and persons interested in WWII history, WASP of the Ferry Command provides an in depth view and evaluation of women’s experiences in a branch of Army Air Corps service. The personal stories speak to the meaning and value of service and sacrifice for our country, only fully recognized some thirty-three years later.

Charles E. McGee, Col., USAF (Ret), one of the Tuskegee Airmen.

WASP of the Ferry Command, published by the University of North Texas Press, is Sarah Byrn Rickman’s sixth book about the Women Airforce Service Pilots of World War II.

Available where books are sold:

978-1-57441-637-4 — hardcover $29.95

978-1-57441-642-8 — ebook $23.96

Distributed by Texas A&M: 1-800-826-8911

www.tamupress.com

amazon

barnes&noble

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Flight to Destiny

Bookcover: Flight to Destiny

In Flight to Destiny, fictional heroines Annie, Clare and Midge bring their stories to the mix of women pilots who qualify for Nancy Love’s WAFS in the fall of 1942. Nancy Love and the WAFS are real – part of the history of World War II.

Annie Gwynn joins fellow Tennessean Cornelia Fort flight instructing over Oahu the morning of December 7, 1941. Both are chased from the sky by the marauding Japanese Zeroes that arrive to wreak havoc on Pearl Harbor.

Thrust into a battle for survival for which it was largely unprepared, the U.S. pushes to get its aircraft factories humming – building war planes. Col. William H. Tunner, commander of the Army’s Ferrying Division, Air Transport Command, is tasked with the job of moving all those new aircraft to training fields or ports of debarkation to be shipped abroad. He is desperate for pilots. He decides to try a small number of highly skilled women flyers and hires Nancy Love to find, recruit, and lead those women.

Cornelia, the third woman to join Nancy Love’s WAFS, sends word to Annie to apply.

Former stunt pilot, now flight instructor Clare Varsky accepts her friend Nancy Love’s invitation to join the history-making squadron.

Jacqueline Cochran readies her administrative assistant/copilot, Midge Culpepper, to qualify for the WAFS, where she can observe and make periodic reports.

The three women pilots meet, form friendships, begin to share their joys, sorrows, loves, and lives, and ultimately come to rely on each other. Each, in turn, encounters her personal flight to destiny.

If you would like to purchase a softcover copy of Flight to Destiny signed by the author,
email Sarah to request information on how to order one directly from her!

An excerpt from Flight to Destiny, Chapter 30:

Clare and Annie took a minute to look down and eyeball where they were headed. There they saw several inlets, the beginnings of the many fjords leading inland. Only one would take them to Bluie One.

“Wow!” Annie repeated.

“Yeah!” said Clare as she made one more 360-degree descending turn to lose the rest of the altitude. Then, making the final turn at 1,000 feet to start the run up the fjord, she and Annie glanced at each other. “Here we go…” they said together, both knowing it was to be the flight and the landing of their lives; their last flight at the controls of a B-17; their flight to destiny. And no one would ever know about it but the ten people onboard.

In minutes they were flying in a magnificent canyon of mammoth icy crags. At a thousand feet, the surface of the fjord appeared to be but a few feet beneath their wings. The water was a deep, vibrant azure and reflections of the northern springtime sun bouncing off it nearly blinded them. And just as they were warned, at points the icy walls closed in on them, but the wingtips passed with ease as Clare wove the big airplane through the narrows. She caught herself holding her breath. “My Gawd, it is so beautiful,” she said as the full impact of the arctic splendor unfolded before her eyes.

“I never dreamed I’d ever see anything this magnificent,” said Annie.

Finally, the shipwreck appeared in front of them. As advised, they looked right and there it was. The runway. Clare put the airplane into a 30-degree right turn to a heading of 070. The 5,000-foot-long, 145-foot-wide runway glinted in the sun and stretched away from them, running slightly uphill. It was no more than a mat of pierced-steel planking atop a base of pea-sized gravel and it ended abruptly at the foot of a very large snow bank. The glacier.

Clare lined the bomber up with the centerline and allowed the plane to sink, bleeding off airspeed.

“Full flaps.”

Annie lowered the flaps. “Full flaps.”

“Gear down.”

Annie hit the switch. “Gear down and locked.”

Moments later they passed over the water’s edge marking the end of the runway. Just past the end of the runway, Clare set the big airplane down in a perfect three-point landing and, her feet deftly working the rudders, let it roll out straight and true down the runway.

The B-17, a taildragger airplane with the little wheel in the back and the main gear in front, landed just like the little Travel Air OX-5 taildragger Clare had first soloed eleven years earlier. When it had slowed sufficiently, again working the rudders, Clare put the bomber into a gentle left turn that led to the taxiway. Moments later, she parked it where she was directed by the ground crew. Then she cut the switches and shut the airplane down.

“We did it, Annie.”

Praise for Flight to Destiny

“I was one of Nancy Love’s ferry pilots, flying those lovely P-51s out of Long Beach. No one but a WASP ferry pilot understands what it was like, but Sarah’s book gets down to the grass roots and rings true with me.”

WASP Jean Landis, Class 43-4
stationed with the 6th Ferrying Group
Air Transport Command, Long Beach, CA, 1944

“Sarah, you got it right. In Flight to Destiny, your description of the approach and entrance to Bluie West One (BW-1) and the flight up the fjord is not only accurate, it is exactly as I remember it. [pages 223-5] — The weather station at Bluie Three at the mouth of the fjord, flying between all those mountains. I was scared to death we were going to hit one of them.

“We started looking for the sunken German freighter, spotted it, and then the runway off to the right — beginning at the water’s edge and running uphill ending at the icecap.
You called it ‘the glacier,’ we called it the icecap. By 1954, the runway was concrete rather than the pierced steel planking over pea gravel that you describe. Otherwise, everything was the same.”

George O’Brien, retired USAF
who served in Greenland at BW-1 in 1954-55

“Flight to Destiny is the fifth of Sarah Rickman’s books in the Museum Store. She captures the dedication, patriotism and love of flying of the Women Airforce Service Pilots – the first women to fly America’s military aircraft. Her interpretation of the power struggle between the two strong women who founded the WASP program is enlightening. If you like history or love to fly, this is a great read.”

Carol Cain, Administrator
National WASP WWII Museum at Avenger Field, Sweetwater, Texas

“Felt like I was in the right seat of adventure with these remarkable women ferry pilots. Flight to Destiny vividly brings to life the human story — lives caught up in WWII. WAFS/WASP historian Sarah Rickman brings the depth of her research to this historical fiction. You’ll keep turning the pages. Compelling and informative.”

Betty Darst, Enshrinement Chair
National Aviation Hall of Fame, Dayton, Ohio

“Enjoyed Flight to Destiny very much. I liked the way you incorporated the history along with the politics of the time and the dedication that the women showed to the flying and to their respective leaders. Glad to see Nancy Love get well-deserved ‘airtime.’ Really liked the Mayday flight sequences. Thought the lingo and description were well done. They kept my attention. And of course, I was happy to see how the Farmingdale gals were featured — but then I’m a bit prejudiced in that regard!”

Julia Lauria-Blum, Curator
American Airpower Museum
(formerly Republic Aircraft, home of the mighty P-47 Thunderbolt)
Farmingdale, Long Island

If you would like to purchase a softcover copy of Flight to Destiny signed by the author,
email Sarah to request information on how to order one directly from her!

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Nancy Love and the WASP Ferry Pilots of World War II

Bookcover: Nancy Love

Who was Nancy Love?

She flew the P-51 and the P-38, but the four-engine B-17 Flying Fortress was her forté.

First, the Army needed pilots to “ferry” its trainer airplanes to flight training bases. In 1942, Nancy Love recruited and led the first squadron of 28 women pilots who ferried those military aircraft for the U.S. Army in World War II.

Later the Army needed the women to ferry combat-bound pursuit aircraft to the docks for overseas deployment. By personal example, Love won the right for her women pilots to transition into increasingly more complex airplanes. She checked out on 23 different military aircraft and became the first woman to fly several of them, including the B-17.

Nancy Love believed that the women attached to the military needed to be on equal footing with the men and given the same opportunities to prove their abilities and mettle. Young women serving today as combat pilots owe much to Love for creating the opportunity for women to serve.

Nancy Love and the WASP Ferry Pilots of WWII is available for purchase online from a variety of booksellers. Order your copy now, from:

 

Amazon.com Barnes & Noble Texas A & M Press

Or, if you would like to purchase a copy signed by the author,
email Sarah to request information on how to order one directly from her!

An excerpt from the prologue of Nancy Love and the WASP Ferry Pilots of World War II, pages 3 and 4:

After landing, parking the airplane, cutting the switches, and cleaning up the cockpit, she rose, dropped her headset and oxygen mask on the seat, and followed her passengers and crew out of the airplane into the thin, high-altitude air and pale winter sunshine. She wore an Army-issue flight suit. Had it not been for her softly curled, chin-length hair—caught behind her ears in deference to the earphones she had worn and definitely out of place in the crew cut male world of 1945—she might have passed for a young crewman.

Photo of Nancy Love

As she walked toward the group of officers clustered on the ground, she did not stride purposefully nor did she walk like many women would have, to call attention to herself. She was, in fact, slightly pigeon-toed and had a hint of a glide to her step. She moved with a poise that bespoke more self-assurance than she actually possessed.

When she smiled, her luminous, gold-flecked hazel eyes took in each man, graciously making him feel as if he, personally, was the object of that smile. Her firm pilot’s handshake, offered in greeting, belied the small, slender, feminine hand beneath.

Thirty-year-old Nancy Love was a strikingly beautiful woman with high cheekbones and delicate features. She had begun to go gray at nineteen, beginning with a streak that swept back from the right side of her forehead. By 1945, her light brown hair had turned mostly silver, casting an aura of maturity about her.

Her reserve, carefully honed over those thirty years, masked her drive. Nancy greeted challenges with cool assessment, never allowing the passion that lurked just beneath the surface to show in her cultured, contralto voice. That she had been asked to take part in this [special] flight, to fly this airplane, was a coup—the high point in a distinguished aviation career that, by 1945, had covered fifteen years.

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Nancy Batson Crews: Alabama’s First Lady of Flight

Bookcover: Nancy Batson Crews

… the story of an uncommon woman:

  • high school cheerleader
  • campus queen
  • airplane pilot
  • wife
  • mother
  • politician
  • businesswoman

Born in 1960, right? Just in time to benefit from the Women’s Movement.

Wrong! Born in 1920. As a WASP (Women Airforce Service Pilots), she flew airplanes for the U.S. Army in World War II.

Nancy began her aviation career in 1939 — one of five young women chosen for civilian pilot training at The University of Alabama.

She became the 20th woman of 28 to qualify for the FIRST WASP squadron employed during World War II. The women shuttled top-priority P-38, P-47, and P-51 high-performance aircraft from the factories to staging areas.

After the war Crews raised a family then returned to aviation when in her forties. She flight instructed, flew in air races, towed and also flew gliders, and owned her own flight service business in California. Returning to Alabama, she flew as copilot in a corporate turbo jet at age 80, and finally returned to her airplane of choice, the J-3 Cub.

An excerpt from Nancy Batson Crews, Chapter One:

The same Tuesday in November 1944 that Franklin Delano Roosevelt won his unprecedented fourth term as president of the United States, Nancy Elizabeth Batson of Birmingham, Alabama, tried to crowd FDR off the front page of the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, daily newspapers. She would just as soon have skipped the whole affair; she would have much preferred a quiet, uneventful delivery of her airplane to Newark, New Jersey, without all the fuss.

Nancy was a ferry pilot with the women’s squadron, 2nd Ferrying Group, Ferrying Division, Air Transport Command, and she had orders to take a plane–destined for combat in Europe–from the Lockheed factory near Long Beach, California, to the docks at Newark.

“I picked up this brand-new, shiny P-38 in California and took off cross-country, made my last stop in Pittsburgh to refuel, and headed for Newark. About twenty minutes out of Pittsburgh, I noticed that the two engine coolant needles were oscillating–moving back and forth erratically instead of holding steady.”

Too many P-38s already had lost engines. That was one of those vagaries for which the sleek, twin-engine Lightning was known. A lost engine on takeoff had killed fellow woman ferry pilot Evelyn Sharp the previous spring. Nancy knew that all too well. She had accompanied Evelyn’s body home to Nebraska for the funeral.

No sense taking unnecessary chances. Nancy decided to return to the airport and let a mechanic check it out.

“I turned back to Pittsburgh, called the tower to get permission to land, and was cleared for a straight-in approach. I reached down, activated the landing gear handle, and listened for the hum of the wheels descending into the down and locked position. But the lights on the instrument panel showed that the nosewheel was not down and locked. The lights are in a triangle. The two at the bottom showed green, meaning that the main gear was down, but the nosewheel light was red. That meant it wasn’t down and locked.

“Now the P-38 has these aluminum reflectors on the side of the two engine nacelles and they acted as mirrors–so the pilot can check and see if the nosewheel is in the down and locked position. This nosewheel was just hanging there.

“I called the tower and advised them of my situation.

“They asked me to do a fly-by–low–and raise my left wing so that they could see for sure that the nosewheel wasn’t in the landing position.

“I did the fly-by and they looked and they determined that no, it wasn’t locked in place. By then the coolant needles seemed to have stabilized. So I flew out away from the airport and away from traffic. I was going to try to pump the wheel down manually.

“The hydraulic pump, called a wobble pump, was there for the pilot to use to do exactly what I had to do, pump the faulty nose gear down by hand. Well, I started pumping. Then I stopped and looked out at the mirrors. That wheel hadn’t moved. So I pumped some more. Nothing!

“The tower called periodically and asked, `how are you doing?’

“I told them, `I’m still flyin’ over Pittsburgh and still pumpin’ and I still have a red light.'”

Every airplane within earshot of the Pittsburgh radio frequency heard the exchange between Nancy and the tower. A woman–particularly one with a Southern accent–flying around in a P-38 wasn’t exactly an everyday occurrence.

“I tried climbing to eight thousand feet and diving the airplane, to see if centrifugal force would push it down. I did that several times. It didn’t work.”

Nancy had one more tool in her flight kit. Under the pilot’s seat in the P-38 was a button connected to a CO2 cartridge–there to aid a combat pilot trying to land a shot-up airplane with both a damaged hydraulics system and a useless wobble pump. The cartridge could be exploded as a last resort to force the nosewheel down.

“At the factory, they told us very emphatically not to use the CO2 cartridge because it might damage the landing gear. They told us that it was there to save some combat pilot’s life.”

Nancy figured the pilot whose life might need saving was the one currently flying the airplane. She wasn’t flying combat, but she very definitely had a life-threatening situation.

“I could see that what I was doing wasn’t working. I was all pumped out and by now the needle on the fuel gauge was telling me that I was getting low on gas. Now, I was going to have to do what I call creative flying. As a last resort, I decided to shoot off that CO2 cartridge. I climbed back up to eight thousand and dove the P-38 one more time, horsed back on the controls, pulled up sharply, pumped the manual pump, reached under the seat, and fired the cartridge.

“When the smoke cleared, there they were–three green lights! Then I looked down at the aluminum mirrors on the nacelles and that nosewheel was down and locked, just like it was supposed to be!”

“I was cleared for a straight-in approach and I greased it! I put that sick airplane in the proper landing attitude and touched down on the main wheels. Then I held that back pressure on the stick–back, back, back, all the way into my stomach–and kept that nosewheel up as long as possible. Then finally I let it touch down and did the roll out. I was pleased!

“As I was rolling down the runway, out of the corner of my eye on my left I noticed this Jeep running alongside, and this guy signaling me to stop. I thought, oh my golly, NOW what have I done?

“So I stopped. This guy jumps up on my wing. I push back the canopy. `G-g-get out, I’ll taxi it in.’ He was kind of wild-eyed and nervous.

“I said, `Well, no. I’ll do it. I’ll taxi it in.’ I wasn’t fixin’ to get out at that point.

“When he got off the wing, I looked over my left shoulder and here came a couple of fire engines, an ambulance, several Jeeps–a whole line of vehicles, all following me.

“I taxied it on in, stopped, and cut the switch. Now here was a line of people waitin’ for me–photographers, Red Cross ladies who said, `we’ve been prayin’ for you, honey,’ airport officials, and lots of other people. That’s when they took that picture that ran on the front page of the Pittsburgh paper the next morning–along with the news that Roosevelt had been reelected.

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Flight from Fear

Bookcover: Flight from Fear

A World War II adventure/romance
by Sarah Byrn Rickman

It’s been a year since the U.S. joined the fight, but World War II is not going well for the Allies. Lacy Stearns’ pilot husband, John, has been killed in the crash of his B-24 in England. Now Lacy has one burning desire — to fly for her country in her husband’s place.

Swallowing the fear that turns her stomach to jelly when she sets foot in an airplane, Lacy earns her private pilot’s license, is accepted into the WASP program in Sweetwater, Texas, and learns to fly “the Army way.” She is assigned to ferry Army airplanes around the U.S.

New friends she meets along the way help her begin to live beyond John’s loss and teach her how to survive. But the war is far from over, and fate still has other obstacles for Lacy to overcome.

Flight from Fear (fiction, from Disc-Us Books, Inc, 2002) was a Finalist in the Original Softcover Category of the 2003 WILLA Literary Competition, sponsored by Women Writing the West.

This book is available for purchase directly from the author.
Email Sarah to request information on how to order your copy today!

Also available from other sellers via Amazon.com.

An excerpt from Flight From Fear, Chapter 24:

When it came, she knew instantly what it was — that small but distinct metallic rip she first heard on the training flight at Avenger Field when she and Cin lost their airplane. But it was louder this time because she was sitting in the front nearer what she was certain was the source of trouble and the sound wasn’t distorted by her lack of visual and aural orientation under the black cotton hood.

Lacy looked down at the instrument panel again. The first dial she checked was the cylinder head temperature. She didn’t have to look any further. The needle was rising. Dreading what she would see, she raised her head to look out. Sure enough, a jet of slick black oil was pulsing onto the front of her canopy.

“Oil line rupture,” — Lacy breathed into her microphone. Her throat was constricted and she could barely get the words out.

The smear of oil shut off her forward visibility. Then the big, four hundred fifty horsepower engine — deprived of its lubricant — seized up, coughed like a dying man, and quit. Lacy, an awful sinking feeling in her stomach, knew instantly she had only minutes to find a place to land. Remembering the instructions in the Flight Manual as well as Shorty’s and her other instructors’ warnings, she reached over and turned off the gas and the ignition and lowered the nose of the airplane.

“We’ve got to bail.” Cin’s voice, through the earphones, contained the same element of terror Lacy felt. Cin opened her canopy. A rush of cold air filled the airplane. “Now, Lacy!”

Lacy remembered Jacqueline Cochran’s words as if she had heard them just yesterday. “If you two had been more experienced pilots, you might have been able to land in a field.”

“No! I’m going to try to land it.” She’d be damned if she’d lose a second airplane the same way without a fight.

“You’re crazy!” Cin shouted.

“We could be killed jumping into those rocks.” — Lacy fought to keep reason in her voice.

“We crash, we die. I’ll take my chances,” was Cin’s response.

The silent, powerless BT-13 has begun its gliding descent. Lacy checked again to be sure she had established the optimum angle so that it would descend slowly, but not so slowly as to stall and kick over into a spin that would mean certain death for both of them. But, ultimately, it had nowhere to go but down.

She has two choices. Jump, while she is still high enough for her chute to open, or make a deadstick landing. Right now, looking frantically out the sides of the airplane, she could see no possible place to put it down.

“I’m bailing, Lacy. I’d advise you to follow me.”

Lacy felt the plane tilt slightly to the left, and looked back to see that Cin had one leg over the side.

“Cin, don’t.”

Cin dropped her headphones on the seat and disappeared over the side.

“Wait!” Lacy’s frantic cry echoed in the emptiness of the rarefied air. Out of the corner of her eye, moments later, she saw Cin’s chute open and hold her, suspended, as she floated downward toward some of the sharpest rock spires Lacy has ever seen.

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The Originals: The Women’s Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron of World War II

Bookcover: The Originals

Who were The Originals?

  • Experienced women pilots – the first to fly for the U.S. military
  • 28 women who dared to challenge 1940s barriers of gender, politics and bureaucracy
  • Farm girls, socialites, daughters of working families, college graduates; from 15 different states; married and single; three with young children
  • Young women – ages 21 to 35
  • Three of them died serving their country
  • World War II heroines with “the Right Stuff”

The Originals: The Women’s Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron of World War II, by Sarah Byrn Rickman (non-fiction — from Disc-Us Books 2001), is the story of the WAFS, the first 28 women to fly for the U.S. Army in World War II.

Based on personal interviews with the nine who were still alive as of 2000, on papers and diaries, and on interviews and correspondence with descendants and others who knew them. This book tells the story of the WAFS, who they were, how they are different from the WASPs (Women Airforce Service Pilots), and how they ultimately became part of the WASPs. A must reference book for libraries in aviation communities, but it reads like a novel.

The Originals is available for purchase directly from the author.
Email Sarah to request information on how to order your copy today!

Also available from other sellers via Amazon.com.

An excerpt from The Originals: The Women’s Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron of World War II, Chapter Nine:

On October 22, 1942, six WAFS were assigned to deliver six L4-B’s, or Cubs, from the Piper factory in Lockhaven, Pennsylvania, to Mitchel Field on Long Island. Nancy Love appointed Betty Gillies flight leader. With her would be Fort, Rhonie, Clark, Scharr and James.

Their new gray-green wool uniforms — fitted by a tailor in Wilmington — had arrived, just in time for them to wear on the trip.

In 1942, the world was not used to seeing women in slacks. In fact, women in slacks were most often refused entrance into restaurants — something the WAFS contended with early on. The only answer to a snobbish maitre d’ was for a WAFS attired in trousers to accept the snub, be turned away, and hope for a more liberal policy elsewhere. The WAFS were not out trying to prove they could wear pants. They only wanted to prove they could fly.

On this, their first official outing, they wore the slacks under their flight coveralls and packed their skirts, their proper brown medium heeled shoes, and brown leather handbags with shoulder straps in their B-4 bags.

The six ferry pilots, anxious to shake the down from their wings and fly for real, boarded a Boeing twin-engine transport, piloted by none other than Col. Baker, for the short flight to Lockhaven. “Black Bob,” as they called him because of his black mustache, had taken pity on them and decided to send them off for their first trip by air — far preferable to spending four hours in a Pullman car and rising at five in the morning to get off the train in Lockhaven.

Even though the Piper factory employed numerous women, the arrival of women ferry pilots was a big deal. According to Teresa, “necks stretched and eyes popped. They couldn’t have stared any more had we been freaks from the circus side show.”

The six inspected their ships. They climbed in and prepared to take off. A twenty-five-mile-an-hour wind was blowing from the west, promising them a hefty tail wind all the way to Long Island.

“Those little four-cylinder go-carts actually leaped into the air,” Teresa remembers. “Clark had never flown such a light ship and we laughed when she said later, ‘Jeepers, I just couldn’t keep the thing on the ground.’

“We RONed in a hotel in Allentown, Pennsylvania — two to a room. We had been thoroughly trained and familiarized with how to fill out the necessary RON (Remain Over Night) forms, but that’s like making an “A” in geometry at school and trying to apply the knowledge when you need to build a fence later in life.

“Then we got a glimpse of ourselves in a full length mirror for the first time. BOQ 14 had no such luxury. We were horrified. The pants bagged in the seat and the legs were big enough for two. The tailor, used to measuring male legs and rumps, had mis-configured the trousers meant for a female form!”

As per Betty’s orders, they were up at sunrise the next morning.

Nancy had already warned them not to fly in formation like the men. Her instructions were, “Stay at least five hundred feet away from each other and anything else as well — and that includes clouds — and high enough over towns that you can deadstick outside them in case of emergency.”

Deadstick means no power. If the engine quits, the pilot needs to be high enough to, hopefully, spot an open space in which to land the little ship and then establish a glide path to get her there.

The night before when Betty talked to her husband, Bud, he had warned her that bombing practice was planned the following day in the area where they would be flying. All flying was ordered grounded during the bombing. So Betty wired Mitchel Field operations to let them know the WAFS were coming in with deliveries that morning and to call off the guns until they could get the planes safely on the ground.

“They were expecting us at the airport and every man who could leave his post was outside to watch us land. I can just imagine the remarks that flew right and left,” said Teresa. “‘Those dames! Why don’t they get smart and let the men run this Army.’ ‘Steady, men, we’ll probably see some high bouncing and modernized ground loops!’ ‘Line up, fellas, and protect the buildings.’

“Well, six little Cubs came in and made six perfect landings. We had made the trip in sixty-five minutes. Betty was pleased!”

Flight leader Gillies then signed over the planes to a thunder-faced officer, who told her — in no uncertain terms — that he needed them two months ago, not now.

“That’s not my problem,” she said, sweetly. “I’m merely following orders. You may speak to my commanding officer, Col. Robert Baker at New Castle Army Air Base, or call Col. Tunner himself at Ferrying Division headquarters.” She gave the man a big smile.

Considering the man’s rudeness, and knowing Betty, the others knew that her smile was delivered around clenched teeth. About then the phone rang. It was the telegram Betty had sent asking them to call off the bombing until the Cubs were safely in. Only it was a couple of hours late being delivered.

“Betty paled when she heard the news,” Teresa remembers. “But the Cubs were safely in, no thanks to either Western Union or Operations at Mitchel Field.