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

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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.

Lady, my sweet Lady

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Lady, my sweet Lady, struck a chord it seems.

As I write, the little lady herself is stretched out under my computer station — not quite underfoot, but almost. For six days we have been learning to live together — Lady, “the Big Guy” and me.

We are learning to fetch. A streak of black, she flies over the grass in pursuit. Sometimes she catches the ball in the air! Then she takes a couple of laps around the yard, drops the ball in the grass, drops on top of it and rolls back and forth over it, wiggling, kicking, writhing in joyous abandon. Ecstasy in motion! Then, rolling onto her belly, she lies there panting, the ball between her outstretched forelegs.

I approach, treat in hand. She eyes me warily. Will she take the treat and let me have the ball for yet another toss? Or will she snatch it away just as I reach for it, pivot and race away, tail flying? We’ve had it both ways. Lots of treats have been her reward for giving it up to pursue anew. My reward over six days, a sore shoulder — all in a good cause. She now knows that if she gives up the ball she will reap double rewards — a treat AND another romp after the ball.

Walking is still a contest of wills. “We” are in training. I keep her on a close lead. She persists in pulling a half step further ahead than I want her to. When she finely lets the lead relax and walks as I am willing her to, I praise her. She is “getting it” but then she forgets and lapses back into that slight but persistent pull.

But I shall persevere.

Blessedly, she is crate trained and goes willingly to bed at the end of the day. She’s loveable. She’s smart. She is truly a joy! She is a one-year-old black Lab. And she is a rescue.

Taking Flight

Keeping two WASP — MARTY WYALL (44-10) and NADINE NAGLE (44-9) — busy the last week of April was a pure pleasure.

I was asked to give two WASP talks in the Dayton (Ohio) area. I always invite Nadine, who lives one suburb north of me, to come along, but this time asking Marty to drive down from Indiana to join us seemed most appropriate.

Why?

On Wednesday April 25, I spoke to the juniors and seniors at Upper Valley Career Center in Piqua, north of Dayton. The school sits a half-mile east of Interstate 75, making the trip down an easy one for Marty. Nadine and I had been asking her to come for a visit. Nadine offered her guest room. Marty accepted.

It doesn’t get much better than having two WASP as show and tell for high school students. Nadine and Marty stole the show, answering questions about how they made the sized-for-men Army coveralls — called Zoot Suits by the WASP — fit their smaller frames. Seems I recall a question about dating in the old days as well. And I’m the one employing the term “old days,” not the kids and not the WASP.

Then as an added bonus, that upcoming weekend the North Central Section of the Ninety-Nines (licensed women pilots) was holding its fall meeting in Dayton. I had been invited to be their Saturday luncheon speaker. Marty and I both are members of North Central Section — she with Three Rivers chapter (northern Indiana) and I, All-Ohio. I sought Nadine and Marty’s participation to enrich the program and they agreed. So we did a repeat performance and once again I had my show and tell ready and waiting.

Needless to say, the Ninety-Nines LOVED “the girls.”

Many many thanks to the Upper Valley Career Center and the Ninety-Nines for the invitations to present “So Who Are the WASP Anyway?” at two fantastic venues. And many thanks to Marty and Nadine for taking part!

Lady, my sweet Lady

Day One: Lady

April 2011, I wrote the following in my monthly online newsletter, Taking Flight.

My dog Willa is a “Rescue.” And though she’s lived a life I know nothing of — fear and deprivation, running wild — we are kindred souls. We both need a safe place when storms rage, but relish our freedom to explore.

I see my soul reflected in her brown eyes. Does she see hers reflected in my blue ones?

She backs away from strangers. I affect an open, gregarious persona though, like Willa, I would rather retreat to my safe shell.

When I met her five years ago, the people at Greater Dayton Lab Rescue said she “chose” me. She leaned in my direction, as if asking me to look her way. I did. I was hooked!

I was her savior.  I took her away from the source of her physical fears. But I can’t erase the psychological cause of her scars. I can only give her love.

We have reversed roles. Now she is my savior. From her I get unconditional love. I feed her body. She feeds my soul.

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Today is May 6, 2012. A month ago, April 6, we put our beloved “mostly” Lab Willa down. An incurable tumor of the liver ate away at her body and sapped her energy, though we treated her for it. Finally that and the Lab curse, hip dysplasia, overcame her. It was time to let her go. The hardest thing I ever had to do.

I managed a month, crying every time I went walking without her. With niggling fear and tentative anticipation, once again I looked at the online list of Lab rescues with Greater Dayton Lab Rescue. There I found one-year-old black Lab Sara. She looked and sounded perfect — given that we’d have to change my name or hers. She got the nod.

We met today. I call her Lady. I have her for a one-week trial. We have spent the evening bonding. She lay at my feet while I sat here at the computer and looked at email, finding it hard to concentrate because she was so sweet and quiet I kept having to look at her. I’m in love again.

On our first walk this evening she began to meet the neighborhood who knew Willa. They welcomed her with love and affection and comments as to how pretty she is.

She is now nestled in her cage. I spoke the word “kennel” and miraculously, she went in and lay down. I almost cried.

Day one with Lady is almost over. I’ll post again as we learn to walk, live and love together. Oh yes, my husband — known to Willa and now Lady as “The Big Guy” — too is in love!