VETERANS DAY: REMEMBERING WAFS DOROTHY SCOTT
IT TOOK 33 YEARS FOR THE WOMEN PILOTS OF WWII
TO BE RECOGNIZED AS VETERANS
Dorothy Scott was the 25th woman pilot to join the Women’s Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron (WAFS) in the fall of 1942. Dorothy perished in a mid-air crash a year later – the second of the original WAFS to die flying for her country in World War II.
Early in 2001 as my book, The Originals – the story of the original WAFS of WWII – neared publication, there was little information about Dorothy. Then a miracle! Dorothy’s twin brother – Edward Scott – donated his sister’s stirring “wartime letters home” to the WAFS/WASP Archive, located at Texas Woman’s University, in Denton. Immediately, I flew to TWU to read her letters.
The Originals debuted in July 2001.
Years later, hoping to write Dorothy Scott’s story, I stood graveside looking down at her final resting place. This thought came to me: “What did I really know of this young woman – of her unselfish patriotism? Does that simple flat stone do justice to what she gave for her country – her life, at age twenty-three? What can do justice to such a sacrifice?” The end result was Finding Dorothy Scott, my seventh book.
In September this year, Edward Scott’s great granddaughter, Harper Scott – age 13 – wrote an essay about her Aunt Dorothy for her Language Arts class at West Middle School, Greenwood Village, Cherry Creek School District in suburban Denver. The subject was Civic Virtue.
HARPER’S ESSAY WON!!!
The class was due to travel to Washington DC in mid-October to visit, explore, and learn from the seat of America’s Democracy the lessons of Civic Virtue that can be absorbed there. A visit to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington Cemetery was on the schedule. Because of her winning essay, Harper was chosen – along with a male classmate – to present the Memorial Wreath that day.
Harper has read Finding Dorothy Scott. Not surprisingly, her great aunt’s story has had a profound effect on her. And this author is SO pleased that Harper chose to repeat those words I found to express my feelings standing at Dorothy’s grave. Thank You, Harper! You’ll see them below. Enjoy!
“What Does Civic Virtue Mean To Me?”
“What did I really know of this young woman – of her unselfish patriotism? Does that simple flat stone do justice to what she gave for her country – her life, at age twenty-three? What can do justice to such a sacrifice?”
“My great-great aunt, Dorothy Scott, is the perfect example of someone who truly embodied civic virtue. During World War II, she belonged to a group of talented women called the WASP (Women’s Airforce Service Pilots). These women ferried planes across the United States allowing male pilots to travel overseas and fight in the war. Although it doesn’t seem like it, the WASP had a very dangerous job and put their lives at risk every day.
“Civic virtue means to help someone or something ‘just because’.
“People in the military selflessly serve our country to protect people they don’t even know. So, why do they? They do it because they just want to help, to feel useful. Most people serve because they enjoy it. Dorothy joined the WAFS/WASP because it was the only way she was allowed to fly and because she wanted to make a difference.
DOING WHAT SHE LOVED
“Her passion for aviation and desire to help others was a perfect combination for this unique position. Unfortunately, in 1943, at the age of twenty-three, Dorothy was killed in an accident at the Palm Springs airstrip when a larger aircraft landed on top of her plane. She died doing what she loved, but she also died while serving this country. Since the WASP were women, they were not considered military personnel. This group of heroic women never had the chance to be placed in a National Cemetery, let alone receive a veterans’ burial.
“As her great-great niece living in 2022, it is amazing to me that Dorothy lost her life to save others and yet our country did not acknowledge her sacrifice following the war. Finally, after THREE DECADES, Dorothy and her friends were formally acknowledged as ‘veterans’ and in 2010, received the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest award given to a civilian. But they weren’t just civilians, they served this country and were true war heroes/veterans.
“I will always admire Dorothy’s courage and determination. Every day, I carry her with me as I take risks and be the best I can be. In my academics, I work hard to achieve good grades, not expecting anything in return. Like Dorothy, I am a team player.
WHEN MY COACH ASKS, I SAY ‘YES’
“When I play volleyball, I understand how important it is to work cooperatively and put others first. If a coach asks me to do something, I will always say ‘yes.’ For example, last year my coach asked me to play a position that I wasn’t familiar with, but I knew it was what my team needed at the time. In my community, I take time out of my day to say hello or hold the door open for someone and volunteer with various organizations. I believe that if every person showed civic virtue and respected others, America would be stronger than ever.
“Dorothy Scott and her fellow valiant women pilots remind us that it is important to remember ‘the debts we owe to previous generations who safeguarded our democracy’  and exemplify their civic virtue which is far too easy to forget.”
Finding Dorothy Scott: Letters of a WASP Pilot, (ISBN 978-0896729728, Hardcover)
- The Air Force Historical Foundation Best Air Power History Book Award 2017
- Sarton Award for Biography 2016
- CIPA EVVY Book Award for Biography 2017
- Finalist for the Colorado Book Award for Biography, The Indie Foreword Book Award in adult nonfiction/history and The Willa Award in scholarly nonfiction from Women Writing the West
Thank you for reading my blog and newsletter. On this Veterans Day – TODAY – in honor of Harper’s essay and of her great great aunt Dorothy. a most deserving veteran of World War II, I’m offering Finding Dorothy Scott at a special price – $25 (includes shipping) Signed by the author. Send $25 payment to paypal.me/SarahByrnRickman.
Civic virtue is the harvesting of habits important for the success of a society. Closely linked to the concept of citizenship, civic virtue is often conceived as the dedication of citizens to the common welfare of each other even at the cost of their individual interests. The identification of the character traits that constitute civic virtue has been a major concern of political philosophy. The term civility refers to behavior between persons and groups that conforms to a social mode (that is, in accordance with the civil society), as itself being a foundation of society and law. – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Civic_virtue
Women Airforce Service Pilots and their fight for veteran status, Stephen Arionus, Air Force Personnel Center, Published Nov. 11, 2021– https://www.af.mil/News/Article-Display/Article/2838960/women-airforce-service-pilots-and-their-fight-for-veteran-status/
I can see the love and patriotism in Harper’s eyes just as I can see them in the pictures of Dorothy Scott. Thank you for uncovering this amazing history. Veterans Day takes on a whole new dimension with the knowledge of these young ladies risking their lives in lesser known occupations. Thank you for bringing us these stories!
Shawn, Thank you SO much. I cherish your comments and I will share them with Harper, her parents and her grandparents.
Sarah, I so enjoyed reading your message today ! You have introduced me to a segment of society that I had not known.
Your books are a great intro to the women pilots of WWll. Thank you
Mary, You’ve made my day!!! Thank you for letting me know. It means a lot to me that my writing about these amazing women is reaching people who aren’t aware of their service to our country in WWII. Writing about Dorothy was a special time for me. And now to have the story touch her great great niece as it has is very special!