Watch “Six WAFS Up Close and Personal” Wednesday Night

 In Sarah Byrn Rickman

IWASM Invites YOU: Film & Program Via ZOOM

You are invited to join me — via ZOOM — Wednesday, July 7, at 7 Eastern, 6 Central, 5 Mountain, and 4 Pacific Daylight Time for a showing of my documentary film, Six WAFS Up Close and Personal, courtesy the International Women’s Air & Space Museum (IWASM).

From left: WAFS ‘BJ’ Erickson, Gertrude Meserve, Nancy Batson, Florene Miller, Teresa James,  and Barbara Poole

Japan’s surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, December 7, 1941, caught the United States without sufficient men and machines, pilots and airplanes, armament, and everything else needed, first, to defend our country and then to fight the enemy.

New training aircraft were coming off the assembly lines like clockwork at U.S. factories, but moving the planes to the flight training fields presented a problem. All the qualified male pilots had been re-assigned to combat readiness units. Finding men to ferry those planes to the training schools was a problem. Training young men who enlisted to fly for their country slowed to a standstill.

28 WAFS Pilots to Fly WWII Trainer Aircraft

The Ferrying Division, Air Transport Command — the unit responsible for moving all U.S. military aircraft — hired 28 experienced women pilots. These women — the WAFS [Women’s Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron] — immediately went to work picking up those trainers at the factories and ferrying (flying) them to the flight training fields. There, young men and their instructors anxiously awaited delivery of those planes so that the fledgling pilots could be taught to fly “THE ARMY WAY.”

What those 28 women did was just the beginning of the work women pilots performed to help America win World War II

IWASM has launched a one-hour educational and informative virtual program series in which they bring to life the stories, legends, narratives, and various other accounts of the lives and accomplishments of women aviators. This includes the female pilots who took to the air in the early years —not long after “man’s first flight” in 1903 — on up to the present and including the women who have gone into space and hope to go there in the future.

IWASM Has Many Women in Aviation & Space Stories!

I’ve been asked to help them present these stories by talking about these women pilots of World War II who I have been studying and writing about for 30 years. There is so much to tell. Those 28 WAFS would eventually grow into a band of 1,102 women pilots who, as a group, contributed much to the U.S. winning the war.

Those 1,102 women did not fly combat. They spent the war performing a myriad of flight-related jobs here in the United States in order to free men to go abroad and fight. Those 1,102 women who flew for the U.S. in WWII came to be known as WASP [Women Airforce Service Pilots].

I met these six original WAFS in June 1999. Nancy Batson Crews, one of the six, made it all possible. She held a reunion for the remaining WAFS. There were nine still alive and six of them came: Teresa James, Barbara “BJ” Erickson, Gertrude Meserve, Florene Miller, Barbara Poole, and Nancy their hostess.

From left: Florene, Teresa, Nancy.

 

WAFS Ferried Everything from Trainers to Fighters

I interviewed them and filmed them with my hand-held video camera. I listened as they told their incredible stories — how they became WAFS and the many different flights they made between September 1942 to December 1944, when they were disbanded. All the WAFS had a minimum of 500 hours when they joined up. Most had far more. They paved the way and other young women followed them — ultimately numbering 1,102.

First, the women ferried those primary trainers. As the need for bigger, more powerful warplanes surfaced, they flew the single engine, single seat P-51 and P-47 fighter aircraft. They flew twin-engine transport planes and bombers and a few qualified in the four-engine B-17 bomber.

I filmed the six in order to get their incredible stories on film for posterity. I also sought to document first-person narratives for my first book about these incredible women, The Originals: The Women’s Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron of World War II. Ten more books, mostly biographies, have followed.

‘Six WAFS Up Close and Personal’ From IWASM

IWASM is where I first learned about the WASP and the WAFS when the museum opened in Centerville (suburban Dayton) Ohio — a block and a half from where I lived. I met my first WASP (Nadine Nagle) and first WAFS (Nancy Batson Crews) through IWASM.

Today, IWASM is located at Burke Lakefront Airport (at the lower end of Lake Erie), downtown Cleveland, Ohio. Go visit them. You’ll be glad you did!

Please join me and the IWASM crew Wednesday July 7 to learn about these six women and the other qualified women pilots with whom they flew. Please see the link below.

Here’s the LINK

Click here to sign up for Wednesday’s free program

 

From Sarah: Thank you for reading my booksClick here to see them on Amazon

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