Fly Girls of World War II: WASP exhibit opens in Arlington

November 24, 2008 at 3:49 am 1 comment

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The Fly Girls of World War II traveling exhibit began its national tour at the Women in Military Service for America Memorial Nov. 14 here.

The exhibit, which is dedicated to the history of the Women Airforce Service Pilots, features a history of the WASP.

The exhibit includes the “WASP Film Strip,” an “Above and Beyond” tribute, a 26-foot WASP Timeline, WASP standups, uniformed mannequins and hundreds of photos. Also featured is a special tribute to the 38 WASPs who lost their lives in service to the United States, WASP memorabilia, a celebration of their final battle for recognition, and a mosaic featuring the face of each WASP.

During the grand opening ceremony, each WASP in attendance took a minute to introduce herself and share a few thoughts and words, which brought laughter, tears and smiles to fellow WASPs, family members, retired and current servicemembers who gathered in the packed exhibit hall.

“Everybody remarks about how courageous we were … but, we just had a great time. It was fun! We hope the young women who are coming out now will have as much fun as we had,” said Doris Brinker Tanner, a WASP official.  

One thousand seventy-four women earned their wings during the WASP program, which began in 1942 and continued through 1944. They flew every type of aircraft the U.S. Army Air Forces had while logging more than 60 million miles. The pilots were assigned to Air Transport Command, where they ferried aircraft from production plants to bases around the country. Others flew personnel transports and performed target towing duties while some test piloted experimental aircraft. Their safety record was even better than their male counterparts. In 1977, President Jimmy Carter signed a bill making the WASP part of the Air Force.

“With this exhibit here on hallowed ground, visited by millions of people every year, we are finally telling your story in grand, grand fashion,” said Maj. Nicole Malachowski, the first woman pilot on the Air Force Thunderbirds team. “Your service to our nation during a time of war is the stuff that legends are made of. And, I think that the legacy you leave me with is that, when you have dedication, commitment and a desire to serve you can overcome tremendous obstacles. Your service to our nation in a critical time of history, actually to the entire free world, is remarkable not because you are women, but it’s remarkable in its very own right.

“You didn’t fly and serve your country because you are women, but because you had to overcome some attitudes and restrictions of the time, you managed to serve our country in spite of being women,” said the major who currently serves as a White House Fellow. “You had a dream and you followed that dream and it’s your legacy that inspired my own dream.”

Each WASP, while proudly wearing her service uniform, wandered through the exhibit while chatting with old friends and sharing stories with current servicemembers and guests. Friends and family members proudly snapped pictures.

“I’m so proud of her,” said Janice Holton of Grand Rapids, Mich., when chatting about her mother, Jane Baessler Doyle, who served as a WASP from 1943 to 1944. “For her day, she and the women paved the way for other women to do a lot more in the military.”

“It’s great to see some of the old friends today and the way they put together the exhibit,” Ms. Doyle said. While glancing at her own photos in the exhibit, she said, “It’s nostalgic. It brings back the good old days.”

This is the first major exhibit about the WASP at the Women’s Memorial. It is scheduled to remain on display at the Women’s Memorial through November 2009, before continuing its nationwide tour. 

April Lapetoda (AFNS)

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Entry filed under: American Military History, Aviation History, Military Museums and Battlefields, Modern Military History. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , .

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1 Comment

  • 1. Ebon Talifarro  |  September 21, 2014 at 5:58 am

    Ebon Talifarro

    Fly Girls of World War II: WASP exhibit opens in Arlington | World Military History Blog

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