Fly Girls: The Forgotten Women Airforce Service Pilots of WWII
At the height of World War II, the US Army Airforce faced a desperate need for skilled pilots—but only men were allowed in military airplanes, even if the expert pilots who were training them to fly were women. Through grit and pure determination, 1,100 of these female pilots—who had to prove their worth time and time again—were finally allowed to ferry planes from factories to bases, to tow targets for live ammunition artillery training, to test repaired planes and new equipment, and more.
Though the WASPs lived on military bases, trained as military pilots, wore uniforms, marched in review, and sometimes died violently in the line of duty, they were civilian employees and received less pay than men doing the same jobs and no military benefits, not even for burials.
Their story is one of patriotism, the power of positive attitudes, the love of flying, and the willingness to do good with no concern for personal gain.
Timely look at WWII
While WWI used planes, the technology and use really took off during WWII. It's hard for people today to understand how all-consuming this war was, but Pearson does a fantastic job at setting the scene. Factories of all sorts switched from their regular products to producing for the war effort. Some Kellogg's plants quite making cereal, for example, and produced K rations. Cars and car parts were not produced, families were encouraged to put in gardens, which many did since different types of food were rationed. So many men went to war that women had to step into jobs of all types that had previously been closed to them. It is not surprising, then, that women were grudgingly welcome to noncombat flying jobs. Civilian flying took off in the 1920s and 30s despite the Great Depression (even my uncles got together and bought a prop plane that they would land in the fields near their dairy), and women who knew how to fly saw the Women's Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) program and others as a way to do something for their country using their skills. There were people and bases who were supportive and appreciative of these efforts, and those who were not, but stepping into a traditionally man's job had many challenges. There were no appropriate uniforms for the women, and they came up against a lot of prejudice and harassment. The final blow was the fact that the militarization of the programs was voted down, and the women involved didn't get full military honors and benefits for many years.
Along with Colman's Rosie the Riveter: Women Working on the Home Front in World War II (1998), Mary Cronk Farrel's Pure Grit:How American World War II Nurses Survived Battle and Prison Camp in the Pacific (2014), Cheryl Mullenbach's Double victory : how African American women broke race and gender barriers to help win World War II (2013), this is an essential purchase for all middle school and high school libraries and is an excellent nonfiction companion to Smith's Flygirl and Davis' Mare's War. Now I really want several more middle grade novels about the brave women who flew during WWII.