Good Sunday morning from sunny, and very warm SW Colorado. I am thinking about the resilience and bravery of so many women today. I attended a powerful talk with accompanying photos last evening, by Tom Vaughan and his wife, Sandy Feutz. They have spent hours observing and offering aid, at the border. The title of their talk was "The Walls That Divide." Both Tom and Sandy's words and photos were extremely moving. They spoke about mother's and children, families, and the plight of those humans who have been treated shamefully. Often they said, it was the women who organized for prayer and demonstrations. I saw that in Nicaragua too, back in the late 1980,s. It was the women. Remarkable.
The women in They Roared are also great examples of that spirit and taking action. I am sharing an excerpt of one woman's story with you this morning. She had such spirit!
Kit lived in Denver for the last years of her life. They Roared is now available on Amazon and locally here in SW Colorado at the ABC Bakery, Maria's and Zu Gallery in Cortez.
Elizabeth “Kit” MacKethan was born on December 31, 1918, in Fayetteville, North Carolina. Her father was a columnist for the Fayetteville Observer. Kit joined the Women Airfare Service Pilots (WASP) program in September 1943.
Their day began before dawn. The training for these courageous women was rigorous and included navigating by landmarks, rolling and diving, and using instruments only. Sometimes the instructors deliberately stunned them by pulling on the controls, causing the plane to stall mid-air. It was all part of the training. They had to learn to recover. Clearly, this career path was not for the faint of heart and that was just the air training! On the ground, every woman learned physics, Morse Code, aircraft design, flight theory, math, meteorology, and navigation.
These women flew planes from airbase to airbase. Some aircraft were brand new just off the assembly lines, and others needed repair. Kit tells the story of a friend who was taking off in an AT-6 when the flight controls suddenly came off in her hands. The controls were mounted on a metal plate. She didn’t dare take her hands off the control stick, so she achieved lift-off. Regulations require that once the aircraft has taken off, it should fly at 180 knots (KIAS - Knots Indicated Airspeed) to clear the airfield. The actual speed at which it takes off varies, depending on weight, wind direction, knots, etc. We may not know exactly how fast she was going, but it is certain she was going at a good clip. Kit’s friend remained cool, calm, and quick thinking, as she placed the control stick between her knees, radioed for emergency landing permission, and landed the plane at takeoff speed, unable to adjust throttle or propeller speed. She did it! Both the pilot and the plane survived. An impressive combination of guts and skill!
Kit recalls flying beside a fellow WASP on a transport one day. “We were flying side-by-side, and nuts and bolts were literally popping off and flying by. All we did was hold our thumbs up and say, ‘We’re still here!’ As long as she was giving me that sign, we knew we were OK.” Both planes were being junked for parts. It must have seemed like just a hope and a prayer some days for these indomitable women! It was dangerous work, but they knew the men were needed at the front. The women were “expendable.”
Kit regularly took a stowaway on her flights, a little Chihuahua named Poncho. She tucked him into her flight jacket and away they went. When on commercial flights, she took him as well. Because of her status as a WASP, Kit had higher clearance for boarding than even congressional representatives. She said that it tickled her that her little dog got ahead of some very pompous senators or congressional representatives.