Mud Season, and Joy!
Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter, are our seasons. Did you know that there is a fifth season? There is! It’s the mud season. We have been blessed with an inordinate amount of snow and some rain here in the SW corner of Colorado this winter. From my perspective, it has been lovely. Many don’t agree with me. But now back to the mud. A long-time, very wise friend with a magical perspective on life shared a thought with me this morning. She offered we should not let this season of mud pass without encouraging our children or grandchildren to play in it. We further discussed the magic of mud and that it isn’t just for children! That’s right. Adults can play in it as well. If it has a high clay content, we can craft things from it, and they remain for a while. Mud can be more than cussing and sputtering, it can be fun! I think it is all in your perspective! Enjoy the mud. Why not? There isn’t a thing you can do about it, so why not find joy in it?
The freedom to find joy in even the smallest things is ours to use. So what does mud have to do with the women from They Roared? Nothing on the surface but the women in both books, They Persisted, and They Roared, found joy in their work. Most of them faced great adversity, yet they lived their lives with authenticity, marching to the beat of their own drummer, fulfilling their dreams, and finding joy. Another thing that has greatly inspired me about those indomitable women!
They Persisted, the second edition is now available on Amazon and at the Bakery in Mancos, ZU Gallery in Cortez, and Maria's in Durango after the 22nd. They Roared is nearing completion.
I would like to share some history from the introduction of They Roared.
WASPs (from left) Frances Green, Margaret Kirchner, Ann Waldner, and Blanche Osborn leave their B-17, Pistol Packin' Mama, during ferry training at Ohio’s Lockbourne Army Air Force base. They're carrying their parachutes.
The Women Airforce Service Pilot (WASP) program began as an experiment, was surrounded by much controversy, but ended up as an unqualified success. These women quietly changed history.
During World War II, women pilots flew eighty percent of all ferrying missions. They delivered 12,650 aircraft. The Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) freed around 900 male pilots for combat duty during World War II. The problem was simple, but it would have disastrous consequences if left unsolved.
The United States had entered World War II, and military aircraft were barreling off the assembly lines. But with many military pilots already overseas, or soon to be deployed, there was no way to transport these planes from the factories to the airfields, where they were urgently needed. There was a radical notion that women pilots just might be the answer. It was.
In 1930, there were approximately 200 women pilots. In 1935, there were between 700 and 800. They flew 60 million miles. But there was a toll. Thirty-eight lost their lives serving their country. Twenty-seven died on active-duty missions and eleven died during training.
In 1944, the first graduation ceremony for Women Airforce Service Pilots transpired. General Henry “Hap” Arnold, commanding general of the U.S. Army Air Force, was skeptical at the start. He was uncertain that “a slip of a girl” could fight the controls of a B-17 in heavy weather. At graduation, he ate crow and said, “Now in 1944, it is on the record that women can fly as well as men!”
The WASP transported every type of military aircraft, towed targets for live aircraft gun practice, simulated strafing missions, and transported cargo and people.
For the privilege of serving their country, each WASP earned $250 per month. The women paid for their food, uniforms, and lodging at the military installations where they were stationed. For the next six months, they could not leave the base and received no time off. Male pilots had weekend furloughs, but the guidelines did not consider women part of the military, so they had no time off. They sent a fallen WASP home at her family’s expense. Traditional military honors and acknowledgments of heroism were not allowed; no WASP coffins were draped with American flags, and they could not display service flags in the windows of their families.
The WASP flew over 60 million miles in seventy-eight different aircraft and operated out of 120 bases. It is very important to note here that the WASP disbanded unceremoniously and suddenly on December 20, 1944, with “hearty good wishes to you for the future.” World War II did not end until September 2, 1945. These women certainly were “expendable” when the returning men felt supplanted. They were not even given bus fare to take them home. All WASP records were sealed for thirty-five years.
In 1977, recognition came for the WASP for their World War II service. The government finally granted them veteran status, and in 2009, they were all awarded the Congressional Gold Medal. Elaine Danforth Harmon Parish was present and offered these words, “All we ever asked for is that our overlooked history would someday no longer be a missing chapter in the history of WWII, in the airfare’s history, in the history of aviation, and most especially, the history of America.” The once skeptical General Henry “Hap” Arnold said, “We could not have won the war without them.”
If you found this interesting, it is just part of the introduction. There are so many more wonderful stories in the book!