|The GOSSPORT GAZETTE!|
ISSUE #1 MEMORIAL DAY EDITION MAY 25, 1998
Inside this issue:
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On an overcast day in May, nearly 50 years after the end of World War II, a Memorial Day procession of North American "SNJ’s depart the runway at Republic. Upon ascent, they head west toward my home and journey toward lower Manhattan to fly a "missing man formation” around the pier of the U.S.S. Intrepid and the Statue of Liberty, commemorating those who have given their lives in the service of their country.
Within moments of takeoff, the distinctive sound of their engines can be heard approaching my community. I rush outdoors to view the spectacular airplanes that are like visitors from another remnant of time. These planes were the Navy version of the United States Army Airforce, AT-6 "Texan", an advanced trainer flown by nearly every American pilot during World War II… including the very first women to pilot military aircraft in 1942.
From my backyard I watch the lofty parade of aircraft as their resonance slowly begins to fade away. They remind me of the familiar music of another era. I imagine the music of Glenn Miller or, maybe, Benny Goodman and visualize my mother dancing with uniformed soldiers as a volunteer with the USO. She is one of countless American women allied on the home front, assisting the war effort in any way that she can. She is in her early twenties, independent and fun, confident and refined, and very much alive. The memories of this era and her youth quietly reside within her for the remainder of her life.
On the first Mother's Day following my mother's death in the early 1980’s, I visited a mausoleum at the cemetery where she is laid to rest. As I walked down a dim hall, passing hundreds of names and dates inscribed on the walls surrounding me, I came upon the grave of a young woman interred beside her parents. It was both her youth and a bronze plaque that led me toward the square marble tablet that bore her name. The plaque contained the inscription:
I looked around at the enclosed surroundings which seemed like such an improbable place for a young woman to end up … and a WWII pilot who had died in the service of her country ? From a daughter's perspective, I felt sorry that this young woman never had the opportunity to share another Mother's Day with her mother again. As a recent college graduate, I wondered why I had never learned about or heard of the WASP in any history class prior to that moment.
Years after my initial exposure to the story of the WASP, I discovered how Alice Lovejoy died in pursuit training, flying formation in an AT-6. Through her story, I gradually came to learn more about the Women Airforce Service Pilots and while learning of their many outstanding achievements, I came to discover how vital they were in assisting our country and the allies to victory in WWII. Considered civil service, they were disbanded abruptly and sent home to quietly keep their memories in the distance… finally gaining belated veterans status from Congress in 1977, after a long, hard fought battle. Time passes swiftly..
On Mother's Day of 1998, I returned with my family to the cemetery that I still visit, on days such as this. My daughters placed a small bouquet of flowers by Alice's marker, and with that, a small flag for Memorial Day. In the present, and now from a mother’s perspective, it is difficult to comprehend the magnitude of sorrow and loss that Alice’s mother must have experienced… because of the tragedy of war. In the quiet of that place, I close my eyes and visualize the airplanes that fly from my neighborhood on Memorial Day to commemorate the sacrifices of so many. I think of the lessons I’ve learned about dedication, perseverance and courage through women such as the WASP, and Alice Lovejoy. Like my own mother, it is the example of their lives that have inspired and continue to inspire me in ways they could never imagine….and those are the things that simply cannot be put into words.
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The WASP were deactivated in December of 1944...how they got home was up to their base commanders, the condition of the planes, and how much change they had in their pockets!
from a speech by
April 24, 1998
I want to just hit lightly on ...how well the Army took care of us., and I really appreciated it...because we were deactivated on December the 20th. I was in California. Word came down that the base commander should provide aircraft ...get the WASP as close to home as possible, and I thought, well, that's not too bad.
The base I was on, they assigned a BT-13. There were two of us...one going to Philadelphia, one to Pittsburgh. Fine deal, two second lieutenants.
...I didn't have any money. After we cleared the base I had a quarter. And I thought well, that's no problem, the Army will take care of us, after all it's only five days till Christmas. They'll be generous.
A classmate said, "Well, I owe you ten dollars, so here's ten dollars." So, I left California with ten dollars and twenty five cents.
We got as far as Las Vegas. First stop...and for some mysterious reason, most of these BT's just had to be grounded. And the two lieutenants said, "See ya later!"
I lived in OPS (Base Operations), I slept in OPS, I ate donuts till they were coming out of my ears. I took the twenty-five cents, changed it into nickels, and I spent my time putting it in ... "Mom, I'm in Las Vegas. Could you send me fifty dollars?" "Mom," I was somewhere else, you know, I forget where, "could you send me fifty dollars?" She says, "I sent you fifty dollars." I said, "Well, I didn't get it."
My mother spent over three hundred dollars... Christmas Eve, I didn't get any money and I'm in Akron. So...I called my mother...the last nickel. The ten dollars was long gone, and she says, "I can't help you," and I say, "we have an aunt here...we don't talk to her, but... do you think---- for the sake of the war..."
So, she put me on a bus.
Anyway, that's my story. It was nice talking to you. Good luck & happy flying!
CLICK to see SHUTSY's CARTOON of the Foggy Goggles International Flying Society!
Over two years ago, I began working on a project to honor a unique group of pioneering Americans: the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP). I became interested because my mother is a WASP, but I have since become passionately committed, because I believe that role models should be remembered, their sacrifices honored, and their stories preserved to inspire future generations. These women made a difference. They should not be forgotten!
Most Americans have never heard of the WASP. After deactivation, many of their training records were unintentionally destroyed, while the available military records of their service were sealed, marked "classified" and filed away in government archives for 33 years. By that time, the history of World War II had already been written, the WASP chapter either missing or only included as a brief footnote.
So, the questions were:
Well, as for question one, we're fortunate, because many of the eyewitnesses to the WASP history are still alive and well! (However, they are all over 70--time is critical!) They are scattered across 48 states, each with their own personal stories, records, scrapbook and memories. As for question number two, I was blessed with an incredible technical curiosity, and about three years ago, I discovered the INTERNET!
No, we can't rewrite history, but we can make sure that this history is AVAILABLE for any and every one, any where in the world, including the computerized classrooms of the next century . We can make sure that this digital resource is as complete as possible.
Many of these women have never told their stories. Many have never been asked.
Document, Digitize, Publish and Preserve the History of the WASP
I realize there are some museums, libraries, and Air Force bases who have limited exhibits, artifacts, and oral histories. That's terrific! We'll link...we'll share information. However, their individual collections and information are available only to the small number of people who are able to visit each location. Wings Across America expands and enriches their efforts by creating a digital video archive of the eyewitness testimonies of every surviving WASP and by putting all the WASP information at the fingertips of anyone with a computer anywhere in the world!
Wings Across America will include a digital library, virtual museum and interactive learning programs to make the WASP history come alive, inspiring future generations to become the pioneers of tomorrow.
Anything is possible...and with the support of Baylor University (which we have) and sponsors (which we're still looking for) with the courage to support a cutting-edge multimedia project about women, about courage, and about doing the right thing...Wings Across America can truly FLY!
Details of this project will be published as the Wings Across America on-line brochure-- within the next month. If you'd like more information sooner, please email me!
by Jacqueline Cochran
reprinted from the Fifinella Gazette, March 1, 1943
The tribute to me in the first issue of The Fifinella Gazette touched me deeply and pleasured me no end.
With the start of the war, I became convinced that there was a sound, beneficial place for women in the air--not to compete with or displace the men pilots, but to supplement them--and I never let up trying to establish in practice the birth of my belief. I flew a bomber to England partly to bring out the point, and partly to see what the English women pilots were accomplishing and how they were organized. On my return, I worked with the General Staff of the Ferry Command for several weeks on a plan which later developed. The time just then did not seem opportune; so, with the blessings of our own authorities, I took twenty-five women pilots to England, where they have been doing a fine job, flying operational equipment (behind the lines) including Hurricanes, Spitfires, and two-motored bombers.
Now, we are on the verge of seeing this whole dream blossom into reality in a truly big way. The Women's Flying Training program has already approached the proportions of our entire air program prior to the start of the war.
What will be the ultimate result -- good or bad -- will be up to the girls themselves. You of the first classes will have the real responsibility. By your actions and results the future course will be set. You have my reputation in your hands. Also, you have my faith. I have no fear -- I know you can do the job. After graduation, I will be following you with anxious and proud eyes, and your success will be my satisfaction.
This work of mine -- planning, sitting at a desk, and working well into the night as regular routine -- is no great pleasure for one who loves to have her hand on the throttle; but, it has to be done if you are to succeed. My compensation can only come from your morale and accomplishments. -- I'm proud of you!
by Nancy Parrish
The very least I can do is tell you a little bit more about my friend Shutsy. She probably won't like it. She is not comfortable being singled out. She likes to be part of the group...one of the gang. She is a gifted, talented and extraordinary WASP...yet, she is typical of so many other WASP.
Shutsy didn't fly pursuits. She didn't fly bombers. She wasn't the first, and she wasn't the last, and thankfully, she didn't get killed in the line of duty.
She was a member of the WASP graduating class of 44-W-5, just one of the 72 who graduated out of a class of 132. She didn't win any air races or set any records. Shutsy, like so many other WASP, just did her job. She followed orders, served her country, and then, when the WASP were deactivated, had to try to get home any way she could.
Happy Memorial Day, Shutsy,from all of us who are grateful for what you did. Every time we see a flag go by or hear "God Bless America," there's a little prayer that goes up for you and for all those like you. You made a difference then, and you're still making a difference today. God willing, your service to your country will always be remembered and your life will continue to make a difference in the lives of those who will grow up and make a difference tomorrow.
God bless you all,
and God bless America!
and finally, from the pages of the Los Angeles Times,
something we all need to be aware of!
LOS ANGELES TIMES
May 25, 1998
By ESTER SCHRADER
There once was a time when, whether you died on the battlefield at 23 or cancer at 80, whether you were a private or a general, the military would make every effort to send a flag and an honor guard to your graveside.
Even as more U.S. veterans die each day than ever before, base closures and budget cuts have brought an end to most military honor guards.
Last year, fewer than 20,000 of the 540,000 veterans who died had active-duty honor guards at their funerals. Hundreds of thousands more were laid to rest with only a tape-recorded rendition of taps.
Into the breach have stepped veteran volunteers, most of them closer to death than to youth themselves, all determined not to let die a tradition that dates to the Civil War. They come to take care of their ownin the hope that someone will do the same for the.
Week in and week out, they drive hundreds of miles from retirement homes to spend hours standing at attention around flag-draped caskets at one funeral after another, often leaning on crutches, canes or each other.
They bury up to 11 comrades a day, to the mournful calls of bugles, all to deliver on a promise the military no longer can keep.
They seek donated bullets and buy their own vintage rifles to fire 21-gun salutes.
Mostly in their 70s, they stuff their stiff, aging limbs into uniforms they pay for themselves. And they head to the cemeteries.
"Were all getting ready to see our maker, and most of us were told when we came in that wed have military honors when we died," said Hal Camp, 80, a World War II veteran.
"Theres only so many people and so much money," Camp said, "so its up to the veterans to take care of (it) themselves."
Taking care of their own
Since veterans from as far as Santa Barbara, Calif., and San Diego started making regular trips to Riverside two years ago, they have attended the funerals of about 1,100 veterans. In 1997, volunteer veterans groups around the country buried 10,000 veterans with military honors.
Thats only a fraction of those who deserved an honor guard and didnt get one, Camp said.
Ten years ago, most military bases had active-duty servicemen and women whose job was to serve as honor guards.
But in the last decade, 77 of the 495 major military installations on U.S. soil have shut down, dramatically shrinking both the ranks of active-duty military personnel and of honor guard details.
At the same time, the number of dying veterans is climbingincluding an estimated 36,000 World War II veterans each month. In 1989, an estimated 456,000 veterans died. In 1999, that number is expected to reach 561,000.
"You want to do it for everybody, you want to do everything you can, but we just cant support it any other way," said Army spokeswoman Shari Lawrence.
Not content just to step in at the funerals themselves, aging fightersand families of the dead are launching a new battle, a fight to force the military to make good on its pledge.
In March, three state senators introduced legislation to require the military to provide honor guards, upon request, at veterans funerals.
Veterans are actively lobbying in favor of the bill, but the legislation is being opposed by the Defense Department, which says that while no institution has more interest in honoring veterans, military honor guards are impractical in an era when so many veterans are dying.
Relying on non-military
Increasingly, volunteer veterans are relying for help on those who are not elderly and never served in the military. At Riverside, ROTC teams from high schools in Orange, Los Angeles and Riverside counties serve as honor guards five days a month.
The veteran guards have also drawn active-duty servicemen and women who volunteer to honor those who served before them.
One recent day, volunteers arrived early at Riverside. It was a slow day, only five funerals, and the veterans piled into their cars for the drive from one service to another.
The veterans used walkie-talkies to communicate with a volunteer dispatcher who told them the location of each funeral in the sprawling 700-acre cemetery. They keep an extra American flag in a car trunk, in case a mortuary forgets to bring one.
They marched, slightly off step, alongside the casket, and snapped, slightly raggedly, to attention at the sound of the bugle.
"I know it sounds ghoulish but its something theyre proud to do," said Dutch Dettinger, 69, a World War IIU veteran who founded the honor guard program at Riverside. "Many of our team, weve turned around and buried them in the last few months. They know its gonna be them soon. But still they come limping out here to render honors."
"What can I do?" Well, you can be infomed...
that's the first step! In the coming weeks, I'll
do some research on this bill...maybe we can
all email our congressmen!
What's a gossport? Well, that's that 'funnel thing' that the instructor talks into and it's attached to the trainee's helmet...the instructor can talk...and the trainee can listen--but can't talk back!
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