SKIES WERE FULL OF RESENTMENT FOR SOVIET, U.S. WOMEN PILOTS
From: Amy Etkind
Subject: Women Pilots in WW II
I found the following article in our local excuse for a newspaper
last Monday. It seemed appropriate to some of the threads.
SKIES WERE FULL OF RESENTMENT FOR SOVIET, U.S. WOMEN PILOTS
Resident reminisces about World War II service
By Kathy Powell
NORTH BRANFORD, CT
World War II women pilots for the United States and the Soviet
Union shared the common experience of being resented for invading a
man's domain while in the service of their countries, Jane Miller
Miller, 69, a North Branford resident, went to the U.S.S.R. in
May with about 40 other members of the U.S. Women Air Force Service
Pilots (WASPS) to meet their Soviet counterparts. The visit was in
conjunction with a Soviet celebration of the 45th anniversary of
Miller says the visit was "the most moving, wonderful adventure
I've ever had."
Miller, a liberated woman long before anyone thought to coin the
phrase, says the initial meeting between the groups at the airport in
Moscow was "extraordinary. They met us with hugs, tears and flowers.
It didn't matter that we didn't speak the same language."
Throughout the two weeks, Miller says the women shared their
experiences through interpreters. "We also danced and drank vodka
and spoke of children and grandchildren," she says.
The WASPs were the first American women to pilot military
airplanes. Their non-combat duty was to ferry aircraft, tow targets
and do test piloting.
The female Soviet combat pilots, called the "Night Witches",
flew over German encampments at night, dropping bombs to harrass the
enemy, says Miller, a native of Colorado.
"These women not only flew planes, they flew in combat. They
also serviced the planes, navigated the planes and led their own
battalions. It's incredible to think it was allowed," she says.
A joint plea for world peace to President Bush and Soviet
President Mikhail Gorbachev was drafted by the "sisters in the sky"
during the visit. "That's really what it's (the gathering was) all
about," Miller says.
A phobia therapist who specializes in the fear of flying, Miller
says that "although we were trained by the Air Force, worked on their
bases and wore their uniforms, we were paid and classified as civil
servants. The men resented our presence because we infringed on
their wild blue yonder," she says with mock remorse.
The Soviet men were no different, Miller said she learned from
the Night Witches. "They were humiliated by the women's presence and
by their bravery. They were very macho, even then. It's interesting
that not much is said about the Night Witches in Soviet history.
It's like they served a purpose and were forgotten," Miller says.
The WASPS weren't forgotten, but it did take 33 years for them
to be recognized, Miller says. Through an act of Congress in 1977,
after the women had "lobbied like crazy," the WASPS were recognized
as part of the United States Air Force. They were presented with
medals for the time they served and became eligible for all veteran
While touring the Antonov aircraft factory in Kiev, a WASP
member asked how many women serve as pilots in the Soviet air force
today, Miller says. The answer - from male plant workers - was
none. When asked why not, a retired director of the factory
proclaimed that "war is not for women."
But, "Did you know 84 percent of the doctors in the Soviet Union
are women?" Miller says, shaking her head. "Such a paradox."
Miller says she supports "women in combat, if that's where they
want to be. Look at the women flying the big transport planes in
Saudi Arabia. It's wonderful."
--- Via Silver Xpress V2.27
* Origin: Alice's Restaurant (1:141/488)
From: Kim Storment
Subject: Re: The Role of Women in the United States Armed Forces
Here you go:
"She Learned to Fly to Aid War Effort", John J. Archibald (interviewer),
St. Louis Post-Dispatch Magazine, March 19, 1989, p. 6
Adele Riek Scharr, 82, can still slip into the uniform she wore during
World War II when she delivered military planes for the Women's Airforce
Service Pilots (WASP). While teaching at an elementary school in St.
Louis in the 1930s, Scharr took streetcars and busses to Lambert Field
[our main airport] to take flying lessons.
"My master's degree at the University of Missouri was in educational
psychology and history, and my reading convinced me that Hitler woudln't
be stopped without war. I knew that when it came, I wanted to be part of
it, and flying seemed to be my best bet."
During the war, Scharr wrote hundreds of letters to her husband, the late
Harold Scharr, and these became the basis of a two-volume set of books,
"Sisters in the Sky" (Patrice Press).
Q: Was it difficult for a woman to learn to fly in the 1930s?
A: When the men at Lambert became convinced that I was serious about
learning to fly, they accepted me. I could only afford one half-hour of
air time a week, so it took me five years to get my license. Eventually,
I married one of the guys, Harold Scharr.
Q: And then?
A: The St. Louis Board of Education forced all women teachers to resign if
they married. I taught ground school at St. Louis University five nights
a week. I flew passengers for joy rides on weekends, kept house and
continued to learn until finally I had a flight instructor's rating. The
pay for teaching people to fly was $2 an hour.
Q: Did you have to talk the military into considering you for service?
A: No. In September 1942 I received a telegram that said the Army Air
FOrce was establishing a group of women pilots for domestic ferrying and
invited me to report in Wilmington, Del. -- at my own expense -- to be
interviewed for possible acceptance.
Q: After you were accepted, were you a member of the armed forces?
A: Technically, we were civilians in the early years. We were called WAFS
(Women's Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron). We paid for our uniforms and for
many other expenses out of our $250 monthly salary. The planes we
transported usually didn't have radios, so I paid $40 for a TransLear
radio so I could listen to the tower communicate with big planes while
landing at an airport.
Q: You had to make your own travel arrangements?
A: Absolutely. In January 1943 four fellow pilots and I landed in
Atlanta, where we were told there wasn't a hotel room available in the
entire city. I finally located rooms at the ancient Kimball House, for $1
a night. The bellhops carried our parachutes to the third floor and we
lugged the rest of our equipment. The blanket was so thin that I used my
flying suit for extra warmth.
Q: Was ferrying military planes risky?
A: Yes, 38 women pilots were killed in accidents, as well as many men.
The Bell Airacobra P-39 was especially tricky because its engine was 7
feet behind the propeller and the vibrations made it feel as though the
tail were wagging the dog. Before I flew it, I memorized the
manufacturer's instruction book, but there really was no way to check out
the plane except by flying.
Q: Did you still fly after the war?
A: Yes. I taught flying at Lambert. Two years ago in Hawaii, at a
reunion of women pilots, I tried parasailing -- it's like hang-gliding --
and I was up about 300 feet. I had a great time. [According to the bio
at the beginning, she was 80 at the time!]