Museum celebrates women during 'Women's History Month'
By Sarah Swan, National Museum of the U.S. Air Force
/ Published September 20, 2006
DAYTON, Ohio --
The contributions women have made throughout the years is apparent in all walks of life, and the Air Force is no exception.
With the observation of "Women's History Month" in March, visitors to the National Museum of the United States Air Force can view exhibits that pay tribute to the accomplishments and achievements of women who served in the Air Force.
Displays at the museum include the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) exhibit and a tribute dedicated to flight nurse Mary Spivak for her work during the Korean War.
As early as 1930, the War Department had considered using women pilots, but the Chief of the U.S. Army Air Corps called the idea "utterly unfeasible," stating that women were too "high strung." In 1939 famed woman aviator Jacqueline Cochran wrote to Eleanor Roosevelt to suggest women pilots could be used in a national emergency. Aviatrix Nancy Harkness Love in 1940 made a similar proposal to the Air Corps Ferry Command. Nothing was done until after American entry into World War II.
With the growing need for male combat pilots, the situation by mid-1942 favored the use of experienced women pilots to fly U.S. Army Air Forces aircraft within the United States. Two women's aviator units were formed to ease this need, and more than 1,000 women participated in these programs as civilians attached to the USAAF. In August 1943, they merged into a single group, the Women Airforce Service Pilots program.
The WASPs were an important element in the movement of women into war work because they helped to free men for combat and other duties. Following political pressures and the increasing availability of male pilots, the WASPS were disbanded in December 1944, but not before breaking ground for future U.S. Air Force female pilots, who would follow in their footsteps.
Today, the importance of the WASPs is being re-told in the museum's Air Power Gallery. This exhibit tells their story, displays their uniforms and features a WASP mannequin standing near the cockpit of an AT-10.
Another exhibit on display in the Modern Flight Gallery includes a mannequin representing a flight nurse, Capt. Mary Spivak, who gave candy to orphans as part of "Operation Kiddy Car," which involved the rescue of nearly 1,000 orphans from a probable death in Seoul, Korea, during the Korean War.
These exhibits represent just two of the many great contributions and substantial effect women have had on the Air Force.
Admission to the museum is free. For more information about museum exhibits, please call (937) 255-3286, ext. 302.
The National Museum of the United States Air Force is located on Springfield Pike, six miles northeast of downtown Dayton. It is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. seven days a week (closed Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's Day).
NOTE TO MEDIA: For more information, contact the National Museum of the United States Air Force Public Affairs Division at (937) 255-4704, ext. 333.