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Celebrate Women's History Month with visit to National Museum of the U.S. Air Force

Two of the first flight nurses to make evacuation flights into Normandy after D-Day, Lts. Suella Bernard (left) and Marijean Brown (center) are greeted by Lt. Foster, their head nurse. They are holding poppies they brought back from the Normandy beachhead. (U.S. Air Force photo)

The contributions women have made throughout the years are 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 U.S. Air Force can view exhibits that pay tribute to the accomplishments and achievements of women who served in the Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo)

DAYTON, Ohio --

The contributions women have made throughout the years are 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 U.S. Air Force can view exhibits that pay tribute to the accomplishments and achievements of women who served in the Air Force.

 

In the World War II Gallery, visitors can learn about U.S. Army Air Forces (USAAF) flight nurses and Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP). A tribute to flight nurse Capt. Lillian Kinkela Keil can be found in the Korean War Gallery.

 

The global scope of World War II (WWII) forced the USAAF to revolutionize military medical care through the development of air evacuation and the use of flight nurses. On Feb. 18, 1943, the U.S. Army Nurse Corps’ first class of flight nurses formally graduated at Bowman Field, near Louisville, Ky. Eventually, about 500 Army nurses served as members of 31 medical air evacuation transport squadrons operating worldwide. It is a tribute to their skill that of the 1,176,048 patients air evacuated throughout the war, only 46 died en route. Seventeen flight nurses lost their lives during the war. Their story is told in the museum’s “Winged Angels: USAAF Flight Nurses in WWII” exhibit.

 

Facing the need for male combat pilots, the situation by mid-1942 favored the use of experienced women pilots to fly USAAF 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. These were merged into a single group – the WASP program – in August 1943 and broke ground for U.S. Air Force female pilots who would follow in their footsteps. The WASP exhibit displays uniforms and features a mannequin standing near the cockpit of an AT-10.

 

Capt. Lillian Kinkela Keil was one of the most accomplished women in the U.S. Air Force during the Korean War, and one of the most decorated women in American military history. She served as a flight nurse during WWII and returned to active duty when the Korean War broke out. Her extraordinary experiences inspired the 1953 Hollywood movie “Flight Nurse,” and she remained active in veterans’ affairs until her death in 2005. Keil’s service dress uniform is displayed in the Aeromedical Evacuation exhibit in the Korean War Gallery.

 

Details about museum exhibits and online resources related to Women’s History Month are available at www.nationalmuseum.af.mil/Collections/Research/WomensHistory.aspx.

 

Finally, the Air Force Museum Theatre will continue its Living History Film Series on March 12 with an event commemorating Women’s History Month. Beginning at 4 p.m., the theatre will screen Beyond the Powder: The Legacy of The First Women’s Cross-Country Air Race. Dr. Terry Von Thaden, granddaughter of Louise Thaden who won the first race in 1929, will join filmmakers Kara Martinelli and Adam White to share personal insight on the film. Tickets are available at the theatre’s ticket counter for $10 ($8 for museum Friends Members) or by calling (937) 253-4629. The theatre is operated by the Air Force Museum Foundation, Inc., a Section 501(c)(3) private, non-profit organization that assists the Air Force in the development and expansion of museum facilities. The Living History Film Series is sponsored by Texas Road House, the Boeing Co. and Holiday Inn Dayton-Fairborn. (No federal endorsement implied.)

 

The National Museum of the U.S. Air Force, located at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base near Dayton, Ohio, is the world’s largest military aviation museum. With free admission and parking, the museum features more than 360 aerospace vehicles and missiles and thousands of artifacts amid more than 19 acres of indoor exhibit space. Each year about one million visitors from around the world come to the museum. For more information, visit www.nationalmuseum.af.mil.


 

NOTE TO PUBLIC: For more information, please contact the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force at (937) 255-3286.

NOTE TO MEDIA: For more information, please contact Sarah Swan at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force Public Affairs Division at (937) 255-1283.

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