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WASP Historian Keeps Promise

By Barbara A. Schmitz

July 26, 2018 - About 20 years ago, Kate Landdeck, EAA 497687, made a promise to WASP Ethel Finley: She would continue to tell the story of the Women Airforce Service Pilots after none of them could.

Kate, a WASP historian and professor at Texas Woman’s University where the WASP archives are housed, made good on that promise Thursday. For the first time since 1993, no WASP attended EAA AirVenture Oshkosh to tell their story about their largely forgotten part in World War II. So Kate did it for them.

The Women Airforce Service Pilots served with the U.S. Army Air Forces from 1942-44, flying every type of plane in the Army’s inventory and logging more than 60 million miles. But their battle for equality would take decades to win. In 1977, they gained their belated militarization from Congress; in 2010, they were presented the Congressional Gold Medal by President Barack Obama; and in 2016, they won the right to be buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

The WASP story wasn’t classified information. “It was even worse than that,” Kate said.  “They were forgotten, as well as what they had done.”

About 55 women of WASP are still living, Kate said, but they range in age from 95-102. Many of the WASP “regulars” at Oshkosh have already died.

 “We lost Dawn Seymour and Marty Wyall [in 2017], and Shutsy Reynolds this spring and Jean McCreery about a month ago,” Kate said. “But what a blessing that we have all gotten to know them and share their stories.”

Some women of WASP are still in good health — such as Bee Haydu, Jane Doyle, Mickey Bright, and Shirley Kruse — although circumstances meant they couldn’t make it this year, Kate said. “But Shirley has already told me she’s coming next year.”

Kate said the women of WASP were so grateful for EAA’s support throughout the years, and for people who came to hear their stories each year. “It inspired them and made them young again to be here,” she said

Other WASP programs this week include:

  • 11:30 a.m. Friday: Forum Pavilion 4: Erin Miller will tell how her family won the battle to have her grandmother, WASP Elaine Harmon, interred in Arlington National Cemetery in 2016, a year after her death.
  • 1 p.m. Saturday: Skyscape Theater, EAA Aviation Museum: Jon Anderson directed the 90-minute documentary called A Wartime Experiment in Wo-Manpower that includes interviews with 38 women of WASP.
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