Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Spirit of the WASP

What inspires you to do more than you thought you ever could?  What inspires you to dream bigger, strive harder, and reach higher than you ever could have imagined?   In trying to answer those questions and the all-important final question,  “What inspired you to DO what you DO?” I need to start with the WASP, beginning with the first WASP in my life, my mom.   

Imagine being around (or more appropriately surrounded by) a determined, dynamic, passionate, patriotic, smart, spunky, stubborn (but in the good way), amazing, opinionated, optimistic, encouraging, unstoppable woman — and I’m just getting warmed up!  I could go on.

Long story short, imagine meeting and  listening to 100 or more women with those same attributes?  Yes, all the WASP I’ve met are just like mom, completely, utterly and absolutely inspirational.

Once you meet a WASP, the one thing you do not want to do is to disappoint them, and you find yourself striving to exceed their expectations.   Why?  Because the inspiration that comes from the WASP is not just about flying.  It is about courage and patriotism, and about doing your absolute best while you are being scrutinized, weighed, measured and tested by some who just might be rooting for you to fail.  It’s about rising above the ordinary and doing the “extra” ordinary, about commitment, persistence, honor, sacrifice, service, faith, and living a life for the cause greater than yourself. 

It is contagious.

My mission to share the inspirational history of the WASP began with my big idea, “Mom, let’s interview a few of the WASP in Texas and share their stories online.”  “No,” said mom, “if you interview ONE WASP you need to interview THEM ALL.”  “Mom,” said I, “That’s impossible.”  She quickly shot back, “With God’s help, nothing is impossible.”  Guess she told me!

And so it began.  Our partnership and our journey across 19 states, 110 interviews, countless web pages, and outside the box projects later.   Almost twenty years have passed, and I am certain of one thing; I am still inspired by the WASP.  

Through it all, I have been guided by God’s hand, my mother, the WASP’ gentle encouragement and participation, and the spirit of the WASP. Needless to say, I have never walked alone. 

I’ve been uplifted by these American heroines, and by their stories, their service and their humility.  My wish for all of you is that the spirit of the WASP encourage you and inspire you to ‘fly' higher than you’ve ever flown in absolutely everything you do.  If you need help, ask a WASP!

God bless you all,


Nancy Parrish is the Executive Director of Wings Across America a digital history project located just off the campus of Baylor University in Waco, Texas.  If you'd like to know more, visit!

*originally published in the Women in Aviation Conference daily news blast  
March, 2015

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Mother-daughter duo inducted into Women in Aviation Hall of Fame

Posted: Sunday, March 15, 2015 12:01 am

A local mother-daughter duo was recently inducted into the Women in Aviation International Pioneer Hall of Fame for their efforts to preserve the history of women pilots in the military.
  • Nancy Parrish and her mother Deanie, a Women Airforce Service Pilot who served during World War II, were inducted into the Women in Aviation International’s Pioneer Hall of Fame.
Deanie and Nancy Parrish were recognized last weekend in Dallas for their work with Wings Across America, a nonprofit they established to chronicle contributions of Women Airforce Service Pilots, or WASPs, who tested military aircrafts and participated in domestic flight training exercises, freeing up male Army Air Force pilots for combat in World War II.

Deanie Parrish, 93, entered the WASP program in 1944, paying her own train fare from her hometown of Avon Park, Florida, to Sweetwater, Texas, for seven months of flight training at Avenger Field.
She served as a test pilot for new military aircraft at the Greenville Air Force Base in Mississippi and was later stationed at Tyndall Air Force Base in Panama City, Florida, flying B-26 bomber planes and pulling white toe-tag banners male pilots used for target practice.
Nancy Parrish, a former producer for KWBU, started documenting her mom’s WASP experiences online, then proceeded to track down more than 100 WASPs to record their memories for a video history website.
The women also established a WASP museum in Sweetwater plus two traveling museum exhibits on the WASP program.
One traveling museum exhibit the Parrishes created is now part of a permanent exhibit at the Air Zoo in Kalamazoo, Michigan, while another was recently on display at the Bullock Texas State History Museum in Austin.
“My first thought was just that I was overwhelmed,” Nancy Parrish said of the honor. “To be put in the category with the women who have gone before in this particular prestigious hall of fame was unbelievable.
“Jackie Cochran, who started the WASPs, is in the Pioneer Hall of Fame, and some pretty remarkable women who have done some remarkable things are in the Pioneer Hall of Fame. It’s kind of mind-boggling. It really helped shine another light on the WASPs themselves.”
World War II Women Airforce Service Pilot Deanie Parrish (center) poses with her daughters Barby Parrish Williams (left) and Nancy Parrish at the Women in Aviation International conference in Dallas. Deanie and Nancy Parrish were inducted into the organization’s Pioneer Hall of Fame
Other inductees included Priscilla Blum, co-founder of the Corporate Angel Network that provides free air travel to cancer patients to receive treatment, and the late Phoebe Omlie, who was the first woman to receive a commercial pilot’s license.
Peggy Chabrian, founder and president of Women in Aviation International, said the Parrishes are the first family members to be jointly inducted into the hall of fame. But all of the members of the nomination review committee ranked the Parrishes at the top of their lists, she said.
Making story known
“Starting 15 years ago, when at that point the WASP story wasn’t as well told, they were instrumental in helping make that story known,” Chabrian said. “The WASPs have gotten more recognition over the last several years, partially due to their efforts.”
Chabrian said the organization has a particular focus on the WASPs, since those were the first women to fly military aircraft. The group was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal in 2010 for their service.
Nancy Parrish, left, and her mother Deanie, right a Women Airforce Service Pilot who served during World War II, were inducted into the Women in Aviation International’s Pioneer Hall of Fame.
“That hadn’t happened before, and now we have a lot of women who are members of Women in Aviation who are active-duty or reserve pilots in all facets of military aviation,” said Chabrian, a commercial pilot and former flight instructor. “They particularly look to the WASPs as kind of opening the door for them to be able to fly military aircraft.”
Nancy Parrish said she and her mom recently developed a free WASP app that includes the group’s history and a song Deanie Parrish wrote about the unit’s history.
Deanie Parrish is writing a book about her experiences, and Nancy Parrish wants to create more online content from the videos she produced interviewing the WASPs.
“Our goal is to just spread the inspiration that the WASPs bring to as many different groups as possible,” Nancy Parrish said. “We want it to touch kids, we want it touch grown-ups, we want it to challenge high school kids.
“We want to show them that the sky is not just the limit — it’s beyond the sky, you can do anything. And the WASPs did.”

Friday, February 27, 2015

WAI Announces Pioneer Hall of Fame Inductees for 2015

For Release 9 a.m. CST
February 27, 2015
Mother daughter team from Waco, Texas 
to be inducted into WAI Pioneer Hall of Fame

Waco, Texas — February 17, 2015 —Women in Aviation International has announced the induction of mother daughter team, Deanie and Nancy Parrish of Wings Across America; Priscilla (Pat) Blum, founder of the Corporate Angel Network;  and Phoebe Omlie, extraordinary aviation trailblazer, into the Women in Aviation International’s prestigious Pioneer Hall of Fame.

These “women who changed aviation history,” will be honored at WAI’s 26th Annual International Conference, held on March 5 - 7, 2015 at the Hilton Anatole in Dallas, Texas.   The ceremony will take place at the closing banquet on Saturday, March 7, 2015.  

"Our induction ceremony is always the highlight of the closing banquet," says WAI President Dr. Peggy Chabrian. "These women and their accomplishments deserve to be recognized so that our members can thank those who came before them and initiated new undertakings or preserved the role of women's contributions throughout aviation history.”


Deanie and Nancy Parrish’s selection honors their ongoing mission to educate and inspire America with the little known history of the Women Airforce Service Pilots, WASP, the first women in history to fly America’s military aircraft.  The Parrish’s achievements include creating Wings Across America, a non-profit project at Baylor University; interviewing and digitally videotaping the oral histories of 105 WASP across the US; creating the comprehensive “WASP on the Web” website;  founding the National WASP WWII Museum; initiating and leading the 2009 campaign to award the WASP the Congressional Gold Medal  (the nation’s highest civilian award); initiating and leading the campaign to induct the Texas WASP into the Texas Aviation Hall of Fame; writing/publishing WASP In Their Own Words, An Illustrated History; designing two traveling WASP exhibits (including the first interactive exhibit: Flygirls of WWII, most recently displayed at the Story of Texas Museum in Austin, Texas); designing the first WASP app: Flygirl WWII; and writing the first WASP rap song: We Got The Stuff, The Right Stuff.

Priscilla (Pat) Blum, along with Jay Weinberg, founded Corporate Angel Network (CAN), a 34 year old not for profit organization whose mission is to arrange free travel for cancer patients traveling to and from their treatment centers in the available seats on board corporate jet aircraft. In its first full year, 1982, a dozen corporations flew a total of 23 cancer patient flights. In 2014, 560 corporations signed on as CAN providers and an average of 220 cancer patients were flown each month for an annual total of 2550. The 47,000th cancer patient will be flown in Feb 2015.

Phoebe Omlie: Once one of the most famous women in America, Phoebe Omlie earned the first Commercial Pilot's License by a woman and became a successful air racer. During the New Deal, she held executive positions in federal aeronautics. During the 1920s, she bought a JN-4D and learned how to perform stunts with her future husband Vernon. She danced the Charleston on the top wing, hung by her teeth below the airplane, and performed parachute stunts in the Phoebe Fairgrave Flying Circus.

The Women in Aviation, International Pioneer Hall of Fame was established in 1992 to honor women who have made significant contributions as record setters, pioneers, or innovators. Special consideration is given to individuals or groups who have helped other women be successful in aviation or opened doors of opportunity for other women. Each year, the organization solicits nominations from throughout the aviation industry for the WAI Pioneer Hall of Fame.

The 2015 Conference celebrates 26 years of WAI Conferences. With the theme "Connect, Engage, Inspire," the WAI Conference will include professional development seminars, education sessions, tours, workshops, networking events, speakers, and a commercial exhibit area. The Conference concludes on Saturday evening, March 7, 2015, with WAI's annual banquet where dozens of scholarships are awarded and the four Pioneers are inducted.

Secure online registration is available at, and varied registration options exist. Student rates and military rates make the Conference more affordable. In addition, WAI offers an "Accompanied Child" rate. Conference attendees may register for a full package, a one-day package or simply for specific events. Onsite registration will be available as well.

Women in Aviation, International is a nonprofit 501(C)(3) organization dedicated to providing networking, mentoring and scholarship opportunities for women and men who are striving for challenging and fulfilling careers in the aviation and aerospace industries. For more information, contact WAI at 3647 State Route 503 South, West Alexandria, OH 45381, Phone (937) 839-4647; Fax (937) 839-4645 or through

For more information on Women in Aviation
Connie Lawrence
Women in Aviation International
937-839-4647 Phone
937-839-4645 Fax

For more information on Wings Across America
Nancy Parrish, Director 

Monday, May 27, 2013

A Small Miracle - - Memorial Day 2013

 Memorial Day is a revered United States federal holiday which occurs each year on the last Monday in May. It is a day for special remembrances of the men and women who died while serving their country as members of the United States Armed Forces. 

 When my first ‘WASP on the Web’ pages were published in 1996, they included an ‘Above and Beyond’ section-- with graphics and information on each of the thirty-eight WASP and trainees who were killed during WWII. Unfortunately, there were very few pictures of the trainees that had been killed, and some of the graphics were, at best, only sketches of their faces. 

 These same graphics were used in my 2010 “WASP In Their Own Words Illustrated History Book” and the ‘Above and Beyond’ sections of our Fly Girls’ traveling exhibit. 

This past December a young woman named Vicki Oldenburg was contacted ‘out of the blue’ by a woman who was digging thru photos in an old antique store near her home. The woman found a photo and a postcard that captivated her imagination, because the postcard was from a young woman named Margy Oldenburg who was in training to fly airplanes. As Vicki later wrote, “The fact that she found me is still a small miracle.” 

 Soon after, Vicki called to ask me for more information on Margaret, who had signed her postcard 'Margy.' Vicki’s father was married to Margaret when she was killed. He later remarried and started a family, but he never forgot his first wife, Margaret Oldenburg, who was in training in Houston to become a WASP. 

 Vicki sent me digital copies of the photo of Margaret and the postcard. When I finished hand tinting the photo, I felt like I was meeting Margaret for the first time. As with all WASP, there is a special twinkle in her eyes. What a beautiful young woman she was! 

 So, on this Memorial Day, I would like to introduce you to Margaret "Margy' Sanford Oldenburg, 43-W-4. Because of this small miracle, I have completely redesigned our “Above and Beyond” pages, which have now been published: 

 May your lives be filled with God's blessings of good health, loving family, special friendships and memories that continue to warm your hearts. Thank you for your service to our country and for your continued support for our mission: “WINGS ACROSS AMERICA.” 

v/r written and posted by Nancy Parrish  
with special thanks to Vicki Oldenburg

Sunday, March 10, 2013


Spirit of the WASP
by Nancy Parrish

A tribute to the WASP -- in honor of Women's History Month and the THIRD ANNIVERSARY of the awarding of the Congressional Gold Medal to the Women Airforce Service Pilots of WWII.
    Early in October, 2012, a World War II air-to-air B-26 tow-target pilot cut a symbolic ribbon at Wings Over the Rockies Aviation and Space Museum in Denver, Colorado.  Just beyond the ribbon, high above the polished floor, overlooking the beautiful planes stretched wingtip to wingtip across the pristine hangar, is a  visually stunning,  factual, inspiring exhibit--a tribute to an unsung group of heroes: the Women Airforce Service Pilots -- for many years considered ‘the best kept secret of World War II.‘    On that special day, when WASP Deanie Parrish cut the ribbon for the “FLYGIRLS OF WWII EXHIBIT,” WASP’ history was no longer a secret at Wings Over the Rockies!

Volunteers and WASP Deanie Parrish at the FlyGirls WWII ribbon cutting:
Wings Over the Rockies Museum, Denver Colorado

    For sixteen years, it has been my honor to partner with this WASP, who served her country during WWII by towing a sleeve target behind her B-26 Martin Marauder as ‘green gunners’ in B-24’s ‘practiced’ firing live ammunition at that target.  This fearless, spunky lady pilot has always believed that, ‘With God’s help, nothing is impossible.’  I agree, and once my mother, the WASP, joined me on my mission to share the little-known history of the Women Airforce Service Pilots with America, we never looked back.
    The trailblazing WASP were the first women in history to fly America’s military aircraft. That is amazing, indeed!  Yet their unselfish contribution to the Allied victory in World War II is not just a story about women who flew American military aircraft.    The WASP history is a tapestry of extraordinary testaments of courage and honor, of patriotism, persistence, and faith, and it is a story of service, commitment, and sacrifice.

    The story began in 1939, when a visionary, spirited lady pilot named Jacqueline Cochran met with President and Mrs. Roosevelt and proposed the unconventional idea of training women pilots to fly military aircraft, should they ever be needed.  They agreed.   Jackie had the audacity to believe that airplanes didn’t know the difference between male and female pilots!  She then submitted her idea to Gen. Hap Arnold, Commanding General of the Army Air Corps.   

He dismissed the idea immediately. Who could blame him?  Consider, for just a moment, what the expectations were for women across America on December 6, 1941.   Up until then, American women weren’t expected to do anything significant or courageous.  They were expected to be teachers, librarians and secretaries; or wives and mothers who would raise their sons to do significant, courageous things.   That all changed on December 7, 1941.

During the early months of 1942, after severe losses of combat pilots over North Africa, Gen. Arnold became desperate for more pilots.  Jackie Cochran was passionate, persistent and well prepared.  She convinced the General to make the bold, historic decision to give qualified licensed women pilots a chance to serve their country.  That one decision eventually gave America the untapped resource so badly needed: courageous, patriotic, young women pilots, willing to go where no women had ever gone before: the cockpits of America’s military aircraft. 

“When the telegram came saying, “Your services are needed in the Army Air Corps. If interested, report at the Palmer House in Chicago,” I was amazed.  I could serve my country and fly. WOW!”    WASP Margaret Ray Ringenberg

“After my husband was taken prisoner at Bataan, I had gone into the Women’s Defense Corps.  I did the fire fighting, the life saving, the pistol shooting, and Air Raid Warden. Working in the daytime at the Adjutant General’s Office, I went out to Doc Hale’s Air School and learned to fly.”   WASP  Kay McBride D’Arezzo

  “I quit my job and moved to the airport.  I pumped gas, made sandwiches, and worked on planes.  My room was an old Army cot in an old shack.  I got my meals and one hour of flying time a day.”  WASP Penny Hall Halberg

When I heard about Pearl Harbor, I was horrified. I tried to donate blood. They said I wasn’t old enough.  Then my father told me about the WASP.   I thought, that’s perfect.  That’s why I learned to fly.  I had several boyfriends who were airline Captains.  I had excellent instruction!”  WASP Dori Marland Martin

With the Army Air Force's promise of militarization, the first class of 29 licensed women pilots raised their right hands, took the military oath, and began Army Air Force flight training at the Municipal Airport in Houston, Texas, Nov. 16, 1942.  

Jackie (Cochran) called me to her apartment.   She showed me a copy of a letter from the War Department to the Commanding Officer in Houston.  It said, “We know we have to give these women a chance to fly. We do not think they will ever be able to fly military airplanes.  Get rid of them as soon as possible.”  So, twenty-five of us went to Houston and beat the odds.  We became Class 43-W-1.”   WASP Geri Elder Lamphere Nyman

    From the first day of training to the day the WASP hung up their Army parachutes for the last time, everything they did was scrutinized, measured, and recorded.   Their health, weight, strength, skill, stamina, patience, and perseverance were tested.  Every time a WASP stepped into an aircraft or flew a mission, it was an experiment on behalf of all women pilots.  Every WASP knew if one WASP failed, the whole program would be at risk. 

“On our first day, the chief pilot told us: “It is up to you whether this entire Women’s Flying Training Program succeeds and opens the way for hundreds of pilots like you to fly military planes. Or you can fail, by acting like spoiled brats, by giving up because you don't like the food, or your flight instructor, or ground school.  It’s up to you.  You are the Guinea Pigs.”   WASP Byrd Howell Granger

    Three months later the program was moved to Avenger Field, Sweetwater, Texas.   In just over two years, 25,000 women applied for AAF flight training, a total of 1,830 were accepted, but only 1074 completed seven months of training and graduated.   In Aug. of ’43, the graduates, together with 28 civilian women pilots who had been hired by the Air Transport Command to ferry aircraft, were officially named WASP, Women Airforce Service Pilots, by Commanding General Hap Arnold.

    The program was not only an unprecedented success; it exceeded all expectations.  In two years, at 120 air bases across America, WASP flew over 60 million miles in every type aircraft and on every type mission any male AAF pilot flew, except combat.  WASP attended Pursuit School and Officer Candidate School. They flew strafing, night tracking, and smoke laying missions. They towed targets for air-to-air and ground-to-air gunnery practice, with gunnery recruits firing live ammunition. They ferried planes and transported cargo, personnel and parts of the atomic bomb.  They instructed, flew weather missions and test flew repaired aircraft.  WASP even flew aircraft, including the B-26 "Widow Maker" and the B-29 "Super Fortress," as experimental ‘morale boosters’ for male pilots.  

“When we landed at Dodge City, the Sergeant drove us by what he called, 'the bone yard'—four B-26s had 'cracked up' within the previous month, killing the entire crews.  He said, 'If you girls have any sense, you'll turn right around and go back where you came from, because that thing is a killer.'  The CO said, 'If you stay, and if you pass, you will be the first women in the history of the Army Air Force to fly a bomber.'  So, he left the room for us to talk it over and, of course, we all wanted to fly it.”  WASP Sandy Thompson

    The WASP flew with an unwavering urgency and a passion for their mission: to free male pilots for combat.

“The P-63 was quite an airplane.  I just loved it.  I flew as many as I could, as far as I could, as fast as I could.  There was one route where you’d have to take the lane West all the time, and the barn was on the left.  And if your barn was any place except on the left, you were off course. We always just had to fly by sight, for about, maybe a year.  Nothing, just go.  No radio.  No nothing.”   WASP Betty Archibald Fernandes

    The pioneering service of the WASP was not without sacrifice.  Thirty-eight WASP were killed flying for their country, their bodies sent home in cheap pine boxes, their burial at the expense of their family or classmates. Still considered civilians, these heroic pilots were denied any military benefits or honors, no gold star allowed in their parents' window, no American flag to cover their coffins.

     Three weeks before 44-W-4 trainee Mary Howson was to graduate, her mother received an official telegram from the War Department.  It simply said: "Your daughter was killed this morning.  Where do you want us to ship the body?"    AAF Telegram, 1944

    The WASP did everything their country asked them to do and more. When handed orders to fly a military aircraft, no matter what kind it was, what the mission was, what the weather was, or what the destination was, they never flinched.

“You either had a chance of doing it, or go home. Those who wanted transfers went home.  We did what we were assigned to do...with no regrets.”  WASP Ruth Florey

“P-39   I had never flown with a tricycle landing gear. The Instructor stood on the wing, showed me where the instruments were.  So I get in and I buckle up and he jumps down.  I said, "Well, where are you going to sit?"   And he said,   "Lady, it is a one seater, you’re on your own!"   And he looked like he didn’t think he’d ever see me again.”    WASP Rosa Lea Fullwood

“Two of the WASP are just as good as I am at this particular job, and hell, I think I’m the best in the Army!”    AAF male pilot, Camp Stewart, Georgia

    WASP paid their own way to serve their country and, after 60 million extraordinary miles of flying, they were disbanded.  Though disappointed, they simply hung up their parachutes and paid their own way back home.  

    In 1977, 33 years after the WASP were disbanded; they were finally granted the Veteran’s status they had been promised.  The bill gave them the right to be buried with an American flag on their casket.

    In 2010, the WASP were given an honor of extraordinary proportions by our nation, when Congress awarded the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest civilian award Congress can bestow, to the WASP of WWII. 

“Over 65 years ago, we each served our country without any expectations of recognition or glory, and we did it without compromising the values we were taught as we grew up, honor integrity, patriotism, service, faith, and commitment.  We did it because our country needed us… All we ever asked for is that our overlooked history no longer be a missing chapter in the history of World War II, the history of aviation and the history of our country.”  WASP Deanie Bishop Parrish

    As she spoke those words to the largest crowd ever assembled inside the capitol, I watched my mom, the WASP, and then the faces of the WASP in the audience.  Their eyes were sparkling, some moist with tears, but all shining bright with a contagious patriotic pride in a job well done.  

Congressional Gold Medal Ceremony, March 10, 2010
click photo to enlarge

    No doubt the WASP blazed the trail for women serving as military pilots today, but for me, discovering these remarkable women and their stories has always been about so much more than flying.  It is about living a life beyond what is expected, about being willing to risk stretching the boundaries and busting through the barriers.  It is about doing what you feel is right, even when no one is looking and ‘flying higher’ in everything you do.   That is not just history. It is inspirational history. 

        Today, more than ever before, we need that ‘can do’ spirit of the WASP to inspire us all!    Learning about the WASP inspires young boys just as much as it inspires young girls, because, ‘if a girl can do it, so can they!’ So, respectfully, from the walls of the Flygirls Exhibit in Denver and beyond, I pray you hear the WASP, whispering their encouragement to you all, and that you pass it on: 
“You fly the airplane, don’t let the airplane fly you. I think that’s the whole secret of life.  Take command of your life.  Get out there and do it." WASP Joan Michaels Lemley
“Life is a challenge! Live it!   Don’t let turbulence slow you down or keep you from your goals.” 
WASP Ann R. Holaday
“Don’t let people tell you you can’t. Don’t let people tell you you aren’t good enough.   Be good enough!”    
WASP Gayle Snell
“Put God first, family next and then whatever you want to do...  CAVU.  Pilot talk:  ceiling and visibility unlimited.”  WASP Marion Stegeman Hodgson
“Don’t ever put limits on your dreams.   Dream farther and higher than you can imagine.  I would never have flown if I hadn’t looked to the sky and beyond.”  
WASP Scotty Bradley Gough

"You want to be the next 'Greatest Generation?' Then return to the values that we lived by in 1942, 1944: sexual relations are for marriage, marriage is for life, there's a right and a wrong, you are responsible for your own actions...and a strong faith in God."  WASP Ruth Dailey Helm

And those final words still ringing true from mom:

“With God’s help, nothing is impossible.”   WASP Deanie Bishop Parrish

  Nancy and Deanie Parrish, March 10 , 2010

In honor of Women's History Month and the volunteer work Wings Across America continues to do showcasing the inspirational history of the WASP, please consider supporting this unique cutting-edge, 501c-3 digital history project at Baylor University through a gift in honor or memory of one of these incredible pioneers.  We are determined to continue our mission, but WE NEED YOUR HELP!

God bless you all... HAPPY WOMEN'S HISTORY MONTH!

Nancy Parrish is the Creator/Designer of the “Fly Girls Traveling WASP Exhibit,”  volunteer Director of Wings Across America at Baylor University, Author of “WASP IN THEIR OWN WORDS, An Illustrated History of the WASP”  and Creator of WASP on the WEB.

WINGS ACROSS AMERICA'S Congressional Gold Medal Photo Album


Monday, July 9, 2012

Maggie Kennon's interiew with a WASP!

WWII Female Pilot Tells Exhilarating Secret Stories of Wartime Exploits

by MAGGIE KENNON July 3, 2012

My Interview With 


Deanie ParrishWorld War II VeteranWASPWhy They Served"We did it because our country needed us."

On February 29th, I interviewed Deanie Parrish. I learned of Deanie and her WWII history by researching the women of WWII. I was amazed by what I learned and what she shared with me. Come listen to our conversation...
During World War II, women stepped up into the jobs once held by men. They became mechanics, steel workers, plumbers and, for Deanie Parrish and 1,101 other women, pilots for the U.S. military. The Women Airforce Service Pilots, known as the WASP, helped train male pilots for combat, ferried aircraft, military personnel and cargo around the country, and allowed more men to serve overseas. 
But Deanie never talked much about her adventures in the air; it wasn't until 1993 that she began to share the stories of her service. Now Deanie and her daughter are recording interviews with surviving WASP. Of the more than 1,102 women who volunteered and flew every type fighter, bomber, transport, cargo, and trainer aircraft in the Army Air Force inventory 68 years ago, only about 200 are still alive. 
MAGGIE: Thank you for allowing me to speak with you. My mom and sister are also listening in on the speaker phone. We are honored that we can share in learning about your time as a WASP.
DEANIE: Thank you. I did get your questions ahead of time. We can go through them if you like. Why don't you begin.  
MAGGIE: Do you remember the moment that you realized you were going to enter the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP)
DEANIE: No, I don't remember the exact moment that I realized I was going to enter the WASP. What I do remember is the letter that was sent to me from Jackie Cochran who was the second most famous woman pilot. (After Amelia Earhart) Jackie sent me a letter stating I was accepted if I could pass the tests.
I was twenty when I received that letter. Twenty one was the age requirement, and I sent in my application as soon as I turned twenty-one. In all the twenty-one years that I had lived, I remember I thought that day that I got the letter as the best. I actually had no idea that you could lie to the authorities and give a false birth date.
I had to take and pass a physical exam before I could be accepted. The physical was the first time in my life that I had ever been to a doctor. I took the exam at an Army base near my home town in Florida, After I passed the physical and was accepted, I went to Avenger Field in Sweetwater, Texas to enter military flight training.  
There was a height requirement of 5 foot 2 ½ inches. I may have been ¼ inch shy...but I told the doctor I "needed" to be listed as 5 foot 2 ½ inches, and he helped me.
MAGGIE: Did your family approve or disapprove of you becoming a pilot during the war?
DEANIE: I don't recall them being one way or the other. They never rejected the idea.
I remember the good looking cadet instructors, that interested me and I wanted to show them that girls could fly.
When I was 18, three years before becoming a WASP, I had my first solo flight. As you know, that means that I would be flying all alone in the plane.  Can you believe that the joy stick came off as I was up in the air?
A joystick was the most important control in a plane at the time.  I really didn't get scared. I knew my instructor was watching from the ground - wondering what the heck I was doing.
I actually climbed, from the back seat, into the front cockpit in order to gain control of the plane.
MAGGIE: Did you have any siblings that served during WW2?
DEANIE: I was the middle child of 7 children in the family. Yes, I had one brother that was a marine, another brother that was in the Air National Guard and two of my sisters worked at the Army's Bombing Range.
MAGGIE: Did you have friends that thought this was not the "proper" thing for a woman to pursue at the time?
DEANIE: Not that I remember, some other gals from home became air wardens and Rosie the Riveters. When the war began, it really changed the roles for women in the USA.
MAGGIE: What was the hardest part of your Army training?
DEANIE: It was 7 months long. There was only one place in the USA for women to train to become pilots. That was at Avenger Field in Sweetwater, Texas. The primary training was 70 hours. Then you went to basic training and then advanced training.  I enjoyed all of the training.
MAGGIE: Did you get teased by the men in the military or do you think they respected you?
DEANIE: I never had a problem with any of the men.  However, "some" commanding officers weren't necessarily happy about us.
But, Sister Theresa, (formerly Anita Paul) from Nashua, New Hampshire had to spend time stationed with some WACS (Women's Army Auxiliary Corps.) The WACS were not behaving properly. They were having men hang out in the women's quarters.
 MAGGIE: Were you ever scared?
Okay, there was one time during my primary training. I landed a plane on the field and I was taxiing the plane. You understand, that it wasn't possible to go in reverse or to back these planes up. There was a barbed wire fence and I could not tell if my wing of the plane would hit the fence. What made me so nervous about this was that the rules were "One error was considered a wash out" and you would be sent home.
Deanie in a B-26 
MAGGIE: Did all of the female pilots have to pass physical and mental exams that were the same or different from the tests that male pilots had to pass?
DEANIE: For the most part, the physical and mental exams were the same.
We flew every type of plane. The same planes as the men. We flew every type of mission that could be flown in the USA.
I use to fly B-26's  "Twin Engine Bomber"  It was called a "flying coffin!"  We would be used as "target" practice for the men. We would tow a target behind our plane and up in the sky, the men in their bomber planes would shoot live ammunition from their gunners of their B-24's at our target. We did this over the Gulf. The bullets were color coded so they would know which men had shot which bullets at our target.  One of those B-24 pilots, Lt. Bill Parrish, instructed his gunners to aim close so he could meet the blonde girl pilot - they came so close, they put a few holes in the tail of my airplane. 
MAGGIE: Did your plane ever get hit with bullets.
DEANIE: Yes, twice in the tail. But...I ended up marrying Lt. Bill Parrish! 
MAGGIE: Why were your records sealed after the war?
DEANIE: Because we were women, they seemed to think it would degrade them. Maybe they were embarrassed to have relied on womanpower during the war and saw that as a desperate action that needed to be hid. Some of the records were marked secret and some were marked classified.
Because our records were sealed, historians never wrote about us in any history textbook or any book they wrote. In 1977 the Air Force announced they were graduating the first ten women pilots in American history to fly military aircraft. Well you can imagine how we felt. This was the final straw. We had flown military aircraft during World War II, and that made us the first women to fly military aircraft. It was as if they had just forgotten about us. So we organized ourselves. We became a force to be reckoned with. It took months, but a group of WASP went to D.C. with Barry Goldwater - a U.S. Senator at the time, along with General Henry "Hap" Arnold's son. We lobbied Congress to open our sealed records. Unfortunately, I was not there at that protest. At that time, I was with my husband at Haneda Air Field in Tokyo, Japan. If I had known and could be there, I would have been there. After that seven months, which I did help contribute to when I discovered about it, Congress approved that we should be given Veteran status.
President Jimmy Carter signed this into law on November 23, 1977. Although it would have been nice for us and thoughtful on Congress' part, none of the WASPs were invited to the signing ceremony. Still, this opened up to us many benefits of Veterans - even if it was thirty-three years late.
However, the most important part to many of us is that we will now be able to have an American flag on our coffins.  Sadly, we had thirty-eight WASPs killed in training or after graduation that had not been allowed us to put the American flag on their coffins. 
Congressional Gold Medal
Deanie Parrish (C) of Waco Texas, accepts the Congressional Gold Medal while flanked by House Minority Leader John Boehner (L), Sen. Harry Reid (2nd R) and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA)(R), during a ceremony at the US Capitol on March 10, 2010 in Washington, DC. The ceremony was held to honor the Women Air Force Service Pilots (WASP) of WWII. The WASP was a pioneering organization of civilian female pilots employed to fly military aircrafts under the direction of the United States Army Air Forces during World War II.
In 1984 we were awarded World War II Victory Medals and Theater Service Medals. And finally, in 2010, we were awarded the Congressional Gold Medal. It was given to the WASP to honor our service, and a ceremony was held in our Nation's Capitol in Washington for us. Over sixty years after we had answered the call of the nation, and after many of us have already passed on, our country is finally able to look upon and acknowledge the wonderful effort given and achievements that  we made as pilots in WW II. 
MAGGIE: What do you think is the best way to educate Americans about the female pilots of WWII?
DEANIE: We have interviewed 115 WASP pilots. There were at total of 1102 and sadly less than 200 are alive today. Having their interviews on file and on our website is a source for educating people about the warriors of WW II. Additionally, my daughter has helped do a documentary because she was upset when she found out there was not any information out there. She said to me "That's wrong!"
We have also written a book that we would love to see in every school library in the country. Personally, I think the best way to educate American students would be history textbooks which included the WASP.
MAGGIE: Why don't you sell your story to Hollywood - after all, they just made the movie "Act of Valor" so this subject seems like a hot topic now.
DEANIE: Sure would be nice but we don't know where to begin.
MAGGIE: What about textbook publishers - have you approached them or vice versa?
DEANIE: Again, no - we haven't done this but would like to try. 
MAGGIE: Were you ever Privy to Classified Information that you still know but can't reveal?
DEANIE: No, but later, after I married an Air Force Pilot - I had other jobs at bases where I was privy to classified information.
MAGGIE: Have you ever reached out to female pilots from allied WWII countries, like Great Britain? Were there any from other allied countries?
DEANIE: Yes, 20 WASPs made a trip to Russia to meet up with Russian women from WWII. The Russian women were pilots that actually flew in combat. They were called "Night Witches" and flew single engine planes.
Russian Night Witches
Jacqueline Cochran, the most outstanding U.S. female pilot, was both the Founder and Director of the Women Airforce Service Pilots.  In 1943, twenty-eight civilian women pilots, who had been hired as civilians to ferry aircraft for the Air Transport Command, together with their Squadron Commander, Nancy Love, merged into Jacqueline Cochran's WASP and became WASP.
Jackie Cochran
Some of the WASP transported parts of the Atom Bomb.
MAGGIE: Are you in contact with female warriors from current American wars? Whether you are or not, what would you advise them?
DEANIE: Yes, in fact we are meeting at a convention this weekend in Dallas.  There are two groups:   - Women in Military Aviation, and Women in Aviation International that I am a member of.
WASP Deanie Parrish meets A-10 PILOT and USAF Captain Kim Campbell
MAGGIE: Did you keep up your flying after the war, whether professionally or as a leisure time activity?
DEANIE: No, I became a wife and mother and left the flying to my husband.
MAGGIE: Did you stay in touch over the years with other pilots?
DEANIE: Yes, putting together reunions.
Gateway to Arlington - the women's memorial and the Kalamazoo Museum in Michigan are projects that we are involved. Of my five "baymates" there is just one other that is alive today. 
MAGGIE: What do you want us to know about you - more than anything else?
DEANIE: I (we) never forgot our values: Honor, Integrity, Patriotism, Service, Faith and Commitment
I also always remember what Jackie Cochran (a pioneer American aviator, considered to be one of the most gifted racing pilots of her generation. She was an important contributor to the formation of the wartime WAAC and WASP.) had told us when we were training. ""Remember you are a lady and when you get out of the plane act like a lady."  Jackie always looked like a million bucks. Many of us kept brushes and lipstick in the planes with us.
Jackie Cochran 
MAGGIE: Thank you Mrs. Parrish, this was so nice of you to give me your time and to share your story.
DEANIE: Thank you Maggie and please spread the word so others will learn. Good luck with your school project. A great month for this as you know it is Women's History Month!
DEANIE PARRISH, Women Airforce Service Pilots: Every single one of these ladies deserves to be standing where I am standing. Over 65 years ago, we each served our country without any expectations of recognition or glory. And we did it without comprising values that we were taught as we grew up: honor, integrity, patriotism, service, faith, and commitment. 

Learn more about the WASPs - click here
This publication is based on Maggie's handwritten notes of her telephone conversation with WASP Deanie Parrish, and re-written as if in Deanie's own words.

Maggie Kennon is a 7th grade student at St. Augustine School in Westchester County, New York. She completed this interview as part of a special Social Studies project.

Read more: Family Security Matters
Under Creative Commons License: Attribution

Reposted with respect by Wings Across America -- GREAT JOB, MAGGIE!