Sunday, July 12, 2009

Local hero receives national award

Plano resident Frankie Bretherick received a long overdue recognition July 6 for her service during World War II.

“Plano has a living legend among us in Frankie Bretherick. To the brave and selfless women like Frankie, our nation owes them a debt of gratitude for their service and sacrifice,” said Rep. Sam Johnson.

Johnson presented the World War II female pilot with a Congressional Record heralding her service and congratulating her for earning the Congressional Gold Medal. Johnson visited Bretherick’s home and thanked her for her service and bravery. Bretherick’s niece, Linda Cosper of Plano, and a few friends and family also attended the private meeting with Johnson.

“As a fighter pilot in the Air Force for 29 years, I hold the WASPs in high regard. All veterans share a common bond of service before self. I have profound respect for brave women, like Frankie, who put their lives and dreams on hold to serve their country. The WASPs contributed to America’s victory in World War II, no doubt about it,” Johnson said.

The Women Air Force Service Pilots (WASP) of World War II recently received recognition from a bill President Obama signed into law. It gave the WASPs the Congressional Gold Medal, the nation’s highest civilian commendation. The WASPs flew and ferried American planes, in turn freeing up American men to fly the combat missions.
“It’s long past time these dynamic women had their time in the spotlight. I hope that they savor every second of it. While long overdue, I’m thankful that the WASPs will finally receive the Congressional Gold Medal for their contribution to America’s WWII victory,” Johnson said.

Bretherick is one of only 300 living WASPs. During the war there were 1,102 WASP pilots. The WASPs were the first women in American history to fly military aircraft. From 1942-1944, women were recruited to fly non-combat missions, so that every male pilot could be deployed in combat. These women piloted every kind of military aircraft and logged 60 million miles flying missions across the United States.

The WASPs were never awarded full military status and were not eligible for officer status. In 1977, they were granted veterans’ status. The Congressional Gold Medals will be awarded to all 1,102 pilots and/or their surviving family members.

“Through their actions, Women Air Force Service Pilots were a catalyst for revolutionary reform in the integration of women pilots into the U.S. Armed Services,” Johnson said. “Just as the Navajo Code Talkers served with distinction and were awarded the Congressional Gold Medal, it is also appropriate for Congress to recognize and honor the service of the WASP with the Congressional Gold Medal.”

Bretherick was born on Sept. 19, 1914, in Cranfills Gap, which is about three hours southwest of Plano. She graduated from Providence Hospital Nursing School in Waco in 1937. After graduation, she worked for five years at various veterans’ hospitals in Texas and Louisiana. She began flying lessons at an airport south of Dallas.

When Bretherick applied and was accepted into the WASP program, Class of 44-W-6, she had a commercial pilot's license and had logged more than 200 hours of flying time. She flew BT-13s and UC-78s and slow-timed repaired aircraft at the Greenville Army Air Base.

Bretherick was deactivated on Dec. 20, 1944, and was subsequently asked to join the Army Nurse Corps in May 1945. She worked at a hospital in Mitchell Field, N.Y. for three weeks. She was then sent to Randolph Field in San Antonio to attend the School of Aviation Medicine where she received training to become an air evacuation nurse.

After the war she attended Southern Methodist University and studied business. She also worked part-time as a nurse while in school. Bretherick met her husband, Joseph, while the two were stationed in Greenville, Miss. The Brethericks were married in 1949. Her husband died in 1999. She moved to Plano about three years ago.

“To the brave and selfless women like Frankie, our nation owes them a debt of gratitude for their service and sacrifice. I am so very proud of them,” Johnson said. “God bless them and God bless America. I salute them one and all.”

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