August 20, 2009
Sometimes you find the most interesting subjects through the weirdest connections! This week my husband and I were studying the wasps in our wasp trap on the deck. For some reason, I wondered if a song had ever been written about wasps. So naturally, I went straight to my online research library on the Internet, Google, and typed in "Wasp Songs."
Well! That's how I discovered a phenomenal group of spirited women from World War II, the first women in history to fly U.S. military aircraft, the Women Airforce Service Pilots -- and yes, their acronym is WASP. On On the fascinating website, Wings Across America, devoted to the WASPs, I found songs dedicated to these pioneering women (WASP Songs), and songs that they sang at the time, like Zoot Suits and Parachutes.
The website is a treasure trove: There are "Soundbytes of the WASPs," featuring clips of digital interviews with some of the surviving members of what was, at one time, a group of over 1,000 pilots. There are movies, sounds of some of the planes these adventurous, courageous women flew during World War II, and even songs of the time, played by the Glenn Miller Orchestra. There's also an online "virtual museum" with interactive scrapbooks and a digital photo bin.
Right now, there's a fantastic exhibit through April 2010 about these largely unknown and unsung women pilots, at the Gateway to Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia. The exhibit was created by a mother-daughter team, Nancy Parrish -- who works in digital media and interactive video (and has made the website absolutely come alive) -- and her Mom, Deanie Parrish, who was a WASP in World War II. The exhibit is sponsored by Wings Across America at Baylor University in Texas.
The WASPs were not allowed to fly combat missions overseas. But they flew every type of mission, and every type of aircraft, within the U.S. In a cruel twist, it took the WASPs 33 years to win the legal battle to get their veteran's status; but they did, in 1977.
So there you have it -- I was studying wasps on my deck, and that led me to learn about a group of the most courageous, indomitable women ever! Eileen Collins, a NASA Astronaut, said, "The WASPs were, and still are, my role models." Mine, too -- now that I know about them!