A biography of aviator Cornelia Fort, from her wealthy Nashville (Tenn.) childhood to her pioneering career as a pilot and early death. Simbeck, a seasoned professional writer, has consulted letters, books, and articles of the time, interviewing many of Fort's family members and friends. Born in 1919, she grew up on her family's farm with three older brothers and a younger sister, leading an active, privileged life bound only by the strict rules of her father, a medical doctor, successful businessman, and major landowner—first citizen of the city. After watching the country-fair daredevil acts of early barnstorming aviators, the father made his sons take an oath never to take up flying, but he never reckoned on Cornelia, his feisty debutante-to-be daughter. Against her father's wishes, she attended progressive Sarah Lawrence College and relished the lifestyle of the rich and famous in nearby New York City. After her father's death, she broke away from her family's social restraints and took flying lessons from a veteran aviator, becoming hooked on the freedom of the skies. Later she found herself as a licensed instructor with a student in the air over Pearl Harbor as the Japanese struck. After landing, Fort and the student jumped out and ran for their lives as the plane was riddled with bullets on the ground. Simbeck describes the early days of the US entry into WWII, as about 100 experienced female pilots were invited to form the Women's Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron (WAFS), to transport training planes from factories to air bases to free up men for combat training. Fort tragically died at 24 while trying new formation flying. As the war ended, the 1,100 female pilots were discharged as WASPS (Women's Airforce Service Pilots). An unusual story of a gallant young spirit who loved her country and died in its service. Another tribute to the "greatest generation" of WWII.
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