The Wild and Glorious Story of American Women Aviators from World War II to the Dawn of the Space Age
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An attempt at history penned by an advertising copywriter and an English teacher, who offer a paean to women pilots during and after WWII. Haynesworth (the copywriter) and Toomey (English/Virginia Tech) tell of the tumultuous early days following Pearl Harbor, when the US was frantically mobilizing the military, including the Army Air Corps. The Air Ferry Command was formed to transfer military planes from factories to assembly areas for shipment to training fields and overseas. The initiative to attract licensed and experienced women pilots to the Ferry Command was led by Jackie Cochran, a prominent she-pilot of the time, whose ideas were financed by her wealthy husband, Floyd Odlum. By 1943 these volunteer women pilots, drawn mainly from affluent families who could afford private planes during the Great Depression, overcame many obstacles within the highly pressured Army Air Corps, graduating from trainers to more complex planes like B-17s and B-25s. One problem: their civilian volunteer status lacked the military benefits of the Wacs and Waves. They had to pay their own expenses—including burial costs. Alas, the book seems based on the advertising/public relations model that accentuates the positive and eliminates the negative, thus sabotaging the objectivity of the professional historian. Facts not dealt with include the death of 38 of the pilot pioneers, who lost their lives in service for their country (not to mention the unknown number who were “washed out” in military training). The authors do trace the gradual progress of female astronauts during the space age. Despite its shortcomings, the book is a well-deserved salute to the intrepid young women who answered the call of their country to risky duty in perilous times. (8 pages b&w photos, not seen)

Pub Date: Aug. 5th, 1998
ISBN: 0-688-15233-3
Page count: 352pp
Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1st, 1998


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