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Mon, Feb 27, 2012

America's First Female Military Pilots Share Accounts Of WWII Service

Part Two Of Fantasy Of Flight's 'Legends & Legacies Series' Features Rare Appearances By Women Who Broke Boundaries

In 1942, First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt said "This is not a time when women should be patient. We are in a war and we need to fight it with all our ability and every weapon possible. Women pilots, in this particular case, are a weapon waiting to be used."

It has been seventy years since First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt first uttered these powerful words during World War II, but the remarkable story of the women who stepped outside their traditional roles remains so inspiring that Fantasy of Flight is proud to once again present "Breaking All Barriers: Amazing Women in American History" as part two of six in its fourth annual Legends & Legacies Symposium Series.
 
On Friday, March 2 and Saturday, March 3, in honor of Women's History Month, and as a testament to the advancement of women's rights, the public will have the opportunity to meet and hear firsthand from Barry Smith, a Women Airforce Service Pilot (WASP), the first women in the United States to pilot military planes, Norma Catherine Tucci, a member of the Women's Army Corps (WAC) and Donaldean "Donna" Hooker, a real-life Rosie the Riveter. Stacie Rine will join the group (on Friday only) as one of the few female graduates from the U.S. Naval Academy who has served as a pilot, officer and mission commander in the Navy for 13 years, prior to departing in 2008.

Barry Vincent Smith

The symposium will bring to life the experiences of these women through open-forum/question-and-answer sessions as well as permanent and semi-permanent exhibits and real aircraft. Fantasy of Flight's WASP exhibition, which includes aircraft, as well as four separate bays that feature historical, anecdotal, and inspirational newsreel footage, original photos, and storytelling panels from the 1940s and today, will serve as the backdrop for the historic appearances.
 
From the bravery of the WASP, the first females to fly military aircraft, to the strength and motivation that was symbolized by the non-traditional roles of "Rosie the Riveter," the women of WWII made an impact on the world and gave hope for new generations of "barrier-breaking women" to continue challenging the status quo.
 
The courageous WASP left their homes and jobs at the height of WWII to serve their country and support the war effort. When every available American male pilot was absorbed into combat overseas, dangerous non-combat flight duty still required pilots stateside for ferrying, testing, dragging targets and liaison - tasks hardly suited for the inexperienced or the faint of heart. The WASP bravely stepped forward to fill that void and aid in the war effort. Only 1,830 of the 25,000 applicants were accepted into the WASP program, and 1,074 of those women earned their silver WASP wings. Their founder, Jackie Cochran, became the first civilian to receive the U.S. Army Distinguished Service Medal for her vision and leadership of the WASP program.

About 150,000 American women served in the WAC, the women's branch of the U.S. Army, during WWII. They were the first women other than nurses to serve with the Army. General Douglas MacArthur called the WACs "my best soldiers" adding that they worked harder, complained less and were better disciplined than men.
 
"Our mission at Fantasy of Flight is to inspire others to live their dreams, whatever they may be, through the beauty and freedom of flight," said Kermit Weeks, founder and creator of Fantasy of Flight. "These brave women are the perfect embodiment of those ideals and we are incredibly honored to welcome them to Fantasy of Flight and invite the public to hear their personal experiences firsthand. Just in the last few months, America has lost at least three of these inspiring heroes: Mary Burchard, Catherine Ann Murphy and Geri Nyman, which is a sober reminder of just how precious these firsthand accounts really are."
 
Fantasy of Flight is one of the few attractions in the country to play host to legendary WWII and Vietnam War heroes as they share their compelling personal accounts, as well as their family members and descendants, who are able to offer their own unique perspectives. The series also includes heroes from WWII who served on the ground protecting and supporting the men and women in flight. Each symposium features several open-forum/question-and-answer sessions, followed by meet-and-greet/autograph signing sessions.

FMI: www.fantasyofflight.com

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