Friday, July 10, 2009

Three local women to be recognized for WWII Service

Three women living in Skagit and Island counties who served as pilots during World War II will receive the Congressional Gold Medal, one of the highest honors a civilian may receive, for their bravery and roles in breaking down the barriers that prevented women becoming military pilots.

Lois Dobbins Auchteronie, 92, of Anacortes, Mary “Pat”

Hiller Call, 89, of Mount Vernon, and Margaret Neyman Martin of Oak Harbor will receive the award this fall. The ceremony hasn’t yet been scheduled.

The three women were among 1,074 women who served in the Women Airforce Service Pilots. Roughly 300 of those women, including 12 Washington residents, are alive today.

On Tuesday, President Barak Obama signed the bill that awards the medals to the WASP veterans.

“The Women Airforce Service Pilots courageously answered their country’s call in a time of need while blazing a trail for the brave women who have given and continue to give so much in service to this nation since,” said Obama, according to the U.S. Air Force Web site.

The bill was authored by Sens. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, and Barbara Mikulski, D-Maryland. Cosponsors included Washington Democrats Sens. Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray.

WASP members were the first women to fly American military aircraft, and 38 were killed during duty, according to the Air Force. Their example paved the way for the armed services in the 1970s to lift the ban on women receiving military flight training, eventually leading to the full integration of women as military pilots, according to Murray’s prepared statement.

The program operated from 1942 to 1944. The female pilots ferried and tested aircraft, freeing male pilots for combat. Hiller Call began her service in March 1942 and Dobbins Auchteronie in December 1943. Both women served until December 1944. Neyman Martin’s length of service wasn’t available Wednesday.

“These brave pilots have empowered and inspired decades of women service members who have followed in their footsteps,” Murray’s statement read.

The WASP members were not considered part of the military, and their records were classified until the mid-1970s. The WASP servicewomen received veteran status in 1977.

“Just like the Tuskegee Airman and Navajo Code Talkers received the Congressional Medal of Honor after their service, the Women Airforce Service Pilots too deserve the highest honor given by Congress,” said Cantwell in a prepared statement.

Marta Murvosh can be reached at 360-416-2149 or

Waco woman amoung WWII Pilots to be honored

Waco woman amoung WWII Pilots to be honored

Waco woman among World War II pilots to be honored if federal bill passes

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Waco resident Nancy Parrish fought for over a decade for her mother Deanie’s place in the history books.

Now, thanks to a bill co-sponsored by U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas., Deanie and her fellow WASPS can receive Congressional Gold Medals honoring their service as World War II pilots. The bill passed both houses of Congress and now awaits the president’s signature.

The Women Air Force Service Pilots (WASPs) were a group of more than 1,000 women who served during World War II when the Air Force was short on pilots. WASPs were even stationed at Waco’s Army airfield.

Deanie Parrish, sitting on aircraft wing, smiles with other members of the Women Air Force Service Pilots, who served during World War II. Parrish flew a B-26, then known as "the widow maker." The WASPs had to fight to get their military records opened and receive the recognition they deserved. (Deanie Parrish photo)

D. Parrish

“WASPs flew every type of mission the male Air Force pilots did within the continental United States and flew every type of airplane, from the fastest fighters to the heaviest bombers,” Deanie Parrish said.

During her service, Deanie Parrish flew a B-26 twin engine plane nicknamed “the widow maker” on account of its dangerous record. She helped test planes after repairs and flew missions to help train gunners for combat.

WASPs were the first women allowed to fly military aircraft.

“The WASPs proved airplanes don’t know the difference between men and women,” Nancy Parrish said.

Though the WASPs served equally and were sworn in identically to their male counterparts, they did not receive the same awards and recognition.

“These ladies raised their right hands and swore to protect the country, but if a woman pilot was killed, since they were still considered civilians, they had to take up a collection to pay to ship their bodies, and they couldn’t have the flag draped over their coffins,” Nancy Parrish said.

In addition, the WASPs’ military records were sealed and classified in 1944 after Congress voted not to militarize the group.

“We disbanded on Dec. 20, 1944, with no honors, no rewards and no benefits. We simply hung up our parachutes and paid our own way home,” Deanie Parrish said.

In 1977, the U.S. Air Force Academy issued a press release saying 10 women would be graduating as the group’s first female pilots.

Outraged, WASPs fought to get their records opened and win the recognition they deserved. With the help of Sen. Barry Goldwater, the WASPs were able to achieve their goal, Deanie Parrish said.

However, Nancy Parrish was not satisfied with the public’s general lack of knowledge of her mother’s accomplishments.

“These women were pioneers for all the women flying today in Afghanistan and Iraq. The WASPs did it first,” she said.

Nancy Parrish owes her existence to the WASPs, as her father, a former military pilot, met her mother on a training mission.

Nancy Parrish formed the nonprofit group Wings Across America with assistance from Baylor University to share the history of the WASPs.

From her Waco base, she worked full time with no pay to interview 100 of the approximately 300 living WASP members and record their history.

In 2003, Nancy Parrish founded the WASP museum at Avenger Field in Sweetwater, Texas, the location of the WASPs’ training facility.

She also displayed a WASP exhibit in Baylor’s Mayborn Museum in 2007. An expanded version of this exhibit is now in the Women’s Memorial in Washington, D.C.

For Nancy and Deanie Parrish, the congressional medals are a platform to help them educate Americans about the contributions the WASPs made to society.

“I don’t want a medal, I want to educate America,” Deanie Parrish said. “The medal helps people learn about this missing part of America’s history. I want it to be taught in classrooms from history books.”

Because Nancy Parrish has dedicated years to proclaiming her mother’s heroism, Deanie claims Nancy should receive equal acclaim for her work.

“Nancy has volunteered for the last 11 years without pay. She’s been a liaison between us and the legislators. Without her, no one would be getting a Congressional Gold Medal,” she said.

Currently, Deanie Parrish is working on a book profiling 10 of the most interesting WASPs, and Nancy Parrish is finishing a documentary.

“We were the first females to fly military aircraft. Whether you like it or not, we’re a part of Air Force history,” Deanie Parrish said.

For more information, visit

Staff writer Chad Shanks and Cox News Service contributed to this story.


By Carlo Albanese

Jun 25, 2009 5:55 PM | Link to this

Great Hero's come in all forms, any person who Honor's anyone who serves our country, in the military, veterans, is the unheard of, silent hero. We honor Nancy and Deanie for their great service and efforts remembering the "Great Woman of American History serving out Great Nation,
the Woman's Air Force Service Pilots (WASPS) we we are a nation called America, because of its people.

Thank you Nancy for waking us all up and reminding us why we are Americans and those that make our county a "Great Nation" the woman who also made it great!
Carlo Albanese
New York

By Jenn W

Jun 23, 2009 9:17 PM | Link to this

It is wonderful that Deanie and the women who served with her are finally receiving the recognition and respect that they earned so long ago. This past historical recognition along with the present represents what women have worked hard to gain throughout the military and in civilian life: respect and reward.

I salute Nancy and Deanie for their hard work and thank them for preserving another piece of Waco's and women's history.

By roy

Jun 23, 2009 4:45 PM | Link to this


Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Congressional Gold Medals await two Verde Valley WASP

by Steve Ayers, Staff Reporter

Monday, July 06, 2009

VILLAGE OF OAK CREEK - The list of those who have received the Congressional Gold Medal is a list of America's greats.

Presidents, politicians, poets, military officers, musicians, inventors, doctors, scientists, actors, athletes and activists are among those who have received America's highest civilian honor.

To date Congress has authorized 136 castings of the medal. George Washington received the first one.

And as soon as the current president signs the appropriate papers, the 137th recipient will be the 1,102 members of the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASPs).

They will join the Tuskegee Airmen and the Navajo Code Talkers as the only World War II era veterans groups to be so honored. All three shared the common experience of prejudice, yet rose to serve their country in a way that took generations to appreciate.

During the WASP's brief service from 1942 to 1944, 25,000 women applied, 1,830 were accepted, and 1,102 graduated and were assigned flight duty.

Although stationed stateside, their often-dangerous assignments would take the lives of 38 while on active duty.

Today, 300 are still alive. Two of them live in the Verde Valley, Nell (Stevenson) Bright of Sedona and Beverly (Dietrich) Wilkinson of the Village of Oak Creek.

Like their sister WASPs they have waited all-too-long to be recognized for who they were and what they accomplished.

Nell (Stevenson) Bright

Nell Stevenson was a Texas native, raised in the panhandle country. Her life of flying began in a local farmer's field.

"In those days there were a lot of WWI veteran pilots making a living barnstorming the countryside. One day one lan

ded in a nearby field and offered rides for $2. I took a ride and was hooked," Bright says.

After graduating from West Texas University at 19 years old, she took a job as a journalist in Amarillo. She also took flying lessons.

One day in 1942, while hanging around the hangar, she read a magazine article about a group of women pilots being trained by the military. She wrote to the group's founder, pioneer female aviator Jacqueline Cochran. A bus ride to Fort Worth and an interview with Cochran shortly thereafter, and she was in.

Bright began her training at Avenger Field in Sweetwater, Texas, home of the WASP, in May 1943. After graduating in November, then attending B-25 flight school, she was assigned to the Sixth Tow Target Squadron at Biggs Field, Texas.

The WASPs of her squadron were assigned to two target gliders across the sky, connected to their aircraft by a 3,000-5,000-foot steel cable. Anti-aircraft gun crews would practice by taking aim and attempting to shoot down the gliders.

In spite of the use of live ammunition, it was a low-risk mission -- most of the time.

"Most of our target-towing missions were at night," Bright says. "The gun crews had searchlights to illuminate the gliders. One night the searchlights found my plane instead.

"Soon anti-aircraft shells were bursting in front of my plane. Fortunately for me, they were bad shots. I radioed in and the explosions soon stopped. When we got back to the base we told them we had had enough and that we would come back another day."

During her year of active service, Bright flew a variety of missions.

"There were window missions where ground crews would practice tracking planes with radar, gas mission where we wou

ld lay down tear gas on troops and strafing missions where we got a chance to legally buzz ground troops," Bright says.

On one of her strafing mission, she says she buzzed a convoy twice before one soldier driving a jeep was finally forced to bail out.

"When we came around the third time he was standing along the side of the road, bare-chested, waiving his T-shirt. His jeep was wrecked and apparently he'd had enough," Bright says.

Beverly (Dietrich) Wilkinson

Wisconsin native Beverly Wilkinson joined the WASPs in January 1944 after taking a "crash" course pilot's school in Nevada.

"I was at Luke Air Force Base and had met a young pilot cadet. Shortly thereafter I took my first ride in an airplane. When I decided I wanted to be a WASP I needed 35 hours of flight time to qualify, so I took a 30-day course and sent in my application."

Wilkinson graduated from Avenger Field in October 1944.

She was assigned to Shaw Air Field outside Sumter, S.C., where her job was to test aircraft after they had been repaired and before they were turned over to the male pilots.

"The day I arrived they were shipping off the body of the girl I was replacing," Wilkinson says. "She had crashed on her approach. Apparently the repair hadn't worked. It didn't affect me a bit though. I was 19 years old. I knew it wasn't going to happen to me."

The WASPs had no official military status. They operated as a civil service branch of the government. As a result, the body of the pilot Wilkinson replaced had to be shipped home at the family's expense.

"Sometimes, when the family couldn't afford to, we'd take up a collection or Jacqueline Cochran would pay to have the body shipped home at her expense," Wilkinson says.

Less than three months after she arrived in South Carolina, the WASPs disbanded.

Wilkinson, just like Bright, took a job ferrying aircraft between Arizona, Texas and Nevada as the government began mothballing and liquidating its surplus inventory.

Among the aircraft Bright and Wilkinson flew while WASPs and thereafter were B-25 and B-26 bombers, AT-7 and AT-11 twin engine transports, P-47 "Thunderbolt," A-24 "Dauntless" and A-25 "Hell Cat" fighters.

Sometimes flight school for a particular aircraft was minimal at best.

"There were times we were simply sat in the cockpit, and were told, 'Here's the book, read it and let us know when you are ready to be checked out,'" Wilkinson says.

Wilkinson eventually joined the reserves and rose to the rank of captain. And she ended up marrying the young cadet pilot she met at Luke, Jimmy Wilkinson, shortly after they met again in Germany in 1949.

Life after WASP

Wilkinson eventually moved to Sedona where, at the age of 85 (she is the youngest living WASP) she recently retired as a real estate agent.

Bright eventually became one of the first female stockbrokers in Phoenix and at 88 years old, only recently retired.

"We had to be in great physical condition when we were pilots. I'm sure it's part of the reason so many of us are still around," Bright says.

Their service as WASPs, they agree, was the greatest experience of their lives and made them who they are today.

"Truth be known, we had quite a lot of fun. People ask us today -- weren't you scared? Hell no. We weren't scared of anything," Bright says.

Except maybe heights.

"If we were to go to the Grand Canyon, there is no way you would get us close to the edge," Wilkinson says. "We're both afraid of heights. It gives us the willies."

Monday, July 6, 2009

Female pilot during WWII receives 'long overdue' award in Hillsborough ceremony

by Tiffani N. Garlic/For The Star-Ledger

Monday July 06, 2009, 6:53 PM

U.S. Rep. Leonard Lance shares a laugh with Genevieve Rausch, 93, last week at the Emeritus Assisted Living Center In Hillsborough. Rausch, 93, was honored for her time with the Women Air Service Pilots of World War II. Looking on are Hillsborough Mayor Frank Delcore and Somerset County Freeholder Jack Ciattarelli, right.

HILLSBOROUGH -- The wind rushed into her face as she flew high over the Army base. She navigated the cockpit controls with the same skill of male pilots, while sitting in a uniform that carried none of the prestige.

She, like many other female aviators had given up lives as teachers, homemakers and nurses to make history as the first women to fly with the U.S. Army.

As the machinery rumbled around her the only thing louder than the engine was the heavy artillery screaming toward the target she was towing just 25 feet behind her. But for Genevieve Landman, it was just another day of target practice.

Now Genevieve Rausch, the 93-year-old sat tall last week in her navy blue uniform with several wings adorning her lapels. She clasped her petite hands in her lap and waited patiently for the recognition that had been more than 60 years in the making.

Rausch was honored for her service in the Women Air Force Service Pilots of World War II by local and state officials at the Emeritus Senior Living Center in Hillsborough.

Though she has changed quite a bit from the black-and-white photos of her 28-year-old self circulating around the room, it was clear two things had not changed - her smile and her passion for flying.

When she graduated high school Rausch, originally from Danville, Ill, became a civil service secretary and stenographer for the Air Training Command Head Quarters at Chanute Army Air Base. After hearing famed aviator Amelia Earhart speak, she was inspired to earn her private pilot's license in 1944 and applied to the WASP program.

"I was very surprised to find that I could become a pilot," she said. "I decided to let them have me for a student and when they said a certain number of us weren't going to make it, I thought I might as well be one of those ... But I made it. "

Of the 25,000 women who initially applied, 1,830 were accepted. Of that group 1,074 graduated from the grueling 200-hour training at Avenger Field in Sweetwater, Texas.

From 1942 to 1944, the women took over non-combat military missions across the U.S. - test-flying planes, teaching male pilots, and towing targets for artillery practice - so that male pilots could be deployed for combat. The pilots were skilled in the areas of navigation, meteorology, Morse code, and firearms.

The WASP was disbanded in 1944. However, Rausch continued making history as one of the first female aviation writers for "Skyways" magazine in New York. "That was a wonderful experience because I still got to fly and then write about it. What more could I ask for?" she said.

On a visit to Danville in the early 1950s, she met and married John Rausch, president of the WASH Company, a manufacturer of specialty nails. From Danville, the couple moved to Florida, where she lived for over 30 years improving her golf game and becoming active with the Sarasota County area Meals on Wheels. In 2007, she moved to Hillsborough to be near her nephew, Robert Ellwood.

Though the WASP program lasted just 16 months, U.S. Rep. Leonard Lance (R-7th Dist.) said their service was invaluable to the war effort, noting that the pilots flew every kind of military aircraft and logged 60 million miles on missions across the U.S. Though they were never awarded full military status and were not eligible for officer status, the WASP were finally granted veterans' status in 1977.

Today, only 300 WASP members have lived to see President Barack Obama sign legislation acknowledging and awarding them the Congressional Gold Medal - Congress' highest honor.

Pilot Lynn O'Donnell of Hillsborough talks about being inspired by the WASP.

"It is long overdue for Genevieve Rausch of Hillsborough to receive this distinguished award," Lance said at Thursday's ceremony. "... It is fitting that we honor Genevieve Rausch as a brave American. Her hard work, dedication and selfless sacrifice is deeply appreciated by all Americans. I have great respect and admiration for her and she makes all the residents of Hillsborough proud."

One such resident, Lynn O'Donnell, learned to fly 35 years ago and said her time in the sky was particularly inspired by pilots like Rausch. "I became a pilot because these rabble-rousers had the foresight to demand recognition," she said. "They made it known that women were capable and competent and had served their country. I owe these ladies my career."

O'Donnell has piloted planes for Eastern, Pan American World Airways as well as United Airways. A member of the Ninety-Nines, a female pilot association founded by Earhart, O'Donnell recently finished working on a display at the Aviation Hall of Fame in Teterboro, dedicated to the WASP. "These women deserve every bit of kudos they get," she said.

"We are so proud to have Hillsborough represented in such a way, being a female pioneer in the country at that time is a tremendous accomplishment," said Hillsborough Mayor Frank DelCore. DelCore said plans to honor Rausch at an upcoming township committee meeting.

Rausch was humbled by the honor. "I always wondered what I would do, because I would watch other people receive an afternoon like this and I tell you, my heart is in my feet," she said.

Somerset County Freeholder Jack Ciattarelli, joined several others who had no knowledge of the WASP. "As a student of history it embarrasses me that I never knew of the WASP, but I am not embarrassed to learn so on my next trip to the library I intend to," he said. He presented Rausch with a citation from the county for her service and called her a "National Treasure."

After the ceremony Rausch's nephew helped her show off all of the documents she'd saved from her military service. Yellowed and slightly tattered, the pages told the story of her countless flights around the country.

Looking at the old letters Ellwood felt the day was bittersweet. "This is long overdue, but I've met so many men and women who will never get recognized for things like this," he said.

A little uncomfortable to be in the spotlight on her own, Rausch made sure include her fellow aviators. "We all came from little towns and little places, my story is all of our stories," she said. "I'm just glad it's being shared."