Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Women Flying into History——the "Women Airforce Service Pilots” (W.A.S.P.)

World War II needed pilots. Nearly 2,000 women answered the call 68 years ago to become the Women Airforce Service Pilots (W.A.S.P). More than 1,000 of them earned their wings and flew every aircraft manufactured for the War, freeing male pilots for active duty overseas.

Bernice ""Bee"" Falk was one of them. An experienced aviator, Miss Falk was accepted into the WASP in February 1944. Traveling at her own expense to Sweetwater, Texas, she successfully completed an extensive, highly demanding program of both ground school and flight training.

In addition to performing all stateside flying duties, the WASP tested radio controlled aircraft, were flight instructors, utility pilots, performed engineering test flying, towed targets for infantry to practice with live ammunition, and flew missions for tracking, smoke laying, searchlight strafing and simulated bombing.

After the WASP was disbanded in December 1944, Bee obtained her instructor’’s training and did freelance teaching in flying and ground school. She also ferried surplus aircraft from bases all over the country to points in the northeast, where they were sold.
She eventually owned a Cessna dealership, and then joined a group of veterans who formed a flight school.

After marrying Joe Haydu in 1951, Bee reared a family who all learned to love flying. Aviation and piloting continued to be an important part of her life.

In 1975, Bee was elected president of the WASP organization, serving two terms. During this time, she championed the effort to gain veteran status for the WASP.
From 1976-77, she appeared on more than 14 TV and radio programs, including Good Morning America and To Tell the Truth, and was interviewed by many newspapers nationwide.

Finally, with the help and support of Col. Bruce Arnold, Sen. Barry Goldwater, House Representatives Lindy Boggs and Margaret Heckler, as well as the WASP membership, Congress voted to have them declared veterans of WWII. President Jimmy Carter signed this bill into law in November, 1977.

Her uniform is on display at the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum in Washington, D.C. She was also inducted into the Aviation Hall of Fame, Teterboro Airport, Teterboro, NJ, and continued to fly until her late 70’’s.

Bee was present July 1, 2009 in the Oval Office witnessing President Obama sign a bill awarding the WASP the Congressional Gold Medal. The following year, Congress gave all WASP the Congressional Gold Medal at a ceremony at the Capitol.

A courageous, accomplished woman who has led an extraordinary life, Bee Falk Haydu’’s multimedia presentation will inspire you.

Join us Tuesday, September 13 at 7:15 pm at the Old Oakhurst School house, 163 Monmouth Road, where you can meet her. Copies of her book, ""Letters Home 1944-1945"" will be available for sale at $15.00.

Open to the public free of charge. (Donations are welcome.) Refreshments will be served. Please bring a non-perishable item for the Monmouth County Food Bank.

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