As three award-winning authors with more than 50 books published about the world of nature and history's makers and shakers, we hope to share insights and stories about writing nonfiction for young people. Go with us beyond arts and crafts to explore—in depth—history's past worlds and the wonder of the natural world. Use our hands-on activities to inspire someone today!
September 30, 2016
The Role of Women Pilots in WWII
[Activity: Experiment to see how stealth planes hide]
Last month, World War II pilot Elaine Harmon was laid to rest at
Arlington National Cemetery. This was a special event, one that Elaine’s family
worked and fought hard to see happen for many years. Even though many women are
already buried in Arlington, up until recently, Elaine and other women like her
weren’t allowed there even though they played a crucial role in the second
Elaine Harmon was a WASP, or a member of the Women Air Force
Service Pilots. The WASPs were female pilots who flew planes in a non-combat
capacity during WWII. Not only did they fly supplies and deliver aircrafts to
military bases, but they helped train other pilots and tested aircraft. Their
efforts meant that male pilots were freed up to fly combat missions.
These women pilots were highly trained and the work was often
dangerous - the enemy couldn’t tell and
didn’t care who was flying an airplane. Thirty-eight of them were killed during
the war. And yet, they were considered civilians and therefor didn’t qualify
for a military burial in Arlington.
The WASPs were largely the result of efforts of two women:
Jacqueline “Jackie” Cochran and Nancy Harkness Love. When the war broke out,
Cochran, a star pilot with speed and altitude records in America, wrote to
Eleanor Roosevelt and suggested female pilots could help in the efforts. Lady
Eleanor agreed and so Cochran began training female pilots in Great Britain.
She later returned to America to train women. In the meantime, Love (a race and
test pilot) formed the Women Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron. The two groups of
women joined together in 1943 and became WASP.
Kristin Wolfe in front of Raptor (credit: Kristin Wolfe)
Because of women like Cochran, Love, and Harmon, girls today can
grow up dreaming about being a pilot or flying in the military.
I wrote about one of these young women in my new book, AVIATION:
COOL WOMEN WHO FLY (Nomad Press). Her name is Kristin Wolfe. Kristin is a
27-year-old Air Force pilot who grew up in a military family but didn’t decide
she wanted to serve until she was college. After her dad encouraged her to join
the AFROTC (Air Force Reserve Officer
Training Corp.), Kristin enlisted and began training to become a pilot.
The training to become an Air Force fighter pilot is extremely
competitive. There were only 25 students in Kristin’s class. And only a couple
of them were women! But Kristin excelled and was given the opportunity to fly
the F-22 Raptor, the fastest and one of the most technologically impressive
stealth aircrafts in the world.
Activity: Experiment to see how stealth planes hide
Here’s a simple way to see how much harder it is for radar to
find a stealth plane. First, have a friend hold a piece of paper perpendicular
in relationship to the floor. Have the friend stand at one send of a dark hall
or room and then turn off the lights. Move a flashlight around until you find
the piece of paper.Next, have your friend turn the piece of paper so that it’s
parallel to the floor. Which is harder to find, the flat surface of the piece
of paper or the edge of the piece of paper?
Carmella Van Vleet, co-author with astronaut Kathy Sullivan of TO
THE STARS! (Charlesbridge Publishing, 2016), author of AVIATION:
COOL WOMEN WHO FLY (Nomad Press, 2016) and ELIZA BING IS (NOT)
A BIG, FAT QUITTER (Holiday House, 2014) *a Junior Library Guild
selection and 2015 Christopher Award winner*