June 20, 2010 in City

Female war aviators to be feted by museum

Groups will honor WWII pilots July 17
Associated Press The Spokesman-Review
 

SAGLE, Idaho – A North Idaho museum plans to honor female pilots who flew during World War II.

The Bird Aviation Museum and Invention Center in Sagle will hold the “Women of Courage” event July 17 for Women Airforce Service Pilots, or WASPs.

The pioneering women tested planes and flew aircraft from factories to military bases but were not allowed in combat. The idea was to free up male pilots to fight overseas.

More than 1,000 women took part in the program from 1942 to the end of the war.

Pam Bird, who runs the museum with her husband, Forrest Bird, said there are only about 400 women left who served as pilots, and most are between 84 and 95.

Dozens of WASPs have registered to attend the event, she said.

“These women were the first women in military history to fly military aircraft and paved the way for every female military pilot who is serving our country today,” museum director Rachel Riddle Schwam said.

WASPs were granted full military status in 1977. Seven years later, each was awarded the World War II victory medal. Last summer, WASPs were awarded the Congressional Gold Medal.

“They should have been commissioned,” Forrest Bird said. “Instead, they were taken for granted.”

Along with honoring those pilots, the public event will recognize all women who served in different ways during the war years.

The event is sponsored by the Volunteers of the Bird Aviation Museum, Friends of Sandpoint Airport, Spokane Bi-Plane Association, Experimental Aircraft Association and NW Chapter 99s, an international women pilots association.

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