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tv   Women Airforce Service Pilots of WW II  CSPAN  January 4, 2015 2:01pm-2:21pm EST

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from no money and very little education. yet they believed in the promise of this country and they were seeking better opportunities for their children. so they worked really hard and sacrificed as so many latinos and hispanics have done in this country because they wanted that better future for their children. they really taught us important values that have been our guide for me and my siblings. but they taught us the importance of family, of faith, community, hard work, sacrifice honesty, integrity. all of those were important values they shared with us. >> that's tonight on c-span's "q and a."
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♪ >> welcome to austin on american history tv with help from our time warner cable partners will stop in the next hour, we will explore the capital city of texas. austin is often referred to as the live music capital of the world because of the number of music venues within the city. it has a population of just under one million. coming up, take a behind-the-scenes tour of the presidential suite at the lyndon johnson presidential library and museum. it closed to visitors, the sweet looks just as it did when the former president roamed its halls. >> the remarkable thing about this space is that it's a living, breathing artifact. it hasn't changed at all since president johnson died in january of 1973. >> later, visit the texas state capitol, the only state capital that can boast it is taller than
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the united states capitol in washington. >> the capital has a commanding presence here in austin. it has this beautiful renaissance revival style with this sunset red granite. it's easy to see it from almost vetting -- almost any vantage point in downtown austin. plus we begin with the live and service pilots and their contributions during world war ii. >> the bullock texas history museum is texas'official state history museum. we were open in 2001 and we are charged with telling the story of texas. we have three floors of exhibition space where we feature around 500 original artifact that tell the story of texas. we also have temporary
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exhibitions, including fly girls, which is what we are standing in right now. and to theaters with show films regularly. ♪ >> this is texas -- cradle of our armies air force. over headquarters rise a strange girl gremlin. out of those buses are stepping girls who give a new angle to an air force story. the women's air force service pilots. >> the fly girls exhibition is very special to us. it is an exhibition we opened on veterans day to tell the story of these world war ii female pilots and share that with the public was, we thought, an important texas story but a story that connects texas with the nation.
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when world war ii broke out in 1938 and 1939, one of the women pilots, jacqueline cochran, she was a business owner and entrepreneur and a fearless pilot. she approached president franklin roosevelt and first lady eleanor roosevelt with the idea of using women to fly america's military aircraft should women be needed. at the time, they weren't, but they did think it was a great idea. december 7, 1940 one, pearl harbor was attacked by japan. men immediately enlisted and were sent off to the european and pacific fronts and at that time, by 1942, america was experiencing a severe shortage of combat pilots over north africa. thinking back to jacqueline cochran's proposition about flying these aircraft, general henley -- henry arnold took her
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up on the offer. the women air force service pilots were formed. >> when i got out of high school, i started taking flying lessons. this was in a piper cub, where the instructor sits in the front and the student in the back. one day, when i had had perhaps nine hours of flying, he told me to pull over on the tarmac when i landed and he started getting out of the airplane and he told me it was time for me to take it around by myself. so he closed the door and i took off and he said watch me from the ground and i will let you know whether or not to go around again. when i came in for a landing, i made a smooth landing, so he waved me to take off again. when i took off that time, when
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i got up to about 500 feet, where i'm supposed to level off i started to push forward on that stick to level off, it came off in my hand. and i thought he did this on purpose to see if i would make a good pilot. but then i relies i was about to crash because i didn't have any power to go forward. so i grabbed my seat dealt and left the throttle wide open. i leaned across the front seat and with the tips of my fingers i started pushing forward on the front stick which started note -- which started lowering the nose of the airplane. i held on there until i knew i had enough speed that i wouldn't crash. then i climbed over into the front seat, and i made a fairly smooth landing so i started
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taxiing over to where he was. when i got close enough, he turned around and started walking away, so i just stopped and sat there and he turned around and came back to the airplane and came up to the door and looked in the backseat and i wasn't there. he said what in the hell are you doing in the front seat? i pointed to that stick which is just a sticky fly the airplane with and it was on the floor board. when he saw that, he said now you know you have the right stuff to be a pilot. that was before john glenn had the right stuff. that's how i learned to fly, the day i was 21, i applied for the program and eventually got a letter from jacqueline cochran which i still have which said i have an accepted.
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so i went on a train from florida to sweetwater, texas and went into flight training. we had male instructors and we had army air force check pilots. i was there for seven months learning to fly military aircraft. we started off with a stearman and in my class was the first class to go from stearman directly to a t six, which were the 650 or -- 650 horsepower aircraft will stop we did that for cross-country flying. then we went to instruments and the bt 13. i was therefore seven months and once i finished all the training and past all the tests, i
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graduated and my orders sent me to the greenville army air force base in mississippi. that was the basic school for cadets. my job was to test airplanes once they have had serious crack ups, they would repair them. they had to be flight tested before the cadets can fly them, so my job was as a test pilot. i went to kendall air force base in florida and went through the 26 training and they kept me there as a b 26 toed target pilot. what that meant was i would go up with a crew of four and fly out over the gulf and a pattern.
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the b 24's would fly by with their young gunners and they would fire live ammunition with color-coded bullets. a couple of times they hit the tale of my airplane but lucky god was on my side and i landed safely for top that was what i did until we were disbanded in december of 1944 when they had enough male pilots to do those jobs. >> these women were coming from all across the country experiencing conditions they had never experienced before. they were roomed in barracks that had to base with six women to a bay. living quarters were tight. they each had a bed, there were two sinks, two commodes, not a lot of room, and that's where they lived. not very glamorous. same kind of conditions men
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pilots were being trained in. after seven months of training and 210 hours of flying, the women graduated. when they earn their silver wings, which is what most have said they wanted those wings. the first class that graduated lost to not have a standard flying uniform. so the women had to purchase their own uniform at first which was a pair of khaki tan slacks that they called general's pants. a white button up laos and in the wintertime, they would wear a brown leather bomber jacket. that's the first class war -- their unofficial dress uniform. >> once we checked in when we got to avenge her field, we were sent after we listened to a speech by jacqueline cochran
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who was the one who had gotten this group together, she was there when i arrived at avenger field along with my other classmates. once she had finished telling us what she expected, we were sent down to get our flying gear. when we got down to the place were they gave us flying gear, there were men's coveralls, the ones that are in the picture. they were large and larger. i was only five foot two and half so i had to roll up the pant legs and hike up the suit with my belt in order to be able to wear it. that's what we wore in flying and then when we graduated, by that time, we had a new uniform
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and general arnold told ms. cochran that he wanted it in blue. this was before the air force started wearing blue. at that time, they were wearing green and 10. but our -- green and tan. but our uniforms were blue and they were made by bergdorf goodman. neiman marcus came over with their seamstresses and fitted us with those uniform, which is what i'm wearing today. >> they also designed the santiago blue official flying uniform which consisted of the eisenhower jacket. the women were the first one to wear that jacket before it came -- before became standard issue. once they graduated, the women earned their silver wings.
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they were placed at 120 bases across the country. during this time, 38 women air force service pilots were killed while serving our country, some in training, some later on when they were stationed at a base across the country. because the women, when the loss -- the wasps for started, they did not have time to militarize them. these were all civilian pilots at the time. because they were civilian pilots, they were not getting compensated. they did not have veteran status. so when they died, they had to figure out their own way to pay for the women to be sent home to pay for their burials. they did not get a flag on their coffin or casket and the families were not allowed to put a gold star in their window to indicate they were the family of someone that had been lost during the war. classmates and families raise the money to pay for a woman to go home and be buried.
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of the 25,000 women who applied for this program, over 1800 were accepted. from there 1102 went on to become air force service pilots. in 1944, general arnold went to congress asking for the militarization of these women. at this time, victory was in sight. air superiority was gained in europe and men were starting to come home. from what had been a really patriotic and courageous thing being done for their country became you are taking jobs away from these men who are coming home for more. you have to give them back at the men who were at home, the flight instructors were worried their draft exempt jobs were going to disappear and they did
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not want that, so they launched a campaign against these women. by the time general arnold was before congress asking for this militarization spirit across the country was completely different. the morale was completely different than it had been two hours prior -- two years prior. jaclyn cochran decided she would compile a report to prove the accomplishments all of these women had done. this report told that these women had flown 60 million miles for the country during their service and all of their statistics, all of their numbers were comparable to that of men. they were up to par as these men, but this fell on deaf ears and the all-male congress deactivated the wasps in june of 1944. the last class graduated in 1944 in sweetwater, texas. on december 20, they were disbanded with little thanks, no
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pay, and i had to pay for their own way home. after that, their records were sealed, stamped classified, and put away into the archives. historians of world war ii had no access to these records and ultimately, these women were left out of our history books our test books -- our textbooks and out of american knowledge in public history. 433 years, that was the case. in 1976, the air force said they were going to allow for the first time in america's history they were going to allow women to fly military aircraft, which wasn't true. over 30 years prior, you had women doing this all along. the wasps decided that's not true, we did it and this is our time to be acknowledged and for
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people to recognize that will stop so a campaign was launched led by senator barry goldwater and general arnold's son, bruce arnold. with their help, the wasps were granted veteran status in 1977 30 three years after they had been disbanded. in 2010 the first of four congresswoman, one of whom, kay bailey hutchison texas'own, the wasps were given the congressional gold metal of honor. his highest honor a civilian can be bestowed by congress will stop -- it is the highest honor a civilian can be bestowed by congress.
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>> madam speaker my wasp colleagues distinguished tests our family and friends i am humbled to have been asked to represent the wasps today. every single one of these ladies deserves to be standing where i am standing. [applause] >> it was passed in record time. the event was held in march of 2010. the largest body of people in the u.s. emancipation hall in the capital. approximately 200 wasps were able to attend the ceremony and the metal was accepted on behalf of all of the wasps.

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