When it comes to tales of the Greatest Generation and World War II, most of the stories are relegated to men. But women played a substantial part in the war effort, such as the valiant female pilots known as WASPs.
The story of the WASPS — Women Airforce Service Pilots — and their Texas connection is told in “Fly Girls of WWII,” a new exhibit premiering at the Lone Star Flight Museum in Houston. The educational and landmark show, underwritten by Cher and John Floyd, opens Friday, January 28 and runs through July 10.
On Saturday, January 29, flight museum curator Eleanor Barton will detail the history of fly girls at Houston Municipal Airport, the training site for the first WASP class.
A little backstory from the museum: In November 1942, the first training class of 28 women arrived at Houston Municipal Airport to complete their primary, basic, and advanced training. In February 1943, due to complications with weather and heavy air traffic, the WASP program was moved to Avenger Field in Sweetwater, Texas.
More than 25,000 women applied for the experimental flight-training program; only 1,830 were accepted, per records. The female aviators earned their silver wings and were then deployed to 120 bases across the United States. Despite 38 women losing their lives in the line of duty, surprisingly, it wasn’t until 1977 that WASPs were granted veteran status.
In 2010, the fly girls received the Congressional Gold Medal and now, their story is told via photos, uniforms, artifacts, memorabilia, and more in this exhibit.
Along with the program, curator and docent talks will feature never-before-seen artifacts and personal stories about the WASP group. Katherine Sharp Landdeck, associate professor at Texas Women’s University and a globally recognized expert on the WASPs, will speak later in the spring. Landdeck will discuss the WASPs and her book, The Women With Silver Wings: The Inspiring True Story of the Women Airforce Service Pilots of World War II.
This exhibit was created by Wings Across America, a project of Baylor University. It has been on display at Baylor, the Women’s Memorial at Arlington National Cemetery, and other flight and history museums.
“Fly Girls of WWII” at the Lone Star Flight Museum, 11551 Aerospace Ave. at Ellington Airport in Houston, runs January 28-July 10. Tickets are $18 for adults, $15 for those 12 to 17 and 65-plus, $12 for those 4 to 11, and free for those 3 and younger. The exhibit is free for museum members. For more information, visit the flight museum website.