By: Noa Brown
On March 7, Natalie Stewart-Smith gave a presentation of all the historical research she conducted on the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP).
As the name suggests, WASP was an organization within the United States Army Air Force comprised of female pilots during World War II (WWII).
Smith started her presentation by offering a brief background. WASP was originally started in 1943 by Jaqueline Cochran.
That same year it was merged with a similar group, the Women’s Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron (WAFS) which had been formed in 1942. They trained from Avenger Field in Sweetwater, Texas.
Missions they performed ranged from ferrying aircraft from factories to the war front to towing target drones for training. WASP was disbanded in 1944 lasting only a single year.
Despite their contributions to the war effort, members were not given veteran status until 1977, and it was not until 2009 that they received the Congressional Gold Medal.
Stewart-Smith then went on to talk about various individual members of WASP. Throughout her life, Smith had the opportunity to interview many former pilots of WASP.
She shared her personal experiences with each of the pilots and described what each one did during her service. One of the WASP members with whom Stewart-Smith spoke of was Barbara Erikson London.
London was a commanding officer of the Sixth Ferrying Group based in Long Beach, California. She ferried a wide variety of fighter aircraft during her time with WASP.
Another interesting member Smith spoke of was Dorothy Kocher Olsen. She ferried P-51 Mustangs during her service. However, she accumulated damage to her ears from extended time around the loud engines, which caused her to go deaf after the war.
Smith showed off her collection books and artifacts from WASP. The collection ranged from autobiographies to yearbooks and awards.
A notable object shown at the presentation was one of the original Congressional Gold Medals.
Another significant artifact Smith showed was a statue of a WASP trainee. The statue was a seven-inch replica of a full-sized version on display at the original WASP base in Sweetwater.
Overall, Natalie Stewart-Smith gave a fascinating presentation of a rather underrated part of WWII history.