by Erin Miller
This year, the National WASP WWII Museum will celebrate the history of the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) during their annual homecoming and fly-in celebration on April 28th and 29th at Avenger Field in Sweetwater, Texas. This year’s event also honors the thirtieth anniversary of women receiving official Department of Defense approval to fly combat missions in the U.S. military. The weekend’s festivities will include a Friday luncheon for the kin of WASP pilots, while the afternoon offers them a photo opportunity with legacy pilots. That evening features the celebration dinner, fundraiser, and auction to support the museum’s effort to preserve the history of the WASP. Mo Barrett will emcee the dinner, which will include keynote speaker Sharon “Betty” Preszler, the first woman to fly the F-16 in combat, followed by remarks from General Jeannie Leavitt and Colonel (Ret.) Martha McSally, who were both part of the original group of women to go through fighter pilot training after combat restrictions were lifted on April 28th, 1993. Music and dancing will ensue after the speaker presentations.
Throughout Friday and Saturday, a number of speakers and authors will talk about various aspects of WASP history. The list of presenters will include Erin Miller, Sarah Byrn Rickman, Lisa Bolt Simmons, Jacqueline Ruiz, Christy Hui, Noelle Salazar, and Margaret DiBenedetto. Saturday will feature the Cadet Zone for kids with STEM activities and model airplanes. Dozens of warbirds and vintage aircraft attended this event last year, flying to honor the WASP. This year will include some special aircraft, including Boeing B-29 Doc, Douglas C-47 That’s All Brother, and North American B-25 Devil Dog. Many additional historic aircraft will grace Avenger Field during the festivities, along with Dyess Air Force Base’s resident squadron of B-1B Lancers. For a fee, visitors will be able to ride in some of the attending aircraft. To purchase tickets for the dinner or for more information about the fly-in, please check out the WASP museum website HERE.
Many thanks to Erin Miller for this article. For those who do not know, Erin is the author of Final Flight Final Fight: My grandmother, the WASP, and Arlington National Cemetery, which describe’s her grandmother, Elaine Danforth Harmon’s WWII service as a WASP, and Erin’s worthy struggle to get the WASP formal recognition as military pilots, and the right to be buried at Arlington National Cemetery. Miller will be attending the WASP Museum homecoming celebrations, and we expect to publish her report on the proceedings following the event.