A little-known chapter of America’s wartime aviation history has been revisited by a Healdsburg writer, whose debut novel recounts the story of the Women Airforce Service Pilots, or WASPs.
There was an enormous pool of frustrated women pilots who rushed to join the WASP program when it was created, Jeane Sloan recounts, because the attack on Pearl Harbor had left them no other opportunities to fly.
The WASP pilots were not recognized as part of the armed forces, but were instead considered civil service employees, notes Sloan. That meant that the women were not eligible for military funeral benefits.
On July 1, 2009, President Obama signed SB 614, awarding the Congressional Gold Medal to all the WASP pilots, in most cases posthumously. Jeane Sloan says she was excited to think that her friend and mentor, Florence Wheeler, would be getting one of the medals. Wheeler, however, was not so impressed.
Healdsburg author Jeanie Sloan will bring together nine surviving WASPs from the greater Bay Area in Santa Rosa this Saturday afternoon for a special free public event sponsored by the Sonoma County Arts Council. It's at the Santa Rosa Veteran's building from 1-4 pm.