Summary and book reviews of The Women with Silver Wings by Katherine Sharp Landdeck

The Women with Silver Wings

The Inspiring True Story of the Women Airforce Service Pilots of World War II

by Katherine Sharp Landdeck

The Women with Silver Wings by Katherine Sharp Landdeck X
The Women with Silver Wings by Katherine Sharp Landdeck
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    Apr 2020, 464 pages

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Book Summary

The thrilling true story of the daring female aviators who helped the United States win World War II--only to be forgotten by the country they served.

When Japanese planes executed a sneak attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941, Cornelia Fort was already in the air. At twenty-two, Cornelia had escaped Nashville's debutante scene for a fresh start as a flight instructor in Hawaii. She and her student were in the middle of their lesson when the bombs began to fall, and they barely made it back to ground that morning. Still, when the U.S. Army Air Forces put out a call for women pilots to aid the war effort, Cornelia was one of the first to respond. She became one of just over 1,100 women from across the nation to make it through the Army's rigorous selection process and earn her silver wings.

In The Women with Silver Wings, historian Katherine Sharp Landdeck introduces us to these young women as they meet even-tempered, methodical Nancy Love and demanding visionary Jacqueline Cochran, the trailblazing pilots who first envisioned sending American women into the air, and whose rivalry would define the Women Airforce Service Pilots. For women like Cornelia, it was a chance to serve their country--and to prove that women aviators were just as skilled and able as men.

While not authorized to serve in combat, the WASP helped train male pilots for service abroad and ferried bombers and pursuits across the country. Thirty-eight of them would not survive the war. But even taking into account these tragic losses, Love and Cochran's social experiment seemed to be a resounding success--until, with the tides of war turning and fewer male pilots needed in Europe, Congress clipped the women's wings. The program was disbanded, the women sent home. But the bonds they'd forged never failed, and over the next few decades, they came together to fight for recognition as the military veterans they were--and for their place in history.

Chapter One
Airminded

Only a few short weeks after the attack on Pearl Harbor, Teresa James stood on the freezing platform of Pittsburgh's Union Station saying goodbye to the love of her life. They were an attractive couple: Teresa a pretty, curly-haired brunette with brown eyes and a ready smile, and George—who went by Dink—looking so handsome and clean-cut in his new uniform, with his cropped hair and square jaw. The couple had been preparing for this moment ever since America's entry into the war, but even so, they hated that the time for goodbye had come so soon.

Both Teresa and Dink had spent years anxiously following the news, waiting for the moment when their country might finally join the fight. They were children of European immigrants—Teresa's mother was from Ireland and Dink's was from Hungary—and perhaps, as a result, they took events overseas personally. Dink was a well-qualified pilot with 2,100 hours of flying time, and the Army's Air Transport ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. Before reading The Women With Silver Wings, what did you know about women's contributions to World War II? Were you familiar with the WASP?
  2. The WASP was the brainchild of two trailblazing pilots, Jacqueline Cochran and Nancy Harkness Love. What did they have in common? What set them apart?
  3. Nancy and Jackie had strict standards for WASP applicants, including significant flight time, a high level of educational attainment, and even—at least for Jackie's program—a conventionally attractive appearance. Why were they so insistent on maintaining these standards, which were higher than those for men?
  4. The women of the WASP grew up in a culture obsessed with flight, in which the fastest, most daring pilots—including women like...
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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

How fortunate for us and for Ms. Landdeck that she was actually able to interview these women of various backgrounds. Through these interviews, we learn of their personal difficulties and sacrifice (Diane T). This is truly an untold story. You're brought into the details of these women's lives and suddenly you're right there with them (Jeanne W). While there have been other books written about the WASPs, what sets this one apart has been the exhaustive effort by the author to meet and interview these women and become a trusted part of their WASP community. Highly recommended (Jeff M)...continued

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Media Reviews

Publishers Weekly
A generous selection of high-quality photographs and Landdeck's own experience as a licensed pilot enrich the narrative, capturing the joy of flying and the unique sense of freedom and independence these women would remember for the rest of their lives. This colorful history soars.

Kirkus Reviews
A compelling history that brings forgotten heroes back in the spotlight.

Library Journal (starred review)
A must-read for those interested in women's and World War II history.

Author Blurb Elizabeth Cobbs, Professor and Melbern Glasscock Chair in American History at Texas A&M University and author of The Hello Girls: America’s First Women Soldiers
With meticulous research and breathless pacing, The Women With Silver Wings will make you soar with pride at the daring and commitment of America’s first women military pilots—and cheer for the men who backed them to the end

Author Blurb John C. McManus, Ph.D., Curators’ Distinguished Professor, Missouri University of Science and Technology and author of Fire and Fortitude: The U.S. Army in the Pacific War, 1941-1943
Every now and again a truly path-breaking book comes along that completely revises our understanding of the American experience in World War II. This is definitely one of those books! Landdeck has produced a well written, richly researched tour de force about a remarkable group of aviation pioneers. The Women With Silver Wings is bound to become a classic and it will stand the test of time as the best history of the WASPs. I highly recommend it.

Author Blurb Fannie Flagg, New York Times bestselling author of Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café and The All-Girl Filling Station’s Last Reunion
The Women With Silver Wings is the true story of America’s unsung heroines of World War II. Katherine Sharp Landdeck has written a beautifully researched tribute to the courageous women who bravely served their nation in a time of need

Reader Reviews

Charlene M. (Myrtle Beach, SC)

The Woman with Silver Wings
Katherine Sharp Landdeck's book is a history of women in aviation just before and during WWII. A comprehensive look into the pioneering women fliers. A detailed account of the lives, loves, abilities, struggles to become women avaitrixes. A ...   Read More

Diane T. (Slingerlands, NY)

Silver Wings on Women's Lapels
Katherine Sharp Landdeck's debut book, The Women With Silver Wings", delves into the mostly unknown world of women pilots and their immense contributions, ferrying air crafts from manufacturers to drop off airports, during WW II. We are all familiar ...   Read More

Roberta W. (Los Ranchos, NM)

You Taught Us How to Fly
When the United States entered World War II it had been only twenty years since American women were allowed to vote. So perhaps it should come as no surprise that in 1942 the male power structure, especially that of the Army Air Force, believed that ...   Read More

Deborah H. (West Chicago, IL)

Women take flight.
I am so appreciative that The Women With Silver Wings has come to be. This true account of female pilots and the role they played as Women Airforce Service Pilots in World War II gives us an in-depth look at these truly courageous women. It was ...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

The WASPs Fight for Recognition

WASP pilots in flight jackets walking in front of military aircraftKatherine Sharp Landdeck's The Women with Silver Wings chronicles the experiences of the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASPs) that flew planes across the U.S. during World War II, bringing aircraft and supplies to military bases and even training male pilots that would later fly in combat. They also tested out new bomber planes when the male Air Force members refused, judging these assignments to be too dangerous. Yet when the war was over, these brave women were not granted the recognition and respect they deserved for their service. Because they were not official members of the military, they were not granted veteran status, not at the time of the war and not for decades after. Thirty-eight WASPs died in service and these women were not ...

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