Archive for March 8th, 2010

Women’s Airforce Service Pilots finally awarded Congressional Gold Medal

From cnn.com: http://www.cnn.com/2009/POLITICS/05/22/woman.pilots/

If you go to CNN site there is a link for video; here is the text:

WASHINGTON (CNN) — Some 65 years after their service, the 300 surviving Women Airforce Service Pilots are being honored with the Congressional Gold Medal.

The House of Representatives on Tuesday passed a measure awarding the women one of the national’s highest civilian honors. The Senate passed a similar measure in May and President Obama is expected to sign it.

Jane Tedeschi when she was in the Women Airforce Service Pilot program. 

Jane Tedeschi when she was in the Women Airforce Service Pilot program.

Click to view previous image
1 of 4
Click to view next image

// With only about a quarter of the former WASPs still alive and all in their late 80s or older, it was important for the House to act quickly, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Florida, a sponsor of the bill, told CNN.

“This is a largely overlooked veterans group. They haven’t gotten the medals they deserve, the recognition they deserve,” Ros-Lehtinen told CNN.

From the time she was about 8 years old, Jane Tedeschi wanted to fly.

“[Charles] Lindbergh was flying across the Atlantic, and a lot of other people were flying air races and things like that. It was very romantic,” she said.

Flight was still relatively new in the 1920s and 1930s, and female pilots were few.

But Tedeschi was determined.

In 1941, she found a childhood friend who taught flying and started taking lessons. After the friend was sent off to war and the airport near her home in Bethesda, Maryland, was closed to private flying, she traveled about 40 miles to Frederick and spent nights on the floor of a farmhouse to continue her lessons.

Around the same time, Deanie Parrish was working in a bank in Avon Park, Florida, and kept seeing aviation students who were attending a flying school there.

“I asked an instructor ‘Why can’t I learn to fly,’ and he didn’t have an answer…so I decided to find out for myself.”

She found an instructor and started taking lessons.

These two women were not only fulfilling a personal dream. Along with 1,100 other women, they would become an instrumental part of the war effort during World War II, becoming the first women to fly U.S. military aircraft.

The Women Airforce Service Pilots was born in 1942 to create a corps of female pilots able to fill all types of flying jobs at home to free male military pilots to travel to the front.

In the days after the outbreak of the war, Jacqueline Cochran, one of the country’s leading female pilots at the time, went to a key general to argue that women would be just as capable pilots as men if they were given the same training.

She won the argument, and the program was launched.

Parrish joined up at age 21 in November 1943.

“Everybody was doing something,” she said. “I wanted to do something for my country.”

Some 25,000 women pilots applied, and 1,830 were accepted. They had to pay their own way to Texas for 21 to 27 weeks of rigorous training, for which they received less pay than the male cadets in the same program, Parrish said.

Candidates had to be at least 21 years old and at least 5-feet, one-half inch tall.

When Tedeschi underwent a physical, she was told her height was only 5 feet. Video Watch Tedeschi recall WWII »

“I frowned,” she recalled. “I said I need that half-inch, so he wrote it down.” She was in.

Eventually 1,102 women completed the program and were assigned to one of 120 bases across the country to start their missions.

Depending on the base, they did everything from participating in ground-to-air anti-aircraft practice; towing targets for air-to-air gunnery practice with live ammunition; flying drones; conducting night exercises; testing repaired aircraft before they were used in cadet training; serving as instructors; and transporting cargo and male pilots to embarkation points.

“We were still civilians. All of our training was to make [Army] Air Corps pilots,” Tedeschi said.

They flew more than 60 million miles in every type of aircraft — from the PT-17 and AT-6 trainers, the fastest attack planes like the A-24 and A-25 or heavy bombers such as B-17s or B-29s.

Paid $250 a month, the women were not officially part of the military — receiving no benefits, no honors.

Eventually Parrish was sent to Florida where she flew a B-26 bomber for air-to-air target practice, training gunners for combat.

Tedeschi, who graduated in May 1944, was sent to a Selma, Alabama, base which did more engineering work.

“We did whatever they asked us,” she recalled in a CNN interview. “You knew enough about flying you could adapt … sometimes it was a little tougher.”

For instance, she would take planes up after repair which could involve acrobatic work — “which, of course, we liked to do,” or be called to do night flying.

While the work was technically non-combat, it could be dangerous.

Thirty eight of the pilots were killed. Parrish recalled the military would not allow the flag to be put on a colleague’s coffin.

“It still bothers me,” she told CNN.

As the war was winding down in December 1944, the program was closed — with no recognition from the government and not much help for the women who served.

“You got home the best way you could,” said Parrish. “I paid my own way home.”

The women then went off to restart their prewar lives — but without getting any of the help that male veterans were getting.

Several of the women, however, said they were not bitter since the only reason they had signed up was to do their part for the country, pointing out that they were just like the thousands of other women who also learned new skills and went to work in the factories to replace male workers sent off to war.

“We were proud of what we did, and the war was over. It was time to get on,” said Tedeschi, who is married and 89 years old.

But many Americans were not aware of their efforts. The WASP records were sealed for more than 30 years. In 1977 Congress voted to make them eligible for veterans’ benefits.

“I didn’t care for veteran status, but now I could have a flag on my coffin … that is important to me,” Parrish said.

Parrish married a pilot after the war. She and her daughter, Nancy, for over a decade have documented the work of the WASPs. Read more about the WASPs at the Wings Across America Web site.

advertisement

While some of the WASPs say the medal itself is a nice gesture, more importantly they say they hope the publicity will teach younger generations about their accomplishments and remind some still skeptical men just how capable women are.

“People all over the country will hear about it. It will be a national event,” Parrish said.

FDR asks for a declaration of war

Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Infamy Speech
December 8, 1941

This speech was given before a joint session of Congress to ask for a declaration of war with Japan. Go to this link to actually HEAR a recording of the speech (http://www.umkc.edu/lib/spec-col/ww2/PearlHarbor/fdr-speech.htm). Follow along as you listen.

How does this speech compare with Churchill’s speech before the House of Commons below? How are the circumstances similar or different?

Yesterday, December 7, 1941 – a date which will live in infamy – the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.

speech1.jpg

The United States was at peace with that nation and, at the solicitation of Japan, was still in conversation with its Government and its Emperor looking toward the maintenance of peace in the Pacific. Indeed, one hour after Japanese air squadrons had commenced bombing in Oahu, the Japanese Ambassador to the United States and his colleague delivered to the Secretary of State a formal reply to a recent American message. While this reply stated that it seemed useless to continue the existing diplomatic negotiations, it contained no threat or hint of war or armed attack.

It will be recorded that the distance of Hawaii from Japan makes it obvious that the attack was deliberately planned many days or even weeks ago. During the intervening time the Japanese Government has deliberately sought to deceive the United States by false statements and expressions of hope for continued peace.

The attack yesterday on the Hawaiian Islands has caused severe damage to American naval and military forces. Very many American lives have been lost. In addition American ships have been reported torpedoed on the high seas between San Francisco and Honolulu.

Yesterday the Japanese Government also launched an attack against Malaya.

Last night Japanese forces attacked Hong Kong.

Last night Japanese forces attacked Guam.

Last night Japanese forces attacked the Philippine Islands.

Last night the Japanese attacked Wake Island.

This morning the Japanese attacked Midway Island.

Japan has, therefore, undertaken a surprise offensive extending throughout the Pacific area. The facts of yesterday speak for themselves. The people of the United States have already formed their opinions and well understand the implications to the very life and safety of our nation.

As Commander-in-Chief of the Army and Navy, I have directed that all measures be taken for our defense.

Always will we remember the character of the onslaught against us. No matter how long it may take us to overcome this premeditated invasion, the American people in their righteous might will win through to absolute victory.

I believe I interpret the will of the Congress and of the people when I assert that we will not only defend ourselves to the uttermost but will make very certain that this form of treachery shall never endanger us again.

Hostilities exist. There is no blinking at the fact that our people, our territory and our interests are in grave danger.

With confidence in our armed forces – with the unbounded determination of our people – we will gain the inevitable triumph – so help us God.

I ask that the Congress declare that since the unprovoked and dastardly attack by Japan on Sunday, December seventh, a state of war has existed between the United States and the Japanese Empire.”

Vocabulary for this post:
infamy
onslaught

Churchill’s Famous “Blood, Toil, Tears, and Sweat” speech

Churchill’s First Speech as Prime Minister
May 13, 1940 to House of Commons

On May 10, 1940, Winston Churchill became Prime Minister. When he met his Cabinet on May 13 he told them that “I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat.” He repeated that phrase later in the day when he asked the House of Commons for a vote of confidence in his new all-party government. The response of Labour was heart-warming; the Conservative reaction was luke-warm. They still really wanted Neville Chamberlain. For the first time, the people had hope but Churchill commented to General Ismay: “Poor people, poor people. They trust me, and I can give them nothing but disaster for quite a long time.”

Pay special attention to how Churchill uses alliteration, parallel structure, and vocabulary to give his speech special force and to rouse the English people to the fight.

What was going on militarily at the time for the English? What did Churchill mean by “nothing but disaster for quite a long time?”

I beg to move,
That this House welcomes the formation of a Government representing the united and inflexible resolve of the nation to prosecute the war with Germany to a victorious conclusion.

On Friday evening last I received His Majesty’s commission to form a new Administration. It as the evident wish and will of Parliament and the nation that this should be conceived on the broadest possible basis and that it should include all parties, both those who supported the late Government and also the parties of the Opposition. I have completed the most important part of this task. A War Cabinet has been formed of five Members, representing, with the Opposition Liberals, the unity of the nation. The three party Leaders have agreed to serve, either in the War Cabinet or in high executive office. The three Fighting Services have been filled. It was necessary that this should be done in one single day, on account of the extreme urgency and rigour of events. A number of other positions, key positions, were filled yesterday, and I am submitting a further list to His Majesty to-night. I hope to complete the appointment of the principal Ministers during to-morrow. the appointment of the other Ministers usually takes a little longer, but I trust that, when Parliament meets again, this part of my task will be completed, and that the administration will be complete in all respects.

I considered it in the public interest to suggest that the House should be summoned to meet today. Mr. Speaker agreed, and took the necessary steps, in accordance with the powers conferred upon him by the Resolution of the House. At the end of the proceedings today, the Adjournment of the House will be proposed until Tuesday, 21st May, with, of course, provision for earlier meeting, if need be. The business to be considered during that week will be notified to Members at the earliest opportunity. I now invite the House, by the Motion which stands in my name, to record its approval of the steps taken and to declare its confidence in the new Government.

To form an Administration of this scale and complexity is a serious undertaking in itself, but it must be remembered that we are in the preliminary stage of one of the greatest battles in history, that we are in action at many other points in Norway and in Holland, that we have to be prepared in the Mediterranean, that the air battle is continuous and that many preparations, such as have been indicated by my hon. Friend below the Gangway, have to be made here at home. In this crisis I hope I may be pardoned if I do not address the House at any length today. I hope that any of my friends and colleagues, or former colleagues, who are affected by the political reconstruction, will make allowance, all allowance, for any lack of ceremony with which it has been necessary to act. I would say to the House, as I said to those who have joined this government: “I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat.”

We have before us an ordeal of the most grievous kind. We have before us many, many long months of struggle and of suffering. You ask, what is our policy? I can say: It is to wage war, by sea, land and air, with all our might and with all the strength that God can give us; to wage war against a monstrous tyranny, never surpassed in the dark, lamentable catalogue of human crime. That is our policy. You ask, what is our aim? I can answer in one word: It is victory, victory at all costs, victory in spite of all terror, victory, however long and hard the road may be; for without victory, there is no survival. Let that be realised; no survival for the British Empire, no survival for all that the British Empire has stood for, no survival for the urge and impulse of the ages, that mankind will move forward towards its goal. But I take up my task with buoyancy and hope. I feel sure that our cause will not be suffered to fail among men. At this time I feel entitled to claim the aid of all, and I say, “come then, let us go forward together with our united strength.”