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WWII veteran visits MRMS

Cornelia Fort was an active WASP and the first female US pilot to die in active duty.

One would never guess that the little lady with white hair and a soft voice that came to speak to the 8th grade students at MRMS on November 5 led such an adventurous life. One of the first women to enter the Air Force as a pilot as a member of the Women’s Air Force Service Pilots or WASP, Bernice “Bee” Haydu has been a leader for women and veterans.   

In 1944, Bernice was one of only 1,078 WASP to graduate from cadet training.  She trained both men and women for military duty and worked as an engineer test pilot until December 20, 1944 when the WASP program was disbanded without fulfilling the promise of military status. 

Bee still loved flying and continued to pursue a career in flight but did not have much luck until she started her own business ferrying pilots and aircrafts from factories to the northeast. This led to a job as a saleswoman for Indamer, an aviation company. Then, in the mid 1970’s, Bee took on a different kind of mission. She was determined to gain veteran status for the many women who served as WASP. She contacted politicians, tracked down other WASP, and appeared on TV and radio shows pleading her cause. Finally, in 1977, Congress voted to declare the WASP veterans of WWII. In July of 2009, Bee met President Obama in the Oval Office where he presented her, and the other surviving WASP, with the Congressional Gold Medal for their bravery and service to their country.

It was a great treat for students in Mr. Martin’s and Mr. Sams’ Social Studies classes to get the chance to meet Ms. Haydu and learn about this part of history first-hand. Jordan Kahn said “Ms. Haydu told some interesting stories about brave pilots who were killed and also some funny stories about things that happened to her as a WASP.” It was also a reminder to us all why Veterans Day is set aside to honor these important people and brave soldiers.

Written by: Brita Mann
Posted: Nov 12, 2010 by Brita Mann

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