English review. ( For the Dutch review, click here )
Author: Sarah Byrn Rickman
Book form: hard cover with photoghraphs
Publisher: Texas Tech University Press
Bookreview:Sometimes life works in mysterious ways. That happened to Sarah Byrn Rickman, author and researcher. She is an expert on the WASP- Women Auxiliary Service Pilots, and she has written several books about this squadron. When Rickman was asked by the Texas Woman’s University if she wanted to edit the letters of Dorothy Scott, which were offered by her brother to save them for the next generations, she immediately recognized the significance of these letters. They were asking to be published. Recently, the voice of Dorothy Scott came to life in ‘Finding Dorothy Scott. Letters of a WASP Pilot’.
Through these letters Rickman tried to discover the real Dorothy. Who was this young woman and what drove her to fly and even join the war? Dorothy Faeth Scott was born in a businessfamily. Her father owned a Ford Agency and Service Station, but he was also fascinated by airplanes. He decided to build a new airport and organized an airshow. His enthousiasm for planes he soon shared with his little daughter and in 1941, at the age of 21, Dorothy was accepted by the CPTP the Civilian Pilot Training Program. A program which allowed both men and women to learn to fly, then many women were interested in being a pilot. But in 1941 there was also a war was going on in Europe. The men were enlisted and the women were forbidden to fly any longer. Much against their will!
Though, a few months later, on December 7, as America would join the war, rules for female aviators were about to change. The Army was looking for ferry-pilots, who could fly planes from and to the fronts. A plan was made by Nancy Harkness-Love to form a female squadron, the Women’s Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron –WAFS. As soon as Dorothy heard of her existence, she wanted to join the WAFS, but that was not easy. The requirements were high. A female pilot had to have 500 hours certified flying time, 200 horsepower ratings and 50 hours flying time during the last 12 months. Dorothy was a good pilot though, so she became one of the 25 women who were selected to be the first WAFS. In 1943 the WAFS became the WASP – Women Airforce Service Pilots till the end of the war.
‘Starting next week my life will be a matter of 12 hrs. Here each two weeks and the rest of the time on the road. It’s really hectic but wonderful,’ wrote Dorothy to her mother in December 1942. From her letters Dorothy appears as a determined personality and an enthousiastic aviatrix. To her family she wrote about her life with the WAFS, the trips she made with several planes, her favorite AT6, the BT-13 and the PT-17 for instance. She also mentioned her achievements on which she was proud, like her flying on instruments. By Captain Wright she was asked to be an instructor in instrumental flying. However, flying was not a romantic profession, as the letters revealed as well. The cockpits were so cold, that Dorothy got an ear infection, which troubled her several times.
‘Finding Dorothy Scott’ is an excellent book, because it not only tells the excited personal story of Dorothy Scott, but it also describes the interesting history of the WAFS and the WASP. Being an aviatrix in wartime meant hard work, even though women were not allowed to fly to the foreign fronts. Occasionally, women had to fly new airplanes. They came straight from from the factories and the pilots were given very little time to discover how the aircrafts had to be flown. However, the harshness of that time did not diminish the enthousiasm of these female pilots, they stayed ambitious to join the warefforts till the end of the war.
As for Dorothy Scott, unfortunately she was involved in an aircrash and died on December 3, 1943. She was one of the 38 WASP pilots who did not survived the war. As for the other women, after the war they had to return to their homes and they were completely forgotten. Despite their impressive achievements and the risks of losing their lives. It was until 1977 the female pilots received their well deserved recognition by getting the Veteran status and in 2009 finally the reward came: a Congressional Gold Medal. Thanks to authors like Sarah Byrn Rickman the stories of these brave female pilots continue to be told.
Assessment: X X X X X Excellent