There are many "untold stories" about Great Bend Army Air Field during its brief, but very active, existence during World War II. One of those stories involves six young women, assigned to air base as WASPs, or Women Airforce Service Pilots.
Monday evening, at 7:30 p.m., Karen Neuforth, Research Coordinator of the Barton County Historical Society, will tell that story at the regular meeting of the historical society.
The Barton County Historical Society Museum and Village is located at 85 South U.S. 281, just south of the Arkansas River bridge in Great Bend. Meetings are in the main museum building. "As always, the public is welcome to attend and learn more about our county’s history," said Beverly Komarek, executive director.
Neuforth said this program is in honor of Women’s History Month.
With the onset of World War II — even before the United States’ entry into the fight — two women were working to encourage the use of women pilots in the armed forces: Jacqueline Cochran and Nancy Harkness Love. Cochran’s Women’s Flying Training Detachment (WFTD) and Love’s Women’s Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron (WAFS) merged on Aug. 5, 1943, and were renamed the Women Airforce Service Pilots.
WASPs would undergo the same types of training as the men and learn to fly all the airplanes in the Army’s arsenal, Neuforth said. They served as flight instructors, test pilots, flew radio-controlled planes, ferried planes and crews and towed targets, among other duties. Hired as Civil Service employees, however, the WASPs were not recognized by our government for their military service until 1977 and finally received the Congressional Gold Medal in 2009.
"In 1944, six WASPs were assigned to Great Bend Army Air Field: Ann Bartholf, Izydora Bochanek, Dorothy Henry, Margaret Hurlburt, Anna Logan and Mimi Platter.
"All six of the WASPs assigned to GBAAF in 1944 have now passed away, but their valuable service to the United States during World War II deserves to be remembered."