While researching Dying Hard, I came across some history that I had been unaware.  In World War II, thirty-eight ladies of the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) perished in service to their nation piloting military aircraft, flying almost everything their brothers did including B-17 Flying Fortresses, one of which sported the feisty name of “Pistol Packin’ Mama” because the “Air Janes” were just as saucy as the guys.

Air Crew Pistol Packin’ Mama

The organization was a civilian pilots’ outfit, whose members were actually US federal service employees who became  trained pilots who tested aircraft, ferried aircraft, and trained other pilots so as to free male pilots for combat roles.  Some 800 completed all training.  Here are some period illustrations relating to Air Janes:

Fifinella, the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) mascot, created by The Walt Disney Company

Air Jane in a P-51 Mustang

Air Janes belonged to the Air Transport Command and wore this insignia

In 2009, members of the WASP were awarded the Congressional Gold Medal.  There aren’t many left, so if you get to meet one, tell her thanks and see if she has a story to share with you.  It’s probably a once in a lifetime opportunity to meet a real live hero.

Air Jane in the cockpit