• Morgan Fagg

Lockdown Voices Number 29 FIFI

Updated: May 16, 2020

I knew my sister was having a hard time finishing her thesis and sent a message today reminding her that few women in history have finished a thesis during a global pandemic while minding children and then joked that women a hundred years ago would probably think that minding four children was easy especially when we have access to running water.

Yes, life was different a hundred years ago, Youtube was only available in Black & White and always played the national anthem at midnight. Wifi connections were very slow and carrier pigeons had to carry text messages and memes to post offices.

Ok, I am not an expert on the 1920s and maybe that is why I am re-living the Spanish Flu.

Coronavirus has shown our ineptitude at dealing with a crisis and no doubt when it comes to something far more serious, we will fail at that task too.

The year is 2020 and while my sister has been busy finishing her masters, I have been busy finishing a bottle of wine and I think it is fantastic that so many people have been completing courses and getting fit. Well done.

No sooner had I sent the message mocking this weird world we are living in then my girlfriend had put on a documentary about WWII pilots and I was left gobsmacked.

A bit of a history buff and aviation expert, I had never heard about this group of pilots and immediately presumed that they were a Russian group as their story couldn’t have gone untold for so long in Hollywood and tv or so I thought.

These pilots flew everything during World War II but weren’t combat pilots and they lost their jobs immediately after the war and weren’t acknowledged as either as veterans or with pensions.

They were volunteers who stepped up to fly taxi runs and transfer flights. They flew a lot of unglamorous flights away from the action and were forgotten about.

They flew under President Roosevelt and Truman but received their congressional gold medals from Obama and only received veteran status 33 years after their unit was disbanded.

Can you guess what gender these forgotten pilots were?

After World War II, they couldn’t get flying jobs and were offered air-hostess work instead and when I said they flew everything during WWII, I meant it. They flew 60 million miles in 77 different types of airplanes.

They flew B17s, P51s and even B29s and women had to fly B29s as men were afraid to fly the Boeing Stratosfortress after a series of accidents labelled the plane a widow maker.

The B29 has gone down in history as the make of plane that dropped both Nuclear bombs on Japan and is an iconic airplane of which only two remain in an airworthy condition.

These brave women flew the window maker to show men it was safe, they taxied them to airbases and tested planes and flew test flights when planes were repaired. The war effort simply couldn’t do without them for these logistical roles.

In getting women to fly planes as volunteers, they reduced the number of hours needed from 250 to 200 hours and then later lowered the requirement much lower. Women needed a pilot’s license which I am guessing many women didn’t have in the 1940s but when you compare the limitations for men at the same time, these reduced flight hours seem very unfair.

You see in order for a young man to get in a cockpit he just needed the appendage to pee at a urinal as boys were taken on as pilots straight out of high school without any flying time.

Time flies by and it has taken 80 years for me to learn about these aviatrixes' contributions to the war effort. 80 years without much recognition or celebration, 80 years without much references to any female flyer other than Amelia Earhart and 80 years of forgotten history.

Maybe they are many women completing masters as I type this, maybe there were many women completely masters during the pandemic of 1918-1920 but my skewed view of world history changed today while watching a documentary and like my sister, I think we can all push ourselves to learn something new while tackling the present circumstances.

To all the aviatrixes who flew fighters and bombers to airbases and tested repaired planes to make sure they were safe for combat pilots, I salute you.

These brave women were called WASPs and flew with a little gremlin logo called Fifi and by coincidence, one of the only two B29s flying today is a B-29A serial number 44-62070 called Fifi.

Lockdown Voices Number 29 is dedicated to my studious sister Fiona and all the Fifis in history that have flown B29s when test pilots were afraid to and ferried soldiers or children around the battlefield or to karate class and soccer practice, as needed, and without much thanks.

To all the women who have worked hard without much recognition and who volunteered when they were needed. Well done and thank you.

As my girlfriend always says to me, "Nunca te acostarás sin aprender algo nuevo."

(Never go to bed without learning something new.)

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