Imagine a little girl born in rural East Texas, growing up on a dirt farm with a God-fearing, ranting, father who lived with a bottle to his lips for the mistake he’d made by spawning this child. Dragging her to tent revivals to kill his demons, he punished her for his sins. Picture a little girl who had nothing but rags on her back, who would punch a little boy in the nose for making fun of her for not owning a pair of shoes. Imagine the early life of Sally Ketchum.
She didn’t own a pet. There weren’t toys in her life other than Sugar—a rag doll a relative made for her. The few friends she met at school would never see where she lived. Her best friends would become the books that she snuck into her home that would eventually break her free from the prison of ignorance and poverty in which she lived.
Sally was a lot like me in the fact that she watched clouds and daydreamed of having wings. Then one day her dreams came true. Tex, and his Jenny, flew into town and Tex fell in love with the woman he saw standing in front of him— Strong, direct, honest, and intelligent Sally Ketchum. He saw past the dirt and poverty. To Tex, she was the most beautiful woman in the world.
Looking into her soul, he saw a pilot.
Together they took to the skies.
Sally fell equally as hard for the man, the plane, and the freedom they gifted her. Unfortunately her six months of heaven barnstorming with her two loves would end abruptly when their Jenny crashes and she watches the loves of her life burn to death. Why was she spared this fateful crash? Her life was over. But in reality, it had just begun.
Sally Ketchum became a WASP.
WASP: Women Airforce Service Pilots.
Nothing in life is easy, especially breaking into the world of aviation for a woman, especially during the time of war. I know of the many struggles that the Women Airforce Service Pilots faced, but can only imagine living during that time. Sally’s life was just a glimpse of those challenges. But she got to do what she was born to do—Fly.
“Sally made a slight correction of stick and rudder to keep the PT-19 pointed arrow-straight toward the runway that waited approximately a mile ahead…She forced herself to loosen her grip on the PT’s stick… She instinctively advanced the throttle a smidgen to keep up her airspeed and the engine’s oil temperature… Nothing could go wrong now.”
Sally did fly, until her life was ended once again—Or had it just begun?
That determination will be yours.
“More than 25,000 young women volunteered for training as Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP). Of the 1,830 who were accepted, 1,074 graduated. Almost all went on to fly many types of aircraft, from the smallest and slowest trainers to giant bombers and hot fighters. Missions ranged from ferrying aircraft to dispersal points for shipment overseas, to towing targets for student gunners firing live ammunition. Flight occurred in all kinds of weather, sometimes in worn-out aircraft returned from combat, or in machines fresh from the factory and making their first hop. These missions were often as dangerous as combat, and in fact thirty-eight WASP died. By war’s end, Women Airforce Service Pilots had flown sixty million miles in seventy-eight different types of aircraft.”
Today’s Friday Flyer is in honor of Sally, the image of all the female flyers who called themselves WASP, for those who lost their lives, and those who survived like my friend Betty Blake, one of the first WASP. To read Betty’s story click HERE.
If you would like to share the dream of flight, live the life of a WASP, and find yourself wrapped up in the life of Sally Ketchum, you must read WINGS by Karl Friedrich, A Novel of World War II Fly Girls.
Author Karl Friedrich
“Karl Friedrich has worked as a newspaper reporter, magazine and public relations writer, advertising copywriter, and photographer. His many friends who fly military or commercial aircraft, and his lifelong fascination with women who achieve great accomplishments despite the displeasure of men, provided inspiration and impetus for Wings.”
Karl's experience writing, combined with his passion for story and love of aviation explodes on the pages of his novel, WINGS. I'm looking forward to joining Karl and his aviation buddies, as I’m told they often have discussions about the planes of today. Hopefully they all can be a Friday Flyer one day.
Thank you Karl for sharing a great story. Thank you for the gift of WINGS.
Readers... now you, too, can have the gift.
WIN A COPY of WINGS
Sign up to follow my blog and leave a comment below.
One name will be randomly drawn from the comments below.
Make sure you check back on Tuesday November 1st to see if you're the winner.
For those of you who can't wait, WINGS is available for purchase by clicking HERE
Or visit Karl to purchase an autographed copy for those aviators in your life by clicking on WINGS
What a great gift to give to the men and women with a heart and soul to fly.
Enjoy the Journey!