WPAFB, Ohio —
Throughout the history of our nation, women have made immeasurable contributions to its establishment and progress. As we celebrate Women’s History Month in March, the National Museum of the Air Force will offer special tours of its exhibit, “Women in the Air Force: Then and Now.” , which honors the achievements of women in their civilian and military careers. Tours will be offered free of charge to all museum visitors on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from 1 p.m. to 2:15 p.m. throughout the month of March.
The exhibition, which opened in March 2021, features exhibits located throughout the museum and has been a highlight for visitors over the past year. Historical issues, changing laws and attitudes, and women’s contributions to the Air Force’s mission throughout its 75-year history and beyond are among the topics covered in the exhibits.
In the Early Years Gallery, visitors can discover how Britain’s female pilots paved the way starting with Mary Wilkins-Ellis, who joined Britain’s Air Transport Auxiliary (ATA) and flew planes from factories to service squadrons active during World War II.
The story of Jacqueline Cochran, who was ranked among the best female pilots of her time by setting an incredible number of records and beating male feats in distance, altitude and speed, can also be seen in the early childhood and World War II galleries. as in the whole museum. Cochran would go on to become the founder and director of the Women’s Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) program and was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal – the highest non-combat honor – for her work in 1945.
Exhibits in the second building include the Women’s Armed Services Integration Act, which was signed into law by President Truman in 1948 and authorized women to serve permanently in all branches of the military. Among the stories featured in this building is that of SSgt. Esther Blake, who became the first woman in the Air Force by enlisting the first minute, the first hour, of the first day the Air Force allowed female participation; and the heroic actions of Lt. Regina Aune and Lt. Harriet Goffinett, who carried many children to safety during Operation Babylift.
The desire to break down barriers is further illustrated by the Silhouette of significant women – a uniquely designed exhibition that introduces visitors to those who have created new opportunities for women. This exhibit covers a wide range of accomplishments such as the first American woman to fly solo in an airplane (Blanche Stuart Scott); the first woman to fly nonstop across the Atlantic Ocean (Amelia Earhart); the Air Force’s first female medical officer (Capt. Dorothy Elias); and the award-winning “Bouncing Bettys” ammunition team.
Among the many “female firsts” on display in the Third Building are the first 10 graduates of the U.S. Air Force’s Undergraduate Pilot Training (UPT) program; the first female fighter pilot (Jeannie Flynn Leavitt); the first aerial machine gun (Aviator Vanessa Dobos); the first woman to fly a fighter jet in combat (Capt. Martha McSally); and the first female F-35 pilot (Lieutenant Colonel Christine Mau).
The story of pilot Nichole Malachowski, who took her first solo flight at 16 (getting her pilot’s license before her driver’s license), and later became the first female pilot of a US military jet team of high performance as a member of the Thunderbirds in 2005, also features in this building.
Amazing stories of courage are highlighted, including Air National Guard pilot Lt. Heather Penney of the 121st Fighter Squadron. On September 11, 2001, Penney and another pilot received one-way orders to stop hijacked United Airlines Flight 93 as it headed toward Washington, D.C. Armed with shoot-to-kill orders, but no weapons, they were on a suicide mission with the full intention of crashing into the Boeing 757 in order to protect national security. After scanning DC airspace for more than an hour, the pilots learned that passengers had forced the plane down into a field in Pennsylvania.
Another revolutionary display titled Towards equality highlights milestones in legislation that have resulted in policy changes on issues such as automatic discharge in the event of pregnancy or custody of minor children; the expansion of women’s rights enabling women to have the ability to serve in any military occupation, and new opportunities for advancement. In addition, women leaders who have overcome obstacles, overcome prejudices and paved the way in recent years are featured in an exhibition titled Women lead the way.
Finally, in the fourth building, visitors can discover the first American female astronaut to go into space (Sally Ride); the first American servicewoman in space who was also the first woman to serve aboard the International Space Station (Maj. Susan Helms); the first female space shuttle pilot (Maj. Eileen Collins); the first women to concurrently serve as in-orbit commanders (Col. Pamela Melroy and Peggy Whitson); and some of the most important discoveries and inventions that women scientists, engineers, mathematicians, medical professionals and artists in the Air Force have developed over the years.
As the Air Force celebrates a milestone, it’s especially important to tell the story of how women helped shape the force of today, says Christina Douglass, curator of the National Museum of the US Air Force. today.
“This year, the United States Air Force celebrates its 75th anniversary.and anniversary, and the role that women have played throughout history is an integral part of that history,” Douglass said. “The ‘Women in the Air Force’ exhibit showcases stories of dedication, passion and the challenges that women have faced in their desire to serve our nation. Although this is a permanent exhibit at the museum, I hope that during Women’s History Month visitors will take the time to come and see it and gain a better understanding of the sacrifices women have made and will be inspired to continue to stand up for equality.
To learn more about this exhibition, visit www.nationalmuseum.af.mil/Upcoming/Women-in-Air-Force/.
In 2022, we proudly celebrate the 75th anniversary of the United States Air Force. Throughout the year, we will host a variety of events and exhibits to share Air Force history and the stories of our Airmen with the public. Look for additional information on our website later this month.
The National Museum of the US Air Force, located at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base near Dayton, Ohio, is the largest military aviation museum in the world. With free admission and parking, the museum features more than 350 aerospace vehicles and missiles and thousands of artifacts amid more than 19 acres of indoor exhibit space. Every year, thousands of visitors from all over the world come to the museum. For more information, visit www.nationalmuseum.af.mil.
NOTE TO PUBLIC: For more information, contact the National Museum of the US Air Force at (937) 255-3286.
NOTE TO MEDIA: For more information, contact Lisa Riley at the National Museum of the US Air Force Public Affairs Division at (937) 255-1283.