WASP Mary Alice Vandeventer (Putnam) 44-7 celebrated her 90th birthday at the WASP Museum on May 16, 2013.
Fly kids 8-17 for free
Re-enactors from 12th Armored in Hangar One
Military Displays and Exhibits
Major Caroline Jensen in museum for signatures
PT-19 Pilot Julia Wood in museum for signatures
Dyess Color Guard, Roll Call for the 38, & fly-over
Dinner by Big Boy’s Bar-B-Q
Music by Sweetwater Municipal Band
WASP Forum moderated by Major Caroline Jensen
Silent Auction Closes
History of the National WASP WWII Museum
- The National WASP WWII Museum began in 2002 with the vision of two women, WASP Deanie Bishop Parrish and her daughter, Nancy Parrish. They believed that the history of the Women Airforce Service Pilots should be showcased at Avenger Field on the grounds where most of the WASP trained during World War II.
- Sweetwater community leaders learned about the vision for the Museum during a presentation at a meeting in the fall of 2002. On December 9th of that year, a steering committee met for the first time to investigate the Museum’s feasibility. Officers for the steering committee were elected at that time.
- Incorporation documents were presented to the steering committee in January 2003, and the Museum was incorporated in the state of Texas in July 2003. The Sweetwater Chamber of Commerce supported the Museum both financially and with key leadership.
- In September 2003 the Museum Board of Directors leased 55 acres of land at Avenger Field from the City of Sweetwater. The two hundred-year lease included the land as well as a hangar that had been built in 1929 to serve as the first Sweetwater Municipal Airport.
- In 2004 the Board of Directors recruited new members to support the Museum, developed a master plan around architectural drawings, mailed the first official newsletters, and continued to seek funds to build a nationally recognized memorial to the WASP.
- Renovations to the hangar began in early 2005 culminating in the first National WASP WWII Museum Fly-In. Local, state, and national volunteers worked long hours in order to open the Museum in May 2005. The outside of the hangar was painted, and the inside of the hangar was fully renovated to house the exhibits.
- A grand opening was held on May 28, the same day that the first class of WASP graduated 62 years earlier. To signify the opening of the Museum, United States, Texas, and WASP flags were raised for the first time on the 3 donated flag poles in front of the museum. Donated flags from the fifty states and two foreign countries representing the origins of the WASP were hung inside the Museum. Twenty-nine WASP attended the inaugural event and placed their handprints in cement to commemorate their presence. A bronze statue entitled “The Graduate,” created by former instructor and WASP Dot Swain Lewis and donated by the WASP, was also unveiled.
- In 2006 the Museum grew with new members, monetary donations as well as donations of historical artifacts, new exhibits, and the advent of the first Homecoming at Hangar One, now held annually, on Memorial Day weekend. The highlight of the first Homecoming was the opening of the exhibit depicting a bay, the living quarters of the WASP while they were in training.
- As membership and interest in the museum grew, directors hired an executive director in 2007. In 2008 the Museum began to register the extensive collection, to find new marketing and fundraising avenues, to increase membership, and to build new exhibits.
- As a continually evolving project, the Museum has grown each year: 2009 saw the addition of a PT-19 display and 2010 improvements included an exhibit featuring Jacqueline Cochran memorabilia. Greater national interest, addition of new historical artifacts, and increasing excitement for the story of the Women Airforce Service Pilots of World War II enable the Museum to continue moving toward achieving its goals.
A replica of the Congressional Gold Medal awarded to the WASP is on display in the museum. On March 10, 2010 our nation recognized the service of the Women Airforce Service Pilots by awarding them the Congressional Gold Medal in Washington, D.C.. One-hundred and seventy-five of the almost three hundred living WASP were at our nation’s capitol to receive this great honor. Those who could not travel and the families of the deceased WASP were also awarded a medal.
Serving our country in the Pentagon is B-1 Bomber pilot and instructor, Board Member Lt. Col. Bridget McNamara shares the story of the WASP at any opportunity partly because she credits the WASP with opening the door to women pilots in the military. Go to this link for an interesting interview with Major McNamara:
A climate-controlled addition is needed at the National WASP WWII Museum to preserve the many precious artifacts and display them properly. Great progress has been made in the last five years bringing Hangar One alive with the WASP story, but there is still much to be done. The legacy these courageous women left us must be shared with all generations. We have a great story to tell and we need to keep moving forward, improving upon what has been accomplished, and we need your support! Call WASP Museum at 325-235-0099 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to learn how you can help.
Click here for video.
Click on this link to see and hear Congressman Mike Conaway giving his speech in support of the WASP Congressional Gold Medal. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h_Zy4pv8Row