Project Title: With Brave Wings She Flies: Women Pilots in World War II
Student: Sarah Lucas ’16
Mentor: Dr. Mark Gingerich
My senior honors thesis examines the role of women pilots during World War II in America, the United Kingdom and the USSR. Each nation employed the use of women in the field of aviation for the American Women Air Force Service Pilots, the British Air Transport Auxiliary and several regiments in the Soviet Union for combat fighters and night and day bombers. All of these women smashed gender barriers and overcame societal boundaries through their patriotism and desire to make a substantial contribution to the war effort. Some even made the ultimate sacrifice for their country, including the thirty Russian, fifteen British, and thirty-eight American women who died during their service. Sadly, most of the nations have forgotten or overlooked these women’s contribution to history. This subject is compelling and passionate for me personally as a female history student with strong ties to aviation.
The thesis analyzes the history of each program including its organization, training, responsibility and historical impact. It will compare and contrast each unit with its international counterparts, particularly in regards to societal barriers, gender roles, contribution to the war effort, and their post-war reception. Overall, through an exploration and discussion of the similarities and differences of each unit, the project will present a comprehensive and detailed look at the connections of gender and aviation within the military atmosphere of World War II in the USSR, UK and the USA.
This topic is crucial, as even today, aviation is an extremely male-dominated field and the role of women within it is growing, albeit at a slow pace. Acknowledging and celebrating the crucial contributions made to the war effort by these brave women pilots in three of the Allied nations is a step towards equalizing the role of all genders in the world of aviation and beyond.