B-25 bomber to Canada

Click to see this pic bigger.

I was going to separate this out into its own blog, then decided it really should be here in the main blog considering that we will use what I learn for at least two of the books in this series, one that we are currently referring to as The War Years 2 (or TWR2), and the second book, which has yet to have a tentative titled, that will be focused on the life of a character named Josephine.  I’m going to elaborate on her for a moment, and the setup, and then meander my way back to the topic at hand. No other posts under this tag should be so tangential.  The rest should be more focused on the plane itself.

Josephine was originally intended to be a minor character.  Then again, this whole series started off with the intention of me writing one story that was going to be tossed up on AO3, and a one-shot that Lisa wrote about another character.  These two stories were merged at one point, and it’s grown from there.

I’m not beating around the bush on this one—Josephine will end up a WASP.  Those were the Women’s Airforce Service Pilots (Air Force being one word here), a chapter of the military that was swept under the rug after horrid mistreatment and a denial of militarization for decades.  Her backstory is possibly the most complex in the series, and it’s important not only to who she is, but in several key plot points, and once I found out that WASP history is so obscure, something that shocked me to find out in April and which ultimately pushed me into following my dream of learning to fly planes, I brought this up to Lisa, who also wasn’t so familiar with them despite being raised not far from where they were raised.  When she started learning more about them, she was bitten with the bug as well.  I grew up hearing about them all the time and thought they were common knowledge.

Soon, what was going to be a minor sideline until it’s not just didn’t seem enough for a real life group of women who were so ignored as it is.  More will be elaborated upon in the History tab above at a later time.  Since the storylines she has in this series are morally grey due to her backstory, I started thinking about how to explain her choices if we make her WASP time more prominent, and this ended up blowing up into such a huge story on its own that the two books on her will actually be able to stand alone apart from the rest of the series, despite overlapping events.  The timing of their release will be chosen to not spoil the main series.  We know some of our readers who would snap them up and have the series they’d been reading since last year spoiled.

So what does this have to do with the B-25?  We’ll get there.

I think Lisa and I have pushed the point pretty hard that we research the hell out of what we write our of a respect for history.  The details on the mafia aren’t made up.  The racism that’ll come into play isn’t made up since we aren’t going to sanitize that.  We ensure the word choices would have been used in the 1930’s (and then into the 1940’s).  We’ve done tricky research into illegal medical procedures for which little documentation was ever put to paper.  A communications museum 3.5 hours north got a hello from me for a plot point that ended up nixed.  We’re still waiting to hear back on that FOIA request.  I had someone try to correct me when I mentioned shellac instead of vinyl for a record.  Want to see my research on something as minor as what records were made of?  I’ll show you my large stack of records from the era and tell you everything about everything from the RPMs to the needles.  Real-life records will stand.  Amelia Earhart is the first female pilot credited with flying across the Atlantic, yet we have Josephine doing that?  Oh, just wait.  Amelia will prevail.

Me at the Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum in McMinnville, Oregon

So it wasn’t out of the ordinary for learning to fly to come in, even though chances are slight that most people would know what the hell was what if we were to make things up.  And since I wanted to fly for as long as I’ve got memories, and then no one knows who WASPs are…

In April, I started learning to fly, and I had to try to make sure the war plane info was correct.  Because OF COURSE I would.

The planes Josephine will fly include the B-25 Mitchell from when she’s sent to Sacramento, California, the AT-6 Texan from time at Texas Waco AAF (later renamed the James Connally Air Force Base, where my grandparents met, and the A-24 Dauntless at Camp Davis (I’ve already flown an aerobatic, partly to learn how to do a couple moves that will happen in the Dauntless in the book).  But the B-25–I desperately wanted to fly in one of those, and still have a goal of flying one one day, which I’m sure would make any CFI laugh.

Me beside the B-25 at the Oregon Air Show where I met some of the 99’s Click to see full size

A couple days after I damned near killed my CFI by pulling the mixture control in the air (that’s how you kill the engine, folks!), I went to the Oregon Air Show in Hillsboro, Oregon, as a volunteer with the Rose City chapter of Women in Aviation, and there, I connected with the Central Oregon High Desert chapter (a website isn’t currently maintained, and I’ll talk to them about this–it’s all volunteer, and time can be scarce) of the 99’s.   (The High Desert chapter is not only closer to me than the default chapter for my area, it’s also extremely active, which is perfect for someone like me!)  This chapter of the 99’s is associated with the Erickson CollectionErickson Collection, which owns the largest collection of airworthy warbirds in the world, including the aforementioned B-25.

WiA doesn’t require having a pilot license of any sort, while the 99’s do, and the FAA is so slow to do anything that it’s faster to watch paint dry.  I was still allowed to start doing things with the 99’s while waiting for my student cert, which I now have, and as someone who is pretty hyper when I’m enthused about things, you bet I do all the things I can, for both organizations.

Last week, I got a message from the chapter president asking if there was any way I could possible go on a trip to Canada for a STEM exhibit for the B-25 that leaves this week.  Uh…YES.  Because I have the best spouse in the entire history of the world, he jumped right on it as well, making sure my schedule can be clear so I can go.  When you’ve got a child whose needs obviously come first, and a spouse working full time, it can be easy for other things to get in the way. But he always does what he can to make sure I can do these things that matter so much to me, even if it means being gone for ten days at a stretch with little advance notice.  STEM/STEAM mean a lot to me, inspiring kids to reach for their dreams means a lot to me…and this exhibit will include information about WASPs, and since they’re the ones who kept a dream alive inside me all my life, even when I was a kid back when I was told to my face that STEM were for boys, and only the A was for girls…

So in another six days, I’ll be aboard the B-25 head to Canada living part of a dream, encouraging kids in STEM, spreading awareness of the WASPs, and learning about what it’s like to fly one of these warbirds that will be in our books.  It’s the closest to real experience as possible for what those women did.  That all these things that mean so much will be combining in a way I never would have bothered to dream as a possibility…flying, writing, history, STEM, kids…I can’t even figure out the words. It brings literal tears to my eyes.

And it the tour will end with this beast…one of the ten remaining airworthy B-17’s in the entire world.  This baby’s also known as the Flying Fortress….

Click to view full size

Fingers crossed that nothing falls through.

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