This morning’s Seattle Times features a front-page article about “Pioneering Women Pilots of WWII” who are, at last, being honored with Congressional Gold Medals. Eleven women who served as part of the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) will receive the honor, and another 16 will receive the award posthumously.
During World War II, more than 350,000 women served in women’s divisions of the military, among them several of Issaquah’s young women. One of these was Elizabeth Erickson, who trained as a WASP. These women received extensive flight training and relieved men of their non-combat duties. Among other things, they ferried new fighter planes to Europe so that fighting men would not have to leave the front lines to do so. This proved to be an appealing vocation for young women whose early years were filled with news coverage of Amelia Earhart’s daring flights – and eventual disappearance.
Erickson, a graduate of Issaquah High School and the University of Washington, reported for duty at Sweetwater, Texas in January of 1944. Tragically, four months later she was killed in a mid-air collision over Texas. Thirty-seven other women died in service to their country, but never received military recognition. Because they are still considered civilians, the U.S. Army did not even provide military burial.
Erickson was not among those who received a Congressional Medal, perhaps because she did not survive to serve in Europe. However, her name is inscribed on the monument to Issaquah’s war dead that stands in Memorial Field.
More information on Erickson’s training and last flight is available here.