Friday, August 20, 2010

2010 WASP Exhibit Featuring Memorabilia From Gail Sigford Family Archives: Panorama of Case 1 and Blanche Osborn Bross

(Photo by courtesy of  Diane Johnston)

The panorama of Case 1 shows that the focus of the exhibit was on the five WASP that were associated with Klamath County, Oregon; left to right,  Blanche Osborn Bross, Margaret DeBolt Christian, Peggie Parker Eccles, Margarete McGrath Armstrong, and Gail G. Sigford.

Blanche Osborn Bross, 43-W-6
July 21,1916-July 22, 2008
(Photo by courtesy of Texas Woman's University)

Before joining the WASP, Blanche Osborn Bross was registrar and clearance officer at the Klamath Falls airport. After she finished her training at Avenger Field in Sweetwater, Texas, she was sent to Ohio to learn to pilot the "Flying Fortress," the B-17 bomber.  Later, while stationed at Fort Meyers, FL, she piloted for gunners who practiced firing at targets towed by B-25s.   Bross also flew the B-24.
Osborn and three other WASP were transferred to the Las Vegas gunnery school where they tested repaired aircraft in the engineering squadron.  The program generated significant publicity during the war and the four WASP were featured in a famous picture of the female pilots walking away from the "Pistol Packin' Mama", a B-17.  The photograph has been used in advertisements for clothes lines, fashion magazines, historical chronicles and a copy hangs in the Smithsonian Museum.

( Courtesy of U.S. Air Force)

Above is the iconic picture of Frances Green, Margaret (Peg) Kirchner, Ann Waldner and Blanche Osborn leaving their plane, "Pistol Packin' Mama," at the four-engine school at Lockbourne AAF, Ohio, during WASP ferry training for the B-17 Flying Fortress. A touching tribute was made to Bross on the Wings Across America Final Flight, by a young RAF airman, who, intrigued by these women, bought a copy of this picture in Washington D.C.  He said the picture went with him around the world - and inspired him and his colleagues.

After the WASP de-activation, Bross joined the Red Cross and was sent to  China. Some time after returning home from China, she married and she and her husband developed a seaplane flying base near Portland, Oregon.  She also received her commercial pilot's license and flew workers to construction sites.

On March 10, 2010, over six decades after the WASP were disbanded and the records sealed for thirty years, Blanche Osborn Bross posthumously received the Congressional Medal of Honor, which was presented to all WASP for their service to their country in  World War II.


  1. You can find the most interesting stuff. I don't know how you do it, but you sure do it! Good job. jo

  2. Thanks, Jo, for stopping by and reading. These ladies of the WASP can get under one's skin -- and they all have such intriguing stories.

  3. You do find the most interesting stuff! I love that photograph, too! Those young women have such confidence! Oh, the stories they probably didn't tell, too!

  4. And if my aunt is an example, o the stories they did tell -- but just to a few.

  5. Wow - that's a great story. She certainly led an exciting life.