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.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

2010 WASP Exhibit Featuring Memorabilia From Gail Sigford Family Archives: Display Case 1

The photo above, though a bit blurry as it was taken through the glass display case,  shows about one-third of the first of three glass display cases in the exhibit.  The items shown include a digital picture frame, a copy of a  Life Magazine, and a well known picture of four WASP walking away from a B17.

For many of the 25,000 young women who applied to become WASP learned about the WASP from the few articles such as this July 19, 1943 issue of the Life Magazine.  There were no WASP recruitment offices or posters, so young women heard about the WASP by word of mouth, letters from other women pilots, and the few magzaine articles.  Gail Sigford, the featured WASP of this exhibit, heard about the program by one of these magazine articles.  She then figured out to whom she should sent an application, and finally sent her application to Jacqueline Cochran, the WASP Director in Washington D.C.

For the exhibit, CC of our Gang of Five (the exhibit core group) scanned all of the pictures from this Life Magazine article and then loaded them onto the digital picture frame.   These rotating pictures were well received, as exhibit viewers would watch the rotation of WASP training activities with avid interest.  This was an excellent method of bringing movement and action into a static display.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

2010 WASP Exhibit Featuring Memorabilia From Gail Sigford Family Archives: WASP WWII Assignments

The above is a photograph of the List of WASP Assignments that was taken at the Fly Girls Exhibit in Washington D.C. during the celebration and awarding of the Congressional Gold Medal on March 10, 2010.  These duties, given to WASP  between the inception of the WASP program in 1942 and its disbandment  in 1944, covered a wide array of flying assignments.  Whether the assignments were  routine or downright risky,  WASP were there to do their duty.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

2010 WASP Exhibit Featuring Memorabilia From Gail Sigford Family Archives: The Faces of the WASP

 Faces of the WASP

Our copy of the 18" x 24" reproduction of the larger WASP mosaic, which was created for the2008 exhibit of Fly Girls of WWII, presented museum visitors with a unique picture of the WASP beloved Texan, AT6 , taking off from Avenger Field into the West Texas sunset.  Individual WASP faces, each used several times, make up this mosaic.  Pictures of each of the 1,074 WASP who received their wings, as well as Nancy Harkness Love and her 27 WAFS (who were merged with the WASP in 1942) - and of course, Jacqueline Cochran, Founder and Director of the WASP, make up the Faces of the WASP.

Click on the link, if you wish to purchase a copy or view Faces of the WASPYou can use the "+" or "-" to zoom in and out to see the individual faces. 

2010 WASP Exhibit Featuring Memorabilia From Gail Sigford Family Archives: The Flyin' High Poster

Courtesy of  the artist Diane Johnston

The Klamath County Museum housed an exhibit of the “Local Flygirls: The Unsung Heroines of WW II,” featuring memorabilia from the family archives of WASP Gail Sigford, during the month of July, 2010. The public was also informed of the exhibit by an article in the Herald and News.

The 20 x 30 poster, entitled “Flyin' High,” welcomed patrons of the Klamath County Museum to the WASP exhibit. Diane Johnston, a friend of Gail Sigford and the family – and a gifted artist – created this poster.

Courtesy of  the artist Diane Johnston

As one of the poster's focal points she used the picture of a class of WASP on review at graduation (Courtesy of Wings Across America Digital Gallery). This picture, seen above, was also used in the museum exhibit, where Diane created a larger version in which she “fiddled around with it until it felt right” – which meant she enlarged, cropped, sharpened, colorized, and “punched it up a bit.” 

Silhouettes of three WW II vintage planes used in WASP at Avenger Field, Sweetwater, Texas are shown on the upper left quarter of the poster. These planes included Gail Sigford's favorites; the Stearman bi-wing (PT-13 & PT 17); the advanced trainer (AT6, known as the Texan); and as the transition to the multi-engined bombers, the twin-engine Cessna (U78, or the Bob Cat).

Courtesy of  the artist Diane Johnston

A smaller version of the poster was used as a flyer which was distributed to local businesses, restaurants, and retirement homes. Bringing the eye to the Exhibit specifics, Johnston used a gold box to highlight the names of the local “flygirls,” date, time and place of the exhibit as well as the featured memorabilia. In the version used for the flyer, she also replicated the gold color on the lower left, where a coupon offered a little incentive to visit the “flygirls” as well as the other museum exhibits.

The poster is a tribute to those women of Klamath County who heard the call. We can hear the echo of their song -- Off we go into the wild blue yonder, Flyin' High! into the Sun.



Monday, August 2, 2010

Klamath County Museum

Klamath County Museum
1451 Main Street, Klamath Falls, Oregon, 97601

The Klamath County Museum has a very good World War II exhibit in this building, so when our group of five decided to put together an exhibit for Gail G. Sigford and her WASP years, the museum was a great "fit" for our project.    The museum staff, Todd Kepple, Museum Manager; Lynn Jeche, Curator; and  voluteer Dave Mattos ( with a special interest in World War II), were not only very encouraging, but provided our group with lots of support.

The current building was originally built in 1935 as the Klamath Country Armory.   In 1968, the museum moved into this art-deco building and now features exhibits on natural history and human history, as well as housing its large collection of historic photos and public records.

Over the last decade, I have had the opportunity to use a number of the resources kept by the museum.  In addition, the museum itself offers an array of memories for those of us who have known it as the Armory, a venue for concerts such as Johnny Cash (I remember the day of this concert - November 28, 1957), and as an ever increasing source of history and memories of Klamath County and its people.

If you are ever in Oregon and visiting Klamath Falls, stop by the Klamath County Museum.  You will be glad you took the time to  immerse yourself in the history of the area and its people.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

96th Edition of the Carnival of Genealogy: Scrapbook pages for My Aunt Gail, WASP

The next Carnival of Genealogy is Scrapbooking Your Family History.  Thanks to Jasia at Creative Gene for this Carnival of Genealogy; Scrapbooking Your Family History.  Also a big thanks to footnoteMaven for the great poster.

"Create a scrapbook page on any theme that suits one or more of your vintage photos."  Hmm,  creativity and vintage photos, that may be a stretch, but this is a topic that has taken over my life for the past 4 1/2 months.  In March, five of us who were very close to my Aunt Gail - two nieces, 2 wives of nephews, and a good friend to Gail and the family - decided that as a way of honoring Gail and the local WASP we would set up an exhibit  at the Klamath County Museum.  I will be blogging on this exhibit more fully in the coming weeks, but for this 96th Edition of the Carnival of Genealogy, I want to present a couple of scrapbook pages of some of the pictures and items that were in the exhibit.


Women like my Aunt Gail and the WASP of WW II heard the call, wanted to fly, and headed to Avenger Field, in Sweetwater, Texas, to do their patriotic duty in that time of war.   In doing so, they brushed aside stereotypes and barriers that had long hampered women, and and in doing so, they began their part to change the world for women of the future.