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Mark's Meanderings. by Mark Stoller

The unsung women of World War II

Ava Stoller is a guest columnist this month. Ava Stoller is Mark Stollerís daughter and an accomplished violinist who is on the Student Board of Representatives for District 49, dual enrolled in college and high school ó and a budding journalist.

ìIt took real men to fly the B-29. It took real women to train the real men.î – WWII WASP veterans.On May 8, we celebrate the 75th anniversary of Victory in Europe Day. My interest in World War II grew after a spring break trip included a stopover in Normandy. We visited Point de Huc, the Omaha and Gold beaches and Caen. I was in awe at what the greatest generation had gone through, and was inspired to learn more.World War II lasted for just over six years. Adolf Hitler started the war when he invaded Poland on Sept. 1, 1939. After being betrayed by the Germans, the Soviet Union joined the allies in 1942. The allied landing at Normandy secured a foothold in France, creating a major turning point in the war.Most of what you hear about women in World War II relates to homefront contributions; however, many women served above and beyond what was assumed and expected of them.The American Red Cross women volunteering in England and on the European front in mobile service club vehicles were called Donut Dollies. A report in December 1944, showed that 205 Donut Dollies in Great Britain served 4,659,728 donuts to the troops. After the Invasion of Normandy in 1944, the Donut Dollies followed the Army throughout Europe. They made and served donuts and coffee, talked with soldiers, played music and delivered a little slice of home. The mobile service club served through VE Day, post war England and the Army Occupation of Germany, until 1946.Winston Churchill founded the SOE (Special Operation Executive) in June 1940 to ìset Europe ablaze!î The SOEís mission was to wage a secret war of sabotage and espionage behind enemy lines. After grueling training, operatives were parachuted into Europe and the Far East to work with resistance movements.French-born Odette Sansom is World War IIís most decorated spy. In October 1942, she was assigned to the ëFí (French) section of the SOE and joined Peter Churchillís resistance group in France. On April 16, 1943, a member of the network betrayed them. She was caught by the Germans to ultimately save Peter Churchill from capture and interrogation. Brutally tortured by the Gestapo, she defiantly replied to every question with, ìI have nothing to say.î Finally freed in 1945, she was awarded the George Cross medal for refusing, under torture, to betray her fellow agents. Eileen Nearne, Violette Szabo and Nancy ìWhite Mouseî Wake are just a few more examples of the many women spies who served their countries during the war.In 1942, the United States created the WASP (Women Airforce Service Pilots) to fly military planes so male pilots could be available for combat duty overseas. More than 1,000 women flew almost every type of military aircraft in the WASP program ó 38 did not make it back home. They ferried new planes from factories to military bases, tested newly overhauled planes and towed targets to give ground and air gunners training with live ammunition.The Soviet 588th Night Bomber Regiment was composed of all-female pilots ó nicknamed ìNight Witches.î Under the cover of darkness, they flew in bare-boned plywood biplanes, carried two bombs, flew eight to 18 missions a night and re-armed between runs. They traveled in packs ó the first wave of planes would go in as bait, attracting German spotlights, and release a flare to light up the intended targets. The last plane would idle its engines and glide into the bombing area. It was this ìstealth modeî that created their witches’ broom sound and instilled fear into every German soldier.Our ancestors were called to war ó today, we are called to stay home. We can do this!

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