Meet the Five WWII Female Aviators Who Inspired B-52 Winery
You're probably familiar with Lucky Girl Brewing and its iconic pinup girl. The same company has expanded to offer a line of wines celebrating the 1,100 female aviators who flew military aircraft during World War II.
The Women Airforce Service Pilot program trained female pilots to handle stateside duties so male pilots could be sent to battle, according to B-52 Winery. They trained new pilots, transported aircraft from factories to military bases nationwide and towed canvas targets via aircraft for ground and air gunners' target practice. Overall, 38 lost their lives and one went missing.
The wines themselves are crafted by a pair with decades of experience, according to their website:
Our winemaker, an Australian native, and his wife have been making wines for over 40 years around the world. Many of our grapes come from a family vineyard in the Central coast wine growing region of California and the outcome is some of the nicest wines from our award winning Auzzie under the B 52 Winery label.
Here's a look at some of the ladies you'll meet as you taste the selection at B52 Winery:
1) Cornelia Fort
When she was 21, Cornelia started taking flying lessons and was a flight instructor at a Honolulu civilian airport when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, according to B-52 Winery. (She was in the air during the attack but managed to land safely.) She became the first Women Airforce Service Pilot to die in active duty, at the age of 24, when the wing of her BT-13 was clipped by another pilot as they flew too close in formation.
2) Shirley Slade
Shirley originally wanted to be a jockey and win the Kentucky Derby; she even attended a girls' ranching school when she was young. Her adult life took a different path, though, as her ability to fly difficult aircraft (the B-26 and the P-39) earned her a spot on Life magazine's cover in 1943. She became a poster girl of sorts for the Women Airforce Service Pilot program.
3) Elizabeth (Libby) Gardner
Libby had a standard career in the Women Airforce Service Pilot program, but a photograph of her in a B-26 became an iconic image of the program, appearing in many archives and history books, according to B-52 Winery. She also has the distinction of training under Paul Tibbets, who later dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima.
4) Evelyn Sharp
Nicknamed "Sharpie," Evelyn arranged for a local Nebraska businessman to purchase her first airplane and then paid him back with money she made performing stunt flights, according to B-52 Winery. She had her first solo flight when she was 16 and went on to train more than 350 pilots and become our nation's first female airmail pilot. She died at age 24, after her P-38 plane blew an engine during takeoff.
5) Betty Stine
In the 1940s, piloting was dangerous work, and Betty didn't escape those dangers. She had to parachute out of her AT-6 during a cross-country training flight when the plane caught fire in Arizona, according to B-52 Winery. Her condition was dire when several locals came to her rescue. She died later in a hospital. Because of those events, the military added a parachute training program to the Avenger airfield in Texas.
Ready to try these wines and immerse yourself in this fascinating history? Stop by 34016 M-43 in Paw Paw and enjoy their cafe, their artisanal cheeses and their patio with a gorgeous view. They'll soon be releasing a line of blueberry wines, too!