have courage. take heart. bear witness.
I didn't meet my birth mother, Anna (Flynn) Monkiewicz until I was in my forties. That's another, and not altogether sad, story. My parents, the lovely couple who adopted and raised me, were wise enough to tell me at an early age all they knew about my mother. Thanks to surely unauthorized information from a compassionate Catholic nun, they passed on to me that my mother's name was "Annie" Flynn, that she had beautiful eyes, and that she had been a pilot during the Second World War.
When the time came, the tidbit about flying was the clue that allowed me to find Anna (there are a LOT of Flynns and that was no longer her name). Since then, I have been blessed to spend wonderful times with her, and to meet and come to care for the family that radiates from and around her.
One thing I have been given to understand is that Anna doesn't wish to be, and by no means is, defined by her experiences as a WASP pilot. However, any description would certainly include her curiosity and, perhaps, stubbornness. These traits, I'm sure, helped set her sights on the "man's world" of aviation in its early stages—soon coinciding with WW ll, a time of actual threats to our national security—and then led her into the rest of her very full life.
She was far removed from the vivid horrors of the battlefield, but she did her dangerous part by flying new fighter planes across America, and did it well. I think I hear her say that her desire to be alone, high above it all, was her personal response to much of what she saw going on in the world.
When Jackie Goodrich suggested this recording, I wasn't sure Anna (now in her 90s) would go for it. But I'm glad they did, respectively. Listening to Anna talk about her flying days provides a sense of the humility, clarity, humor, and intelligence that has carried her along—a bit of which I hope will rub off on me yet.
— David Norris
Recorded in The Dalles, Oregon, November 2010.
In 2013 Anna Monkiewicz' memoir, My Piece of the Sky, was published in a Kindle edition.
"My father did not want me to learn how to fly. He didn't want me to leave home. So we kind of argued about it for a little while. And then finally he said, "Well, if you want to try it, go ahead. Always know you've got a home to come to. So he was pretty good about the whole thing. And I never realized, until I had kids of my own, what he must have been going through."
"We felt as though we were in the military. And the only thing that really made any difference was the way we were paid. We got a check from Civil Service. And if we wanted to quit, we could. There were some that quit for medical reasons or because they were needed at home. And a few found they didn't like to fly. But there were very few of those."
"I went to take off and I noticed there was this strong odor of gasoline, but I thought they had just refueled, so what could you expect? But it got worse. And I was taxiing out. And then when I turned around to take off, it got so bad I had to open the canopy. Then I noticed my feet were wet. Gas was pouring right into the cockpit."
"The very last flight, that was kind of handed me on a platter. We were at the going-away dinner that they gave us, and we got word that they needed one more WASP to move a P-47. Everybody wanted that one, so we drew straws. And I won."
"None of us were really expecting the Gold Medal. We didn't really ask for it, but I guess somebody thought that they better do something before we all died. So they scurried around and got that done. They did the same thing for the Tuskegee Airmen and the Navajo Code Talkers. So we're in good company."
"Oh, all the time, I wondered where you were. If you were still around, you know?”