A WASP AMONG EAGLES: A WOMAN MILITARY TEST PILOT IN WORLD WAR II, by Ann B. Carl, Smithsonian Institution Press, 168 pages, $21.95.
Whether it be the “Nelson touch” during the Battle of Trafalgar or General George S. Patton’s charge through Europe during World War II, military achievement is a mix of intellect and prowess. As armed conflict becomes increasingly high tech, human intelligence becomes even more important, and the proper utilization of talented women becomes critical to our successful response to the military challenges of the twenty-first century. Therefore I was somewhat surprised that Ann B. Carl writes in this account of her experiences as a Woman Airforce Service Pilot (WASP) during World War II that she feels it is undesirable for women to assume combat roles. “Do we truly need women Amazons out to kill?” she asks.
In her book, Carl outlines how women performed a vital function during World War II. In her own case, she did more than merely ferry aircraft; she served as a test pilot and was the first American woman to fly a jet. Her book also chronicles the organizational history of the WASPs, which at the time was a civil service rather than a military entity.
Carl is a professional writer and provides a lucid, if dispassionate, account. There is little significantly new here, but because this is a first-person narrative by a unique participant, it is a valuable addition to the literature of World War II.
Jonas L. Goldstein is a retired naval officer and possesses postgraduate degrees in history, management, and librarianship.