/ Published March 05, 2021
Taking Flight: The Nadine Ramsey Story by Raquel Ramsey and Tricia Aurand. University Press of Kansas, 2020, 243 pp.
Taking Flight is the story of a young woman from Wichita, Kansas who became a part of the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP). The authors lay the foundation for her story by describing her family and their roots, a family life that played a large role in shaping her into the strong woman that she was and how this woman then embraced the growing aviation environment and went on to serve in World War II (WWII). Raquel Ramsey, Nadine’s sister-in-law, brings a unique perspective on Nadine’s life and the events that shaped her future.
The book opens with the family’s move from El Dorado and life in Wichita as Nadine, a headstrong and independent woman, did not see eye-to-eye with her mother and was unhappy with the move. The book describes the impact that the developing aviation industry in Wichita had on her and piqued her initial interest in flying. A detailed history of other women involved in aviation at the time highlights how they paved the way for women like Nadine to follow in their footsteps. Those changes, and other aviation diversity events during the 1930s, show an industry and technology that were evolving, growing, and changing the aviation field leading to trans-Atlantic flight and record-breaking altitude and airspeed records, not just by men but women as well. Nadine Ramsey was in the midst of this, and the authors describe her love of flying and the role that she played with the National Aeronautic Association in developing an aviation ground school at the Wichita Municipal Airport.
The authors give an inspirational overview of the service of women in WWII, and how it evolved as the war progressed. As WWII broke out, Nadine and her love of flying paved the way for her service in supporting the war effort. The story goes into detail describing the development of the Women’s Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron and the Women’s Flying Training Detachment (WFTD), services developed so the men would be able to fly in combat and not have to take the time to ferry airplanes to the airfields. It is here that the authors not only describe Nadine’s journey, but the lives of the other women who were part of the WFTD, which became the Women Airforce Service Pilots, and the obstacles they faced in society.
The story of the women who served in WWII takes many twists and turns; they began their journey flying planes used for training, and some were qualified to fly twin-engine cargo and transport planes. As the war progressed, the need for fighter aircraft increased as did the women to fly those planes. The authors describe the training that the WASPs went through to become proficient at flying these aircraft. The women had to spend time in a flight simulator that was a wooden box, situated on bellows so it could rotate and turn. After they completed the flight simulator training, the women advanced to pursuit school, and upon graduation, they were qualified to fly the P51 Mustang. Not everything they faced was positive; in 1944, Gen Henry “Hap” Arnold cut back the Army Air Forces training programs and male flight instructors and pilots were suddenly out of work, these men looked to take jobs ferrying aircraft, and the women faced a change in attitude. It was not only the women involved in flying but also women in other industries who had to deal with this.
This book tells the story of a young woman who seized an opportunity and made the most of it by telling the story of the women who served their country and the sacrifices they made while fighting to gain recognition and honor for their service. Nadine Ramsey was only one of those women, but her story brings these women to the forefront of the history of WWII and describes the obstacles they faced when choosing to serve their country and the lack of recognition of their service and sacrifice after the war. This book is a great addition for anyone interested in women that served their country during WWII, along with wanting to learn about strong women and pass that knowledge onto students or family members.
Steven M. Guiliani
"The views expressed are those of the author(s) and do not reflect the official policy or position of the US government or the Department of Defense."