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In Memory of “Sharpie”

In Memory of “Sharpie”
By Joe Phillips Dear Me
In Memory of “Sharpie”
By Joe Phillips Dear Me

Girls fly. Since March is Women’s History Month, I return to one young woman I chose to remember for my lifetime. Or maybe she chose me. She was one of hundreds of female pilots who served in noncombat roles flying military airplanes as “Women’s Air Force Service Pilots,” WASPS.

Evelyn “Sharpie” Sharp and her adoptive parents lived above their cafe in Ord, Nebraska. She taught swimming for the Red Cross, was athletic, active in local drama, learned to fly. The town embraced her: She was the town’s daughter.

She became America’s first female air mail pilot. At age 20 she became an instructor for the Army Air Corps and taught 354 male cadets to fly. She joined the WASPS at Avenger Field in Sweetwater, Texas.

Sharpie was certificated to fly nine military airplanes, including the B-17.

WASP pilots not only flew as “ferry pilots,” they also flew tow planes pulling a silk target on a one hundred foot rope while young men learned to shoot at the targets they pulled.

WASPS regularly flew airplanes male pilots would not touch. They were issued cast-off airplanes for training, faced taunting, high-handed male pilots, and settled matters in the air.

On April 3, 1943, Sharpie departed Middletown, PA. She had flown the barely airworthy twin engine P-38 from the factory in Long Beach, California, and was returning it to California.

The twin engine P-38 fighter strained hopelessly for altitude on April 3, 1943.

She fought the airplane all the way to a wheels-up landing on a farm on Beacon Hill in Cumberland County across the river from Middletown and down stream from Three Mile Island. Evelyn Sharpe, at age twenty-four, died instantly of a broken neck. WASP pilots were not in the military. They had no insurance, not even a paid funeral, and several of them needed one. They buried their own. Her friend and fellow pilot Nancy Batson accompanied her body home for the funeral at the Ord Methodist Church. She was buried in her blue uniform. The local newspaper called her “Ord’s favorite daughter.” No doubt she was.

I found the site on Beacon Hill where her airplane pancaked to the ground. The continued from page

Peiffer Memorial Arboretum and Nature Preserve protects nearly 35 acres of trees.

There is a memorial to Sharpie with her picture and propeller blades of a P-38.

There are no living relatives; her family moved to Nevada and only returned in death.

I kicked gravel at the field where she learned to fly, dropped a rose on her grave, and tried to touch as much of her life as I could.

A collection of clippings and memorabilia hang in the lounge of the Evelyn Sharp Airport, with more at the public library. Those who know her name become fewer each year.

In her home near Birmingham, Nancy Batson Crews showed me pictures of grandchildren and candid photos of young Sharpie. Nancy’s memories were wet.

The WASP’s are almost forgotten.

At least Sharpie is not forgotten. I remember and now you do as well.

Evelyn Sharpe

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