I was most honored to meet a true Hoosier legend today. Mary Anna Martin Wyall — or “Marty”— is one of just 1,074 women who flew military aircraft during WWII and is the lone Hoosier survivor. These courageous women were Women Airforce Service Pilots, or WASP.
In 1944, Marty Wyall was a scientist for Eli Lilly here in Indianapolis when she began flying lessons. After being accepted as a WASP, she headed for training at Avenger Field, Texas, and earned her wings in December of that year.
Their modern story starts in 1977, when the Federal Government officially granted these women veteran status. Yet still, the history of the WASP is not included in most textbooks and is virtually unknown to many Americans … until this year. In March, the women were finally recognized for their heroic efforts and awarded the Congressional Gold Medal. Sadly, for many WASP and their families, it was a posthumous honor.
The Indiana State Museum, along with Puddlejump Pictures and Texas Woman’s University, have produced the In Her Honor exhibition to celebrate these amazing women and educate generations on their accomplishments and the unique role they played in WWII. The WASP flew non-combat missions in the United State to free up male pilots to serve combat duty overseas. Throughout the war, these courageous women logged more than 60 million miles in every type of aircraft and on every type of mission, including ferrying, target towing and as test pilots. And 38 of them made the ultimate sacrifice.
In Her Honor now includes Marty’s Congressional Gold Medal, as well as other personal objects and photographs. It will be on display through the summer at the Indiana State Museum. For more information on WASP, go here and here.