Monday, March 28, 2016

March Is Women's History Month: Vivian Claire Cadman Eddy (1921 - 2013), WASP Pilot, World War II

One day last month a friend and I decided to take one of our biweekly walks at Cabrillo National Monument on Point Loma. Afterwards, instead of coming directly home, we parked at Ft. Rosecrans National Cemetery and while we walked around the columbarium court this marker caught my eye and I promised myself I would research this woman's history.*

[My photo]

[Map of Vivian C Eddy's grave in Ft. Rosecrans National Cemetery; the National Cemetery Administration Nationwide Gravesite Locator]

Vivian Claire Cadman** was born in Fullerton, California, and fell in love with flying in her teens. By 1942 when she joined the Women Air Force Service Pilots (WASPS)*** Vivian already had her pilot's license. By the end of her service (as a civilian) she had flown at least eight North American P-51 Mustang fighter planes from their factory in Los Angeles to New Jersey and had been at the controls of almost every other pursuit fighter being made, including the Bell P-39 Aircobra she's pictured in below.

[Women Air Service Pilots]

[WASP pilot Vivian Eddy in the door of a P-39 Airacobra, 1945. Location unknown.]

Despite her experience, Vivian couldn't find a job as a pilot in the commercial air world so she became what she felt was the next best thing--a stewardess. Here's what she says about it in an interview quoted in Gallery of Legends:
"She joined American Airlines, where the job interviewer asked, 'Why do you want to be a stewardess?' 'Well, you won’t hire me as a pilot,' she answered. Every captain who learned she was a DC-3 pilot invited her to the cockpit to take the controls. She worries that she might still get in trouble with American for flying. (Not likely.)"
After Congress rejected a bill to formalize the WASPS' as a branch of the military in December of 1944, the program came to an end and all the women had to buy their own tickets home. They weren't eligible for veterans' benefits until 1978.

Finally in 2010, they were awarded America's highest civilian honor: the Congressional Gold Medal and Vivian was among the survivors who traveled to Washington, D.C. to receive it.****

[Vivian Cadman Eddy shows the Congressional Gold Medal she received for flying for the Women Airforce Service Pilots during World War II after a ceremony at the Capitol Visitor Center in Washington, D.C., March 10, 2010. During her service, Eddy delivered nine P-51 aircraft from California to New Jersey. All 1,102 women who served as civilian pilots under the direction of U.S. forces received the medal.
Department of Defense Photo Essay; DoD photo by Linda Hosek]

Read about Women's History Month here.

*She's not one of my relatives but I loved finding out about her story.
**More about Vivian Claire (Cadman) Eddy here and here. Here's her findagrave page.
***You can read more about the WASPs here and here.
****SD Tribune story (not mentioning Vivian) about WASPs getting Congressional Medal in 2010 here. 2009 UT story including Vivian here

© 2016 Copyright, Christine Manczuk, All Rights Reserved.

1 comment:

  1. What a great story, but sad she could never fly commercially. I think there are still very few female commercial airline pilots, as the path to that job is through the military who still do not have women pilots I believe. It is very expensive to get pilot training outside the military, so ..... Besides, the plane might crash ....