Just Learned About Passing of Heroine Barbara Erickson London

I just learned about the passing of a Long Beach aviation legend, Barbara Erickson London. My condolences to her family. Barbara was an incredible woman and aviator.

Below is what I know about Barbara from my book on "Early Aviation in Long Beach":

L-R, WAFS Barbara London prepares to take off ...
L-R, WAFS Barbara London prepares to take off in the P-51 Mustang, Evelyn Sharp wears the gabardine WAFS uniform. The WAFS were disappointed when they had to exchange their uniform for the Santiago Blues worn by the WASPs. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Barbara (Erickson) London. Barbara Jane Erickson joined the WAFS in 1942 and was initially assigned to the 2nd Ferry Group in Wilmington, Delaware. She organized the women assigned to the 6th Ferrying Group at the Long Beach Municipal Airport – Daugherty Field. As squadron commander, Erickson was the only woman to receive the Air Medal during World War II for her distinguished service, having ferried a P-47, P-51 and C-47 over 2,000 miles in just 5 days. In 1948, she received a commission as major in the Air Force Reserve. She married Jack London, Jr., whom she had served with in Long Beach and together they later operated United States Aviation, a flight school. The company and aircraft parts business closed during the Korean War. She remained involved in aviation and operated Barney Frazier Aircraft, Inc., and served as a board member of the “Powder Puff Derby” association. The City of Long Beach acknowledged her contribution to aviation in 2006 with the dedication of Barbara London Drive at the Long Beach Municipal Airport. (Long Beach Municipal Airport Archives)

English: AAF WAFS WASP emblem, 1943 Army Air Force
English: AAF WAFS WASP emblem, 1943 Army Air Force (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
WAFs and WASP. Daugherty Field and Reeves Field, Terminal Island were the center of ferrying military aircraft produced in southern California during World War II. Women were utilized to fly the thousands of the planes assembled at Douglas Aircraft, Vultee, North American and Lockheed to military bases. 25,000 women applied and only 1,100 graduated and served between 1941 and 1944 in the Women’s Auxiliary Ferry Squadron (WAFS) and the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP). The programs became the WASP in 1943. They were trained the military flying at Avenger Field, Sweetwater, Texas. WASP in Long Beach were attached to the 6th Ferrying Group Air Transport Command U.S. Army Air Corps. Jeanne Robertson (http://home.att.net/~sallyann5/b29/fly-girls4.html) identified the WASP in the photograph of some of the women who served in Long Beach: back row, from left: Nadine Ramsey, Betty Tackaberry, Katherine Loft, Evelyn Loft, Evelyn Trammell, Thelma Farris, Deborah Truax, Virginia Hill, Carol Fillmore, Barbara Jane (Erickson) London (WAFS). Front row, from left: Rena Wilkes, Lauretta Beatty, Iris Cummings, Lewise Coleman, Dorothy Webb, Jean Landis, Dorothy Kocher, Ruth Thompson, Helen Richards (WAFS). (Long Beach Municipal Airport Archives)

WASP and Hollywood. Actress Loretta Young (left) consults with Barbara Erickson (right) on the set of the 1943 movie “Ladies Courageous” which glamorized the dangerous work WASP performed. Movie stars and officials visited Long Beach during the war, among them Bob Hope, Ruth Hussey, Kate Smith, and Eleanor and President Franklin Roosevelt. (Long Beach Municipal Airport Archives)

An End of An Era. The WASP was deactivated on December 20, 1944 as a result of complaints from male aviators and politicians. WAFs and WASP were denied medical care for the injuries they suffered and the benefits given to military veterans. Thirty-eight women lost their lives while ferrying planes. It took until 1971 for Congress to pass legislation giving veteran status to WASP, and in 1979, they were finally given honorable discharges. In 2010, President Obama presented Congressional Gold Medals to the surviving WASP. (Long Beach Municipal Airport Archives) 

In July 2009, President Barack Obama signed th...
In July 2009, President Barack Obama signed the WASP Congressional Gold Medal into law. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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