The Nadine Ramsey Story
Raquel Ramsey and Tricia Aurand
In October 1944, Nadine Ramsey was thirty-three and she was flying the cutting-edge P-51 Mustang to New Jersey, its last stop before heading to the war in Europe. The irrepressible young woman from Wichita had long been determined to fly and the gathering storm clouds of World War II had provided an unexpected opportunity. Taking Flight is the inspiring story of a girl from Depression-era Kansas who overcame tremendous challenges and defied convention to become an elite pilot—one of the few American women to fly fighter aircraft during World War II.
Taking Flight follows Nadine as she became one of 1,102 women to join the Women’s Airforce Service Pilots and one of only 303 WASPs to take to the skies in military cockpits, transporting aircraft to bases across the nation for use in the theaters of war. This book marks her milestones: the first Kansas woman to earn a commercial pilot license; among the earliest women to fly the US Air Mail; one of only 26 WASPs who flew the Lockheed P-38 Lightning, a fighter aircraft—and the first woman to own one; the only woman in the country to instruct male pilots to fly fighter planes after the war. Disbanded in late 1944 to make way for male pilots and barred from piloting for commercial airlines, the WASPs spent the next three decades fighting to win veteran status.
“Nadine’s story is also the story of women and military aviation, the efforts to gain veteran’s status and the benefits for WASP members, and recognition of their service by the federal government. This book is a welcome addition to women-in-aviation researchers for the detail it contains.”
“A great read. Ramsey and Aurand invite us to accompany Nadine, Nelle and Ed on an extraordinary journey where we watch each one of them overcome terrible setbacks, then forge ahead to achieve remarkable successes.”
—Philippine Scouts Heritage SocietySee all reviews...
“An incredibly personal and poignant account of one family’s successes and sacrifices during the Second World War. This book should find a home on the shelves of air power scholars, but a much wider audience will also enjoy it. Ramsey’s story might be hers alone, but it is indicative of all the women whose service to the US and broader Allied war effort should not be overlooked.”
—Balloons to Drones
“Taking Flight: The Nadine Ramsey Story is more than the tale of her days as a WASP pilot ferrying high-priority army aircraft across the skies of World War II America. It is the heartfelt account of her family and its collective grit, patriotism, and raw courage. This unfolds through her mother’s unfailing enterprise and her decorated war-hero brother’'s heroism. We also learn of Nadine’s painful recovery from an early plane crash, the healing that allowed her to fly as a WASP, and, finally, her battle against the recurring pain in later life. A good read with a ton of great research on woman pioneers in aviation and WASP history to absorb.”
—Sarah Byrn Rickman, author of The Originals: The Women’s Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron of World War II and WASP of the Ferry Command: Women Pilots, Uncommon Deeds
“What better way to penetrate a glass ceiling than by piloting an aircraft! Nadine Ramsey’s story would be an inspirational one even without her being a woman. The services provided by her and her 1,101 fellow WASPs, who piloted a wide variety of military aircraft during World War II, are little-known and, for much too long, underappreciated by the nation that reaped the benefits of their skills and sacrifices (thirty-eight of whom gave their lives). Both enlightening and inspirational, Taking Flight is a must-read for anyone who may wonder why Tom Brokaw chose to call Nadine and her fellow veterans ‘the Greatest Generation.’”
—Thomas J. Cutler, Gordon England Chair of Professional Naval Literature, US Naval Institute
“Unwavering patriotism and unheralded courage define the story of Nadine Ramsey, who, along with the other women of the WASP, took to the skies during World War II to serve a nation still not ready to treat those women as equals. The authors balance Nadine’s sacrifices and achievements with her human foibles and disappointments, presenting to readers of all ages a thoroughly captivating and heroic woman in an era when America desperately needed heroes overseas and on the home front to defeat the twin evils of Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan. A riveting narrative.”
—Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean and director, Global Social Action Agenda of the Simon Wiesenthal Center
“Since the 1970s the story of the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASPs) has become fairly familiar and usually told in ‘greatest generation’ tones. And most biographies of WASPs focus on the top leadership or those women who tragically did not survive the war. Taking Flight: The Nadine Ramsey Story offers a rather more unvarnished look at one of the women who sought to serve her country in wartime while also forwarding her aviation ambitions. It retells the standard WASP narrative of a woman who often risked her life to serve her country only to have her service all but rejected and certainly discounted as the war ended and also examines how this one woman continued to try to realize her dreams in a highly gendered postwar aviation world. Just as the psychological costs of wartime service haunted many of the men of the ‘greatest generation,’ the unrelenting uphill battle for women to find a role in aviation also took a toll on those who found meaning and purpose in service and flying only to have society continually restrict their opportunities. Taking Flight joins a small but growing body of literature that seeks to highlight how many WASP veterans faced lifelong psychological costs and encountered repeated struggles not only to continue to be active in aviation but often just to have their wartime service fully recognized and valued.”
—Janet Bednarek, professor of history, University of Dayton
“From humble beginnings, Nadine Ramsey was destined to fly. Chasing planes and opportunities, she honed her skills as a ‘hot pilot.’ Even a crushing accident didn’t keep her grounded for long. After becoming a stunt and racing pilot, she became a squadron commander tasked with training women pilots. Soon she was in the ranks of the Women’s Airforce Service Pilots in World War II and was one of the first women to fly military aircraft. Spunky, full of life, and seemingly unafraid of risks, Nadine Ramsey lived with grit and flair. Her story is the result of decades-long research by Dr. Raquel Ramsey, wife of the late World War II hero, Colonel Edwin P. Ramsey, Twenty-Sixth Cavalry (Philippine Scouts). This honest and heartfelt book chronicles the life of a woman who struggled to overcome the barriers of her day, and occasionally brushed the bounds of heaven.”
—Lisa K. Shapiro, author of No Forgotten Fronts: From Classrooms to CombatSee fewer reviews...
Taking Flight: The Nadine Ramsey Story is a profile in courage of a woman who helped clear the flight path for today’s female combat and commercial aviators.