Over the years I’ve spent curating the National Air and Space Museum’s uniform and flight clothing collection, I have received many inquiries. One of the most frequently ask questions concerns the placement of Lt. Gen. Jimmy Doolittle's Medal of Honor ribbon on his wartime uniform.
Just when I think I might know something about women in aviation, or just when we think we’ve heard all the stories about “the greatest generation,” I find out about another group who contributed to the World War II effort. They were not Rosie the Riveters assembling aircraft on production lines nor were they the pilots known as the WASP. By now, most people have heard of the Women Airforce Service Pilots, 1,074 civilian women who, from 1943 to 1944, flew more than 60 million miles ferrying military aircraft, towing targets, and performing other administrative flying duties for the US Army Air Forces.
The notation in the Museum’s artifact database is simple: “On loan.” But this artifact is a replica Nobel Prize. And its loan involves two government agencies, a crushed storage building, and a flight to the International Space Station. Let’s start at the beginning – literally. As in the Big Bang.