FORMER AQUINAS COLLEGE EMPLOYEE RECEIVES CONGRESSIONAL GOLD MEDAL OF HONOR
March 18, 2010 - For the second time in less than two years, former Aquinas College employee Mildred "Jane" Doyle, 87, was honored for her work during World War Two as a member of the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASPs) program. In November of 2009, she joined hundreds of other women veterans who were honored in a ceremony at the Women's Memorial in Washington, D.C. to mark the opening of the traveling exhibit, "Fly girls of World War II."
This week, she returned to Washington, D.C. with about 200 other WASPs, each receiving the Congressional Gold Medal for their service. Doyle completed civilian pilot training in the early 1940s and was a civilian test pilot for the military from November 1943 to October 1944. She also handled administrative flights, shuttling supplies to various military bases throughout the country.
According to a report by WOOD-TV, WASPs were the first women to fly military planes. Theirs were non-combat missions but they were not missions without danger. Thirty-eight WASPs were killed on duty. One of Doyle's jobs was to take planes out for test flights after male pilots reported problems and the planes were sent in for service. She was in line to fly a B-26 with what's called a towed target.
"The B-26 had a target that they trailed behind -- a sleeve -- and it was live gunnery that would shoot at it for gunnery practice," Doyle said. "So they used the women for that." But just before her B-26 work was set to begin, the WASPs were disbanded, because, in late 1944, Congress voted against giving the women military status.
In fact, the women didn't get veterans status until the late 1970s. Now, after a bill passed in the House and Senate was signed by President Barack Obama in July 2009, the WASPs are getting more recognition, "It's quite an honor to receive it [the Congressional Gold Medal]," Doyle said.
Doyle joins an impressive list of people who have received the Congressional Gold Medal, including George Washington, Ulysses Grant, Charles Lindbergh, Thomas Edison, Howard Hughes, Irving Berlin, Dr. Jonas Salk, Bob Hope, Walt Disney, Winston Churchill, Joe Louis, Billy Graham, Frank Sinatra and Gerald Ford, among others.
Doyle fondly remembers Aquinas as "a nice place to work." She worked as the Science Department secretary from 1971-1983. She graduated from the University of Michigan.
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