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Skies Over Sweetwater    by Julia Moberg order for
Skies Over Sweetwater
by Julia Moberg
Order:  USA  Can
Moo Press, 2008 (2008)
* * *   Reviewed by Lyn Seippel

Eighteen-year-old Bernadette Thompson, called 'Byrd', slips out of the house before dawn to catch a train to Sweetwater, Texas. The year is 1944 and the country is at war. Byrd is a pilot and she has been accepted in the Women's Airforce Service Pilots, the first group of women to be trained by the Air Force to fly American military airplanes. Even though they won't be flying in combat, by ferrying bombers and other Air Force utility planes to destinations in the US they'll free up male pilots to defend their country.

Byrd, a poverty-stricken Iowan farm girl meets college student Sadie, Chinese-American New Yorker Opal, and Cornelia, an Atlanta society girl. This diverse group of young women are at odds about many things, but eventually learn to work together as a team. Byrd's flight instructor is against women pilots. He doesn't think they have what it takes and lets them know up front that he'll boot them out of the program at the first opportunity.

The WASP program was closed, having fulfilled its mission, in December,1944. The problems and conditions of the WASP program are not overlooked in Moberg's story. Nor are the deaths of a number of WASP pilots. These women held no veteran status, received no benefits, and even had to buy their own train tickets home. When WASP pilots gave their lives in service to their country they were not buried by the Air Force. It was left to their families to pay for their transportation home and their funerals. In 1977 Jimmy Carter signed legislation granting veteran status to the remaining Women's Airforce Service Pilots.

Moberg's historical novel takes place during the last months of the WASP training camp at Avenger Field in Sweetwater. Byrd's story is inspiring and will be an eye opener to many readers.

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