Advocate editorial board opinion: Aviatrix was super role model for youth

We were saddened to hear of Eleanor "Mickey" Brown's death in February. She would have been 90 years old this year. She was a member of the United States' elite group of women during World War II, a group called the Women's Air Force Service Pilots, or WASP.

Although more than 25,000 women applied for the unit, only 1,830 were accepted, and Mickey was among those chosen. They were considered civilians although Mickey said in an interview that she would have gladly participated as a combat pilot.

And all of the other women in WASP would have fought, too, given the chance.

But back in the early '40s, women did not have the same opportunities men did. Mickey always wanted that situation to change.

Mickey was a true and unique hero among other heroes in Victoria. We always felt fortunate to have such a luminary living right here, teaching youth about her service and providing one of the best role models to young women possible. Always a community-minded resident, she was extraordinary with the amount of time she gave to various functions and the amount of citizenship she practiced.

As a member of WASP, she worked on and fixed just about every kind of aircraft the Army Air Force had during World War II - her favorite was the AT-6, a training plane.

The women in WASP, then, played a critical role in keeping our forces flying.

She clocked in 345 hours of flying time on the AT-6, but she also flew other aircraft, such as the famous B-17, or Flying Fortress, for about 30 minutes.

While stationed at Napier Field in Dothan, Ala., with the Eastern Flying Training Command, she flew the mail to Eglin Field, Fla., for the male pilots in training. She would radio ahead to Elgin Field to get the gunnery range to cease firing when she flew over to deliver mail.

But one time, she said, they didn't stop shooting. As it turned out, she arrived safely, but it was too real of a "war" situation to forget.

Mickey and her WASP comrades - whose unit was disbanded in 1944 - were finally awarded their due in 2009, when they were recognized as veterans. The highest medal a civilian can received was bestowed on each of them - the Congressional Gold Medal, an honor given to an individual for giving outstanding service to the security, prosperity and national interest of the United States.

We rank Mickey right up there with Amelia Earhart - an adventurer, philanthropist and extraordinary woman.

Earhart disappeared over the middle of the Pacific Ocean during an attempt to fly around the world in 1937. She is noted as an American aviation pioneer.

We think Mickey had the same "right stuff" Earhart had. And we will miss her here in Victoria.

This editorial reflects the views of the Victoria Advocate's editorial board.