In the 1970 Hollywood classic, Tora Tora Tora, there was a scene where one of the attacking Japanese Zeroes attacks a civilian piloted Stearman. In reality, the event consisted of a Japanese Zero attacking the very Interstate Cadet, pictured here. A young woman, Cornelia Fort, was instructing a student when the attack on Pearl Harbor commenced. They were fired upon briefly, and the plane was strafed after landing.
Cornelia Fort was portrayed by Jeff Donnell in the film.
Ms. Fort, went on to become one of the earliest WAFS, Women’s Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron, a unit that ferried planes from factories to Air Force bases for the USAAF in WWII. This unit was somewhat a forerunner to the more well-known WASPs. Unfortunately, Ms. Fort also became the first woman aviator to lose her life in service to the United States.
Recently, while working on aviation photography projects, I ran into the pilot who brought the plane to the Airshow of the Cascades, Tim Talen. Through conversing with him he recommended the book Daughter of the Air: The Brief Soaring Life of Cornelia Fort, by Rob Simbeck. This is an inspirational biography of Cornelia, that I highly recommend to everyone. Some of the most moving parts of the book are letters she wrote to various people quoted in the book. She had studied literature and writing and was known to write very well about subjects that moved her.
The book closes with one of the passages I found most moving from a letter she wrote her mother a few months before the accident that killed her. She was writing of the possibility of her dying violently in the course of her work.
I was happiest in the sky – at dawn when the quietness of the air was like a caress, when the noon sun beat down, and at dusk when the sky was drenched with the fading light. Think of me there and remember me, I hope, as I shall you.
Give this book a read, you won’t regret it.
Take a look at some of my other images from the Airshow of the Cascades.