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Local Woman to be honored for her service during World War II

The Aberdeen Times of Aberdeen, Idaho

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Marian Toevs, a native of Aberdeen, ID, school teacher, and faithful member of the First Mennonite Church, will finally be honored for her service during World War II. She had joined the Women's Auxiliary Service Pilot (WASP) as $. pilot. Many women have been working tirelessly to see that the WASPs received the Recognition they deserved. On July 1, 2009, President Obama signed a bill which honors all the women who served as pilots during World War II, including the thirty eight who ultimately gave their lives, one of which was Toevs. The bill S. 614 "confers on the pilots the recognition they deserve" for their service as a WASP, according to the sponsors of the bill. Each woman pilot could Receive the Congressional Gold Medal. With the signing on July 1, 2009, it became Law 111-40.

Toevs lived her early life in Aberdeen with her parents John E. and Nelle Toevs and four brothers. As a young child she attended elementary school and high school in Aberdeen, graduating in 1935. She attended and graduated from Albion State Normal School in 1937 and began teaching in the Hansen school. She taught for three years before deciding to return to school for more education at East Washington College. After college, she worked at White Salmon where she became interested in flying.

Toevs earned her pilot's license while at East Washington College. She joined the WASP program in May 1943. She had extensive pilot training at the Sweetwater, TX, base. Her class was the eighth class to graduate from Sweetwater. Toevs graduated on December 17, 1943, after a twenty-one to twenty-seven week course. She was assigned to the Lemoore Army Air Field in California on January 1, 1944.

While at Lemoore Army Air Field, her job included test piloting, towing targets for air-to-air gunnery practice, ground-to-air anti-aircraft practice, ferrying, transporting personnel and cargo (including parts for the atomic bomb), simulated strafing, smoke laying, night tracking, and flying drones. The WASPs took on these tasks so the male pilots could be in the combat zones.

She was on a routine engineering check flight when her plane crashed and she died instantly. She died on February 18, 1944. Military honors were accorded Toevs by the Pocatello Army Air Base. However, this was unusual. Under existing guide-fines, the WASPs were not considered military and all funeral expenses were the responsibility of the family. The military would not even allow the U.S. flag to be put on fallen JVASP pilots'coffins. | Over 25,000 women applied for the WASP program, but Only about 1,900 were accepted. Of those 1,900, only 1,078 graduated from the program. They earned their wings and became the first women in history to fly American military aircraft. They were stationed at 120 air bases across the U.S.

This all changed in 1977; 33 years after the WASPs were disbanded, Congress finally gave them veteran status. However, the pilots were not invited to the White House for the signing ceremony and it was seven years later before the medals they had earned were mailed in plain brown envelopes.

According to Law 111-40:

The President pro Tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives shall make appropriate arrangements for the award, on behalf of Congress, of a single gold medal of appropriate design in honor of the Women Air Force Service Pilots (WASP) collectively, in recognition of their pioneering military service and exemplary record, which forged revolutionary reform in the Armed Forces for the United States of America. Bronze medal replicas of the gold medal will be awarded to each WASP survivor at the ceremony. One family member from each deceased WASP will receive a bronze medal on behalf of the family. Additional duplicate medals may be purchased from the U.S. Mint.

There is currently no date set for the medal ceremony. The Mint is in the process of designing the medal. When this is finished, a ceremony will be planned to ensure as many surviving WASP pilots as possible will be available to attend the ceremony.

For more information on the WASP program, check out the following: Wings Across America, several museums including The Smithsonian Institution; Women in Military Service to America Memorial at Arlington Nation Cemetery; National Museum of the United States Air Force, Wright Air Force Base, OH; National WASP WWII Museum, Sweetwater, TX and many more. You can see the list with the law at Law 111-40.

Copyright 2009 The Aberdeen Times, Aberdeen, Idaho. All Rights Reserved. This content, including derivations, may not be stored or distributed in any manner, disseminated, published, broadcast, rewritten or reproduced without express, written consent from SmallTownPapers, Inc.

Original Publication Date: August 19, 2009

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