WASPs in training

WASPs in training ca. 1944 (in front of the B-17 bomber Pistol Packin’ Mama.)

I have to admit, while I was writing When Heroes Flew  (nee Oregon Grinder) I was apprehensive over whether a female character flying a combat mission with U.S. Army Air Forces in WWII would be well received.  In reality, that kind of thing just didn’t happen.  At least in our army.  Purists, I feared, might object to a lady pilot in a combat role.

I needn’t have worried. My female creation, Vivian Wright, turned out to be one of the strongpoints of the novel.  She wasn’t modeled after anyone in particular, but was designed to be my homage to all the great ladies who flew for the WAFS and WASPs during the war.  WAFS and WASPs—Women’s Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron and Women Airforce Service Pilots.

If anything, Vivian had a little of the DNA of one of my favorite aunts, Vivian Bernard, my dad’s little sister.  Vivian Bernard was not a pilot, but she did serve with the WAVES (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service, a branch of the Naval Reserve) during WWII.

She was smart, tough, and maybe a bit outspoken.  She said some things to me I didn’t always agree with, but at least she wasn’t afraid to speak her mind.  In the end, she harbored no malice, only honesty, and for that I could forgive her.  We actually got along quite well.

At any rate, the initial reception of When Heroes Flew has been remarkable.  The bottom line is that it’s a tale that’s meant to be entertaining (as all novels should be).  But if you learn a smidgen of history from it, too, that’s okay.


  1. Tara Adkison on May 25, 2020 at 9:38 am

    When I was a little girl I was told you had written a book and dedicated it to Tara and her Wise old Owl calculator….I’m just trying to find that particular book…..you had came to Panama City Beach to do some writing. I was a little girl and remembered you and your beautiful wife Christina…..her son Steve Dated my mom many many years ago.. I’m just trying to find out some of my childhood history. Thank you for your time.

  2. Bev gudanowski on April 4, 2024 at 12:49 pm

    Love this book, half way through and I thought it was non fiction until I looked up Vivian wright. Now I’m excited hoping the ending will be better than the true story. Beautifully written. Action moves along and characters so well drawn

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