Caro Bosca: Flying And Flourishing Above The Clouds
Seventy years ago, Americans were celebrating the end of the Second World War and beginning the much-anticipated return to normal life, but "normal" had changed. Men who had gone to war expected to return to jobs and families, but while they were away, the homefront, as it was known, had changed. Aviation commentator Dan Patterson has a local story for us today:
Caro Bayley attended Ridgewood School in Springfield – and had finished two years at St Mary’s College in North Carolina when America entered the war. She learned to fly with her brother Robert in 1941. It was unusual for women to become pilots back then. “They weren’t taking women then,” Robert recalled, “but my father paid for her to take lessons with the boys.”
The War Department had begun a program that would employ women to pick up and deliver aircraft from factories and fly them to air bases where the Army Air Forces would take them over.
Of the 25,000 women who applied, Caro Bayley was one if the nearly 1,100 who became Women Air Service Pilots, or WASPS . They also flew training missions and ferried planes across the country as needed. The program included basic military training and flying.
Bayley received her silver military wings in 1943 and flew a wide range of aircraft during her service, including single engine fighters and multi-engine bombers.
The program was canceled in 1944; the mission had been fulfilled, but there had been a price: 38 WASP pilots died in service to the country.
Caro Bayley went on to earn her flight instructor ratings and began a career as an aerobatic pilot. In 1951 she won the International Aerobatic Championship and on the same day flew a Piper Super Cruiser to an altitude of 30, 203 feet – nearly five miles up – a record which stood until the mid 1980s.
She was named Mademoiselle Magazines Aviation Woman of the year in 1951.
Shortly after that, Orsino Hugo Bosca, an acquitance from Springfield called and asked if she knew any girls he could take to dinner while he was visiting Florida.
She said, "I'm a girl, and I am just as hungry as the rest of the girls down here."
He said, "Oh, I thought you were a mechanic."
She characterisically replied, "I can do some of that, too." She married Mr. Bosca, and became a life-long spokesperson for the WASPS and women’s rights.
Caro Bosca died in 2007, but Ridgewood School is honoring her this week at their alumni weekend and some of her WASP pilot squadron mates will be there. No doubt some flying stories will be shared by these women who, like their departed friend Caro Bosca lived and flourished above the clouds.
Dan Patterson is an aviation historian and photographer. You can see more of his photos at his website, www.flyinghistory.com
Aviation programming on WYSO is supported in part by the National Aviation Heritage Alliance and The Air Force Museum Foundation.