While their cell phones popped close-up pictures, Kendall Civil Air Patrol (CAP) cadets on Feb. 5 heard first-hand about World War II flying days from a distinguished 93-year-old U.S. wartime pilot.
The occasion was the visit of Helen Snapp, honored with the Congressional Gold Medal by act of Congress in 2009 along with other members of the Women’s Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) who flew war missions to relieve male pilots for combat duty.
“She was especially pleased to come here because she was unable to attend the event last year when we honored her along with two other WASP pilots,” explained Suzette Rice of Wings Over Miami, the museum of U.S. aviation history at Kendall-Tamiami Executive Airport.
Presented with a bouquet of flowers, Snapp spent more than an hour chatting with CAP cadets who meet regularly at Wings, revealing that she “really doesn’t like heights but overcame that fear by learning how to fly.”
One of about 1,000 women who served, and among the few who flew the famous Memphis Belle bomber, she is a close friend of a co-honoree, Fran Sargent, previously honored for her service and now a director emeritus of the museum.
During her service in 1943-44, Snapp logged more than 1,000 hours of flying time, including numerous missions towing targets for live firing practice at Camp Stewart (now Wright Field) in Texas.
The women who served in WASP were not given veterans’ rights until recognized in 1977 and were accorded honors in this century by the Gold Medal awarded by Congress.
Now a Broward resident, Snapp urged the cadets to “study hard” to become successful in life and at the end of her visit had a hug for each.
U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, en route to Homestead for a dedication program, arranged her schedule for a special stopover to congratulate Snapp, and Ursula Davidson, aviatrix member of the “99’s,” a women’s aviation group.
Joining them to honor Snapp was Wings volunteer Harry Adams, 79, a Korean War and 11-year Air Force veteran, and Freddie Ambrose of Cutler Bay, a Vietnam veteran who has established the “Thinking of Your Services” program that sends out care packages to deployed military personnel.
Both had accompanied Rep. Ros-Lehtinen to Homestead for a special program unveiling a statue of George J. Faraldo, a Key West native born in 1919, who flew combat missions during World War II and served as manager of the Key West Airport from 1946 to 1975.
The special program begins an active year for Wings that reelected William A. Walker as president; Fred Schlafly, vice president; Larry Ploucha, secretary-legal counsel; William Rivenbark, treasurer, and Suzette Rice, board member.