Naval History and Heritage Command’s National Naval Aviation Museum in Pensacola, Fla., is opening a new exhibit featuring the path women have taken from their support of naval aviation as “yeomanettes” to pilots on the front lines March 21.
“I think the museum has created a marvelous, lasting tribute to all the women who have made naval aviation what it is today – the best in the world,” said Capt. Henry J. Hendrix, Ph.D., director of the Naval History and Heritage Command. “Given this year’s Women’s History Month theme is focused on STEM (science, technology, engineering and math), it’s a great place to see naval history in action making our Navy – and our country – better.”
The centerpiece of the new exhibit, “From Typewriters to Strike Fighters,” is a video wall on which appear historic images and footage of women in naval service and excerpts of interviews conducted by museum staff members.
Some of the groundbreaking women featured in the video are Chief of Navy Reserve Vice Adm. Robin Braun and Capt. Tami Riley, both members of the first all-female E-2 Hawkeye combat crew, Operation Iraqi Freedom Marine helicopter pilot Capt. Cera Benbow; Coast Guard search and rescue helicopter pilot Lt. Cmdr. Ally Shuler; retired Capt. Judith Neuffer Bruner, the second female to receive her wings; and former Navy jet pilots Jill Nelson and Pat Denkler, the latter the first woman aviator to carrier qualify in a jet aircraft.
The exhibit is unique in the museum in that it will be constantly evolving. As more interviews are conducted, they will be edited and added to the video presentation, telling new stories of women in naval aviation.
The first women to support naval aviation were the World War I “yeomanettes,” who performed administrative and clerical duties in Washington, D.C., and aboard naval facilities around the country. One of them was Joy Bright, who during World War II would receive a commission and eventually become the director of the WAVES, Women Accepted for Voluntary Emergency Service.
Some of the artifacts displayed in the exhibit include original uniforms on loan from the Naval History and Heritage Command, the uniform of one of the 122 flight nurses commissioned during World War II, flight equipment worn by three of the first four designated women naval aviators, including Lt. Cmdr. Barbara Allen Rainey, who became the first woman to receive her wings of gold in February 1974.
The conceptual development, design and construction of the exhibit, acquisition and placement of artifacts, oral history interviews, and editing/production were all accomplished by museum staff members and volunteers. The latter included female Sailors assigned to the Naval Air Technical Training Center who participate in the museum’s active duty volunteer program.
Hendrix will formally open the exhibit after an introduction and comments by National Naval Aviation Museum Director, retired Capt. Robert Rasmussen.
Former Navy jet pilots Jill Nelson and Pat Denkler will be available for interviews along with active duty personnel who participated in the exhibit through interviews or the donation of artifacts.
For more information on attending the opening, contact Hill Goodspeed at 850-452-3604 x 3135.