MONTVILLE, NJ - Re-enactor Carol Levin Simon performed at the Montville Township Public Library last Wednesday, March 25 to tell the story of Ann Baumgartener Carl, a woman who not only piloted aircraft during World War II but tested experimental airplanes for the U.S. Air Force.
Carl grew up in New Jersey and held several unusual jobs before she visited Somerset Hills Airport in 1941 and started pilot lessons. She had been interested in aircraft since her childhood, and Amelia Earhart even visited her school when she was 14 years old. She eventually bought a small plane with a friend but after the attack on Pearl Harbor it was grounded because all planes within 75 miles of the coast line had to have their wings removed. She became a plane spotter in Bernardsville, looking for signs of enemy invasion in the air at night.
Carl was able to attend military flight school in 1943, but the women who attended flight school were neither members of the military nor paid and supplied as military contractors. Conditions were poor, and the women were not provided housing or even uniforms.
Upon her graduation, she became a member of what came to be called the WASPs, the Women Airforce Service Pilots. Many WASPs were assigned “ferrying,” or bringing newly constructed planes to their destinations. Carl ferried but eventually was assigned to Wright Air Force Base in Ohio (now called Wright-Patterson) and tested experimental aircraft. She was the first woman to fly a jet plane in the United States.
In 1944 the WASP program was disbanded. Simon explained that the war’s parameters changed to ground force invasions, and the male pilots protested against being assigned to ground force units and therefore took over the women’s positions.
Carl married, became a flight instructor, and wrote a book about her experiences.
Simon has several other re-enactment programs and can be reached via http://tellingherstories.com/.