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Oregon WASP Flies “Pistol Packin’ Mama” Bomber

A Klamath Falls woman became a famous pilot during World War II after pictures of her and other pilots of her gender appeared in glamour magazines and war-time advertisements.

The woman, Blanche Osborn, was an officer at the Klamath Falls airport in 1943 when she and more than 25,000 other women sought to become WASPS, the acronym that stands for Women’s Air Force Service Pilots.  She was one of only 1,074 who graduated.  After training at Avenger Field in Texas, she went to Ohio to pilot a B-17 Flying Fortress bomber.

WASPS like Osborn assumed jobs delivering planes from factories, towing targets for gunnery practice, and training cadet pilots.  They flew more than 60 million miles.  After a year at Fort Meyers, Fla., Osborn went to the Las Vegas gunnery school to test repaired aircraft.  She and three other women were photographed and used in advertisements for clothing and historical chronicles. Their most famous photograph featured them walking away from a Flying Fortress named “Pistol Packin’ Mama.”

Later, Osborn joined the Red Cross and spent time in China.  After she married Willis Bross she moved to Portland and developed a seaplane base with her husband. 

Source: "WASP Blanche Osburn Bross, 43-W-6 ." WASP Final Flight. 23 July 2008. Web. 25 Oct. 2015. http://waspfinalflight.blogspot.com/2008/07/wasp-blanche-osburn-bross-43-w-6.html;  Cliff, Patrick. "Female pilots honored for WWII service." The Bulletin 4 July 2009 [Bend, Ore.] . Web. 25 Oct. 2015. .

Maryann Mason has taught history and English in the U.S. Midwest and Northwest, and Bolivia. She has written history spots for local public radio, interviewed mystery writers for RVTV Noir, and edited personal and family histories.  Her poetry has appeared in Sweet Annie & Sweet Pea Review (1999), Rain Magazine (2007), and The Third Reader, an online Journal of Literary Fiction and Poetry. In 2008 she published her first chapbook, Ravelings.  She organized a History Day for Southern Oregon.