In 2009, the House of Representatives awarded Jane Tedeschi the Congressional Gold Medal, one of the nation’s highest civilian honors. At the time she was one of about 300 surviving Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) who received the commendation.
“I’ll never forget how impressive the ceremony in Washington, D.C. was, with members of Congress, military officials and seeing how much it meant to mom and all the other women,” said her son Alan Tedeschi. “Mom was assisted in her wheel chair throughout the day by a very attentive U.S. Air Force representative. It was an afternoon of respect, appreciation and a great moment for these women pioneers of military aviation.”
Jane is now 97 years old and a resident at Brookdale Parkplace in Denver. As a young woman she longed to fly and in the early 1940s took lessons from a friend in Bethesda, Maryland. She continued instruction and in 1943 became one of nearly 1,100 women to first fly U.S. military aircraft.
WASP was created primarily to provide a wide range of flying duties stateside so male pilots could go to the frontline. Assigned to Craig Army Air Field in Selma, Alabama, she flew planes from base to base, mostly across the south and southwest United States. In addition to ferrying planes from nearly 120 locations, the WASPs flew night exercises, tested repaired aircrafts, pulled targets in tow for live ammunition gunnery practice and were instructors. Planes they flew included AT-6 trainers, A-24 attack aircraft and B-17 heavy bombers.
“Mom says there were many challenging missions, especially the live ammunition targeting, long nights in the air and flying by only radar in severe weather,” Alan said.
The WASPs were civilians and officially in a non-combat role, but the work could be hazardous and nearly forty lost their lives. The program was eliminated toward the end of the war and no real recognition or help came until 1977 when WASPs were made eligible for veterans’ benefits. The Congressional Gold Medal Ceremony finally shed light on their vital contribution to the war effort.
After the war, Jane met and married Romolo Tedeschi, a former POW in Germany. They lived in Endicott, New York and then in Bethany, Connecticut where she taught public school. The late Romolo was an executive for The Lower Naugatuck Valley Chamber of Commerce in Shelton, Connecticut. Jane moved to Brookdale Park Place in 2014.
Jane and her son Alan enjoy sharing her stories, photos, letters and memorabilia. She will soon donate these items to the National WASP WWII Museum in Sweetwater, Texas, where she trained at Avenger Field.