They must have been so proud of their work that they just had to sign it. Four women scrawled their names in a secret place they probably thought no one would ever see.
Nearly 70 years later, the signatures have come to light.
An airplane restorer has discovered the autographs of four Rosie the Riveters inside the wing of a Corsair fighter built in Akron during World War II.
Goodyear Aircraft constructed more than 4,000 Corsairs for the Navy and Marine Corps during the war. The production goal was ”a plane every eight minutes” at the local plant.
Built from 1942 to 1945, the lightweight, single-pilot fighters soared at 400 mph and had ”gull wings” that folded up for storage on aircraft carriers.
Maj. Ceryl Johns, 65, a native of Wales who lives in Charlotte, N.C., learned of the Akron relic when he landed at Cheraw Airport in South Carolina. He is a former British naval officer who is group commander of six squadrons for the Air Force Auxiliary Civil Air Patrol.
”In a small airfield, really out of the way, called Cheraw, there’s a guy down there, and he’s got a bunch of old aircraft that he refurbishes,” Johns said. ”He’s got everything from a P-51D to a British Folland Gnat.
”I was there the other day in my helicopter, just visiting, and in passing, he said, ‘Oh, I’ve got a Corsair out the back in pieces.’ So I went around and had a look, and sure enough, it’s in pieces. It was stacked up against the wall.”
Airport Manager Wendell Hall hopes to get the 1943 Corsair back in flying condition at his repair shop. It will be a slow, painstaking process.
The Corsair’s owner, Barry Avent, imported the plane from New Zealand, where it was found wheels up in 1974 at an Auckland scrap yard. It was one of a handful of Corsairs left behind in New Zealand at the war’s end.
”The cost of restoration will not be known until it is finished,” Johns said. ”Because of the rarity of spares, this could take some time, with some more modern flight instruments being substituted as the project progresses.”
Four names found
While stripping down left wing No. 572-3L, Hall was surprised to find that four women had left their signatures on masking tape plastered against interior metal.
The signatures appear to read ”Pauline & Lovina” and ”Allie Mac [or Allie Mae] & Kitty.”
They apparently wrote them while working on the Goodyear Aircraft assembly line in 1943. All four women would be in their 80s or 90s today.
”What I was looking to do was try and reunite these ladies with their aircraft,” Johns said. ”If they’re not still alive, maybe some of their family.”
Last year, the Beacon Journal published a similar story about the signature ”Smitty” discovered in an engine panel of an Akron Corsair being restored at the Fleet Air Arm Museum in the English village of Yeovilton, Somerset.
We narrowed down the list of likely candidates to Massillon’s Lilly Ethel Smith, a ”Rosie the Riveter” who often signed her work at Goodyear. She died in 1985.
Now we have four more women to identify.
Johns, whose 89-year-old mother served during the London blitz, is interested in preserving living history for future generations.
”I appreciate the efforts that our parents and grandparents put into the WWII war effort,” he said. ”Without them, no one could have fought this war to its eventual conclusion.
”When these ladies have gone, there will be no firsthand knowledge of these events. Furthermore, their stories of these events will be the last time that the teaching of history will not have to be interpreted from a book.”
He snapped photographs of the Corsair signatures and wants Beacon Journal readers to take a close look.
”If you put them anywhere in the paper, someone will recognize their writing,” Johns said. ”That would be good fun.”
Anyone who can identify the workers is asked to e-mail Johns at firstname.lastname@example.org or call him at 704-277-0934 or 704-845-9259.
Pauline, Lovina, Allie and Kitty, are you reading this?
You built a nice airplane. Someday it will fly again.
An earlier post suggested that the RNZAF recover their Corsair from the Solomons . Why not invoke the USN rule that they never passed ownership over even though the aircraft went down. What would it really take ?