“We live in the wind and the sand and our eyes are on the stars. Happy landings.”
„Silver Wings” tells the story of women pilots during the WW2 that hold civilian flight licenses, yet never will get the chance to fly but occasional flights and the luck to never fly in the war. The story is beautifully portraited within team work and interhuman relations and even love that rises beyond friendship between Lilly and Helen. There are many funny situations, but also tragic, like the death of one of their fellow pilots in a colide with a fellow cadet. The story is remembered by Lilly many years after and told to Joanne and her niece Ellie. The letters and the great structure of the novel is amazing and the characters are breathtaking. Lilly is decided to get beyond her husband’s reputation and his bad behavior towards her and she knows that she feels something special for Helen, but she hasn’t loved a woman before, nor anyone ever. Helen is a beautiful blonde with a short temper whom had flown planes during Hollywood movies, she has loved women before and she knows she won’t be able to escape Lilly’s Cuban Latino charm, yet she knows she won’t be able to have Lilly as she’s straight, at least until now. And after graduating they know they will go to different palces and they spend one mazing night and a few weeks in Lilly’s home in New York. Another interesting part in the plot is the marriage between on female pilot and a man of color, also a pilot somwhere else and their marriage is still forbidden in some American States, which makes them outlaws. After the war is over, suddently, they can’t fly planes anymore and somehow disturbs their personalities and they go back to what they were before, for example Lilly went back to playing the violin in the NY Philamonic Orchestra. I loved that they had nicknames : Lilly – Sleeping beauty because she overslept always and Helen – Hollywood because she had flown planes in movies and their secret ending of their letters : IWO instead of ILY (I Love You).
A brilliant read!
An open letter by 1st Lt Joanne Parsons
April 7th 2012
I am privileged
„To free up male pilots during WW2 over 1000 women holding civilian pilot licenses and meeting the entry criteria, left their jobs from all walks of life to undergo the same training as male pilots, becoming the first women authorized to fly military aircraft. They delivered planes, flew utility, became target practice for gunners and taught male pilots that flying the B-26 could be done, and some gave their life for their country… and they did all of this as civilians.
It wasn’t until the 1970’s that the government recognized their contribution and provided them with military status. In 1944, the experiment ended and those women returned to their lives, many never talked about what they had done during the war, even their families didn’t know.
Lily Rivera was twenty-five and a violinist in the NY Philharmonic Orchestra when she was accepted into the program. She graduated top cadet of her class and assigned to transit duties, she flew over nine-hundred hours in the WASP uniform by the time her service was completed. (When you consider that her service was a yearlong…that’s a lot of flying) including showing the men a thing or two in the infamous ‘Widowmaker.’
I am privileged
Lily and women like her fought prejudice, discrimination, and often, outright hostility. In doing so, they are the reason why when I chose to serve my country…the opportunity existed.
I am privileged
During her time as a WASP, Lily met the love of her life, Helen Richmond. Helen was a stunt pilot and occasional derby racer, who also rose to the call for female pilots. From the stories told, theirs was a love story worthy of an epic movie. Their relationship spanned decades that saw civil rights increase regardless of race, sex, or sexual orientation. They raised a family and ran a successful business, teaching their children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren to ‘Leave the world a better place than they found it.’ Their love did not even end with the death of Helen in 2008 at the age of ninety-two. I never had the opportunity to meet Helen, but I know that her legacy lives on in those that loved her.
I am privileged
I can honestly say that the time I spent with Lily both on that day in 2010, and beyond, opened my eyes and made me appreciate what I previously took for granted. She made me consider how I want the world to be when I leave it and how I would relish a love that would last a lifetime as she experienced. But, mostly, I am privileged to have met such an inspirational, funny, courageous and filthy-mouthed woman and I, as a strong independent privileged woman, salute her.
Liliana Rivera: 25 August 1918 – 31 March 2012″
March 8th 2010 – Washington, DC.
Joane Parsons meets Ellie and her grandma Lily
April 1943 – New York City
Helen and Lilly meet
“Walking back into the main office Helen smiled absently at the woman now sitting waiting to go in, her mind flashing back to her earlier exchange with the woman with dark soulful eyes and caramel skin that had been interviewed before her. It had been a while since she had shown an interest in any woman and their brief exchange had both calmed her pre-interview nerves while creating an altogether different flutter in her stomach. She was intrigued to see the name of the woman who had sparked such a response in her. She handed her papers over and furtively looked over the secretary’s shoulder to look at the list. She smiled to herself as she spotted the name on the line above her own,
Liliana McAllister, she thought, I sincerely hope the song is correct and that we do meet again.”
July 1943 – Sweetwater, Texas
The romantic violin scene
” Lily seemed to be growing in confidence as the day wore on. Her dark hair was pinned in a more relaxed style than the day of her interview; long lashes framed the dark brown eyes that held Helen captive anytime they were directed at her. Full lips that seemed to give Lily an almost continual sensual pout were currently pursed in concentration as she gave her attention to the speaker at the front of the room. Her long slender fingers absently beat a tattoo against her shin as she listened intently. As the speaker changed, Helen realized she had not heard a word spoken and reluctantly she returned her attention to the officers, however despite her best intentions her eyes continued to observe Lily.”
„As she entered the bay, she frowned at the empty room, although unwilling to admit it she had hoped that Lily would have been there. She rummaged through her case until she located a packet of cigarettes and a box of matches, taking the items she headed back out into the darkness of the night, which was still clinging to the oppressive heat from the day. She wandered around the base enjoying the relative peace, the quiet punctuated by sounds from the recreation room where all the current classes could gather. She lifted her head and blew smoke out into the night sky as she walked towards the flight line, inexplicably drawn towards the hangars where some of the planes were kept.
As she neared she could hear the sound of a violin, she walked towards where the haunting melody was playing, halting at the small door to the hangar. Highlighted by the shards of moonlight welcomed through the open aircraft doors stood Lily, her back to Helen as she swayed to music flowing from her fingers, which were dancing up and down the neck of her violin. Her movement accentuated the rise, fall, and flow of the music. Helen stood transfixed not just by the music but more by the sight of Lily.
Lily swept her bow across the strings for a final time; she stood still allowing the memory of the music to leave her body. She opened her eyes and jumped slightly as someone started to clap behind her. She turned lowering her violin and peered into the darkness only able to make out the red tip of a cigarette. She took a breath and relaxed as Helen stepped forward.
Lily turned, “You seem to be paying close attention to me Miss Richmond.”
“You intrigue me,” Helen answered honestly.”
August 1943 – Avenger Field, Sweetwater, Texas
Adrienne, Marjorie and Lucy together with Helen and Lily
They all have a story and a nickname : Lilly=Sleeping beauty and Helen =Hollywood
„Helen averted her gaze from the sight of a sweaty Lily rolling her hips around to ease her back.
Her attraction for Lily had only grown during the weeks as she got to know her better. Her brain knew that they could never be more than friends; however, her heart and other parts of her anatomy didn’t seem to be in on the message. The ease that the women felt around each other and their bodies only served to taunt Helen further. Despite her best efforts not to stare, Helen was fairly certain that she would be able to recite every aspect of Lily’s body, even down to the small dark freckle on Lily’s left breast. Helen was continually reminded of Peggy’s frustrated words the night before she came to base, when oblivious to Helen’s discomfort Lily would strip naked in front of her.”
„Helen’s senses were filled with Lily; she allowed herself a moment to bask in the thought that she was in the arms of the woman that she was slowly falling in love with. She mentally shook herself; this doesn’t mean a thing, we’re only dancing and there is no way that Lily had those sorts of feelings for me. Feeling uneasy at the closeness, Helen pulled away putting Lily at arm’s length again.”
„The music from the hangar was playing through all of the speakers across the base so as Helen walked she continued to be treated to the music being enjoyed by the rest of the base down on the flight line. She softly opened the door to their bay; Lily was sitting on her bed, her back to the door with her violin case beside her. At the noise of the door opening, she turned and looked surprised at Helen hovering in the doorway.
“What are you doing?” she asked.
Helen opened her mouth to speak but nothing came out. Her mind was a maelstrom of emotions and she was not able to pick the words to describe coherently what she was feeling. She swallowed hard and took a step into the room, “I just wanted to see that you were okay, the dance, we…”
“I’m fine Helen,” Lily interjected standing up; knowing she was anything but fine and that anytime she was close to Helen confusion grew in her.
Helen nodded slowly, unsure what to say next. “Okay,” she turned and took a step out onto the wooden veranda that ran the length of the bays. As she did the music over the tannoy changed, the saxophones and clarinets that had everyone jumping earlier were now soft and gentle and playing the soothing melody of ‘Moonlight Serenade’.
Lily’s feet propelled her towards the door and before she knew what she was doing she was standing in the doorway with one hand holding onto the doorframe.
“Dance with me?” she whispered towards Helen’s back.
Helen wasn’t sure whether she’d heard correctly or whether her mind had simply created the words that she so desperately wanted to hear. She turned slowly, her eyes locked on Lily’s. Gradually she let her eyes fall down towards Lily’s left hand, she took a step forward and ran her hand down the back of Lily’s hand, eventually lacing their fingers and lifting their hands up. Drawing her eyes from their hands, she looked deeply into Lily’s eyes as she took a half step towards her and slipped her other arm around Lily’s waist. Lily lifted her free hand and moving closer curling her arm around Helen’s body, placing her hand on Helen’s shoulder as they swayed to the music, their faces millimeters apart. They danced, never taking their eyes from each other, their feet shuffling on the dusty wooden floor of the veranda. The music sped up as the song came to a climax before hitting the final note. They stood unmoving in each other’s arms, their breathing becoming shallower at their close proximity.
Helen watched as she could see the battle being fought in Lily’s mind being played out across her face. Lily leaned in, her lips almost brushing Helen’s. As she neared she felt the Helen stiffen in her arms. Suddenly her nerves hitting like a train at full speed, she pulled her head back quickly.
“I should get back. Adele will be wondering where I’ve got to,” she reluctantly removed herself from Helen’s embrace and re-entered the bay to collect her violin. When she came back out Helen had gone.”
Helen is sleepwalking, so Lily helps her through by holding her during the nights, feelings revealed confuse her and make her realize what she feels for Helen.
„“Hello,” Helen said dryly to Lily, who was now lying on top of her facing the ceiling.
They heard a toilet flush as Lily turned her head slightly.
“Hi,” she replied sheepishly. “What is Adele doing?” she asked confused as she watched the tiny woman in the shower in her overalls.
“Laundry,” Adrienne replied, washing her hands and leaving the bathroom.
Lily nodded as if that was the most obvious thing in the world, “Ah, makes sense.”
Helen bit her lip, “Liliana?”
Lily turned again, “Hmm?”
Pulling a wet hand out from the water Helen swiveled her hand back and forth between them, “You’re on top of me, in my bath.”
“Oh God yes, sorry,” Lily apologized. She put her hands on the side of the tub, but was unable to get the momentum to push herself out. “Sorry,” she repeated, shifting and putting one hand into the water to get more downward force.
Helen squeaked as Lily’s hand landed in the gap between her thighs, she placed her hands onto the other woman’s soaked back and gave her a shove to help her get back out.
“Really sorry,” Lily blushed as she stood up and looked back down at Helen, a very naked and wet Helen. “I should let you,” she nodded her eyes focused on Helen’s breasts”
October 1943 – Avenger Field, Sweetwater Texas
Lily and Helen’s bath tub navigation study
„Lily’s eyes flitted from Helen’s eyes to her mouth and back to the blue eyes regarding her.
“Nothing,” she shook her head then took a deep breath. “Just…” she exhaled slowly and, leaning forward, pressed her lips against Helen’s. The blue eyes widened in shock then slowly closed as she melted into the kiss. She reached a hand up threading her fingers through Lily’s locks to hold her in place as she deepened the kiss, her tongue slipping into the warmth of Lily’s mouth.
Lily felt her heart rate increase as Helen’s actions ignited the fire that had been burning within her for weeks, the blaze threatened to consume her as her cheeks flushed. Her hands rose to Helen’s body propelled by no thought other than her desire.
Helen moaned against Lily’s mouth, as hands clutched desperately seeking some form of purchase that would increase the contact between their bodies. Stumbling backwards slightly, Helen’s hip brushed the small table with their glasses. She thrust her hand out behind her to steady the table only succeeding in knocking a lamp to the ground. The room was plunged into darkness as the lamp’s cable tore from the socket. Ignoring the destruction that they were causing, the two women shuffled towards the bed. Their progress slowed as determined hands clawed at clothing, desperate to rid the barriers stopping them feeling their skin pressed against each other.
Quickly unbuttoning Lily’s shirt, Helen peeled her mouth away and started to trail wet kisses down Lily’s neck. Her lips settling on Lily’s now throbbing pulse point, the blood flow so rapid that Helen stilled her lips to relish the feeling of Lily’s neck pounding against her mouth. She pushed Lily’s blouse over her shoulders, tossing it aside once she had freed the material from Lily’s’ body.
Lily threw her head back granting Helen more access to her sensitive neck as her fingers fumbled with the buttons on the blonde’s shirt, which were stubbornly halting her progress. Pulling the shirt from where it had been neatly tucked in, Lily focused her attention on operating fingers that, under normal circumstances, had no problem nimbly playing the most complex of music on her violin.
However, with Helen lavishing kisses on her neck, those usually compliant digits were struggling with the easiest of functions. She gave a small yell of satisfaction when finally the last of the buttons popped open, allowing her to rid Helen of the piece of clothing. She snaked her arms around the small frame of Helen’s torso, which was pressed tightly against her own. She dropped her head and started to kiss along Helen’s shoulder, shivering as she felt fingertips dance up her spine.
The dance stopped at the clasp of her bra, which was deftly released. Helen roughly pulled the underwear off, dropping down to capture a swollen nipple in her mouth. Lily’s knees threatened to give as every fiber of her body felt alive and craving the touch of Helen. She reached around the smaller woman to work the catch on Helen’s bra, pausing as her addled mind couldn’t process the direction required to open the catch from this new angle. She felt Helen’s lips spread into a smile against her breast, as the blonde woman removed her hands from Lily and reached around to her back to undo her own bra, allowing it to drop to the floor between them.
Grasping Helen’s face Lily pulled her back up, so that she could kiss the lips that had been teasing her breast so expertly. Exploring Helen’s mouth with her tongue she tentatively cupped Helen’s breast, her touch gaining in confidence with each soft moan that echoed it. She felt the back of Helen’s hand brush against her stomach, followed by the waistband of her skirt loosen as Helen unbuttoned it and pushed it over her hips until it fell to her ankles.
Never removing her lips, or hands, from exploring, Lily toed off her shoes and stepped backwards out of her clothing, the heel of her foot caught the edge of her earlier discarded suitcase causing her to fall backwards onto the bed. They landed with a soft bounce on the mattress.
Using her position to her advantage Helen removed the remnants of Lily’s clothing before hurriedly casting the last of her own garments aside. She stood at the bottom of the bed, her head tilting slightly as she regarded Lily lying naked on the bed, her dark locks strewn like a halo around her head.
Lily watched as the look of lust that had been in Helen’s eyes disappeared. She had a moment of panic that the blonde was having second.
Lily watched as the look of lust that had been in Helen’s eyes disappeared. She had a moment of panic that the blonde was having second thoughts, before she placed the look that was now on Helen’s face, it was a look that she recognized from the myriad of expressions she’d seen animate Helen’s face over the time they’d known each other.
This one resembled the look that would appear when she spoke about flying.
This look was one of awe.
Helen smiled softly. She’d seen Lily naked before. Living in each other’s pockets the way that they did in the bay Helen was sure that by now every woman knew every freckle and blemish, on each other’s bodies. However, this was different. This time, Lily was naked for her.
She caught brown eyes looking at her in wonder and struggled to find power in her voice to ask the question, but she needed to. Despite the fact that a response of no would break her heart irreparably.
“Are you sure?” she asked tentatively.
“Never more sure of anything,” Lily replied confidently.
With a smile Helen leaned down and started to kiss her way slowly up Lily’s thigh. Their eyes locked as she continued her progress, Lily bit her bottom lip trying to control her breathing. When eventually Helen’s lips concluded their torturous trail towards Lily’s mouth, she lowered her body down on top of Lily relishing the sensation.
Lily’s breathing quickened as she held Helen’s face in place plunging her tongue into the blonde’s mouth in a searing kiss. Hips moved involuntarily, moaning as they found the friction that they desperately longed for. Helen groaned into Lily’s mouth, she trailed her fingers down hot skin, drawn toward the heat of Lily’s center. Lily bucked her hips as finally, Helen’s fingertips caressed her where she needed, arching her back she moaned and sensing her need, Helen wasted no time with teasing as she built up a steady rhythm.
Lily’s stomach and thigh muscles contracted in time with the rhythm created by Helen, until finally the tension built up by Helen’s ministrations released in an explosion and Lily’s lungs emptied in a massive rush.”
„Lily and Helen sat with the rest of their bay during a lively breakfast, each stealing glances as their minds escaped the chatter that surrounded them and took them back to moments during the night. Helen sat smirking as she recalled the ‘flying’ lesson that Lily had given her earlier.
“Don’t you look like the cat that ate the cream?” Adrienne remarked with a raised eyebrow at Helen’s expression.”
December 1943 – Avenger Field, Sweetwater, Texas
„Still thinking about the separation that could soon be forced upon them, Lily lay unable to sleep. She pulled her blankets from her bed and as she had done countless times before she rose and slipped into the cot beside Helen. The blonde stirred and sleepily whispered, “Was I having a nightmare?”
“Shh, no. I just wanted to hold you,” Lily whispered in her ear.
Helen smiled and sighed happily. Her eyes sprang open as she felt a warm hand start to wander beneath her pajama top.
“What are you doing?” she hissed quietly as she felt fingers graze her breast.
Lily gave a soft chuckle against her ear, “Checking your wobble pump.”
Any protest that Helen was about to mutter was stilled as she felt Lily’s hand trail down her stomach and underneath the waistband of her bottoms.
“You need to be really quiet,” Lily whispered. “I need you and we might not have a lot of time left,” she started to dot kisses beneath Helen’s ear as she felt the blonde woman push her body further into hers, writhing against her touch.
Helen closed her eyes and concentrated on Lily’s caresses, as Lily’s rhythm increased she felt the pressure build within her and, conscious of making any noise, she turned her face into her pillow burying into it to muffle the sound that she was unable to stop from leaving her lips as her body shuddered into a climax.”
December 1943 – New York
„Helen felt as though someone had placed a hand on her chest and pushed her back into her seat, her back flush against the cushioned fabric. Her heart thumped as Lily swayed with each movement of her bow, she listened as the music that had captured her attention those months ago in an aircraft hangar, was now being played on the stage at Carnegie Hall by the woman who had also captivated her heart and soul.
She felt wetness on her cheek as the depth of emotion that she felt for Lily overawed her, tears of joy left her eyes and trickled down her face. Lily paused with her eyes closed as she played the final note, standing with her bow in place as if she was going to continue. Helen leapt to her feet and applauded.
“Merry Christmas,” Lily shouted from the stage, bringing her hand up to shield her eyes so she could see down into the stalls and see the eyes of the woman she loved.”
February 1944, Dodge City Army Air Base, Dodge City, Kansas
„The guard had taken the orders and reviewed them with a suspicious look on his face, he moved back into the guardhouse taking her papers with him. Helen waited kicking her toe idly against the rubber of her motorcycle’s front wheel. Ten minutes later he reappeared shaking his head. She walked back towards him.
“Says here you’re a pilot. That right?” he asked, handing the papers back.
Helen practically snatched the papers from his hand annoyed at his condescending tone, “That’s right, I’m a pilot.”
He gave a chuckle, “That’s about the most insane thing I think I’ve heard. I wouldn’t get in a car with my wife driving it never mind up in a plane with a woman flying it.””
March 1944 – Las Vegas Army Air Field, Las Vegas, Nevada
There’s rumors of some of us being selected for bomber training
March 1944 – Dodge City Army Air Base, Dodge City, Kansas
Helen was shot at with real bullets while flying
April 1944 – Tyndall Army Air Base,Panama City, Florida
Lily and Adrienne fly bombings together
May 1944 – Dodge City Army Air Base, Dodge City, Kansas
„Thanks to acing their training, they had been selected as part of a scheme to show male pilots that the B-26 could be flown safely, they were to tour bases flying the B-26’s. They wouldn’t be returning to their own base for a number of weeks until they’d visited their share of the bomber bases.”
July 1944 – Dodge City Army Air Base, Dodge City, Kansas
Crazy love making after a long time
„Lily checked the hallway to make sure she was unobserved; she pulled the zip down on the front of her zoot suit and shrugged the overall from her shoulders letting it fall to her feet, revealing her nakedness underneath. Helen’s eyes widened and she shot her head out of the doorway scanning the hall she grabbed Lily’s arm and yanked her inside, Lily stumbled slightly on her zoot suit, puddled around her ankles. Helen simultaneously closed the door and pulled Lily to her, her hands tangled in Lily’s dark locks as she kissed her furiously with a kiss full of seven month’s worth of longing. They lost themselves in the kiss as finally the dreams of being together that each had had were given a corporeal outlet.
Lily shook her legs to liberate her feet from the confines of her flight overall, giving a quiet yelp of victory against Helen’s mouth when she was free. They pulled apart breathlessly.
“I thought I’d come say hi,” Lily whispered her hands slipped down to toy with the waistband of Helen’s shorts.
“I’m glad you did, I believe you had a reverse thrust landing procedure that you wanted to share with me?” Helen asked, grinning pulling her t-shirt over her head. Lily gave her a broad smile.
“I do,” she replied, quirking her eyebrows and pushing Helen’s bed shorts over her hips. Stepping out of the clothing, Helen took Lily’s hand and led her towards her bed, pushing Lily gently onto the cot; Helen lowered her body slowly against her lover. Their breaths caught as they felt their skin connect. Helen swallowed hard, feeling her eyes brim with tears as she became overwhelmed with the depths of her feeling.
“I love you,” she whispered, as she fought to keep the emotion from consuming her.
Lily let her hands run slowly up from Helen’s backside, up her sides, enjoying the feel of Helen’s contours. She gripped Helen’s face and brought their lips close. “I love you too.”
She pressed her lips gently against Helen’s. They took their time to build the kiss up; sensuously reacquainting themselves with the others taste and feel. Their hips started to move pushing against each other as the desire that that they had been unable to express for so many months started to engulf them.
Helen reached a hand down between then groaning softly as she realized how much Lily had missed her, she allowed her fingers to tease slowly before neither of them could take the slow pace any longer. Lily’s back arched as she felt the exquisite sensation of Helen inside of her, they moved together their bodies creating a captivating dance as they flowed together, until finally their movement stilled as Lily’s muscles trembled. Her hands grabbed at the thin mattress beneath her, her grip so tight she could feel the blood pulsing through her fingers as she thrust her hips towards Helen, her head snapped back and her mouth opened in a silent scream. The tension released from her body as she relaxed back onto the mattress gazing up at Helen with brown eyes, hazy from her climax and the love she felt.
“I’ve missed you so much,” she smiled, reaching up to tuck a strand of hair behind Helen’s ear. Helen planted a soft kiss on Lily’s lips.
“I’ve missed you too.”
Lily pulled Helen tight to her, they lay for a moment before Helen husked into Lily’s ear, “So, reverse thrust?”
Lily’s body shook with her chuckle. “I should probably be in the pilot seat for that,” she grinned maneuvering them carefully in the small cot so that she was on top.”
„At exactly the same time, the other Bay Four women in their own locations were mirroring that same signal, this their agreed tribute to mark the anniversary of Adele’s death. Each sent the message into the night’s sky that they had repeated over her coffin that day in the funeral home.”
19th December 1944
„Two hours later after repeated questioning the military police weren’t getting anywhere, both detainees were consistent with their stories. They had thrown Helen and Stewie into separate cells to wait while they called the Dodge base to check out their story. Helen folded up her heavy leather jacket into a makeshift pillow, lay down on the small bed, and waited for them to come back. Automatically, when not thinking about flying, Helen’s mind would settle on her other favorite thing in life… Liliana.”
March 8th 2010 – Washington, DC
„“You trying to get me drunk, flygirl?” Lily quipped, winking at Joanne. “I’d rather go in now and drink later.””
WASPs on flight line at Laredo AAF, Texas, 22 January 1944. (U.S. Air Force photo)