Pan Am, Karen, Helen Davey discussed on Household Name

Household Name
|

Automatic TRANSCRIPT

That were written by soldiers to flight attendants on their flight somewhere written on whatever scrap paper might be on hand. Sometimes, it's the tray liner from their meal tray. Sometimes, it's the BARF Bag Pan Am's annual report from nineteen sixty seven included clippings of letters. Servicemen have written about their Arnuhar's one letter signed by quote, an extremely Happy Group of Gi's said you the stewardesses aboard are not required to give of yourself by working in the doors. Performing a task, your own volition, perhaps satisfy your services, your smiles in your quick to please attitudes. Meaningful to us but there's another thing that struck Scott in the research he did for his exhibit as I started to reach out to other aviation history institutions and. Military History Archives, and other kinds of museums and stuff like that. I realized how little of this material had been collected? The Pan Am stewardesses weren't quite military but they weren't quite civilians. They technically didn't serve but they definitely did serve. In nineteen seventy-three, the last American combat troops withdrew from Vietnam. penam had been gradually phasing out its on our flights but in the last year of the war, the airline was called in to help out one more time. Thousands of south. Vietnamese children have been orphaned by the war and the US government had launched operation baby lift a mission to transport some of them to the. Where they'd wait for adoption. Save Five Air Force cargo plane carrying the first flight that left was a military plane with almost two hundred and fifty kids on board from the government ordered air lift crashed in a rice patty near Saigon just minutes after takeoff there been an issue with a cargo door. But for all anyone knew at the time, the plane had been shot down almost half the passengers died many of them children that day a Pan Am crew. Was told you're flying in tomorrow. One of the people aboard was Karen. Walker Ryan the stewardess who was asked to check her playing for sniper fire. We had seen the day four on the news in the hotel picture of that smoking big airplane and there it was on the runway we taxied right by it. Again, Karen had no special training no fancy equipment. So we got all these bottles ready just hundreds of bottles of milk. And we had all these cardboard bassinet shots that were covered in Pam blew over four hundred babies and children were loaded onto. Karen's plane squeezed into bassinet under each seat strapped two or three to a seat belt. I'm being handed all these babies one after another. Go down the aisle, fight a place to put them. Everyone's screaming. It's hot. All these babies are crying. Once. We got the engines going and got that plane. Cool down. I think out of just sheer exhaustion. So many of these babies fell asleep. Then it was kind of frantic going around and finding the babies that needed to go up to the doctors in First Class. Everyone was on the hunt looking for babies has a look as he breathing I. Really put your face down real close make sure you get a breath. Karen didn't get any advance preparation or special payment for her work on the baby left. She didn't get a medal for her service that day or for any of the on our flight chief Lou. In fact, as far as anyone knows none of the Pan Am, stewardesses got any formal recognition for the danger they put themselves in and that danger didn't just when the are flights did a lot of those guys did come straight out of the field and they were dusted with all kinds of toxins and there was some issues that I know Pan Am flight attendants address. Later saying we were exposed to Agent Orange we should be getting the same va benefits. Are Gi's Scott but we never got that I spoke to one Pan Am stewardess named Gail Larsen. She was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease seven years ago and she believes Agent Orange Exposure on the Arnuhar's could have contributed she wrote a letter to her senators about it saying that the military acknowledges Agent Orange Can Cause Parkinson's I've read it on their websites particularly for the administration and I just wanted to call that to our attention that maybe some of the flight attendants as well had a contract at some of these health issues because of their work flying in and out of Vietnam the letter ends quote. If. There's help available in the form of medical or financial assistance for former Panam flight attendants who were part of the Vietnam War experience. I would appreciate information on how to go about getting it. I'm a single woman with no children have a limited income and will need more care and the not. So distant future that I could not afford. She says she never a reply. Some of the pilots on these flights received combat pay for flying into a war zone. Some got certificates of recognition and appreciation from the US military the flight attendants did not. And it's not just formal recognition that's missing. In fact, most people don't know them for anything beyond the gourmet meals and swanky uniforms. Here's Helen Davey. We used to feel quite insulted at the way people would think of us because. They just wanted to hear juicy little stories about what happens between the stewardesses and men. And Oh my goodness. It was so much more than that award those Pan Am planes. Helen, learn that she had a knack for connecting to people for listening to them seeing soldiers on hospital beds watching them jolt up when she woke them from a nap, she was face to face with raw human emotion. It was like nothing I had ever seen these were the faces of trauma and I I could just feel it. It was thick in the air. I just wanted to help the Mall Helen became Dr. Davy she studied psychoanalysis and started a career as a therapist with a focus on suffering grief and loss I learned more about people on airplanes than I have ever learned in school. It was the best education in the world. In the years after Vietnam many of the stewardesses kept flying for Pan Am. But the world was changing a Pan Am and other airlines stewardesses challenged pregnancy and marriage bands and weight limits block stewardesses pushed for more inclusive hairstyles. So they could wear afros and braids male stewards fought to be hired even the name of the job itself stewardess was changed to flight attendant. And life moved on. We'll all these other hugely important changes were being made. The aren't flights faded into history. The women who flew them didn't get credit. For the most part the ones I spoke to told me, they were okay with that to me a piece of paper rewarding your service for now it doesn't make any difference. I.

Coming up next