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The Fly Girls Revolt: The Story of the Women Who Kicked Open the Door to Fly in Combat (Hardcover)
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This is the untold story of the women military aviators of the 1970s and 1980s who kicked open the door to fly in combat in 1993—along with the story of the women who paved the way before them.
In 1993, U.S. women earned the right to fly in combat, but the full story of how it happened is largely unknown. From the first women in the military in World War II to the final push in the 1990s, The Fly Girls Revolt chronicles the actions of a band of women who overcame decades of discrimination and prevailed against bureaucrats, chauvinists, anti-feminists, and even other military women.
Drawing on extensive research, interviews with women who served in the 1970s and 1980s, and her personal experiences in the Air Force, Eileen Bjorkman weaves together a riveting tale of the women who fought for the right to enter combat and be treated as equal partners in the U.S. military.
Although the military had begun training women as aviators in 1973, by a law of Congress they could not fly in harm’s way. Time and again when a woman graduated at the top of her pilot training class, a less-qualified male pilot was sent to fly a combat aircraft in her place.
Most of the women who fought for change between World War II and today would never fly in combat themselves, but they earned their places in history by strengthening the U.S. military and ensuring future women would not be denied opportunities solely because of their sex. The Fly Girls Revolt is their story.
About the Author
Eileen Bjorkman is a retired Air Force colonel. She was a flight test engineer during her Air Force career, flying more than 700 hours in twenty-five different types of military aircraft, including fighters such as the F-4 and F-16. She is also a civilian pilot and is the author of The Propeller Under the Bed and Unforgotten in the Gulf of Tonkin.
“The Fly Girls Revolt plugs long-standing gaps both in the history of women in flight and in American military history. Written with passion, insight, and the perspective only an insider can bring, it furnishes heretofore missing background and detail that overturns much of the conventional wisdom of how women won their own right to fly and fight. Filled with memorable quotes and anecdotes from the women themselves, this book is certain to be a go-to reference for years to come. Eileen Bjorkman, who lived much of the history that she writes, has given her readers a rare treasure.”
— Dr. Richard P. Hallion, United States Air Force Historian, 1991-2022
“There have been two compelling long-term changes in the military since World War II: racial integration of the forces, and bringing women in as fully equal members. The latter includes elimination of barriers to serve in combat and all other operational and support roles. Eileen Bjorkman has deftly woven her own experiences into the broad story of the hundreds of women and men who fought to make gender equality a reality—despite overwhelming opposition. This is a tale that should be read by every serving member of the armed forces and by all government officials in policy-making positions. A remarkably riveting story.”
— Colonel Scott Willey, USAF (Ret), Book Review Editor, Air and Space Power History
“Looking back, the opportunity for women to fly combat aircraft seems inevitable, but The Fly Girls Revolt shows us how the inevitable was only acquired through the vision and determination of military women who worked stubbornly and tirelessly to drive the changes in policy, rules, and leaders’ minds required to gain entry into combat squadrons and cockpits. Eileen Bjorkman skillfully weaves her own career as a flight test engineer into the movement’s broader events and challenges to tell a well-researched and compelling story. Must reading for all who aspire to lead change in the American military, or anyplace else.”
— General James M. “Mike” Holmes, USAF (Ret), former Commander, Air Combat Command
“Eileen Bjorkman’s book is riveting for any reader but especially for those of us who personally experienced much of the saga she so expertly chronicles. The tenor of my own US Air Force career, which had several touch points with Eileen’s, is well captured in this story. I entered the Air Force as part of the first class of women to graduate from the Air Force Academy in 1980 and I retired thirty-five years later as the first woman four star general in the Air Force. Shortly after I retired, I began service as the longest tenured Chair of DACOWITS, a pivotal entity that features prominently in The Fly Girls Revolt. I can unequivocally state that this is a story that needed to be told, both from an historical perspective and on behalf of the many women who were a part of it. I speak for all of these women in expressing profound gratitude to Eileen for bringing our story to life for others to reflect on, learn from, and act on. As Eileen notes, in order to tap all the talent this country has to offer, much works remains to improve the recruitment and retention of women in our military services. I believe that work is a national security imperative.”
— General Janet Wolfenbarger, USAF, (Ret)