Women’s Memorial Honors Marie Robinson’s Memory with Personal Artifacts Exhibit

The newest special exhibit at the Women’s Memorial features
personal artifacts found at the scene of the crash that
killed WASP Marie Michell Robinson.

Marie Michell Robinson had only been married two brief weeks when she volunteered to take a flight for another Woman Airforce Service Pilot (WASP) who was ill. It would be the last flight Marie would ever make.

Born on May 23rd, 1924, in Detroit, MI, Marie joined the WASP in September 1942 when she was just 19. A requirement for WASP eligibility, she already had her private pilots license when she reported to Avenger Field in Sweetwater, TX, where she graduated March 13, 1944.

First assigned to Love Field, Dallas, TX, she was soon transferred to Victorville Army Air Field, CA. On Oct. 2, 1944, just seven months after graduation, Marie’s roommate was scheduled to co-pilot a B-25D bomber, but was suffering from a toothache. Marie, who jumped at any opportunity to fly, volunteered to take her place. Tragically, the plane crashed over the Mojave Desert, killing Robinson as well as the two male crewmembers on the flight with her.

Following the Army’s recovery of the wreckage and the crew’s remains, Marie’s new husband accompanied her remains home to Michigan and her grief strickened family. Until that time, Marie’s family was unaware that she had eloped, marrying MAJ Hampton Robinson, an Army surgeon she’d met in Dallas.

“She is not dead/But only flying higher/Higher than she’s flown before…” Marie’s brief service with the WASP was eulogized in the now well-known poem “Celestial Flight,” a piece written by her friend and fellow WASP Elizabeth MacKethan Magid.

For over 60 years, the young WASP’s story ended there, with grief, honor, and a poem. But in 2005, her brother, Roy Michell, received a phone call from a stranger in California who had recovered personal items from the plane’s crash site.

The stranger, David Schurhammer, and two other amateur aviation archeologists, had spent more than a year combing the desert in search of the wreckage, unsure of what they would find. While the Army had removed most of the plane more than six decades earlier, the three miraculously located personal items still lying in the sand from all three crewmembers. Marie’s WASP insignia, diamond ring, nail file, earrings and an identification bracelet given to her by her mother when she joined the WASP, were among the items as well as metal pieces from her watch, which had stopped at 1:40 PM, the time of the crash. All were returned to Marie’s brother, Roy, who generously donated the items to the Women’s Memorial Foundation so that Marie’s story would be a visible part of America’s military history for all time.

Today, the treasured artifacts compliment the FlyGirls of World War II exhibit, which opened in Nov. 2008 and will be on display in the main gallery of the Women’s Memorial until Nov. 2009. The artifacts of WASP Marie Michell Robinson are a physical manifestation of the courage and dedication of all the WASP and the sacrifices they and their loved ones made for their country. To learn more about theFlyGirls of World War II exhibit and to find links to more WASP information, visit our coverage of the exhibit opening on our Web site.

(January 2009)