Service and sacrifice for country
The B-25 began to rattle and shudder violently against extremely hard winds, gusting at 45 mph.
Lt. Hinton Daniel and WASP pilot Marie Sharon frantically fought to maintain altitude and control. Suddenly, the nose wheel door began to twist with a screeching metallic sound. The hinges gave way in the wind and the door flew away, slamming into the right side motor. Sixty-five miles south of Omaha, Nebraska, there was smoke, the engine failed, and the bomber lunged into a nose-first dive. It shattered in pieces as it hit the ground and buried itself deep into a farmer’s field.
Born Marie Cihler in Forsyth, Montana, April 21, 1917, Marie was a Women’s Airforce Service Pilot, a WASP, one of 1,074 women who flew military airplanes within the United States for the U.S. Army Air Corps during WWII.
This was one of Marie’s navigational training flights in the bomber. She was working toward a Class IV Army pilot rating, a rating allowing her to fly two-engine medium bombers and heavy transports. Only 59 of the WASP women would ever earn that rating.
It had been a nomadic life for Marie. By 1922 the family had moved 300 miles west to Helena, Montana, and within a few years, they were on the move again, this time to Vancouver, Washington, just across the Columbia River from Portland. Here, on Sept. 5, 1930, there was a shocking tragedy.
“While his little daughter fought in vain to prevent him from taking his life,” the newspaper reported, “John Cihler, [Marie’s father] swallowed poison at his home last night and died a short time later. His act followed a quarrel with his wife.” That “little daughter” was 13-year old Marie.
Marie, her mother, and older sister moved to Portland, where Marie graduated from Jefferson High School. Before the war, she worked as a stenographer and cashier for a retail laundry.
She had once again followed her mother and was living in Bend when she signed up for the WASP program. Before she began her training at Avenger Field, in Sweetwater, Texas, Feb. 13, 1943, Marie married Horace Sharon. Shortly after the wedding, he joined the Navy and left for the war.
Marie was the 16th of 38 WASP pilots who died during the Second World War. She rests near her father in Wilhelm’s Memorial Mausoleum in Portland. Lt. Hinton, her flight instructor, lies in Augusta, Georgia’s Westover Memorial Park.
Writer Bill Miller is the author of five books, including “History Snoopin’,” a collection of his previous history columns and stories. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.