On Feb. 2, 2019, the skies over Maynardville, Tennessee, filled with the roar of four F/A-18F Super Hornets streaking overhead in close formation. In each aircraft were two young female flyers, executing the first all-woman Missing Man Formation flyover in Navy history in memory of Captain Rosemary Mariner — groundbreaking Navy jet pilot, inspiring commander, determined and dedicated leader — whose drive to ensure the United States military had its choice of the best America had to offer, both men and women, broke down barriers and opened doors for female aviators wanting to serve their country.
Selected for Navy flight training as an experiment in 1972, Mariner and her five fellow graduates from the inaugural group of female Naval Aviators racked up an impressive roster of achievements, and firsts: first woman to fly a tactical jet aircraft; first woman to command an aviation squadron; first female Hurricane Hunter; first pregnant Navy pilot; plaintiff in a federal lawsuit that overturned limits on women's ability to fulfill their military duty.
Leading by example, and by confrontation when necessary, they challenged deep skepticism within the fleet and blazed a trail for female aviators wanting to serve their country equally with their male counterparts.
This is the story of their struggles and triumphs as they earned their Wings of Gold, learned to fly increasingly sophisticated jet fighters and helicopters, mastered aircraft carrier landings, served at sea and reached heights of command that would have been unthinkable less than a generation before. And it is the story of the legacy they left behind, one for which the women performing the Navy’s first Missing Woman Flyover in Mariner’s memory owe a debt of gratitude.
With extensive reference notes, this is a worthy contribution to aviation, military, and women's history.
"Journalist and pilot Weintraub debuts with a meticulous and often infuriating chronicle of the obstacles faced by the first six women to earn their naval aviation wings in the early 1970s... This is a fine-grained look at a critical battle in the fight for gender equality." --Publishers Weekly
"Blending thorough research with first-hand accounts, Weintraub paints a fascinating tale of the first women pilots in the navy who eventually succeeded in overturning archaic laws and policies that stymied their careers and hurt the navy. Wings of Gold is an inspiring story about strong women who never gave up on their goal of making things better for future generations of women."
--Col. Eileen Bjorkman, U.S. Air Force (Ret.), author of Unforgotten in the Gulf of Tonkin: A Story of the U.S. Military's Commitment to Leave No One Behind
“Wings of Gold” is an inspiring motivational read for all. It is especially a motivational read for those who, frustrated by a lack of equal opportunity, seek to change the system for the better, despite the long uphill fight they might face.
--Lt. Col. James G. Zumwalt, USMC (Ret.)
“Wings of Gold” is one of those books that serves as both a reference and history book while telling a compelling story of the women who paved the way in a sometimes unfriendly atmosphere. Many of the principal subjects are familiar, but there’s also information that may be unfamiliar and surprising. The Source section adds great background specifics and provides an opportunity to delve deeper into the story. – Jacque Boyd, Ninety-Nines Magazine