RADAR GIRLS - Sara Ackerman
Hawaii - 1941
On a lovely Sunday morning, Daisy Wilder "borrows" her favorite horse, Moon, from the Montgomery farm where she works. As she leaves him on the beach to swim out to look for lobsters, two planes roar overhead. One is obviously not an American plane, and the battle that takes place overhead has Daisy scared witless. Helpless, she tries to get to Moon, but just as she reaches for him, he breaks loose and bolts down the beach. Meanwhile, the enemy plane is shot down by the American pilot. Terrified, but concerned for Moon, Daisy races to the ranch after checking on her mother at their beachfront shack. There she encounters Mr. Montgomery's son, Walker, who tells her that they have been attacked by Japan. He also notices that Moon is missing, but Daisy doesn't reveal what she knows.
Daisy returns to the ranch and confesses to Mr. Montgomery, and he promptly fires her. Chastened, but now worried about how to support her mother, who has never recovered from the death of Daisy's father, Daisy meets a general who is at the Montgomery farm. He is recruiting women for a special war job, and Daisy, as well as Montgomery's daughter, both sign up. The general also helps Daisy arrange for her mother to move to California to stay with her aunt until the war is over.
The war business that Daisy and a score of other women are hired to do is a new unit called Women's Air Raid Defense (WARD). It will be their job to take radar readings and monitor every object moving in the skies around Hawaii. They will also communicate with other sites and with pilots as their planes enter their vector. Trained to know the different American warplanes as well as enemy ones, the women will be crucial links to the Air Defense Command Center.
Daisy has always been a loner, never feeling that she fit in with schoolmates, and having very few friends. Now, she rides to the base with Peg and Walker Montgomery and works closely with a crew of men and women she barely knows. But her ability to grasp the technical work of the assignment is admired by some of her co-workers, as well as the military men who are training them all. Soon, Daisy is part of a close-knit group of women and girls who are trying their best to do their part in the war.
Partly a romance, RADAR GIRLS brings to light a little-known bit of World War Two history. The responsibilities of this unique group included not only identifying aircraft, but guiding planes into blacked-out runways, or talking those who were lost into the correct airspace. As one real life veteran of this group told her son, "When the flyboys got lost, we brought them home."
Don't miss this terrific snapshot of a little-known group of brave women who did more than their share for their country.