Ninety-Nines & a Nazi Spy

It’s taken six years, but my second novel is off for publishing by a small press called DartFrog Books. It should be out on book store shelves and available on Amazon and Kindle by August. Yahoo!

Here’s a bit of recent research I thought I’d share. 


I was delighted to learn about the Ninety-Nines. This female group of aviators established themselves in 1929. The first president was Emelia Earhart. Not a big surprise since she was the leading female aviator in the country. Soon, her solo Trans-Atlantic flight on May 20, 1932, would make her hugely famous. Emelia and other fellow pilots sought to recruit ninety-nine women to join the club. They wanted to document their flying achievements and show the world that women were strong and smart enough to endure the rigors of flying.

After establishing the group, shortly thereafter, in 1933, the Ninety-Nines was assigned by the government the job of marking the airports. Funded by the WPA,  each state was divided into sections of 20 square miles. “Where possible, a marker with the name of the nearest town was painted on the roof of the most prominent building at each 15-mile interval. If the towns were far apart, white painted ground markers, such as rocks and bricks, were used.”  You can read more about this endeavor in Air Marking Program on the site. I had never heard about this program. The painstaking goal of marking every state with this grid design sounds daunting and impressive to me. Image result for ninety nines female pilotsI also discovered one of the more unusual females in U.S. History. Her name was Laura Ingalls. No, not the writer of Little House on the Praire fame, but the aviator. Turns out she was a distant cousin to the writer. Laura Ingalls the aviator was friends with the writer’s daughter, Rose Wilder Lane. Anyway, the aviator was a record-breaker and a pioneer in women’s aviation. What did she do?

  • Longest solo flight by a woman (17,000 miles)
  • First solo flight by a woman from North to South America
  • First solo flight around South America by man or woman
  • First complete flight by a land plane around South America by a man or woman
  • First American woman to fly the Andes soloImage result for image laura ingalls aviator

In the shadow of Emelia’s fame and popularity, not many have heard of aviator Laura Ingalls. A strange sidenote–her brother married the daughter of J.P. Morgan.  Aside from wealthy relatives and aviation achievements, it was the other side of Laura’s personality which thwarted any fame she might have earned and raised my eyebrows with surprise.

Laura Ingalls was convicted as a Nazi spy in 1942 for two years in prison.

She had been paid for her efforts to promote the Nazi cause by Baron Ulrich von Gienanth who was head of the Gestapo in the U.S. and second secretary to the German Embassy. She was applauded as a fine orator propagating the Nazi agenda to the America First Committee. She was followed by the FBI and eventually sentenced to a woman’s prison in West Virginia.

She was paroled in 1944 and lived out her life in obscurity in California into her seventies. You can read more about her found HERE.

I tried to imagine a woman like Laura Ingalls who led a contradictory life. On one hand,  she was an admirable pilot. On the other hand, she had reprehensible political affiliations. That contrast in one woman had me put her in my novel as a bit part to one of my principal characters. Truthfully, I’m surprised no one has thought to make a movie about her. What an unusual person.

More importantly,

Happy 90th birthday, Ninety-Nines.

31 thoughts on “Ninety-Nines & a Nazi Spy

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  1. Great post 🙂 Congratulations on your soon-to-be-released second book. I especially find the Laura Ingalls part of the story to be quite interesting. Anyway, keep up the great work as always 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Surely Laura Ingalls was a traitor rather than irreprehensible? I’m sure that she would have been hanged in Britain, especially as 1941 and 1942 were the peak years of Nazi power over the world.


  3. Looking forward to that new book, Cindy! 🙂
    I knew about the place names painted on rooftops to guide fliers, but not about the origin. Interesting to read about those doughty lady aviators.
    Best wishes, Pete. x


  4. Congrats on your second book, and fascinating info on the female aviators. I disagree with Ingalls being ‘irreprehensible’ Free from blame, really? Traitor, for sure


  5. success !!! i am very happy for you cindy. best of luck with the life of the book, may it be discovered by many readers and made into a compelling and memorable movie.


  6. Wikipedia has the details on her Nazi sympathies (, and as with so many other traitors, she wanted a pardon. This is what Wikipedia says about her Nazi activities:

    In late September 1939, Ingalls flew over Washington, D.C. in her Lockheed Orion monoplane, dropping anti-intervention pamphlets. She was arrested for violating White House airspace, but was released within hours. Following the defeat of France in 1940, she approached Baron (Freiherr) Ulrich von Gienanth, the head of the Gestapo in the US, and, officially, second secretary of the German Embassy. She suggested that she make a solo flight to Europe, where she would continue her campaign to promote the Nazi cause. Von Gienanth told her to stay in America to work with the America First Committee.

    Ingalls gave speeches for the Committee in which she derided America’s “lousy democracy” and gave Nazi salutes. Von Gienanth praised her oratorical skills. She had made a careful study of Mein Kampf, on which she based many of her speeches, as well as pamphlets by Hitler such as My New Order and Germany and the Jewish Question, and Elizabeth Dilling’s books The Roosevelt Red Record and The Octopus. She expected Hitler to win the war; in April 1941, she wrote to a German official, “Some day I will shout my triumph to a great leader and a great people… Heil Hitler!” After the German declaration of war on December 11, 1941, she went straight to Washington to receive a list of contacts from von Gienath, and was arrested a week later.

    Ingalls was charged with failing to register with the government as a paid Nazi agent, in violation of the Foreign Agents Registration Act of 1938. She had been receiving approximately $300 a month from von Gienanth. During the trial it came out that von Gienanth had encouraged Ingalls’s participation in the America First Committee, a significant embarrassment for that organization.

    The FBI testified that they had kept her under surveillance for several months. Ingalls was convicted, and sentenced to eight months to two years in prison on February 20, 1942. She was transferred from the District of Columbia jail to the U.S. federal women’s prison in Alderson, West Virginia, on July 14, 1943, after fighting with another inmate. She was released on October 5, 1943 after serving 20 months.

    Prison had not altered her views, however. A few months after her release, she stated her opinion of the Normandy landings:

    “This whole invasion is a power lust, blood drunk orgy in a war which is unholy and for which the U.S. will be called to terrible accounting… They [the Nazis] fight the common enemy. They fight for independence of Europe—independence from the Jews. Bravo!”

    After her probation ended, in July 1944 Ingalls was arrested at the Mexican border. Her suitcase contained seditious materials, including notes she had made of Japanese and German short-wave radio broadcasts. She was prevented from entering Mexico, but was not prosecuted. Ingalls applied for a presidential pardon in 1950, but her application for clemency was rejected by two successive Pardon Attorneys. On the latter occasion, the reply stated that Ingalls had been of “special value of the Nazi propaganda machine”.

    She died on January 10, 1967, in Burbank, California, aged 73.

    Liked by 1 person

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