CORNELIA FORT



  A famous Nashvillian buried in Mt. Olivet cemetery is Cornelia Fort. She was born in Nashville on February 5, 1919 and died at the age of 24 on March 21, 1943. Cornelia Fort airport in East Nashville is named after her. Her father Dr. Rufus Fort was the founder of the National Life and Accident Insurance Company. She graduated from Ward-Belmont high school in 1936 and Sarah Lawrence College in 1939. Cornelia Fort airport is on the land that once belonged to the Fort family in east Nashville. Her father did not approve of her being an aviator. Cornelia became a civilian flight instructor in Hawaii and is depicted in the movie Tora, Tora, Tora. In one famous scene she is in a yellow bi-plane teaching a young student pilot how to fly. Suddenly she notices Japanese planes all around her on their way to attack Pearl Harbor. Cornelia prudently takes over the controls and takes a steep dive to safety. Tora, Tora, Tora is the most accurate movie depiction I have ever seen of the attack on Pearl Harbor. The accuracy of the movie is way off, however; when it comes to Cornelia Fort. She is portrayed as a middle aged woman but in reality was only 22 yrs old at the time. The movie version shows Japanese planes coming up behind her. In real life she met them head on and nearly collided with a Japanese plane. She grabbed the controls from her student and flew above the oncoming Japanese plane where she noticed the Rising Son emblem. A pursuing Japanese Zero strafed her as she ran for cover upon landing. 

  Cornelia joined the WASP'S in 1942. WASP stood for Women's Army Service Pilots. The WASPS flew for the Army Air Force transporting military aircraft straight to military bases in the U.S. and overseas from the factories as they came off of the assembly line. They also towed targets to help train male pilots for combat. It was dangerous work. Fort was the first of 38 WASPS killed in the line of duty. On March 21, 1943 while flying in formation from Long Beach California to Love Field in Dallas her wing accidentally bumped the landing gear of a male pilots plane while in flight. The male pilot was able to recover and land safely. Unfortunately Fort went into an irreversible dive and was killed, crashing into Mulberry Canyon Texas. WASPS were not considered part of the military and their families were responsible for paying for their burial. 
From the movie Tora, Tora, Tora

From the movie Tora, Tora, Tora

Cornelia Fort in Tora, Tora, Tora

Cornelia Fort - second from left








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