Chapter 5 of InCite, by Scott Ski
Bold and fearless, Hanna quickly rose to become a formidable aviatrix through the 1930�s and into the 1940�s. She was the first woman to fly a helicopter, initially outdoors, and later in an amazing feat within the aircraft hanger during a major European air show. Hanna triumphed as the first female to fly a glider over the Swiss Alps. She ranks among the earliest women test pilots, piloting experimental rocket interceptor planes and test craft described as "flying bombs with a cockpit." She test flew the world�s first jet fighter. Hanna set more than 40 altitude, speed and endurance records in a variety of powered and non-powered aircraft during her career. Like any great daredevil, she found herself fortunate to be alive after many of her flights. She boasted, probably without exaggeration, that she had broken every bone in her body at one time or another. One of only two women ever to do so, Hanna earned the highest civilian and military honor her country had to offer.
In late April of 1945, Hanna responded to the call of her country during a time of great conflict. She faced two desperate missions: one national, the other personal. For her nation, the dangerous and likely suicidal mission required peerless flying ability. Only a flyer with the skill developed in Hanna�s thirteen years of daring and audacious aviation prowess would attempt the undertaking. Hanna assertively stepped forward and volunteered to accept the improbable role.
A high military official had been declared a traitor. Hanna was to accompany his replacement, the new Chief of the Air Force, General Robert Griem for the official promotion and to obtain his new orders concerning the war. Her personal goal was to achieve the rescue of the man she truly admired and venerated. A prominent leader, he was trapped in the besieged city of their destination and would surely be captured by hostile forces if left behind. Supremely confident, Hanna believed herself to be the one flyer who could successfully undertake the assignment to help him. She alone had the skill and passion to even attempt his liberation. She was used to taking serious risks to succeed at her goals.
Taking off under the supporting air cover of 40 heavily armed fighter planes, Hanna and the general raced along in a swift fighter aircraft. Dodging, swooping and roaring at top speed as aerial dogfights screamed and soared around them. As planes furiously fought, fell, exploded on both sides, they safely reached a second airfield, yet they lost the entire escort protecting them. Griem and Hanna boarded a smaller, faster, light plane, stealthily skimming the landscape as dusk approached to avoid detection. Enemy guns discovered them, damaging the aircraft. General Griem, piloting the plane, sustained shrapnel wounds to his foot and leg. With her skill, Hanna reached over his shoulders and took the controls successfully crossing many miles of enemy held territory, eluding the gunners. Hanna deftly landed her plane amidst flames, rubble and smoldering ruins at her destination. She quickly hid her craft on a bombed out city street. With the fire of battle raging nearby, she and the general raced to safe fortifications.
Protected within the national headquarters, General Griem immediately received his promotion and the new strategies for continuing the war. His wounds required him to rest for two days before flying. Hanna recognized her opportunity to achieve her personal objective�yet after two days spent pleading with the country�s leader, she could not convince him to leave. Instead, Hanna witnessed a person far removed from the dynamic image and unwavering determination she had always admired. He ordered Hanna and the general to go and continue the fight against their enemies. He believed his time had come to an end. It was for Hanna to return and to aid the success of the future.
Distraught and confused, Hanna bid the leader she so idolized a heartfelt farewell. She had to survive, to carry on and follow his charge to her. Wincing under the thunder of booming artillery and the sharp staccato of weapons fire ringing in her ears, Hanna raced through the darkness of the evening to her light plane, swung it about and helped the injured general aboard. She leapt in and started the engine. Checking that her vital cargo, the new Air Force Chief, was safely loaded in the back of the small craft, she skillfully negotiated the rubble and crater strewn boulevard. Dodging volleys of small arms shots, the plane managed to attain airspeed. Stung in the glare of harsh enemy searchlights the aircraft shuddered and echoed with the ricochets and near misses of intense weapons fire. Managing to stay aloft, Hanna�s craft held the distinction of being the last to escape the besieged city. Maneuvering just above the tree tops, Hanna, the aviatrix extraordinaire, adroitly evaded the anti-aircraft batteries and swarms of hostile fighter planes patrolling the skies.
Successfully, Hanna and General Griem finally reached their airbase, but Hanna arrived weeping and inconsolable. On this spring day in April of 1945, she had failed in her greatest and most epic effort: to save the one person she esteemed most in the world�Adolf Hitler. Hanna was devastated.
Seven months later, following the end of the war, Hanna gave testimony to Allied military officials. She stated that after her many years of adulation, those two days of close, personal time with Hitler revealed him to be a far different person than publicly presented by the Third Reich. She concluded her statement advising that no one should ever possess the kind of total power Hitler once wielded.
Failure or success? The perception often blurs and crosses. Hanna failed miserably in her mission, yet her failure would be widely viewed as a success to the rest of the world, a good fortune later recognized by Hanna herself.
Like two ends of a rope, failure and success may appear opposite. However the tightly braided strands creating one end are the same, long fibers stretching to the other. Upon careful examination, one can discover the threads of both, success and failure, deeply intertwined within any situation.
Depending on one�s point of view, in every failure can be found the filaments of success.