Today, a new historic marker was dedicated in Owego honoring the life and service of Corporal Margaret Hastings. Born in 1914, Cpl. Hastings grew up in Owego and joined the Women’s Army Corps, or WACs, in 1944.
On May 13, 1945, as the Second World War drew to a close, Cpl. Hastings boarded a transport plane with 23 other service men and women. It was for a sightseeing trip over the uncharted jungles of Papua New Guinea. However, the pleasure cruise ended unexpectedly when the plane crashed violently into the side of a mountain.
Cpl. Hastings was one of only three survivors. The small group eventually found refuge with a tribe of locals, and was rescued from the jungle over a month after the crash. The story of Hastings’ ordeal made her a media sensation in America. She received a hero’s welcome when she returned to Owego, and gave over 200 speeches on her subsequent Victory Bond tour.
“It was an amazing story,” stated Emma Sedore, the Tioga County Historian. “And she gained worldwide fame as a result of the tragedy that happened in New Guinea during World War II.”
The new historical marker will be located at Cpl. Hastings’ former residence in Owego.
“I’m very excited about it,” said Sedore. “For years I’ve wanted to get one, but…historic markers cost a lot of money.”
The marker was made possible through the William G. Pomeroy Foundation. The organization has two grant programs for municipalities and not-for-profit organizations in New York State that help provide funds for historic markers.
It is the only marker in Tioga County honoring a female veteran, and it is also believed to be the first historic marker of its kind to honor a female veteran in the entire state.
“It brings attention to women veterans,” said Sedore. “And I think that’s a really important thing to do.”
Photos from the dedication ceremony.
Edit: An earlier version of this story stated that this was the first historic marker in Tioga County honoring a female veteran. The story has been updated to indicate that it is believed to be the first historic marker of its kind honoring a female veteran in New York State.