“Are there similarities between glider pilots and adoptees who unexpectedly find themselves in foreign lands surrounded by strangers? Glider pilots landing in unfamiliar surroundings suffer from disorientation and arrive with no possible way of getting home. Perplexed adoptees arrive as anonymous newcomers in foreign environments where they are automatically expected to cope with entirely new circumstances. They both wake up in the morning facing a diverse group of people with dissimilar backgrounds, unconventional habits, and speaking different languages.” —Judith Land
“On a Wing and a Prayer” is a modern idiom meaning to initiate action with only the slightest chance of success with the hope and expectation that you will succeed, even though you are relatively unprepared for the consequences of what could happen.
If you initiate an irrevocable action based solely on a wing and a prayer, you have the aspiration of succeeding in the face of great difficulty under dangerous and risky circumstances—hoping that God or luck will be on your side.
Gliders have few provisions for safety and none for comfort. There is no shortage of headaches and more than a few tragedies. Landing is a planned accident. When a glider pilot is assigned a mission his or her chances for success are often very low; many things may go wrong and they often do, including fatality. When a mother agrees to relinquish responsibility for her biological child and place it in the care of an outsider she is also taking a potentially unassailable risk and neither she nor the child can ever be guaranteed the outcome will be positive.
The phrase “On a Wing and Prayer” hit a chord with the public when gliders spearheaded nearly every major allied assault during WWII. Landing was a planned accident. If you survived the landing in foreign territory you first had to orient yourself, then find, assemble and set up your equipment. One-third of all allied glider troops were killed or wounded. The United States built more than 14,000 gliders and trained 6,000 pilots to fly the “flying coffins” as they were called. Never before in history has any nation produced so many aviators whose duty it was to deliberately crash land, and then go on to fight as combat infantrymen in unfamiliar fields deep within enemy-held territory, often in total darkness. They had no motors, no parachutes, and no second chances, or alternative choices. With only a one-way ticket and a slight chance of success many arrived in very bad condition.
Perhaps, the next time you hear the phrase “On a Wing and a Prayer” you will also think about present-day adoptees and their mothers hoping that luck and God are on their side, as well as, the aviator heroes of WWII.