From 1943, Mary featured on the sheet music for Coming In On A Wing And A Prayer
Thanks to phrases.org for this….
This phrase originated during WWII. The earliest reference found is in the 1942 filmThe Flying Tigers. The screenplay was written by Kenneth Gamet and Barry Trivers and features John Wayne’s as Captain Jim Gordon:
Gordon: Any word on that flight yet?
Rangoon hotel clerk: Yes sir, it was attacked and fired on by Japanese aircraft. She’s coming in on one wing and a prayer.
The phrase was taken up by songwriters Harold Adamson and Jimmie McHugh and their WWII patriotic song Coming in on a Wing and a Prayer, 1943 tells of a damaged warplane, barely able to limp back to base. Adamson and McHugh wrote several patriotic songs in World War II and were awarded the Presidential Certificate of Merit by President Harry Truman.
The phrase hit a chord with the public and there are many references to it in US newspapers from 1943 onwards. It was taken up by Hollywood and a film – Wing and a Prayer – was released in 1944.