This post is inspired by a PBS program honoring the Women Air Force Service Pilots (WASP) ~ We Served Too: The Story of the WASP.
A trailer is available http://www.wstthemovie.com
In 1939, the day after German tanks rolled into Warsaw, Poland, a woman pilot named Jacqueline Cochran wrote to Eleanor Roosevelt to suggest the use of experienced women pilots in the Armed Forces. Almost a year later, another pilot, Nancy Harkness Love, made the same suggestion to the Ferrying Division of the Armed Forces.
It wasn’t until September 1942 that the Air Transport Command (ATC) realized the reality of a lack of experienced pilots to ferry newly produced warplanes to air bases across the country. The demand for male combat pilots overseas left the ATC with a dilemma until someone remembered and considered Nancy Love’s letter of 1940.
Love was hired to recruit 25 of the most qualified women pilots in the country to ferry military aircraft. The value of the women pilots got the attention of General Henry Arnold of the Army Air Force. He approved a program to train a large group of women as ferry pilots. Cochran and Love recruited the pilots and engineered the program that became Women Air Force Services (WASP).
~Most of the recruited women had 1,000 hours of flying time prior to entering the training.
~They trained for a few weeks before being assigned a post.
~1,074 eventually women graduated from the program.
~The WASP flew every type of plane in the Army’s arsenal.
~They served as flight instructors, tow-target pilots for gunnery training—yes with real ammunition, engineering flight test pilots, and flew radio controlled planes.
~The WASP were hired under Civil Service. They paid for their own uniforms, lodging and personal travel to and from home.
~WASPs were deactivated in December 1944 without military benefits and without recognition. The surviving women were moved to seek recognition in the mid-1970s when the Navy announced that for the FIRST time in history women would be permitted to fly military planes.
~In 1977 the WASP gained their belated military benefits and recognition.
~In 2010 the WASP were awarded the Congressional Gold Medal of Honor by Congress.
Highland Veterans Memorial Park, Wisconsin
Thirty-eight WASP lost their lives in service to their country.
P.S. I just learned that William M. Miller, a former Southern Oregon Historical society Historian and history columnist for the Medford Mail Tribune newspaper has written a book To Live and Die a WASP that is a tribute to the 38 WASP who did not survive. The book is available on Amazon.