Beautiful women and extraordinary pilots awarded 65 years after their service in WW2

 
WASP
 
 
SHARE:

During the WW,  the United States were in a serious shortage of pilots so the government created an experimental paramilitary aviation organization – the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP).

First, there were the Women’s Flying Training Detachment (WFTD) and the Women’s Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron (WAFS) organized in 1942 and in 1943 both were merged to create the WASP organization.

Frances Green, Margaret (Peg) Kirchner, Ann Waldner and Blanche Osborn leaving their plane, "Pistol Packin' Mama," at the four-engine school at Lockbourne AAF, Ohio, during WASP ferry training B-17 Flying Fortress
Frances Green, Margaret (Peg) Kirchner, Ann Waldner and Blanche Osborn leaving their plane, “Pistol Packin’ Mama,” at the four-engine school at Lockbourne AAF, Ohio, during WASP ferry training B-17 Flying Fortress

 

WASP wings
WASP wings

There were over 25,000 women who applied but only 1,074 were accepted in the WASP. All of them were women with previous flying experience and pilot’s licenses. These women flew over 60 million miles in all kinds of military aircraft. In 1977, the organization acquired a veteran status, waiting until 2009 to be awarded with the Congressional Gold Medal.

Elizabeth L. Gardner, WASP, at the controls of a B-26 Marauder
Elizabeth L. Gardner, WASP, at the controls of a B-26 Marauder
Mrs. Betty H. Gillies was the first woman pilot to be "flight checked" and accepted by the Women's Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron. She died in 1998 at the age of 90
Mrs. Betty H. Gillies was the first woman pilot to be “flight checked” and accepted by the Women’s Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron. She died in 1998, at the age of 90

 

Nancy Love, pilot (left), and Betty (Huyler) Gillies, co-pilot, the first women to fly the Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress heavy bomber
Nancy Love, pilot (left), and Betty (Huyler) Gillies, co-pilot, the first women to fly the Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress heavy bomber

 

Ola Mildred Rexroat was the only Native American woman to serve in the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP)
Ola Mildred Rexroat was the only Native American woman to serve in the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP)

During the graduation ceremony for the last WASP training class in 1944, the General of the Army and General of the Air Force – Henry “Hap” Arnold stated in his speech that he wasn’t sure “whether a slip of a girl could fight the controls of a B-17 in heavy weather.” He said that now, in 1944 he is convinced that women can fly as good as men.

Class of 43–3 in January 1943—start of training
Class of 43–3 in January 1943—start of training
Florene Watson preparing a P-51D-5NA for a ferry flight from the factory at Inglewood, California
Florene Watson preparing a P-51D-5NA for a ferry flight from the factory at Inglewood, California

When the training ended up, the women pilots were stationed at 122 air bases across the States. Only those with exceptional skills for aircraft control were permitted to test rocket-propelled planes, pilot jet-propelled planes and work with radar-controlled targets. While serving in the war, 38 WASP pilots lost their lives in accidents.

 

Cornelia Clark Fort was a civilian instructor pilot at an airfield near Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, when the Japanese attacked on December 7, 1941. She was one of the most accomplished pilots of the WASPs and the first WAFS fatality. She died in an accident in 1943
Cornelia Clark Fort was a civilian instructor pilot at an airfield near Pearl Harbor, Hawaii when the Japanese attacked on December 7th, 1941.
She was one of the most accomplished pilots of the WASPs and the first WAFS fatality. She died in an accident in 1943.

 

Chinese American Hazel Ying Lee was among 38 members of the Women Airforce Service Pilots, or WASPs, killed in the line of duty during World War II
Chinese American Hazel Ying Lee was among 38 members of the WASPs, killed in the line of duty during World War II

 

Hazel Ying Lee reviews her performance after a session in a Link trainer. (U.S. Air Force photo)
Hazel Ying Lee reviews her performance after a session in a Link trainer. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Jacqueline Cochran, a pioneering aviator at the time, was the head of the WASP program. She was aiming to develop the women air force to an equal level with the “regular, male”, and to save the scarcity of women pilots. After the war, Jacqueline became the first woman pilot who broke the sound barrier.

Regardless of what she was aiming for, as soon as the war was over and men returned, they needed their jobs back. Women from WASP started becoming dismissed from their jobs without any official gratitude or ceremony.

Cochran standing on the wing of her F-86 talking to Chuck Yeager and Canadair's chief test pilot Bill Longhurs
Cochran standing on the wing of her F-86 talking to Chuck Yeager and Canadair’s chief test pilot Bill Longhurs

 

Jackie Cochran (center) with WASP trainees
Jackie Cochran (center) with WASP trainees

 

Jacqueline Cochran died in 1980 at the age of 74
Jacqueline Cochran died in 1980 at the age of 74

The pilots from WASP carried on with their lives, most of them as they had never contributed to the state security during the war. Only a few were kept as pilots while others were offered to work as flight attendants. They formed a reunion group but it felt apart after a very short period of time.

Then, in the 1960’s some of the women got in touch with each other and began discussing the possibility of gaining military status. Many of them reunited on the basis of being forgotten by their own Air Force. In 1976, after a lot of pressure, the Air Force announced to admit women in their programs.

Deanie Parish in front of P-47 Thunderbolt on the flight line at Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida, in 1944
Deanie Parish in front of P-47 Thunderbolt on the flight line at Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida, in 1944

 

A WASP gruop at Waco Field, 1944.
A WASP group at Waco Field, 1944.

 

Service members of WASP on the flight line at Laredo Army Air Field, Texas, January 22, 1944
Service members of WASP on the flight line at Laredo Army Air Field, Texas, January 22, 1944

In the statement from the Air Force they had to also declared the former status of the women as pilots, so in 1977, the WASP were finally granted military status. To preserve their history, in 1992, the WASP designated Texas Woman’s University in Denton as their official archive.

In 2009, President Barack Obama and the United States Congress awarded the WASP with the Congressional Gold Medal. There were only less than 300 surviving WASPs at the time and only three of them showed up at the event.

At the event, Obama stated that “The Women Airforce Service Pilots courageously answered their country’s call in a time of need while blazing a trail for the brave women who have given and continue to give so much in service to this nation since. Every American should be grateful for their service and I am honored to sign this bill and finally give them some of the hard-earned recognition they deserve.”

President Barack Obama signed the WASP Congressional Gold Medal into law, July 2009
President Barack Obama signed the WASP Congressional Gold Medal into law, July 200

 

Madge Moore showing the Daedalian Fighter Flight (Nellis AFB, NV) the WASP Congressional Gold Medal she was presented in Washington, D.C.
Madge Moore showing the Daedalian Fighter Flight (Nellis AFB, NV) the WASP Congressional Gold Medal she was presented in Washington, D.C.

Here is another one from us on brave ladies from WW2: During the Second World War, more than 2,000 women served as snipers in the Red Army

A year later, all surviving WASPs attended the ceremony to the US Capitol to accept the Congressional Gold Medal from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other Congressional leaders.