By Mary Davis
|WASP Betty Wall|
In 1942, two independent female flying organizations were created, the WFTD (Women’s Flying Training Detachment) by pilot Jacqueline Cochran and the WAFS (Women’s Auxiliary Ferry Squadron) by pilot Nancy Harkness Love. These two organizations combined August 5, 1943 to form the WASP (Women Airforce Service Pilots) led by Jackie Cochran.
More than 25,000 women applied to the WASP. Only 1,830 were accepted into the program, with 1,074 of these skilled female pilots completing the training with 560 hours of ground school and 210 hours of flight training. Many of these women came from wealthy backgrounds as they could afford the expensive instructions to earn their pilot’s license well before applying.
These patriotic brave ladies became the first women to fly American military aircraft, taking off from 126 airbases across the U.S. to relocate combat aircraft. They flew 80% of the ferrying missions. They flew just about every type of U.S. military aircraft used by the military during WWII. WASPs delivered over 12,000 aircraft and freed around 900 male pilots for combat duty. They flew over sixty million miles.
|WASP trainees with instructor|
Though WASPs were stationed stateside away from the combat, thirty-eight died due to accidents in the line of duty, and one disappeared while on a ferrying mission. Her fate is still unknown.
Besides ferrying airplanes from factories to bases where the male pilots were stationed for training and to be deployed, WASPs also tested aircraft, trained male pilots, were airplane mechanics, transported cargo, and towed targets for live anti-aircraft artillery practice.
|WASP Deanie Parish by a P-47|
Jackie Cochran insisted upon her female pilots having their own uniform. General Hap Arnold said, “They should be BLUE.” The Quartermaster Corps offered 40,000 yards of drab olive wool fabric. To which Cochran responded, “My girls will never wear that!” Instead of outright rejecting the material and risk not having WASP specific uniforms, Cochran along with the designer made up two uniform samples; one in the lackluster olive and the other in a ‘classy’ Santiago blue wool gabardine, which closely resembles the current Air Force Blue color. The green one worn by a Quartermaster Corps clerk and the blue one by a gorgeous French model were paraded in from of the two decision making generals. Surprisingly, they chose the blue one. LOL! Cochran was a smart cookie and knew how to get her way even if men made the decision.
|WASPs showing the various uniforms|
Though the WASP worked for the Army, they were still civilians. They were paid less than the men who did the same job and didn’t receive any benefits. They had to pay for their own travel and uniforms.
Fifinella was the WASP mascot. The logo was created by the Walt Disney Company.
The WASP arrangement with the Army was terminated in December 20, 1944 when returning male pilots took over the ferrying duties. Finally in 1977, the WASP members were granted veteran status.
Though an individual WASP wouldn’t perform all these duties but specialize in one, I chose to have my WASP heroine in my upcoming WWII release Mrs. Witherspoon Goes to War do many of the jobs so I could spotlight several of the WASP assignments.
|WASP Betty Wall in her golden years|
MRS. WITHERSPOON GOES TO WAR (Heroines of WWII series)
A WASP (Women Airforce Service Pilots) flies
a secret mission to rescue three soldiers held captive in Cuba.
Witherspoon is a thirty-four-year-old widow, mother of two daughters, an
excellent pilot, and very patriotic. She joins the WASP (Women Airforce Service
Pilots). As she performs various tasks like ferry aircraft, transporting cargo,
and being an airplane mechanic, she meets and develops feelings for her
supervisor Army Air Corp Major Howie Berg. When Peggy learns of U.S. soldiers
being held captive in Cuba, she, Major Berg, and two fellow WASPs devise an
unsanctioned mission to rescue them. With Cuba being an ally in the war, they
must be careful not to ignite an international incident.