The Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) and its predecessor groups, the Women's Flying Training Detachment (WFDT) and the Women's Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron (WAFS), were pioneering organizations of civilian female pilots employed to fly military aircraft under the direction of the Army Air Forces during World War II. The female pilots would number in the thousands, freeing up male pilots for combat service and other duties. The two predecessor groups, WFDT and WAFS, were combined in August of 1943 to create the WASP organization.
WASP pilots each already possessed a pilot's license. They were trained to fly the "Army way" at Avenger Field in Sweetwater, TX. More than 25,000 women applied for the WASP service, but fewer than 1,900 were actually accepted. After months of military flight training, 1,078 of them "earned their wings" and became the first women in history to fly an American military aircraft.
After training, they were stationed throughout the 120 bases across the U.S., assuming many flight-related missions. They flew almost every type of aircraft flown by the Army Air Forces during World War II. Between September, 1942 and December, 1944, the WASP delivered 12,650 aircraft of 78 different types. Over 50% of the ferrying of combat aircraft within the U.S. was carried out by the WASP under the leadership of Jacqueline Cochran. 38 WASP fliers lost their lives while serving their country.
Because they were not considered to be in the military under existing guidelines, fallen WASPs were sent home at the family's expense without traditional military honors or notes of heroism. The military would not even allow a U.S. flag to be placed upon their coffins. They were considered civil service employees and did not receive military benefits, unlike their male counterparts. In June of 1944, a bill in the U.S. House of Representatives to give the WASPs military status was narrowly defeated after civilian pilots lobbied against it. As a result, General Henry H. Arnold ordered the WASP to be disbanded by December 20, 1944.
Through the pioneering efforts and expertise they demonstrated in successfully flying each type of military aircraft, from the fighters to the bombers, the WASP organization proved that the female pilots, when offered the same training, were just as capable as the male pilots.
WOMEN AIRFORCE SERVICE PILOTS