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Mar 22, 2010

WOMEN AIRFORCE SERVICE PILOTS

(left to right) Eloise Huffines Bailey, Millie Davidson Dalrymple, Elizabeth McKethan Magid, Clara Jo Marsh Stember. In the background, a B-24. (Courtesy: USAF)
 
I saw some photos of these women in an email and knew I wanted to share their story with all of you. I did a bit of research and I think you will be amazed by these women and their accomplishments.
Harlingen Army Air Field, Texas--Elizabeth L. Gardner of Rockford, Illinois, WASP (Women's Airforce Service Pilot) pilot, takes a look around before sending her plane streaking down the runway at the air base.
Photo and caption from the National Archives.
They were called WASPS or Women Airforce Service Pilots and they flew planes during WWII. These women were some of 3000 women with private flying licenses in 1942. There were only about 1800 male pilots in the army after Pearl Harbor. In all about 1000 women ended up in this service that was intended to free up the male pilots for their combat roles. Originally they were required to have 200 hours of flight time but by November 1942 the program was accepting women without prior flying experience. Many women stepped up for the job, more than 25,000 but only 1900 were accepted and 1,078 actuall earned their wings. This was on par with males that went through training.
JOCELYN MOORE EVERNHAM 2nd LIEUTENANT WOMANS AIRFORCE SERVICE PILOT (WASP)
The women transported aircraft, including the fighter planes and bombers, gunnery targets and cargo. They flew 60 million miles collectively. Some of the most qualified pilots also tested rocket propelled and jet propelled planes.

Sadly 38 of the pilots lost their lives. Twenty seven of them in active duty and 11 more in training. Their own families had to pay for the deceased women's bodies to be sent home and there were no military honors. They were not even allowed to drape the coffins with the US flag.
Jackie Cochran in the cockpit of a P-40 fighter plane, she was head of the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP)

All of the records for these brave women were classified and sealed for 35 years. There was a fight to get them recognized starting in 1975 with the records finally being released in 1977. They didn't get full military status until then.
Shirley Slade, WASP Trainee--Life Magazine Feature Story

In 1984 each WASP was awarded  the "World War II Victory Medal and finally on July 1, 2009 these women were awarded Congressional Gold Medals by President Obama and the US Congress. On March 10, 2010 there were 200 surviving WASPS that went to the US Capitol to accept their medals.
President Barack Obama signs S.614 in the Oval Office July 1 at the White House. The bill awards a Congressional Gold Medal to Women Airforce Service Pilots. The WASP program was established during World War II, and from 1942 to 1943, more than 1,000 women joined, flying 60 million miles of noncombat military missions. Of the women who received their wings as Women Airforce Service Pilots, approximately 300 are living today. The women in this photo are Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Women’s Airforce Service Pilots Elaine Danforth Harmon, Lorraine H. Rodgers and Bernice Falk Haydu, and active duty USAF pilots Colonel Dawn Dunlop, Colonel Bobbi Doorenbos, Lieutenant Colonel Wendy Wasik, Major Kara Sandifur and Major Nicole Malachowski (former Thunderbird pilot).
There are many sites online that have information on the WASPS. There is a blog that is about them too called Wings Wasps. I suggest having a look there to see many photos and stories about the women who served. You can also follow on Twitter.



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13 comments:

Gail said...

Fantastic story!

Kammy said...

What a cool report ! So neat what those women did !
Kammy

Eleonora said...

Lori,
wonderful account. Just today I was so upset at the news reporting how technology "is now catering to the more tech savvy woman by introducing on the market pink phones, laptops, and gadgets, with due apps" (fashion, cooking and knitting!) I felt so discriminated.

May this post be a reminder of people's commitment, fearlessness and accomplishment, despite the gender. I love that picture of the WASP pilot from Rockford, IL. She's so at ease in her cockpit.

Ciao friend,
Lola xx

3 Men and a Lady said...

The pilot from Rockford looks so pretty in her airplane. Cool photos.

buglegirl said...

My family tree began with a WASP! Here is her scrapbook: (sorry for the long address) http://publishing.yudu.com/Freedom/Ah32t/WASPWWIISCRAPBOOK/resources/index.htm?referrerUrl=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.wingsacrossamerica.us%2Fwasp%2Fgallery%2Findex.htm

Herstoryan said...

How interesting! I remember studying about women's changing roles due to WWII but I can't recall every hearing about the WASPs. THANK YOU for bringing their service to my attention. I am so very glad that after so many years they are finally being recognized appropriately. My jaw dropped when I read, "Their own families had to pay for the deceased women's bodies to be sent home and there were no military honors. They were not even allowed to drape the coffins with the US flag." Great post!

Judy said...

They did so much and it took so long to be recognized...

Maureen said...

Thanks for sharing Lori. One more interesting step in our march towards equality.

Congratulations to the WASPS. They stepped up when they were needed and they deserve to be recognized. A little late but better late than never.

MiMi said...

I saw this in the news and watched an interview with one of them. Amazing. Absolutely amazing. And pisses me off that we didn't know! What kind of dildo govt doesn't share this awesomeness??

Michele said...

What a wonderful, informative post.

I saw that in the news as well and was facinated by their stories.
A shame we didn't know about this amazing stuff before!!

@eloh said...

I can't get past the first picture...PANTS!!!! PANTS!!!! they had dress pants!!!!! I think it was 1977 before we had dress pants... and they all (the services) made a big fight about it.

Kathleen said...

Amazing..we've come a long way baby!

Carroll said...

Shirley Slade was my great-aunt - my grandmother's sister. I have started doing research on my mom's side of the family and would love to gather as much information about Shirley as possible. I would appreciate all correspondence and information anyone would have about her. My e-mail is cmsenechal@yahoo.com

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