"It is on the record that women can fly as well as men."
Fly Girls of World War II
by Jenny Cobb, Exhibit Assistant
Since the early days of aviation, women have been among the risk-taking pilots at the controls. Their skill, dedication, and passion were never more apparent than during World War II.
When a critical shortage of male combat pilots overseas increased the need for qualified military pilots at home, prominent leaders such as First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt prompted the United States to begin training women to fly military aircraft. As a result, newly-formed women’s military service branches were created to handle stateside flying duties once performed only by men. One of the most successful service branches created was the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP). At the forefront was America’s premier female pilot, Jacqueline Cochran, and Commanding General of the Army Air Force, Hap Arnold. Their call for service was answered by 25,000 women, ready and eager to serve their country.
Of the 1,830 young, licensed women pilots eventually accepted into the Army Air Force’s experimental flight training program, only 1,074 trainees graduated. Together with 28 civilian pilots from the Women’s Auxiliary Ferry Service (WAFS), they became Women Airforce Service Pilots—the first women in history to fly America’s military aircraft.
Trained at Avenger Field in Sweetwater, Texas, WASP flew every type of aircraft in the United States Army Air Force arsenal, from the fastest fighters to the heaviest bombers. They flew a total of 60 million miles within the continental United States on every type of mission flown by male military pilots.
WASP forever changed the role of women in aviation, blazing a trail for future generations of women in the military.
Fly Girls is on display in the third floor Rotunda Gallery from November 8, 2014 to February 8, 2015.
Wings Across America
Time Period: 1937 - 1945
This artifact is not on view.