cochran With war raging in Europe and knowing it was only a matter of time before America became involved, Jacqueline Cochran, the most famous female pilot next to Amelia Earhart, met with Eleanor Roosevelt and General Henry ‘Hap’ Arnold, to discuss a program which would employ women pilots, to free the men in the United States for active duty overseas. She was refused.

Miss Cochran, along with twenty-five women pilots, then flew to England, volunteering to help with their ATA’s -Air Transport Auxiliary – being accepted, and having to sign eighteen-month contracts.

August 1943, two forces were unified – WAFS and WFTD – forming Women Airforce Service Pilots otherwise known as the WASPs under Cochran’s supervision.

At the time, the Army did not believe that women could fly, but were forced to offer training at an abandoned school in Houston, Texas. Over 25,000 women pilots volunteered for the flight training to learn to fly “the Army way”, and since the Army did not recognize the WASPs, the women were forced to pay their own way, buy their own makeshift uniforms, food and supplies.

Initially, the Army used civilian men to train the 1,830 women that had been accepted into the program, and the men believed that the women pilots weren’t qualified to fly, even though the women had more flying time than required for men in similar training.

The women were forced through grueling calisthenics and forced to endure ridicule and humiliation by their male supervisors. They learned to take orders and follow the regulations of the Army, without the Army perks.

Relief came when the WASP training center was moved to an actual army barracks at Avenger Field in Sweetwater, Texas. The facilities in Sweetwater were prepared for them; they even had official uniforms finally, and barracks on the airfield. The male instructors were real Army, and were complete opposites of the men from Houston.

The women worked together helping each other with different tasks and giving each other moral support. When one of them did washout after receiving the allotted seventy demerits, the women shared the grief of their failure.

They made each others beds, bouncing the coin on the tight fitting sheets, when one of them couldn’t quite get that part right. They polished each others shoes using old nylons; they helped with scrubbing floors and latrines. They worked together with the common goal of getting their wings, proving to the men that women could fly the Army way.

The Women Air Force Service Pilots were disbanded on December twentieth, 1944, to make room for the returning men who needed the hours of airtime to qualify for their military benefits. The women were not granted militarization, even though they were bound by the rules and regulations of the Army, with the exception they could resign, a right that very few took advantage of.

Out of thousands of applicants, only 1830 were accepted, 1074 graduated from the training classes and thirty-eight women died while serving their country, without the benefit of military honors. Collections were taken among the WASPs when one of their own died, since no life insurance policies were issued to them as was done with the men.

Congress would acknowledge the WASPs in 1977, admit they were indeed veterans, but official recognition would not occur till 1979. In 1984 each woman would be awarded the Victory Medal, and those who served more than a year would be awarded the American Theater Medal, all by mail.

In 1996, I had the honor of meeting several WASPs at an air show at Falcon Field in Mesa, Arizona. The women were much older, but they still had that special something – the grit and determination required by so many of that generation in serving our country.

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I am a retired aerospace engineer, happily married for over twenty-four years. My hobbies include blogging on PPOV, reading mystery/romance novels, playing guitar, learning the piano and writing. My husband and I love to travel in our camper/trailer, and have visited 45 states, besides having lived in France for 2 years and seeing most of Europe. "Today is the first day of the rest of your life? Well, that's true of every day but one - the day you die." American Beauty "All you need in this life is ignorance and confidence, and then success is sure." Mark Twain "A man is never more truthful than when he acknowledges himself a liar." Mark Twain

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AuntieChrist
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javaz,

thank you for such an inspiring article (and it is inspiring.)
After looking around at that site which shall not be mentioned, I needed that. To, again, read about the courage and diversity of the people who make this country so great is what makes me proud to be an American.

It was difficult in that I was grabbed by both that feeling of pride in my country in what her citizens can accomplish, yet at the same time – anxious as to whether it can be ever be done again. As I took in the entire article, I was encouraged more and more by the courage, tenacity, self-sacrificing, indomitable spirit of America: it’s people like them… they make America great!

I hope with the most fervent of hopes that people will realize the sacrifices it took to make this country so great – to get over the entire “I WANT MY SHARE!” mentality which means nothing but death for democracy – and in the end, the planet.

Auntie Christ

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KQµårk 死神
Member

Great story javaz. My mother served in the Korean war even though most of the time she was in Japan. She worked as a clerk decrypting communications and thanks to her service I don’t have to worry about getting excellent care from the VA. She just turned 77 yesterday.

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TheLateGrardini
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What a great story. thank you so much for sharing this with us!

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kesmarn
Admin

javaz, learned something new this Veteran’s Day, thanks to you.
Don’t you dare stop writing articles! The graphics thing will get straightened out.

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nellie
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This reminds me so much of the Tuskegee Airmen. Certain jobs were reserved for a long time, excluding all kinds of people who would have been happy to take them. Thank goodness this practice is fading into the past. Desperate times give opportunities for people to prove themselves. And these women were examples of the competency of all women—for all to see.

This is a great article, Javaz. Thanks for posting this bit of history on Veterans Day.

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BigDogMom
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BigDogMom

Your article sent shivers down my legs….it is sad that these women were not acknowledged as veterans until 1979.

These brave women and other’s have paved the way for us women now, thank you for reminding me.

“We’ve come a long way baby”!!!!

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