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W o m e n A i r f o r c e S e r v i c e P i l o t s – W W I I By Nancy Allyson Parrish

Director, Wings Across America (click for online version)


Up until America was thrust into the raging Second World War, American women were never expected to do significant, important, or courageous things. They were expected to be wives and mothers who would raise their sons to do those things. Women were certainly never expected, or encouraged, to ever go 'above and beyond', in anything; not until December 7, 1941.

World War II changed ALL expectations, including the role of women in military aviation. Why? With American combat pilots in very short supply after severe pilot losses in North Africa, America desperately needed pilots—any kind of pilot—even a woman!

All it took was a visionary and extraordinarily determined pilot named Jacqueline Cochran, who wrote to First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt in 1939 and proposed the unconventional idea of training women pilots to fly military aircraft so they could be used in non combat flying roles, if they should ever be needed. Add to Ms. Cochran, one heroic, open minded General named Hap Arnold, and a little lobbying by the First Lady.

"Women pilots, in this particular case, are a weapon waiting to be used… I am speaking up for the women fliers, because I am afraid we cannot afford to let the time slip by just now without using them." Eleanor Roosevelt

After Ms Cochran made several proposals for a program to give women pilots the same training as the male pilots, the General finally gave her the opportunity to put her training program into effect. That one decision eventually gave America the untapped resource so badly needed: courageous, patriotic young women pilots, committed to victory and willing to go where no woman had ever gone before: the cockpit of an American military aircraft.

"We all were patriotic, and we all wanted to serve our country in some way. People just were beating the doors down signing up for service, men, and, of course a lot of women, too. And we were pulling together in a way that I've never seen since then, and probably will never see again." WASP Marion Hodgson, 43-W-5

With the Army Air Force's promise of militarization, the first class of

29 women pilots raised their right hands, swore the oath all military WITH NO REGRETS

article by Nancy Parrish for “Salute To Freedom” Spring 2008

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