This text highlights the origins of the WASPs, their integration into the military, and how the program came to an end. It focuses on the treatment of the women members and how their fight for equality continued after the program ended.
The United States’ entrance into World War II provided new and unique opportunities for women to become members of the workforce and the military. The drive to victory changed many facets of American society and women stepped up to assume what had been predominately men’s roles. For example, just one percent of the aircraft industry’s total workforce were women prior to the war. However, by 1943, more than 310,000 women were employed in the U.S. aircraft industry; comprising sixty-five percent of the industry’s total workforce. Anticipating America’s possible entry into World War II, one of the nation’s leading female pilot’s, Ms. Jacqueline Cochran, began promoting women pilots for active roles in the war effort. Cochran found a strong ally in First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt. Their vision would provide an extraordinary military/civilian program and grant qualified women the opportunity of a lifetime – flying America’s front-line military aircraft. This group of volunteer female pilots would become known as the WASP, the Women’s Airforce Service Pilots…
…[Ms. Cochran] assumed responsibility for the Women’s Flying Training Detachment (WFTD). She started building the WFTD by compiling lists of all the women in the country who had their pilot’s license, developing an organization to support women pilots, finding a location for training, and providing training and equipment. Additional pressure was brought on by First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, in her September 1, 1942 newspaper column, “My Day.” In her article, she articulated the need for an increased military role for women to support the war effort. In it she stated, “It seems to me that in the Civil Air Patrol and in our own ferry command, women, if they can pass the tests imposed upon men, should have an equal opportunity for non-combat service… We are in a war and we need to fight it with all our ability and every weapon possible. Women pilots, in this particular case, are a weapon waiting to be used.” She concluded by stating, “I think it is time [to undertake] a campaign to see that our 3,500 women fliers, every one of whom is anxious to do something in the war, be given a chance to do it. Hence, 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.”
…Unlike their male counterparts, a female pilot, to become a member of the WFTD, had to meet several requirements including at least 1 year of college, being between twenty-one and thirty-two years of age, and having at least 200 hours of flight time. After meeting those qualifications, the pilot would receive an invitation from Ms. Cochran for a personal interview with either her or her representative. After the interview, a qualified pilot had to pass the Army Air Force physical exam and, if they passed, the women were required to supply character references. Over the duration of the program, the qualifications for admittance would be modified to increase the candidate pool and the number of women in each class. Once accepted into the training program, the women had to pay for their transportation to the training base in Texas. If they “washed out,” they had to pay for their way home. As trainees, the women were required to complete the same primary, basic, and advanced training courses as male Army Air Corps pilots. Trainees could be eliminated from the program at any time for failure to meet the program requirements for flying, ground school, or personal conduct. There were provisions made for retaking a class if a pilot proved herself to her instructors or if there was an extenuating circumstance. The women had to learn to fly the “Army way” and the training was meant to be rigorous. This was reinforced in the women’s handbook, which read, “There would be no room for those who ‘can’t take it’ or chronic gripers and complainers.”…
Citation: Moseley, John. Education Director Fort Fisher State Historic Site. “‘Daughters Of The Sky’: The Women Airforce Service Pilots and Their Role in North Carolina.” https://www.academia.edu/61637303/_DAUGHTERS_OF_THE_SKY. Accessed 22 August 2023.
- What reasons did Eleanor Roosevelt offer in support of women pilots in her newspaper column?
- What were the requirements for females to become pilots?
- Based on the context of the sentence, what did it mean when women “washed out”?
Facets: parts of something
Articulated: communicated clearly
Ferry command: military operation involving flying aircraft to where they would be used and then sending the pilot back
Extenuating: making a fault or mistake less serious
Rigorous: harsh or tough