The Women Air Force Service Pilots could hop in any WWII aircraft type, crank it up and fly it anywhere. Although women were not allowed to participate in battle, they did serve in so-called “noncombat” missions These missions often proved to be extremely dangerous.
The Women’s Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron (WAFS) and Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP)
In September 1942, the Army Air Force (AAF) created the Women’s Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron (WAFS) and appointed Nancy H. Love its commander and authorized her to recruit a group of 30 women pilots. Love recruited highly skilled and experienced female pilots who were sent on noncombat missions ferrying planes between factories and AAF installations. While WAFS was being organized, the Army Air Force appointed Jacqueline Cochran as Director of Women’s Flying Training. Cochran’s school eventually moved to Avenger Field in Sweetwater, Texas. Over 1000 women completed flight training. As the ranks of women pilots swelled, the value of their contribution was recognized. General Arnold chose the official name of Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) for the young women flyers. General Arnold ordered members of the WAFS to be merged in the WASP.
Although not allowed to fly combat missions, WASP pilots served grueling, often dangerous, tours of duty. Ferrying, test flying and target towing were risky activities, and some WASP pilots suffered injuries and 38 were killed in the course of duty. During WWII these women pilots were employed by the U.S. Civil Service and did not have the officer’s commission, benefits and pay of the military. In 1977, after much lobbying of Congress, the WASP finally achieved military active duty status for their service.