|A WASP presentation
was held in the Welcome Center. Photo by Mariano Rosales
Their main mission was to free up male
pilots for combat duty.
As the first women trained to fly
military aircraft, the Women Airforce Service Pilots, or WASP, ferried
more than half of the airplanes delivered during World War II. They flew
60 million miles of operational flights from aircraft factories to
military bases. They towed targets for live anti-artillery practices and
simulated strafing missions. They flew almost every type of aircraft
flown by the U.S. Army Air Corps during World War II.
About 1,074 WASP earned their wings, and
38 of them died serving their country. Four of the surviving 300-plus
WASP talked about their experiences during a Friday presentation. (The
last WASP presentation will be 10-10:45 a.m. today in the Welcome
The WASP said towing targets was one of
their most fun, although sometimes dangerous, jobs.
“I did that,” said WASP Dot Swain
Lewis. “I didn’t think it was so dangerous, but they were shooting
at us. If they were good students, and we hoped they were, they aimed at
the target 40-50 feet behind us. There was plenty of room if they made a
“The B-17 carried the gunners, and they
had tracers on the bullets,” WASP Dawn Seymour said. “So you could
tell by the course of the bullet if they were getting too close to the
WASP Jan Goodrun tested the aircraft
before the cadets flew them. “It helped to prove that women were equal
to men,” she said.
The women said they had few troubles
fitting in with the men.
“Overall, I had wonderful support,”
said Seymour. “If some male pilots gave me trouble, I figured it was
their problem and not mine. I had earned my wings.”
WASP Bernice “Bee” Haydu, too, said
she had few troubles with the men. But she told a story of some other
WASP who had issues with one male instructor.
“There was a group of WASP sent to a
B-26 school to get checked out and they were met by the officer
instructor. He said, ‘I’m not going to teach any damn women how to
fly.’ But it was an order, so he had to. But we WASP got even with
him, or at least one of us did. She married him.”
The WASP were disbanded on December 20,
1944, but it wasn’t until 1977 that they were finally recognized as
veterans of WWII. They were again recognized earlier this year when they
received the Congressional Medal of Honor.