Cover

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Title Page, Copyright

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pp. i-vi

Contents

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pp. vii-ix

List of Photos

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pp. xi-xiv

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Foreword

Deborah G. Douglas

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pp. xv-xvii

Upon learning that England was recruiting women pilots in 1942, Eleanor Roosevelt wrote in her famous “My Day” newspaper column that American women pilots were a “weapon waiting to be used.”1 Days after her column appeared, two programs got underway to do just...

Acknowledgments

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p. xix

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Introduction

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pp. 1-4

Eleven-hundred-two American women flew U.S. Army aircraft in World War II. Those women, the WASP (Women Airforce Service Pilots), were WWII’s best-kept secret. The accepted story is that the WASP originated with Jacqueline Cochran, the cosmetics...

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Part I: War Declared, Pilots Needed

When the Germans invaded Poland on September 1, 1939, the world was plunged into what would become the second worldwide war of the twentieth century. Though the United States didn’t enter the fray as a combatant until December 8, 1941, following the December 7 bombing...

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1. The Beginnings

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pp. 7-16

The world in the late 1930s waited, poised on the brink of war. After World War I, U.S. Army Air Service Brigadier General Billy Mitchell predicted that the next war would be won in the air. This heresy got him...

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2. A Coup at the Water Cooler

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pp. 17-32

The story, as Gen. William H. Tunner tells it in his memoir, unfolded like this: Colonel Tunner was chatting with Major Love at the water cooler early one morning when Love mentioned that he hoped the fog had lifted enough for his wife...

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3. Recruiting the WAFS

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pp. 33-46

Building a squadron of experienced women pilots to ferry airplanes for the Army was not an easy task. The eighty-three recruitment telegrams Nancy Love sent out on September 5, 1942, were to women she believed to be qualified, but the women were slow to respond. Several who were interested were...

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Part II: Building the WFTD

By October 1, 1942, efforts were underway to teach women on the Home Front trades like welding, armature winding, and burning to make them eligible for work in America’s shipyards. Republic Steel had hired 1,000 women to make and assemble aircraft parts and accessories. Grumman...

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4. The Women’s Flying Training Detachment

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pp. 49-58

While Nancy Love was building her squadron in Wilmington in September and October 1942, Jacqueline Cochran moved her headquarters from Washington to Fort Worth, Texas, to work with the Army Flying Training Command (FTC) to organize and implement...

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5. Class 43-1 — The “Guinea Pigs”

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pp. 59-74

The first class was nicknamed the “Guinea Pigs”—and for good reasons. The program was experimental and had several strikes against it—not the least of which was the Army was trying to kill the experiment before it could get off the ground. Nevertheless, the Guinea Pigs became legends in their own...

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6. Class 43-2

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pp. 75-88

Fifty-one members of Class 43-2 entered training in Houston on December 13, 1942. They would be the last group to go through all phases of training in Houston. The facility there was proving inadequate and the program was growing. All training would be moving to Avenger Field outside...

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7. Class 43-3

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pp. 89-98

Class 43-3 began training January 16, 1943. Fifty-five reported and they were the last class in which all of the trainees reported to Houston. In February 1943, half of 43-4 would report to Houston and the other half to Sweetwater where, after May 18, all WFTD training would take place. Forty-three...

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8. Classes 43-4, 43-5, 43-6

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pp. 99-116

Classes 43-4, 43-5, and 43-6 were large classes—152, 125, and 123 respectively. The previous three classes had begun training with 29, 51, and 55 respectively. All graduates from the first three classes were sent directly to the Ferrying Division. But when Class 43-4 graduated August...

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Part III: Three More Women’s Ferrying Squadrons Formed

Two of Nancy Love’s new ferrying squadrons—one located at Dallas Love Field, Texas, and the other in Romulus, Michigan, outside Detroit —were scheduled to launch in January 1943. The third, in Long Beach, California, would start up...

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9. 5th Ferrying Group, Love Field, Dallas, Texas

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pp. 119-126

As January 1943 dawned, WAFS Nancy Love, Florene Miller, and Helen Richards flew to Dallas. Betsy Ferguson and Dorothy Scott drove Dorothy’s car cross-country by way of Betsy’s hometown, Coffeyville, Kansas, and from there continued south to their new duty station, the...

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10. 2nd Ferrying Group, New Castle AAB, Wilmington, Delaware

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pp. 127-134

Betty Gillies, the first woman to join the squadron, was Nancy Love’s choice to run the Wilmington squadron upon her departure January 1, 1943. Betty Huyler (Gillies) began flying an OX-5 Travelair November 10, 1928, soloed on December 23, and earned her private pilot’s license...

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11. 3rd Ferrying Group, Romulus, Michigan

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pp. 135-144

In 1941, Wayne County Airport, southwest of Detroit, was the fourth busiest airport in the country. With the coming of WWII, the airport’s peak 1,800 flights per day made it an excellent base for the Army’s rapidly expanding ferrying operations and it was taken over by the U.S. War...

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12. 6th Ferrying Group, Long Beach California

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pp. 145-152

When the Western Division of the Air Corps Ferrying Command was organized on August 1, 1941, the Long Beach airport became its home. When the Air Transport Command replaced the Air Corps Ferrying Command in 1942, the Western Division became the 6th Ferrying Group, one of the critical...

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13. Welcome to the Ferry Command

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pp. 153-158

When the members of Class 43-1 began reporting to the Ferrying Division early in May 1943, General George wrote to Colonel Tunner, briefing him on where things stood with the Training Command and what was expected. He also offered some background on the women...

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Part IV: Missions Altered

Between July and November 1943, changes would come quickly within the Ferry Command as well as at USAAF Headquarters. And though the women’s program was only a small part of the war’s big picture, as a result the entire mission of the women pilots — in particular...

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14. Cochran’s Power Play

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pp. 161-168

The day the women of Class 43-1 were due to report to their Ferrying Division squadrons, Jackie Cochran put her plan in motion. She sent the following memo to General Arnold. The date was...

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15. Nancy and Betty Fly the Fortress

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pp. 169-174

In July 1943, Nancy Love and Betty Gillies were offered the plum of World War II flying assignments. General Tunner wanted the two of them to ferry a B-17 to England. Tunner was getting static from male pilots who were wary of ferrying B-17s over the stormy...

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16. New Mission for the Ferrying Division

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pp. 175-184

In 1942, the fledgling Air Transport Command did not have enough pilots to ferry the high priority aircraft rolling off assembly lines. The Command had to find qualified pilots (men with a minimum 300 hours) and retrain them. Retraining was necessary because ferrying—the delivery of new...

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17. The Air Inspector

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pp. 185-190

Under contention from the beginning of the women ferry pilot program was the number of hours needed, first to qualify for training, and second to move into the Ferrying Division. Cochran wanted fewer hours to qualify, whereas the FD preferred to stick with its proven numbers. Up until...

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18. ATC Holds Firm in Tussle for Command

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pp. 191-196

In a year’s time—from November 1942 to October 1943—the course of instruction the women trainees undertook had lengthened, from the four months initially prescribed at Houston to more than six months at Avenger Field. The number of flight hours accrued had gone from 115 to 210, and the academic...

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Part V: Ferrying Can Be Hazardous to Your Health

With the arrival of the graduates of Classes 43-1 and 43-2, the four existing ferrying squadrons quadrupled in size. Adapting to new surroundings and circumstances can be a problem, but for the most part all the women adjusted—the old-timer WAFS and the new-kids-on-theblock, the pioneering...

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19. Ten WASP Ferry Pilots Tell All!

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pp. 199-220

The Ferry Command set certain parameters, rules for ferrying, and the pilots respected and complied with these rules. But pilots were free to make all judgments within the rules. Ferry Command leaders had decided that, at a certain point...

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Part VI: 1944: WASP Fly “the Game Changer”

As eight WASP and thirty-five male ferry pilots1 arrived in Palm Springs for the opening of Pursuit School December 1, 1943, the Big Three—Franklin Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, and Josef Stalin—had a fateful rendezvous in Tehran, Iran...

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20. Pursuit School

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pp. 223-232

The Ferry Command, a child born of World War II, was forever an organization in transition—evolving as its mission changed. As a WASP ferry pilot in an early class—and one knowledgeable in the field of physics...

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21. Militarization

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pp. 233-246

Congressman John Costello of California had introduced a bill in Congress in fall 1943 calling for the militarization of the WASP. The bill went to the House Committee on Military Affairs for study. Subsequently it was amended to include the appointment of female...

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22. Officer Training School

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pp. 247-254

The AAF considered WASP militarization a shoo-in once the Costello Bill went to Congress in February 1944. In March, General George asked the Ferrying Division bases to introduce close-order drill three hours a week for all WASP, “with particular emphasis on snappiness and...

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23. The First Transfers

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pp. 255-264

On her way to Orlando for OTS, Nancy Love made a stop in Washington, D.C. She had been asked to give a deposition for the Ramspeck Committee and agreed to do it on Sunday, April 16. Knowing Nancy was due in Washington—and that she was on her way to Orlando afterwards— Jackie Cochran...

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24. 21st Ferrying Group, Palm Springs

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pp. 265-274

Palm Springs, California, and the 21st Ferrying Group—in addition to being the site of the FD/ATC’s Pursuit School December 1943 through March 1944—also was home to two different contingents of WASP ferry pilots. The first group of sixteen women—six original WAFS and ten...

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25. D-Day, the Sixth of June

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pp. 275-282

The events of the D-Day invasion of Normandy and the mainland of Europe dwarf all other news to come out of June 1944; nevertheless the WASP as a unit had its noteworthy share. For the women of the Ferrying Division, significant was the re-ordering of the TDY contingent sent...

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26. A Typical Coast-to-Coast P-51 Delivery

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pp. 283-292

Where you were stationed as a Ferry Command pursuit pilot determined what aircraft you flew much of the time and also where you delivered those aircraft. The women pursuit pilots of the 2nd Ferrying Group in Wilmington spent the majority of their time in Farmingdale, New York...

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Part VII: Winning the War, Losing the Battle

The WASP of the Ferrying Division not only continued to fly, from June on their number of deliveries soared as progressively more of them were eligible to fly pursuit. Women who could not qualify for pursuit were returned to the Training Command for assignment elsewhere. But the future...

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27. The Great Transfer

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pp. 295-306

The Great Transfer of August 1944 constituted the most significant movement of WASP personnel accomplished during the twenty-eight months of the women’s program. The women were never told WHY this was necessary. Rumor, of course, took the upper hand and hard feelings...

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28. The Fall Out

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pp. 307-312

With the cancellation of additional WASP training at Sweetwater, Jackie Cochran began to draft a report to General Arnold aimed at achieving the withheld militarization. She had not given up hope. Her report was released to the press August 8, 1944. “Director of Women Pilots Asks...

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29. Ferrying — the Highs and the Lows

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pp. 313-324

Ferrying put on a new face in September 1944 as the remaining WASP ferry pilots continued to crisscross the country via the airways. New to the WASP were two high-performance, twin-engine pursuit aircraft—the P-38 and the P-61—though deliveries of these affected only an elite few among...

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Part VIII: Denouement

The U.S. Navy defeated the Imperial Japanese Navy in the historic battle of Leyte Gulf in the Philippines, October 26. It has been called the greatest-ever sea battle.1 Franklin Roosevelt won an unprecedented fourth term in the White...

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30. Twelve WASP Ferry Pilots Died

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pp. 327-334

The WASP and their leaders were fortunate that no lives were lost ferrying Class 26 aircraft. But as of September 1944, Nancy Love and the Ferrying Division were still to feel the sting of death among their own three more times before...

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31. Facts of Life in the Ferry Command

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pp. 335-350

In her final report, Jacqueline Cochran wrote that, as in the case of male pilots, some women pilots are better than others—suitable for one type of work and not for another. The yardstick by which the WASP training program should be measured was NOT if the graduates could fly pursuit...

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32. Thoughts: Women of the Ferry Command … In Their Own Words

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pp. 351-364

I couldn’t see very well. It was still quite dark—a typical morning in Long Beach, with scud clouds and the ceiling 800 to 1,000 feet. But when they said go, I went. Shortly after I was airborne, the airplane burst through the murk into a cloudless...

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Afterword

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pp. 365-368

The morning of December 20, 1944, as she climbed into her car and prepared to head home to Seattle, Barbara Erickson — C.O. of the WASP ferrying squadron at Long Beach — noted “sixty-six new P-51s sitting beside the runway waiting...

Endnotes

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pp. 369-418

Bibliography

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pp. 419-428

Index

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pp. 429-440