24 Amazing Historical Photos of Women and the Airplanes They Flied during the 1930s & 1940s

The Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) (also Women’s Army Service Pilots or Women’s Auxiliary Service Pilots) was a civilian women pilots’ organization, whose members were United States federal civil service employees. Members of WASP became trained pilots who tested aircraft, ferried aircraft, and trained other pilots. Their purpose was to free male pilots for combat roles during World War II. Despite various members of the armed forces being involved in the creation of the program, the WASP and its members had no military standing.

WASP was preceded by the Women’s Flying Training Detachment (WFTD) and the Women’s Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron (WAFS). Both were organized separately in September 1942. They were pioneering organizations of civilian women pilots, who were attached to the United States Army Air Forces to fly military aircraft during World War II. On August 5, 1943, the WFTD and WAFS merged to create the WASP organization. 

The WASP arrangement with the US Army Air Forces ended on December 20, 1944. During its period of operation, each member’s service had freed a male pilot for military combat or other duties. They flew over 60 million miles; transported every type of military aircraft; towed targets for live anti-aircraft gun practice; simulated strafing missions and transported cargo. Thirty-eight WASP members lost their lives and one, Gertrude Tompkins, disappeared while on a ferry mission, her fate still unknown. In 1977, for their World War II service, the members were granted veteran status, and in 2009 awarded the Congressional Gold Medal. (Wikipedia)

Betty Gillies posing besides an aircraft.
Celia Hunter in the cockpit of a P-47 fighter.
Hazel Lee posing with a biplane, circa 1930s.
Cornelia Fort posing with a PT-19 aircraft.
Jackie Cochran in the cockpit of P-40 Warhawk fighter, circa 1942-1945.
WASP pilot Deanie (Bishop) Parrish in front of her P-47 Thunderbolt aircraft, circa early 1940s.
Nancy Harkness Love posing in front of a PT-19A trainer aircraft, 1942-43. Note WAFS patch on her jacket (forerunner of the WASPs).
WASP pilot Catherine Vail Bridge standing in front of a P-38 Lightning.
WASP pilot Elizabeth L. Gardner at the window of her B-26 Marauder bomber, Harlingen Army Air Field, Texas
WAFS pilot Florene Watson with an AT-6 Texan, Love Field, Dallas, Texas, Feb 1943.
WASP cadets Leonora Anderson and Mildred Axton show off the oversized and ill-fitting jump suits provided to the WASP program, Avenger Field, Sweetwater, Texas, May 1943.
WAFS pilot Nancy Harkness Love in the cockpit of B-17 Flying Fortress bomber ‘Queen Bee’, Sept 1943.
WASP Nancy Love in the cockpit of Fairchild PT-19 trainer, 1944.
WASP pilot Dawn Seymour at the controls of a B-17 Fortress, 1944.
WASP pilot Ellen Wimberly Campbell, 44-W-7, at the controls of a Beech AT-10 Wichita trainer, 1944
WASP pilot Nancy Nesbit seated in the cockpit of an AT-6 Texan at Love Field, Dallas, Texas, 1944.
WASP pilot Susie Winston Bain, Avenger Field, Sweetwater, Texas, May 1944.
WASP pilot Lillian Yonally seated in the cockpit of an A-25A Shrike at Camp Irwin airstrip, California, 1944
WASP pilot Margaret Phelan Taylor, Avenger Field, Sweetwater, Texas, United States, June 1944.
WASP pilot Anne Armstrong McClellan showing off the WASP dress white uniform blouse and pin showing the WASP mascot, Fifinella (designed by Walt Disney and used by the WASPs with permission), 1944.
WASP pilot Ruth Dailey climbing into a P-38 Lightning aircraft, 28 Nov 1944.
WASP pilot Dorothy Olsen on the wing of a P-38L Lightning, 1945.
WASP pilot Vivian Eddy in the door of a P-39 Airacobra, 1945.
Four pilots leaving their B-17, “Pistol Packin’ Mama” at the four-engine school at Lockbourne AAF base, Ohio, during WASP ferry training.

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