In the early months of World War II, two accomplished female pilots, Jacqueline Cochran and Nancy Love, made separate proposals to two different offices in the United States Army Air Force. Jacqueline Cochran proposed training women pilots to fly military aircraft, freeing up men for combat. Nancy Love proposed hiring women with commercial pilots licenses to ferry aircraft, freeing up men for combat. To this point, the only women allowed to fly for the benefit of the military were volunteers with either the Civil Air Patrol or the ATA (Air Transport Auxiliary) in England.
The WAFS were hired as civilian ferry pilots and worked under Nancy Love and the ferry command. The WAFS were authorized to ferry light trainers and utility aircraft. The WFTD - Women's Flying Training Detachment - consisted of Jackie Cochran's pilots that had gone through exactly the same pilot training as the male AAF cadets.
The WASP - Women Airforce Service Pilots - were formed in 1943 when the WFTD and the WAFS were merged. The WASP went through exactly the same training as male AAF cadets. Once the WASP earned their coveted silver wings, many of them went through specialized training for B-26s, B-17s, etc. Several members of the WASP even served as test pilots for the B-29. WASP were based at airfields around the country for various duties, including acting as test pilots and ferrying aircraft within the continental United States. Dallas Love Field was the base for the 5th Ferrying Wing, including the 601st Women's Army Service Pilots (WASP).
Out of nearly 25,000 applicants, 1,830 women were accepted into WASP training at Avenger Field in Sweetwater, Texas. (The only all-women's air training base in the United States during WWII, often nicknamed "Cochran's Convent.") Of that 1,830, only 1,074 women finished the training and earned their wings. Thirty-eight WASP died in service to their country.
Although deemed highly successful, the WASP program was disbanded in December of 1944. Since the WASP were never officially a part of the US military, there were no discharges or veteran's benefits. On November 3, 1977, President Jimmy Carter signed into legislation a bill that finally provided military veteran status for the Women Airforce Service Pilots.
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