At first the military resisted using experienced women pilots who volunteered their services. This soon changed, but the women pilots who flew military aircraft did so as civilians.

Betty Williams, WASP engineering test pilot, shortly
after landing a P-40N upon completion of a test flight,
Randolph Field, San Antonio, Texas, November 1944.
Credit:  Women’s Memorial Foundation

WASP Irma Story at the controls of her
aircraft at Harlingen Army Air Field,
Harlingen, Texas
Credit:  Women’s Memorial Foundation

In 1942 under the leadership of Nancy Harkness Love, the Women’s Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron (WAFS) flew aircraft from where they were manufactured to bases where they were needed. To qualify, these women had to have had extensive flight experience. Members of WAFS were civilian employees who were hired under 3 month contracts and were assigned to no military unit. Also in 1942, Jacqueline Cochran founded the Women’s Flying Training Detachment (WFTD) to perform any kind of flight service required by the Army Air Corps in addition to ferrying.

In 1943, the WAFS and WFTD merged under the leadership of Jacqueline Cochran to form the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) to perform the full array of flight services. These civilian volunteer service pilots were required to pay for initial flight training before qualifying for more extensive training on military aircraft. Over 25,000 women applied, 1,830 served performing crucial and dangerous missions, and 38 died.


Model Jean Colleran dons a Women’s Air Ferrying Squadron
uniform for the October 1943 issue of The American Magazine.

Credit: Women’s Memorial Foundation
Click on image to see larger view

Life magazine, 19 July 1943
Credit: Women’s Memorial Foundation
Click on image to see larger view

WASP Harriet Train dresses appropriately for
the open cockpit of a biplane.
Credit: Women’s Memorial Foundation



WASP trainees with an Army Air Corps civilian
instructor on the flight line, at Avenger Field,
Sweetwater, Texas, May 1943.
Credit:  National Archives (USAF Photo)