Women Pilots of World War II

Women Pilots of World War II

Women Pilots of World War II

Women Pilots of World War II


A look at the personal experiences of the Woman Air Force Service Pilots (WASPs), recounting the adventures of one of eighteen classes of women to graduate from the Army Air Forces' flight training school during World War II.


"A dream to do something different."--Lourette Puett

Sweetwater, Texas, September 1943: One hundred and twelve women pilots arrived in this small, dusty Texas town, eager to start the Women Air Force Service Pilots training program. They were to enter Class 44-W-2, the second class of women scheduled to graduate in 1944. These women were a diverse lot. Some were entering the program with the minimum number of flying hours (thirty-five), while some held a commercial license or an instructor's rating, with several hundred hours of flying time. Some had started flying as early as 1936, and some had started only in 1943. Ages ranged from eighteen to twenty-eight. All, however, were pilots before they arrived. How could so many women have learned to fly on their own initiative (this was only one class out of eighteen), as early as 1943? Where did they come from, and how did they manage to become pilots?

I was one of them. As I was to learn, we came from all corners of America, from the small towns and the big cities, from the privileged classes and the notso-privileged. For each of us, flying was a passion, and some combination of daring, rebellion, and determination took us into the air.

On July 3, 1942, I took my first flying lesson at Fair Haven, Vermont. the airport consisted of a grass runway just long enough to land a small plane, hangar space for two planes, and a one-room "lounge." When I arrived for my first lesson, I noticed the dusty parachutes stacked in a corner, the cluttered desk protruding from one wall, and the layer of pipe smoke hanging over the few old leather chairs strewn randomly around the room. Two elderly men (old World War I pilots, I discovered) sat smoking and boasting of their past exploits. the scene did not inspire much confidence. Nor did the old, red, oilsplattered Aeronca that soon wheeled into sight. Nonetheless, my instructor, Norm Grady, began explaining the airplane to me as though it were his prize possession, which perhaps it was. I can still remember, as if it were yesterday . . .

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