Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Men and Women Up in the Air the Number of Books about Humanity's Efforts to Fly Is Soaring This Fall.; from the Kitchen to the Clouds

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Men and Women Up in the Air the Number of Books about Humanity's Efforts to Fly Is Soaring This Fall.; from the Kitchen to the Clouds

Article excerpt

AMELIA EARHART'S DAUGHTERS

By Leslie Haynsworth

and David Toomey

William Morrow

322 pp., $24

In the histories of how America churned out the aircraft necessary to fight World War II, one detail is conspicuously absent: How did those planes get from factory to front?

They were delivered by ferry pilots, specifically the women of the Women's Airforce Service Pilots (WASP).

Leslie Haynsworth and David Toomey have written an intriguing account of how a few pioneer women fliers were of great service to their country, and how, but for gender politics, the US might have been first to send a woman into space. (The Russians won when Valentina Tereshkova orbited Earth for nearly three days in 1962.)

In the early days of World War II, Henry "Hap" Arnold, later commanding general of the Army Air Forces, was one of the visionaries who saw the future of air power. Events connected him with two pilots who saw the possibilities for women aviators: Jacqueline Cochran, a well-connected flier of cross-country races, and Nancy Harkness Love.

WASP evolved from the Women's Flying Training Detachment, headed by Cochran, and the Women's Auxiliary Ferrying Division, headed by Love. Before it was disbanded in 1994, more than 1,000 pilots had been trained by the WASP and flown more than 60 million air miles. Thirty-eight were killed.

By the end of 1944, the women had flown every aircraft in the American inventory, including the earliest jets. They flew P-51 Mustangs as ferry pilots months before men in combat; they ferried B- 17s to Europe; they towed targets for gunnery practice.

In May 1944, when the B-29 was being developed as a long-range bomber for the Pacific war, design problems scared off male pilots. A smart lieutenant colonel named Paul Tibbetts enlisted two WASPs from Florida's Eglin Air Force Base to show the guys at Alamogordo, N.M. …

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