Sunday, June 5, 2016

Women & War ... A Chronology

  • American Revolution (1775-1783): Women serve on the battlefield as nurses, water bearers, cooks, laundresses and saboteurs. Read more about them at the National Women's History Museum site.
  • War of 1812: Mary Marshall and Mary Allen serve as nurses aboard Commodore Stephen Decatur's ship USS United States
  • Mexican War (1846-1848): Females left their mark on this war. On the home front and the battlefront, north and south of the Rio Grande, women served their nation in a variety of ways. Read more at this National Park Service site.
  • Elizabeth Newcom enlists in Company D of the Missouri Volunteer Infantry as Bill Newcom. She marches 600 miles from Missouri to winter camp at Pueblo, Colorado, before she is discovered to be a woman and discharged.
  • Civil War (1861-1865): Females on both sides disguise themselves as men in order to serve. Read more at Soldier-Women of the American Civil War
  • Christmas Eve 1862: Three nuns from the Catholic order Sisters of the Holy Cross board the USS Red Rover and become the first female nurses to serve aboard a Navy ship.
  • 1866: Dr. Mary Walker receives the Medal of Honor, the only woman to receive the nation's highest military honor. 
  • Spanish-American War (1898): Thousands of U.S. soldiers sick with typhoid, malaria and yellow fever, overwhelm the capabilities of the Army Medical Department. Dr. Anita Newcomb McGee suggests to the Army Surgeon General that the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) be appointed to select professionally qualified nurses to serve under contract to the U.S. Army. Before the war ends, 1,500 civilian contract nurses are assigned to Army hospitals in the U.S., Hawaii, Cuba, Puerto Rico, Guam and the Philippines, as well as to the Hospital Ship Relief. Twenty nurses die. The Army appoints Dr. McGee Acting Assistant Surgeon General, making her the first woman ever to hold the position. The Army is impressed by the performance of its contract nurses and asks Dr. McGee to write legislation creating a permanent corps of nurses.
  • 1901: Army Nurse Corps is established.
  • 1908: Navy Nurse Corps is established.
    Some of the First Women Sworn into the
    U.S. Marine Corp (August 1918)
  • World War I (1917-1918): During the course of the war, 21,480 Army nurses serve in military hospitals in the United States and overseas. Eighteen African-American Army nurses serve stateside caring for German prisoners of war (POWs) and African-American soldiers. The Navy enlists 11,880 women as Yeomen (F) to serve stateside in shore billets and release sailors for sea duty. More than 1,476 Navy nurses serve in military hospitals stateside and overseas. The Marine Corps enlists 305 Marine Reservists (F) to "free men to fight" by filling positions such as clerks and telephone operators on the home front. Two women serve with the Coast Guard. More than 400 military nurses die in the line of duty during World War I. The vast majority of these women die from a highly contagious form of influenza known as the Spanish Flu, which sweeps through crowded military camps and hospitals and ports of embarkation.
  • 1917: The U.S. Army Signal Corps Female Telephone Operators Unit is formed when 233 bilingual "Hello Girls" are recruited and trained  to work at switchboards near the front in France. Fifty skilled stenographers are also sent to France to work with the Quartermaster Corps. 
  • 1918: Private Opha May Johnson becomes the first woman to enlist in the Marine Corps Reserve.
  • 1920: A provision of the Army Reorganization Act grants military nurses the status of officers with "relative rank" from second lieutenant to major (but not full rights and privileges).
  • World War II (1941-1945): More than 60,000 Army nurses serve stateside and overseas during World War II. Sixty-seven Army nurses are captured by the Japanese in the Philippines in 1942 and are held as POWs for over two and a half years. The Army establishes the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC) in 1942, which is converted to the Women's Army Corps (WAC) in 1943. More than 150,000 women serve as WACs during the war; thousands are sent to the European and Pacific theaters. The Women's Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) are organized and fly as civil service pilots. WASPs fly stateside missions as ferriers, test pilots and anti-aircraft artillery trainers. More than 14,000 Navy nurses serve stateside, overseas on hospital ships and as flight nurses during the war. Five Navy nurses are captured by the Japanese on the island of Guam and held as POWs for five months before being exchanged. A second group of eleven Navy nurses are captured in the Philippines and held for 37 months. The Navy recruits women into its Navy Women's Reserve, called Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service (WAVES), starting in 1942. Before the war is over, more than 80,000 WAVES fill shore billets in a large variety of jobs in communications, intelligence, supply, medicine and administration. The Marine Corps creates the Marine Corps Women's Reserve in 1943. Marine women serve stateside as clerks, cooks, mechanics, drivers, and in a variety of other positions. The Coast Guard Women's Reserve (SPAR) ... after the motto Semper Paratus - Always Ready) was established in 1942. SPARs are assigned stateside and serve as storekeepers, clerks, photographers, pharmacist's mates, cooks and in numerous other jobs. In 1943, the US Public Health Service establishes the Cadet Nurse Corps which trains some 125,000 women for possible military service. More than 400,000 American military women serve at home and overseas in nearly all non combat jobs. As the country demobilizes, all but a few servicewomen are mustered out, even though the United States, now a world power, is forced to maintain the largest peacetime military in the history of the nation.
  • 1943: Colonel Ruth Cheney Streeter, first Director of Women Marine Reservists; Captain Anne Lentz, first commissioned Marine officer; Private Lucille McClarren, first female to enlist in the marines. 
  • 1945: First detachment of women Marines arrives in Hawaii for duty.
  • Korean War (1950-1953): Service women who had joined the Reserves following World War II are involuntarily recalled to active duty during this war. More than 500 Army nurses serve in the combat zone and many more are assigned to large hospitals in Japan during the war. One Army nurse dies in a plane crash en route to Korea on July 27, 1950, shortly after hostilities begin. Navy nurses serve on hospital ships in the Korean theater of war as well as at Navy hospitals stateside. Eleven Navy nurses die en route to Korea when their plane crashes in the Marshall Islands. Air Force nurses serve stateside, in Japan and as flight nurses in the Korean theater during the conflict. Three Air Force nurses are killed in plane crashes while on duty. Many other servicewomen are assigned to duty in the theater of operations in Japan and Okinawa.
  • Lebanon Crisis (1958): Military nurses are assigned to the hospitals which deploy during the crisis to support over 10,000 troops.
  • Vietnam War (1965-1975): Some 7,000 American military women serve in Southeast Asia, the majority of them nurses. An Army nurse is the only US military woman to die from enemy fire in Vietnam. An Air Force flight nurse dies when the C-5A Galaxy transport evacuating Vietnamese orphans she was aboard crashes on takeoff. Six other American military women die in the line of duty.

One if by hand ...

Port Washington, NY / July 8, 1942
An art assembly line of students copying WWII propaganda posters.
The master poster is hanging on the wall in the background.da

Friday, June 3, 2016

Women's Army Corps (WAC)

History of the Women's Army Corps
Information found at

The Beginning
Massachusetts Congresswoman Edith Nourse Rogers introduced the first bill to establish a women's auxiliary in May 1941. On 14 May 1942, Congress approved the creation of a Women's Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC). Two days later, Mrs. Oveta Culp Hobby (pictured on this poster) was appointed the first Director of the WAAC.

Five training centers were opened within a year: The first at Fort Des Moines, IA; the second at Daytona Beach, FL; the third at Fort Oglethorpe, GA; the fourth at Fort Devens, MA; and the fifth at Camp Ruston, LA. As an auxiliary of the Army, the WAAC had no military status, so Mrs. Rogers introduced another bill in 1943 to enlist and appoint women in the Army of the United States. President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the bill on 1 July 1943 and 90 days later the WAAC was discontinued and replaced by the Women's Army Corps (WAC). Colonel Hobby continued as Director of the WAC.

World War II
Six months before women received military status, the first WAAC contingent arrived in Algeria, North Africa. In July 1943, the first WAAC Separate Battalion arrived in England led by Lt. Col. Mary A. Hallaren. Three WACs joined Vice Admiral Lord Louis Mountbatten's Southeast Asia Command in New Delhi, India, in October 1943. A WAC platoon arrived in Caserta, Italy in November and a month later another arrived in Cairo, Egypt. January 1944 marked the arrival of the first WACs in the Pacific at New Caledonia. In May a large group arrived in Sydney, Australia.

After Victory in Europe (VE Day) in May 1945 and the surrender of the Japanese in August, the remaining WAC training centers at Fort Oglethorpe and Fort Des Moines closed and no further WAC training was conducted. In February 1946, the War Department began a program aimed at retaining women still in service and re-enlisting those who had served during World War II. Chief of Staff General Dwight D. Eisenhower, announced that he would ask Congress to make the WACS part of the Regular Army and the Organized Reserve Corps. By the end of May 1946, WAC strength had dropped from a wartime high of more than 99,000 to about 21,500 and by the end of May 1948, WAC strength totaled approximately 6,500 women on active duty.

On 12 June 1948 President Harry S. Truman signed into law the Women's Armed Services Integration Act that permitted women in the Regular Army and the Organized Reserve Corps. A new training Center at Camp Lee, VA was opened in July 1948.

The Korean War
With the beginning of the Korean conflict, women were again needed in greater numbers than in peacetime. In August 1950, many WAC officers and enlisted reservists returned voluntarily on active duty. When more were needed the Army involuntarily recalled a number of reservists on active duty. New WAC detachments were established in Japan and Okinawa to support the men fighting in Korea. A WAC unit was not sent to Korea, but in 1952, a number of individual women filled administrative positions in Pusan and Seoul.

The first WAC officer assigned to Vietnam was Major Anne Marie Doering in March 1962. Two WAC advisors to the Vietnam Women's Army Forces Corps were next to arrive in January 1965: Lt. Col. Kathleen I. Wilkes and master Sergeant Betty L. Adams. They were replaced annually. A WAC detachment with an average strength of 90 enlisted women was located at HQ, U.S. Army, Vietnam, Long Binh, approximately 20 miles from Saigon. The detachment remained there from January 1967 to October 1972 when all U.S. troops began to withdraw from Vietnam. Many enlisted women and WAC officers also served at General Westmoreland's headquarters in Saigon throughout this same period.

Women Generals
On 8 November 1967 Congress removed promotion restrictions on women officers, making it possible for women to achieve general officer rank. The first WAC officer to be promoted to Brigadier General Elizabeth P. Hoisington on 11 June 1970, the second was Mildred C. Bailey and the third was Mary E. Clarke. They were the seventh, eighth and ninth (and last) Directors of the WAC, respectively.

A major expansion of the WAC began in 1972 as a means of helping the Army maintain its required strength after elimination of the draft on 30 June 1973. As a result of a strong recruiting campaign and the opening of all Military Occupational Specialties (MOS) to women except those involving combat duties, the strength of the WAC increased from 12,260 in 1972 to 52,900 in 1978.

Innovations in the WAC after 1972
Beginning in September 1972, women entered the Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC). By May 1981 approximately 40,000 women were enrolled in college and university ROTC programs. On 1 July 1974 all WAC officers were permanently detailed to other branches of the Army (except the combat arms) and the WAC officers career branch was reduced to zero. Defensive weapons training for enlisted women, warrant officers and women officers became a mandatory course in July 1975. The policy also applied to women in the Reserve and National Guard. In the fall of 1977, women began taking the same basic training course as enlisted men and a year later they began training together in the same units. In August 1982, after a four-year trial period, joint training was discontinued. The first women cadets entered the United States Military Academy at West Point in July 1976 and women have graduated with every class since June 1980. To fully utilize barracks space world-wide, separate WAC units were phased out in 1973 and 1974. Enlisted women continued to be housed separately to insure privacy in sleeping and bat facilities, but they are jointly administered by one commander and cadre group. The WAC Center and School closed in December 1976. A home for the Women's Army Corps Museum was constructed at Fort McClellan, AL in 1977 with funds donated by WAC personnel and their friends. With the closing of Fort McClellan, a new museum will be built at Fort Lee, VA.

Women's Army Corps Discontinued
As a means of assimilating women more closely into the structure of the Army and to eliminate any feeling of separateness from it, the office of the Director, WAC was discontinued on 26 April 1978. The Women's Army Corps as a separate corps of the Army was disestablished on 29 October 1978 by an Act of Congress.

WAC Grades & Pay

Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service (WAVES)

History of the WAVES
Found at

Throughout World War II women contributed to the war effort in various fields of endeavor. Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service (WAVES), a unit of the U.S. Naval Reserve, was one such field. Their numerous contributions proved to be a vital asset to winning the war as well as proving that mixed-gender forces could be successful.

A nudge from Eleanor Roosevelt prompted the Navy to consider a women’s reserve corps. Congress was slow to recognize the need for women in the navy, but President Roosevelt realized that servicewomen would be a wartime plus, and signed the corps into law on July 30, 1942. Mildred McAfee, president of Wellesley College, was sworn in as a naval reserve lieutenant commander, the first female commissioned officer of the U.S. Navy and the first director of the WAVES.

By early August 1942 a great number of women from every state applied for the general navy service positions offered in Bainbridge, MD. The intensive 12-week training course entailed eight-hour days of classroom study. The women, equivalent to yeomen, were trained to perform secretarial and clerical functions. The first class consisted of 644 women, and subsequent classes produced a maximum of 1,250 graduates. The results exceeded expectations; by fall 1942, the U.S. Navy had produced a record 10,000 women for active service.

Later serving in a wide range of occupations, the WAVES performed jobs in the aviation community, medical professions, science, technology and communications. The Navy established the WAVES to perform the same assignments as the WACs with such duties as control tower operations. For that position the preferred candidate had to meet the following criteria, to be and to have:
  • 25 to 30 years old
  • 20/20 vision
  • normal auditory acuity
  • speaking ability
  • quick reactions in stressful situations.
Recognizing their natural talents and the ability to perform as well or better than men, the Bureau of Aeronautics restricted aviator operator positions to the WAVES in the fall of 1942.

WAVES were not eligible for combat duty, so as more men went off to war, positions in other fields became available. While attending parachute school at Naval Air Station Lakehurst, NJ, Kathleen Robertson influenced Navy policy when she went beyond her normal duties of inspecting, repairing and packing parachutes. While the Navy required the men to test the parachutes, Kathleen impressed them when she successfully and happily executed a jump. Thereafter a WAVE parachute rigger could jump, but was not required to do so. At least one third of the WAVES were assigned to naval aviation duties during World War II.

While women filled in where needed, which released men into combat, that reality was not favorable to some. Men with stateside assignments did not automatically want to go into combat overseas. Civilian women did not want their husbands, brothers, sons or fathers to go off to war. As a result, WAVES were often resented. Other controversies followed when WAVE enlistees were pasted with the stereotype that they were too masculine — or the worst calumny, government-sanctioned prostitutes. Despite public relation challenges, the Navy continued to depict female service members as serious, noble, feminine and patriotic.

The WAVES' assignments remained stateside, or in Alaska and Hawaii. Publicity depicted their numerous contributions, which indirectly made combat victories possible. Their diverse images, portrayed on posters, in magazines, and on billboards were not only morale boosters, but also encouraged other women to enlist. The Navy did come under fire for excluding African-American women from the ranks.*

A final attraction to join the WAVES became reality when the Navy awarded women equal pay and rank in October 1943. WAVES were now subject to the same regulations and requirements for promotions as men. That created a huge incentive for women to enlist and, within a year, 27,000 women wore the WAVES uniform.

The U.S. Navy regulated all aspects of the WAVES' physical appearance. In 1944, Josephine Forrestal, wife of the Assistant Secretary of the Navy, asked noted fashion designer Main Rousseau Bocher to create a stylish uniform. He then donated his designs to the navy for the WAVES. Each enlistee was given four uniforms: summer greys, summer dress whites, working blues, and of course, dress blues. Navy regulations specified that WAVES should wear their hair short, and they were encouraged to wear feminine hair dos, skirts and gloves. The uniform regulations were specific, and frequent surprise inspections were standard procedure.

The Navy provided cryptology classes at several colleges for some WAVES; students received their code training in a three-month course at Smith College in Massachusetts. Those whose test scores were high were sent straight to work in Washington, D.C. Women accepted into the cryptologic field were sworn to secrecy, and the penalty for discussing their work outside proper channels — considered to be an act of treason in time of war — could be death.

To maintain secrecy, the Navy told the WAVES as little as possible. Approximately 600 newly inducted WAVES were sent to Dayton, Ohio, along with 200 men, to help build and train on cryptanalytic bombes. Used to break coded German messages, that equipment contained intricate works. The WAVES performed secret tasks by soldering wires to the rotors, with another WAVE soldering on the opposite side, thus maintaining the secrecy of the rotary wirings, because no individual WAVE would have knowledge of both sides. Such work was another illustration that non-combat missions were not only vital to the war effort, but that detailed work by women could be invaluable.

WAVES were often assigned to such less desirable shifts as nights and weekends.Shift work, with women working around the clock, exerted adverse effects on their health. WAVE sleeping quarters comprised several barracks that housed more than 4,000 WAVES. Eighty-four women shared one large room, sleeping in bunk beds and storing their belongings in nearby steel lockers. It became apparent to the Navy that better living conditions would foster higher morale and improve health conditions. The living quarters were subsequently enlarged to create more privacy and better accommodate the WAVES with their challenging work schedules.
Recruiting ended in 1945 with a peak enrollment of 86,000 servicewomen. By the time World WAR II ended, more than 8,000 female officers and at least 75,000 enlisted WAVES had served their country. The WAVES' duties had included everything from patching bullet holes in a naval boat to performing engine checks on a seaplane.

The WAVES' status was uncertain at war's end. With the passage of the Women’s Armed Services Integration Act, the WAVES became a permanent component of the Navy until 1978. At that time, separate women’s units of the armed forces were integrated into the former all-male units.

Accepted by some, rejected by others, the WAVES who served their country
during World War II are still recognized and appreciated by Americans today. Their contributions earned the respect of society and laid part of the foundation for the women’s movement.

*President Truman signed an executive order to racially integrate the armed services in 1947,

WAVE Grades & Pay

Women's Airforce Service Pilots (WASP)

History of the Women Airforce Service Pilots

“The success of the WASP program within the Ferrying Division was due largely to Nancy Love’s ability to organize, to lead and to cooperate with the “powers that be” within the Division. She had the respect of all with whom she worked, smoothly and efficiently from its start in September 1942 until de-activation in late December 1944.” ~ Betty Huyler Gillies, WAF, 1976

Jackie Cochran
In September 1939, a day after German tanks rolled into Poland, Jacqueline My Day stating, “We are in a war and we need to fight it with all our ability and every weapon possible. Women pilots, in this particular case, are a weapon waiting to be used.”
Cochran, a brassy no-nonsense business woman and record-setting pilot, sent a letter to First Lady, Eleanor Roosevelt, outlining the valuable contributions she felt women pilots could make in case the United States entered the war. Jackie envisioned a women’s air corps that would handle almost any noncombat flying job, thereby releasing men for duty overseas. Intrigued with Jackie’s idea, the First Lady told the nation about it in her regular newspaper column,

In May of 1940, twenty-six year old Nancy Harkness Love wrote Gen. Bob Olds, organizer of the Air Transport Command (ATC), with a plan to use women pilots to ferry planes for the ATC. At first the idea of using women pilots was dismissed but by 1942, as the shortage of male pilots became acute, Gen. Olds decided the time was right to put Love’s plan into action. Most of his colleagues including Maj. William Tunner, commander of the Ferrying Division, were skeptical or flatly believed that women were incapable of flying military aircraft.

Nancy Harkness Love
Throughout 1940 and 1941, Cochran continued to advocate for a separate women’s air corps, with a woman commander at the helm.  During that same time, Nancy Harkness Love, the youngest woman in the U.S. to earn her private pilot’s license and qualify for a commercial license, wrote to the Army Air Forces suggesting that qualified women serve in some form. Nancy wrote, “I’ve been able to find 49 women pilots I can rate as excellent material … and there are probably at least 15 more that are up to handling pretty complicated stuff.” While few agreed with Nancy, others in the Army Air Forces thought she was on to something, but the idea of women in the cockpit of military aircraft was too radical a concept for serious consideration.

While Jackie and Nancy were proposing basically the same ideas about women flying for the military, women across the country were gearing up to earn flight hours. After all, this was the age of aviation discovery and women were proving themselves in the skies. Amelia Earhart had opened the doors for women as young female fliers were following her feats in the skies. Earhart had demonstrated that women could fly and that there was more than enough room in the skies for both male and female pilots. At the same time, experienced women flyers like Teresa James were barnstorming across the country and Cornelia Fort was teaching others how to fly.

By 1942 everything was changing. Women were becoming vital to the war effort, and newspapers, magazines, radio addresses and movies were neither letting women nor America forget. During the Depression women had been encouraged to stay at home. But wartime propaganda was pervasive encouraging women go to work “for the duration.” They were urged to join the struggle for freedom and democracy and “to make the world secure for their children.”

WASP Special Delivery by Gil Cohen

During the late Autumn of 1944 on the tarmac of the Lockheed Aircraft Plant in Burbank, California, a group of four Women’s Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) are gathered around their flight leader. She is kneeling and pointing to a significant rendezvous point on an aerial map, reinforcing the path of the WASP flight plan. Their mission is to ferry five P-38 Lightning fighters to a port of embarkation where the planes will be shipped to bases overseas.
Women were replacing men in nearly every area and assuming the full responsibilities of citizenship for the first time. Nearly 400,000 women would serve in the various branches of the military during World War II. For two years prior to the war there had been discussions about using women in routine jobs, but military officials weren’t sure how to deal with females in what had traditionally been an exclusively male domain. By the spring of 1942, a growing manpower shortage, particularly in jobs women were already doing in civilian life like clerks, typists and switchboard operators forced a change in thinking. Male enlistments were starting to drop. Every community in the nation turned to draft boards to secure young men for the armed services.

The United States was building its air power and military presence in anticipation of direct involvement in the war and began to expand its enlistment of male cadets. This period had led to a dramatic increase in activity for the U.S. Army Air Forces, and revealed obvious gaps in manpower that could be filled by women. However, it was not until after the attack on Pearl Harbor that it became evident that there were not enough male pilots. Something would have to change.

In September of 1942, Nancy Love was appointed as the director of the Women’s Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron (WAFS) under Maj. Tunner and given a chance to prove her skeptics wrong. Nancy initially sent telegrams out to 83 of America’s best women pilots recruiting them as civilian pilots to serve in the Ferry Command. The women had to be between 21 and 35 years of age, logged at least 500 hours in the air, hold a commercial license, a 200-horsepower engine rating and have recent cross-country flying experience.

Thirty days later, Love had received responses from 23 women interested in the program including barnstormer Teresa James and Cornelia Fort. Of the first 13 accepted, most had a commercial license, were under the age of 35, and averaged more than 1000 hours of flight time. Ultimately, their numbers grew to 28 of the best, most qualified, and experienced female pilots the country had to offer.

"Zoot Suits" Army issue mechanics
coveralls worn by WASP trainees
Stationed at New Castle Army Air Base, these twenty-eight highly qualified, elite civilian women pilots, “The Originals” as they would come to call themselves, began ferrying light aircraft and primary trainers such as Stearmans and PT-19 Fairchilds. They quickly went on to ferry larger aircraft including pursuit planes like the P-38 and P-51.

Women’s Flying Training Detachment (WFTD)
Jackie Cochran requested she be allowed to establish a training program to recruit and train women for flying duties. On September 14th, 1942, General Hap Arnold, Commanding General of the Army Air Forces, approved the WFTD that would recruit and train 500 licensed pilots to ferry planes. The 23-week training program, placed under the direction of Cochran, was based out of Houston. Jackie’s goal was to prove that any healthy, stable young American woman could learn to fly just as well as her male counterparts.

The first batch of applications was sent to 150 women, 130 of whom responded immediately. Each was personally interviewed by Cochran. Thirty were selected for the first class and notified by telegram to report to Houston at their own expense.

Women's Airforce Service Pilots (WASP)
From the beginning, the two programs, the WAFS and the WFTD operated independently and without much interaction between their two rival leaders, Jackie Cochran and Nancy Love, until the summer of 1943, when Jackie pushed aggressively for a single unit to control the activity of all women pilots. On August 5th, 1943, the Women’s Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron and the Women’s Flying Training Detachment were merged and were re-designated the Women’s Airforce Service Pilots (WASP). Cochran was appointed the Director and Love named WASP executive with the Air Transport Command Ferrying Division.

On August 5, 1943, the WAFS and the Women’s Flying Training Detachment (WFTD), under the direction of Jacqueline Cochran, were merged into one organization called the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP). Jacqueline was named Director of Women Pilots. Nancy Love was named WASP Executive of the Ferrying Division of ATC. Collectively, these women surpassed all expectations and proved that women could fly military aircraft with as much skill and competency as their male counterparts. The WASP program was deactivated on December 20, 1944.

Rigorous training included learning to fly the military way with emphasis placed on cross country flying. Applicants were required to be between the ages of 21 and 35. Many of them had more flight hours than male pilots in the Army Air Corps. They followed a strict military regimen; barracks were six to a room and one bathroom for 12 girls. They marched everywhere, did calisthenics and ended their day with taps. They were ladies with a purpose, and took part in parades, infantry drills, barracks inspection and oaths of allegiance just like the male cadets.

For the WASP who graduated, they were assigned to air bases across the country to ferry planes from points of embarkation. They towed targets, served as flight instructors and flew radio-controlled planes. In the end, they flew over 60 million miles in every military aircraft that was part of the Army Air Corps arsenal. During the program 38 women would be killed serving their country.

They were never formally militarized although every WASP thought they would be before the program was deactivated December 20, 1944. Because the act of militarization required an act of Congress, it was a slow process – one that would not come until 1977, when President Jimmy Carter signed into law legislation awarding the WASP veterans status. Spurred by the 1970s announcement from the Defense Department that for the first time in our nation’s history women would be permitted to fly military planes, the WASP mobilized in order to gain the recognition long overdue acknowledging their service and place in history. With the help of Bruce Arnold, General Hap Arnold’s son, and political help from Senator Barry Goldwater, a WWII veteran who had commanded the WASP in his squadron, the WASP finally gained recognition and were officially militarized.

In 2009, President Barack Obama signed legislation awarding the WASP the highest civilian honor – the Congressional Gold Medal. In March 2010, over 250 surviving WASP were on hand in our nation’s Capital for the ceremony recognizing their contributions to our country during its greatest hour of need.