TIME Magazine, May 29, 1944

WOMEN: Unnecessary and Undesirable?

Robert Ramspeck. . . chairman of the powerful House Civil Service Committee, recently took a look at a bill which. . . General Henry Harley Arnold, has been trying to shove through Congress.

The bill would make the Women's Airforce Service Pilots a part [of the] Army Air Forces. [The] committee . . . found out. . . of the 1,313 women who have gone to WASP training schools, only 541 have graduated; 281 have flunked out; the rest are still in training. . . .

Wasted Manpower. Hap Arnold's argument has been that there is a serious aviation manpower shortage. . . . From unhappy C.A.A. flying instructors and C.A.A. trained personnel came another story. . . . They are available to ferry planes by the thousands. General Arnold. . . held fast for his WASPs.

The Ramspeck Committee . . . found . . . some 6,000 instructors alone who could be trained for the work the WASPs are doing in about half the time and at half the cost. Furthermore, the A.A.F. could utilize its returned combat pilots, as the Navy does, for noncombat flying. If a manpower deficit really exists, the committee found, it is "due largely to a failure to utilize existing personnel."

Startling and Invalid. . . . the militarization of. . . WASPs is not necessary or desirable; the present program should be immediately and sharply curtailed. . . .

Note: The WASPs were established in August 1943. The order for deactivation of the WASPs was issued October 3, 1944, effective December 20, 1944.

Fifinella was designed by Walt Disney studios as the logo for the Women's Airforce Service Pilots (WASP), the American women military aviators of World War II. This logo was painted on the side of her namesake, the Pitts S1-C, "Fifinella", in honor of these courageous and capable women.

The WASP encountered considerable opposition within both the military and the civilian government. The belief prevailed that women were fragile (physically and emotionally) and incapable of flying competently, much less piloting the high-performance military aircraft that they were intended to ferry. Flying was for men; women belonged at home in the kitchen.

The Women's Airforce Service Pilots (WASPs) was organized during World War II, to fill the labor shortage by ferrying aircraft for the Army Air Forces. They also trained gunners, and tested new planes, to mention a few tasks.

The program started as two separate organizations. Nancy Love headed the Women's Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron (WAFS) and Jackie Cochran was in charge of the training school. In 1943, the two groups were merged to become the WASPs under Jackie Cochran with Love remaining in charge of the women working for Air Transport Command.

The women were trained to fly all the Army's aircraft, as well as tow targets for gunners, test drone craft, and one pilot even participated in the fledging jet program.

They had to meet standards higher than men and have high school diplomas. It was important the project not fail through inexperience.

The front gate at Avenger Field, Sweetwater, Texas, in May 1944. The sign shows that the field was run by Aviation Enterprises Limited, a civilian contractor. [USAF neg. no. B-36520-AC]


Training started at Houston Field and eventually moved to Avenger Field outside of Sweetwater, Texas. Avenger Field had been a training base for British Air Force Cadets from June 22 thru August 1, 1942. U.S. Army Air Force Cadets replaced these men and remained thru April 9, 1943. The arrival of WASP trainees made Avenger the only military coeducational flying field in United States history; subsequently it became the only all female training base in the world to date. The pilots under went the same schooling as their male counterparts. Acrobatics and combat flying being the only courses omitted. These were replaced with more navigation and instrument training.

Although the WASPs had only Civil Service status, they trained under military discipline. Trainees flew in "zoot suits"; (ill-fitting coveralls, ordinarily made for male pilots), and had tan slacks and white shirts for a dress uniform. Eventually, the Santiago Blue uniform was adopted, to be worn only by graduates. Of the twenty five thousand applicants, one thousand eight hundred and thirty were accepted, and one thousand and seventy four earned wings. The original seven month course included one hundred eighty hours of ground school, and one hundred eighteen hours of flight training. These young women advanced from light aircraft to piloting every model in the Air Corps inventory at that time. WASPs ferried planes, towed targets, flew tracking missions, and did smoke laying. They flew simulated bombing missions, did radio control, searchlight strafing, gave instrument instruction, and flight-tested aircraft among other duties. Thirty eight WASP died in service to their country. (See page 6)

"Hap" Arnold, Commander of the Army Air Force and Cochran were working to have the program assimilated in the AAF much as the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps (WAACs) had been absorbed by the Army. The bid failed. The War was drawing to a close and Congress was besieged with mail from male pilots and their families. Their argument being that these glamour girls were keeping men out of work. The program was closed on Dec 20th, 1944 and the women sent home.

Photo- [Special Collections, Texas Woman's University]


Hap and Jackie Cochran