Saved from Official Fate

Time, April 3, 1944

A gallant old boy, General Henry H. Arnold, chief of the Army Air Forces, last week saved the official lives of the Women's Airforce Service Pilots.

Fortnight ago the WASPs were wondering whether they were going to become unwanted women. Congressmen muttered among themselves about abolishing the WASPs now that the Civil Aeronautics Administration program is winding up, releasing at least 900 experience men flyers who might be used as ferry pilots. But General Arnold announced that the men were needed elsewhere, that he needed more WASPs.

Front row, left to right: WAFS Esther (Nelson) Carpenter, Barbara Jane (Erickson) London, Teresa James, Esther Manning, and Bernice Batten. In the back are a captain and stewardess from American Airlines. After ferrying the planes from the factories to the airfields for transport to overseas battle areas, the WAFS sometimes returned by way of commercial airlines. [Special Collections, Texas Woman's University]

WASP Militarization Favored by Stimson
Women Pilots Deserve Army Status, Secretary Asserts

Special to the New York Times

WASHINGTON, May 4, 1944 -- The War Department favors continuation of its corps of women fliers and militarization of their organization, known as the Wasp, . . . Mr. Stimson thus gave the first official statement of the Army's position in a controversy which has gone on for several months. . . He said the women pilots, nineteen of whom had been killed, "are performing valuable service" but did not have "the rights, privileges and benefits available to comparable military personnel."

Startling and Invalid

Time, May 29, 1944

Said the report acidly; the need "to recruit teen-aged schoolgirls, stenographers, clerks, beauticians, housewives and factory workers to pilot the military planes of this Government is as startling as it is invalid". .

Jackie Cochran maintained an anxious silence while Hap Arnold talked on. The committee kept its report on its desk. Ramspeck had not decided whether to release it officially or let the cold facts come out in debate when Cochran's WASPs are tossed out onto the House floor.

(See photo at left) Jeanne (Bennett) Robertson, Eolyne Nichols, and Rosalie Grohman of Class 43-W-4. They were happy to be at Avenger Field and happy for the opportunity to fly. [Jeanne Robertson]


New York Times, Tuesday, June 20, 1944

Representatives Says 5,000 Are Put in 'Walking Army' WASHINGTON, June 19 (AP)-- Male fliers, with more than 2,000 hours in the air, may soon be cleaning planes for "glamorous women fliers who have only thirty-five hours of flying time," the House was told today by Representative Morrison, Democrat of Louisiana. . . .

Jacqueline Cochran in the cockpit of a P-40 Warhawk fighter plane. Before starting the WASP, Cochran was a famous aviatrix during the 1930s. She earned her pilot's license in the early 1930s and competed in her first major race in 1934. In 1937, she was the only woman to compete in the Bendix race. That year, she also set a new woman's national speed record. By 1938, she was considered the best female pilot in the United States. She had won the Bendix and set a new transcontinental speed record as well as altitude records (by this time she was no longer just breaking women's records but was setting overall records. [USAF neg. No. 117391-AC]


New York Times, June 28, 1944

Many Women Pilots Protest Steps Order by Congress Toward Liquidation Special to the New York Times WASHINGTON, June 27--This was wash-out day for the Wasp training program, with Army orders carrying out the closing-down legislated by Congress. . . . As specified by Congress, Wasps in training will be allowed to complete their courses, and Wasps in service will continue their work. . .

One Congressman called up to ask if he could get a constituent into the last class which he thought

was just opening, and was told there would not be any. . . . . The Wasp public relations officer said that her office had been swamped with messages from people expressing appreciation of the work of the Wasp and that public relations of fields where they operate, had reported that the women fliers have a strong feeling of having been unfairly attacked. .

Nance Love, pilot (left), and Betty (Huyler) Gillies, co-pilot, the first women to fly the Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress heavy bomber. The two WAFS were set to ferry a B-17 named Queen Bee to England when their flight was canceled by General Hap Arnold. [USAF neg. No. 118306-AC]

Home by Christmas

Time, October 16, 1944

. . . .Last week, with appropriate regrets, General "Hap" Arnold, boss of the USAAF, announced that the WASPs (Women Airforce Service Pilots) would be disband on Dec. 20.

In a way, the WASPs who had done a man-sized job of flying for the Army, had asked for it. . . . they had demanded the same military status as the WACS, WAVES, SPARs and Women Marines. In spite of Hap Arnold's earnest support of the plan. . .Congress had turned thumbs down.

Then the Air Force ladies, . . . gave their ultimatum. . . .the WASPs should get military status or be washed out altogether. As Congress showed no disposition to change, there was no choice for Hap Arnold. . . .

Home is where most WASPs will land, according to Mrs. Hazel Taylor, their public-relations officer, who predicted: "Their careers will be marriage." . . . But airmen who heard such intimations of renunciation wondered. Flying is a habit hard to break.

WASP trainees Lyda Dunham, Betty Naffz, and Jane Champlin in their Zoot Suits, hemlets, and goggles. [Jeanne Robertson]

Wasp Wins Struggle, Lands Plane Safely

Fights Faulty Gear While Circling Airport,
Radios for Crash Truck, Avoids Accident

After struggling with defective landing gear for more than two hours while she circled country airport, Wasp Nancy Batson, 24, grimly radioed the word to "get the crash truck out" and then nosed her P-38 pursuit plane down to the landing field. . . .

Miss Batson hit the runway with her fuselage landing wheels and kept the nose of the plane high, fearful that the nose wheel had not locked properly.

Gingerly she settled--and the wheel didn't fold up. . . .she. . .said simply, "I'm sorry to have caused all this trouble."

Captain Jack Clay of the Air Transport Command, who had instructed the plucky Wasp by radio how to adjust the faulty gear, grinned. "You're calmer than a lot of the men this has happened to," he said. . . .

After it was all over, Miss Batson did the thing any woman -- not necessarily a Wasp -- would do. With hands blistered from pumping the landing gear, she proceeded to freshen her lipstick.

Nancy E.Batson (WAFS), Gwendolyn E. (Cowart) Hickerson (Class 43-W-4), Betty J. (Hanson) Erenberg (Class 44-W-3), and Shirley Haugan (Class 44-W-3) at New Castle Army Air Base, Wilmington, Delaware. [USAF neg. no. B-29681-AC]