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Women's Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) in World War II

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  • Byrd Granger (1912 - 1991)
    Byrd Howell was born to engineer Frank Scott Howell and musician Evelyn Byrd Howell on October 18, 1912 in New Rochelle, NY. The exact origin of her acquired last name is unknown; it is known only t...
  • Janet Dirlam (1918 - 1992)
    Passed CAA (Civil Aeronautics Agency) course, 13 June 1941 Husband, William, in same class After war became a teacher/professor
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    On May 4, 2022, Dorothy Ann Smith Lucas flew west to be with her fellow Sisters of the Skies. Just shy of her 100th birthday, she will be missed amongst the aviation community. Her tireless efforts ...

The Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP), called "Women's Army Service Pilots" by some sources, was a paramilitary aviation organization. The WASP's predecessors, the Women's Flying Training Detachment (WFTD) and the Women's Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron (WAFS) organized separately in September 1942. They were the pioneering organizations of civilian female pilots, employed to fly military aircraft under the direction of the United States Army Air Forces during World War II.

The WFTD and WAFS were merged on August 5, 1943, to create the paramilitary WASP organization. The female pilots of the WASP ended up numbering 1,074, each freeing a male pilot for combat service and duties. They flew over 60 million miles in every type of military aircraft. Over 25,000 women applied; however, only 1,074 were accepted into the WASPs. The accepted women all had prior experience and airman certificates. Of those accepted, the majority were white; aside from white women, the WASP had two Mexican American women, two Chinese American women (Hazel Ying Lee and Maggie Gee), and one Native American woman (Ola Mildred Rexroat).

Due to the existing climate of racial discrimination, the only African American applicant was asked to withdraw her application. Thirty-eight WASP fliers lost their lives while serving during the war, all in accidents.

Eleven died in training and twenty-seven on active duty. So great was the resentment of male pilots at some air fields, there are suspicious circumstances surrounding the death of three WASPs, for example, sugar found in the gas tank.

Because they were not considered military under the existing guidelines, a fallen WASP was sent home at family expense without traditional military honors or note of heroism. The army would not allow the U.S. flag to be placed on the coffin of the fallen WASP. The WASP was granted veteran status in 1977, and given the Congressional Gold Medal in 2009.

"This is not a time when women should be patient. We are in a war and we need to fight it with all our ability and ever weapon possible. WOMEN PILOTS, in this particular case, are a weapon waiting to be used."

Eleanor Roosevelt, 1942 for the WASP virtual cemetery.