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Baylor > Home > Exhibits > Archive Exhibits > Wings Across America Presents: Fly Girls of WWII

Wings Across America Presents: Fly Girls of WWII

WASP ExhibitWings Across America presents: Fly Girls of WWII Exhibit that honors a brave group of young women that flew military aircraft during World War II. They were known as the WASP (Women Air Force Service Pilots) and played an important, but largely forgotten role in American history. The Mayborn is proud to offer this opportunity to learn about their invaluable contributions through this exhibition in the Baylor area from September 15, 2007 through April 1, 2008.

During the early months of WWII, there was a critical shortage of male pilots. America's foremost female pilot, Jacqueline Cochran, convinced the Chief of the Army Air Forces, General Hap Arnold that she could enlist a group of young women pilots and, if given the same training as male aviation cadets were receiving, they would be equally capable of flying military aircraft. They could then take over some of the vital training and ferrying missions in the States, which would relieve male pilots for combat duty.

WASP Exhibit US FlagSixty-five years ago, on September 14, 1942 General Arnold approved Ms. Cochran's plan for an experimental flying training program and the qualifications required for entrance. The following day, September 15, 1942 the Women's Flying Training Detachment to train qualified licensed women pilots to fly military aircraft was created and officially approved, and Jacqueline Cochran was appointed Director of Women's Flying Training. This was the beginning of the WASP (Women Airforce Service Pilots).

25,000 young women applied for this experimental flight training program, but only 1,830 were accepted. They quit their jobs, left the safety of their homes and families and paid their own way to Texas to learn to fly "the Army way."

The first class of 29 began training at the Municipal Airport in Houston on November 16, 1942. Three months later the training program, which was the same as the AAF cadets were receiving, moved to Avenger Field in Sweetwater. After completing seven months of training, a total of 1,074 trainees graduated, received their silver wings, and together with 28 WAFS (Women's Auxiliary Ferrying Service), became WASP (Women Airforce Service Pilots). These were the first women in history to fly America's military aircraft. The WASP forever changed the role of women in aviation.

After graduation, the WASP were stationed at 120 Army Air Bases and Army Air Fields all over America. During some of the darkest days of WWII, they flew more than 60 million miles in every type aircraft in the AAF arsenal and on every type mission flown by the male AAF pilots, except combat. Assignments included ferrying aircraft from aircraft factories to ports of embarkation and military bases, towing targets for live air-to-air gunnery practice and live anti-aircraft artillery practice, flight testing aircraft, simulated strafing and night tracking missions, weather missions, smoke laying, radio control drones, transporting cargo and personnel, instructing for instrument and flight training for male cadets and pilots, flying missions to train navigators and bombardiers and flying B-26's and the B-29 to prove to the male pilots those planes were safe to fly.

WASP Exhibit SunglassesOn December 7, 1944, in a speech to the last graduating class, General Arnold said, "You and more than 900 of your sisters have shown you can fly wingtip to wingtip with your brothers. I salute you and all the WASP. We of the Army Air Force are proud of you. We will never forget our debt to you." Thirteen days later the WASP were disbanded.

Thirty-eight WASP lost their lives while serving their country, their bodies sent home in cheap pine boxes, their burial at the expense of their family or classmates. These heroic women pilots were denied any military benefits or honors-no gold star in their parents' window, not even so much as an American flag to drape their caskets.

Their military records were sealed, stamped either ‘classified' or ‘secret' and filed away in the Government Archives for 33 years. Consequently, their records were not available to the historians who wrote the historical accounts of WWII and history textbooks.

WASP Exhibit Three PilotsIn November 1977, 33 years after the WASP were disbanded, Congress reluctantly voted to give them the Veteran status they had earned, but their history is still not included in most textbooks and is unknown to millions of Americans. Despite General Arnold's pledge that the Air Force would never forget them, it did, and so did America.

Since 1998, Wings Across America has been capturing and preserving, one by one, the history of surviving WASP across America. This project, thru Baylor University, is dedicated to preserving the history of the WASP.

Wings Across America presents: Fly Girls of WWII Exhibit honors this brave group of young women known as the WASP (Women Air Force Service Pilots). The Mayborn is proud to offer this opportunity to learn about their invaluable contributions through this exhibition in the Baylor area from September 15, 2007 through April 1, 2008.

Entrance to the exhibit is included with price of admission!

For more information, visit the Wings Across America website.

Click here to download this exhibit to your calendar.

WASP Exhibit Fly Girls Wall







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