Women Air Force Service Pilots (WASP)
The Women Air Force Service Pilots (WASP) were a brave and dedicated group of aviators who helped the U.S. win the WWII battles in the air. They did not participate in combat directly. But they did take the place of men who could and did fight in the air. The women were not military service members, but were civilian employees. Their training was nearly identical to male pilots except for the combat-related portion of instruction. In all, 25,000 women applied for admission to the WASP training program; 1,830 were admitted and 1,074 completed the course and were assigned to operational duty. They were assigned to air bases across the country to ferry planes. WASP eventually flew 77 types of aircraft, including the P-38 and F-5, P-39, P-40, P-63, C-54, C-46, B-26 and B-24. Although ferrying was the first and principal duty of WASP, in 1943 women pilots were assigned to the Training Command where they gunnery towed targets and served as flight instructors. After April 1944 fighter plane ferrying became the main WASP activity. A few exceptionally qualified women were allowed to test early jet aircraft. The women encountered the same flying conditions and problems as male pilots, sometimes guarding their own planes at understaffed airfields, sometimes having to improvise refueling facilities, and flying open-cockpit training planes in subzero weather. A total of 37 WASPs lost their lives in aircraft accidents, while 7 suffered major injuries and 29 suffered minor injuries. With the need for pilots diminishing, on in December 1944 the WASP were deactivated. In 1977 WASP were awarded veterans status. In 2009 WASP were awarded the Congressional Gold Medal.