Female World War II Pilot Proud to be a WASP
Female World War II Pilot
Proud to be a WASP
By Shannon Collins, DoD News,
Defense Media Activity.
Washington D.C. — (DoD
News) — March 2, 2016 — For one Larned, Kansas, native, Women’s History
Month means more than just honoring the many women in science and the military
who set the stage for the women of today and in the future.
Lucile Doll Wise, a Women’s Airforce Service Pilot, or WASP, during World War
II, is one of those pioneers. In September 1942, the Army Air Forces needed
pilots, so after the attack on Pearl Harbor, Army Air Forces commander Gen.
Henry H. “Hap” Arnold established the Women’s Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron, or
WAFS, and the Women’s Flying Training Detachment, or WFTD.
WASP pilots Frances Green, Margaret "Peg" Kirchner, Ann
Waldner and Blanche Osborn
According to the Air Force Historical Support Division, the WAFS and WFTD
merged into a single unit on July 5, 1943. The now-unified group was called the
Women’s Airforce Service Pilots, or WASP, with its pilots known as WASPs. “Our
mission was to perform flying duties in this country to relieve male pilots for
overseas combat service,” Wise said.
Call to Serve
Wise joined the WASPs in May 1943, and served until they were disbanded in
December 1944. “I was thrilled at the prospect of flying the larger and faster
military aircraft and at the opportunity to help in the war effort,” she said.
Her younger brother enlisted in the Navy just before he graduated from high
school in 1943, and he was permitted to graduate before he headed to serve on a
ship in the South Pacific. “Of course we were all worried about him,” she said.
“He returned safely, but perhaps a bit damaged emotionally.”
Wise said she went through the same training as the male cadets, living in
barracks under military discipline, learning to march, making beds the Army way
Air Force Col. David Kirkendall tours the USS
Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor
“It was a cultural shock, giving up our comfortable homes, nice clothes and
social life but we didn’t complain because we were so thrilled to be flying
military aircraft,” she said.
After graduation, Wise was assigned to the Army Air Forces Weather Service
Region in Kansas City, Missouri.
“Our first and most important job was probably ferrying aircraft from
factories to air bases and points of embarkation. There was an alarming shortage
of pilots at the beginning of the war, and we delivered more than 12,000
aircraft in the two years we operated,” she said. “We also performed many other
domestic flying duties.”
She said they had a Cessna twin engine C-47, a five passenger plane they had
flown in training.
“It was slow but dependable,” Wise said. “Later, another WASP was assigned
there, and we got the larger Beech C-45. Our assignment was to fly the weather
officers wherever they needed to go, usually on inspection trips to all of the
AF bases in the region and to meetings. My favorite aircraft, and the favorite
of most of us, was the AT-6 [Texan], which we flew in advanced training. It was
a wonderful plane. I got plenty of flying.”
She said when she entered the WASP program, she had 50 hours, and when it
disbanded, she had almost 700 flying hours.
“When traveling, I usually stayed on base in the nurse’s quarters, although
sometimes we stayed in hotels,” Wise said. “One base in Nebraska had no women on
base, and the small town had no hotels, so I was given a room in the hospital.
Our trips often lasted four or five days, leaving on Monday and spending a day
at each air base and returning later in the week. It was a large seven-state
region with many air bases.”
She said she loved her job.
“I loved every minute of it, but it was not easy,” Wise said. “It was hard
work, and I came back from trips pretty tired.”
Arnold fought to have the WASPs militarized into the Army Air Force, but
Congress disbanded them, Wise said, adding that she was disappointed.
“We had a handsome uniform and officer privileges, but I really wanted to be
militarized and get a commission,” she said. “We were working hard and did not
realize that we were making history as the first U.S. women to fly military
Recognition at Last
For 33 years, the women weren’t allowed to call themselves veterans and their
records were classified and sealed from the public. They fought Congress and
pushed for publicity. On Nov. 23, 1977, President Jimmy Carter signed a public
law granting former WASPs veteran status with limited benefits. The Air Force
graduated its first female pilots that same year.
“It was wonderful,” Wise said. “I was living in the D.C. area at the time and
helped with the lobbying effort. It was a thrill to attend the hearing and have
contacts with Congressmen. It was a great help for a few of us who were without
health insurance or in financial trouble to be eligible to be treated at
Life after the Serving
Wise said she made great friends and meets up with her fellow WASPs at
reunions. “I made some great friends in the WASP program,” she said. “Some of
them were from wealthy families, but I did not realize it at the time. We all
looked alike in our ‘zoot suits.’ We met often at reunions and other women’s
aeronautical meetings. I am grateful for my opportunity to serve, and I believe
we all feel the same way. The WASPs went through a unique experience, and we all
have a close bond.”
Wise said she’s happy to have been a pioneer, and she’s happy to meet women
who are currently serving and children who may serve in the future.
“I’m so impressed by what women pilots are doing today, especially flying
into combat,” she said. “They are doing some great flying and proving once again
that women can fly military aircraft as well as men.”
She said she tells young women who may be considering the
military that “the military is not for everyone, but it offers a great
opportunity to young women.”
(Follow Shannon Collins on Twitter: @CollinsDoDNews)
 Between 1942
and 1944, at the height of World War II, more than a thousand women left homes
and jobs for the opportunity of a lifetime--to become the first in history to
fly for the U.S. military. They volunteered as civilian pilots in an
experimental Army Air Corp program to see if women could serve as pilots and
relieve men for overseas duty. These women became the Women Airforce Service
Pilots of World War II, better known as the WASP. Under the determined
leadership of Jacqueline Cochran, Nancy Harkness Love, and General Henry "Hap"
Arnold the WASP exceeded beyond all expectation.
Source : Official Archive
of the WASPs.
Related Links :
of the WASPs
Special Report: Women’s History Month
See also :
WASP Pursued Love of Flying, Fought for Women Vets’ Recognition
WASPs Were Pioneers for Female Pilots of Today, Tomorrow