In the fall of 1942, 1,830 women volunteered to join the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP).
They were sent deep into the heart of Texas to train at Avenger Field at Sweetwater — 236 miles southeast Amarillo, and 181 miles west of Fort Worth.
To qualify for the WASP program, women already had to be pilots with at least 500 hours of cockpit time. A total of 1,074 women completed the intensive training, designed to teach them to fly “the Army Way,” says Carol Cain, vice president of the National WASP WWII Museum at Avenger Field.
“In addition to being an elite corps from the standpoint of skills, ability and experience, the WASP were guinea pigs,” Cain says. “No program like this had ever been tried before. The future of women in military aviation hung on how the women performed professionally and conducted themselves morally and socially. The objectives of the program were to relieve male pilots for combat, determine if women could serve as military pilots and decrease the air force’s total demand on manpower pools.”
WASP were deployed to 126 bases all over the United States, and helped turn the tide in favor of America and its Allies. “Of the 77 types of planes in the Army Air Force arsenal, at one time or another, a WASP flew each type of these aircraft,” Cain says.
Thirty-eight WASP died in the line of duty.
“Today there are 36 surviving WASP, ranging in age from 96 to 103,” Cain says.
Cain will present a program about the WASP contribution to the war effort, and about the WASP museum, at 8 p.m. Friday, Sept. 6, 2019, in the Jet Air, Inc. hangar at Galesburg Municipal Airport.
All programs and seminars during Fly-In week are open to the public without charge.
Also scheduled are: