• U.S.

Army & Navy – Saved from Official Fate

3 minute read
TIME

A gallant old boy, General Henry H. Arnold, chief of the Army Air Forces, last week saved the official lives of the Women’s Airforce Service Pilots.

Fortnight ago the WASPs were wondering whether they were going to become unwanted women. Congressmen muttered among themselves about abolishing the WASPs now that the Civil Aeronautics Administration program is winding up, releasing at least 900 experienced men flyers who might be used as ferry pilots. But General Arnold announced that the men were needed elsewhere, that he needed more WASPs.

Chore Ladies. Organized a year and a half ago by Nancy Harkness Love, the WASPs have shown how to be spectacularly useful. They have flown more than 30,000,000 miles, towing sleeve targets for A.A.F. gunners to shoot at, breaking in new planes, taxiing A.A.F. officials around the country. Their chief chore has. been, and still is, delivering new planes, working with A.A.F. Ferrying Groups.

The ships they deliver are mostly trainers (few WASPs have qualified as pilots of four-engine bombers). But as pilots of small ships they are in some ways better than men. A trip in a trainer may take weeks because of adverse weather. The WASPs sweat it out with womanly patience when male pilots would be driven mad.

If the ladies err anywhere it is on the side of caution. One WASP, heading for Long Island, was dismayed by Manhattan’s towering skyline, turned, to climb for altitude, lost her way, made an emergency landing in Freehold, N.J. Caution, however, has paid off in a low fatality rate. Only 13 WASPs have lost their lives.

WASPs, who come from all walks of life, have one thing in common: a passion for planes. Their chief is glamorous, dashing Jacqueline Cochran, ex-beauty shop operator, wife of Promoter Floyd Odium. Mrs. Love, ex-test pilot, is now a WASP executive officer. Among WASPs at Romulus (Mich.) Army Air Field: an ex-gym teacher, an ex-Broadway dancer, an ex-Hollywood hat designer. WASP Hazel Ying Lee once flew with the Chinese Army. They are young (18½-35), but Paula Loop, ex-schoolma’am, thinks that the uncertain hours and nervous strain age them fast.

Of the 1,000 women now enrolled in the WASPs, some 500 are still in training at Sweetwater, Tex. Hap Arnold said that the A.A.F. would need from one to two thousand more. Though he once privately stated that he did not want women in the A.A.F., he now backed a bill to legitimatize the WASPs, make them officially a part of the A.A.F. with the same kind of status as the WACs, WAVES, SPARS and Women Marines.

More Must-Reads from TIME

Contact us at letters@time.com