In September 1942, the Army Air Force (AAF) created the Women’s Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron (WAFS) and appointed Nancy H. Love its commander. The WAFS never numbered more than 28. WAFS were recruited from among commercially licensed women pilots with at least 500 hours flying time and a 200-hp rating. (Women who joined the WAFS actually averaged about 1,100 hours of flying experience.) Their original mission was to ferry USAAF trainers and light aircraft from the factories, but later they were delivering fighters, bombers and transports as well. 

The Air Transport Command was trying to recruit men pilots. Being short many pilots, a telegram was sent to eighty-three American women in September of 1942.

AFATC s938 PERIOD FERRYING DIVISION AIR TRANSPORT COMMAND IS ESTABLISHING GROUP OF WOMEN PILOTS FOR DOMESTIC FERRYING STOP NECESSARY QUALIFICATIONS ARE HIGH SCHOOL EDUCATION AGE BETWEEN TWENTY ONE AND THIRTY FIVE COMMERCIAL LICENSE FIVE HUNDRED HOURS COMMANDING OFFICER SECOND FERRYING GROUP FERRYING DIVISION AIR TRANSPORT COMMAND NEW CASTLE COUNTY AIRPORT WILMINGTON DELAWARE IF YOU ARE IMMEDIATLEY AVAILABLE AND CAN REPORT AT ONCE AT WILMINGTON AT YOUR OWN EXPENSE FOR INTERVIEW AND FLIGHT CHECK STOP BRING TWO LETTERS OF RECOMMENDATION PROOF OF EDUCATION AND FLYING TIME STOP BAKER END GEORGE ARNOLD COMMANDING GENERAL ARMY AIR FORCE WASHINGTON 

While WAFS was being organized, the Army Air Force appointed Jacqueline Cochran as Director of Women’s Flying Training. Cochran’s school, which eventually moved to Avenger Field in Sweetwater, TX, trained 232 women before it ceased operations. Eventually, over 1000 women completed flight training. As the ranks of women pilots serving the AAF swelled, the value of their contribution began to be recognized, and the Air Force took steps to militarize them. As a first step the Air Force renamed their unit from WAFS to Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP).

1943 WAFS Barbara Towne, Cornelia Fort, Evelyn Sharp, Barbara Erickson, and Bernice Batten beside a Vultee BT-13 Valiant

These twenty-eight women were the first “Originals”.
They began reporting for duty on 9/11/42, began training on 9/21/42, and completed training by the middle of December.
They averaged 1,400 hours of flying before they joined the WAFS.

BATSON, Nancy Elizabeth [Crews] – 20th BATTEN, Bernice L., E-3 USMC – 24th
BERNHEIM, Kathryn L. [Fine] – 26th, Maj. USAFR BOHN, Delphine – 15th
BURCHFIELD, Phyllis M. [Fulton] – 18th, 1,600 hours CLARK, Helen Mary – 5th, 629 hours, Maj. USAFR
DONAHUE, Barbara J. [Ross] – 16th, 500.1 hours ERICKSON, Barbara J. [London] – 14th, 1,017 hours, Maj. USAFR
FERGUSON, Opal “Betsy” [Woodward] – 23rd, 873 hours FORT, Cornella (KIS) – 3rd recruit, 845 hours
FULTON, Dorothy [Slinn] – 22rd, 3.269 hours GILLIES, Betty Huyler – 2nd recruit, 1,261 hours, Maj. USAFR
JAMES, Teresa D. [Martin] – 8th, 2,254 hours, Maj. USAFR LOVE, Nancy H. , Squadron CO 1st, 1,200 hours
MANNING, Esther [Rathfelder; Shively; Westervelt] – 19th, 500 hours McELROY, Lenore L. – 28th, 3,500 hours, Maj. USAF
McGILVERY, Helen – 27th MESERVE, Gertrude [Tubbs, LeValley] – 12th, 1,964 hours
MILLER, Florene [Watson] – 13th NELSON, Esther L. [Gebbert, Carpenter], Cpt. USAFR – 7th, 429 hours but passes flight test
POOLE, Barbara [Shoemaker] – 9th, 1,800 hours RHONIE, Aline H. “Pat” [Brooks] – 4th, 2,627 hours, ATA 3rd Officer, 11/30/1943 to 11/19/1944
RICHARDS, Helen [Prosser] – 10th, 975 hours SCHARR, Adela R. – 6th, 1,429 hours, Maj USAFR
SCOTT, Dorothy F. (KIS) – 25th SHARP, Evelyn Genevieve (KIS) – 17th, 2,950 hours
THOMPSON, Katherine [Rawls] – 21st, 675 hours TOWNE, Barbara [Dickson, Fasken] – 11th

 

Sources:
National Archives
Texas Women’s University
WWII Women Pilots

 

 

 

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