When the war broke out in 1939, an impressive pioneer aviatrix named Jacqueline Cochran planted idea of a separate women’s airforce into the mind of General Henry “Hap” Arnold, commander of the Army Air Force. The general at first rejected Cochran’s progressive scheme, but by the middle of the war he had second thoughts. Male pilots were scarce in the spring of 1942. Searching for a solution, General Arnold thought back to Cochran’s suggestion from over two years prior. He decided to give it a try. On September 11, 1942, Cochran was made Director of Army Air Force’s Woman’s Flying Training Department (WFTD).
In less than a year, Cochran and the young women who reported for pilot training in Texas proved themselves highly capable of successfully completing the same training, performing the same duties, and flying all of the same types of military aircrafts as male airforce pilots. While Cochran had been busy with the WFTD, a test pilot named Nancy Harkness Love had been commanding a division of women pilots called the Women’s Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron (WAFS). On September 5, 1943, the WFTD and the WAFS combined and became the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP). Cochran continued to act as the director and Love was named WASP executive.
Over 30 thousand women applied to join the WASP. Eighteen hundred and thirty were accepted and only 1,074 graduated. WASPs were separated into different classes in the years 1943 and 1944. They trained for seven months using the same format and performing the same tasks as male pilots. After graduation the women were stationed at one of 120 United States Army Bases. When more men were available for domestic service, the WASP was disbanded to open up their jobs. The last WASP class was only able to serve two and a half weeks at an army base.