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Texas Women's History Month: Women Airforce Service Pilots

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  In 1942, six months after the U.S. entry into World War II, the Army Air Force, facing a shortage of male combat pilots, turned to pioneering pilot Jacqueline Cochran to launch a flight-training program for women. Of the 25,000 women who applied, 1,830 were accepted, and 1,074 completed the training to become Women Airforce Service Pilots, or WASPs.

 

Cochran’s program trained women to fly every sort of mission except combat, thus freeing male pilots for combat duty. During the war, 38 WASPs lost their lives flying for the country, but because they were classified as civilians, they did not qualify for military benefits. The women often pooled their own money to fly their fallen comrades home for burial. They did not get full recognition and benefits until 1977, when federal legislation finally reclassified them as military veterans.

 

In 2009, the WASPs received the congressional gold medal and recognition of their service as the first women in history to fly American military aircraft.

 

This month, KUT is partnering with the Ruthe Winegarten Foundation to celebrate Women's History Month. Every day, we'll bring you a short feature spotlighting a historic woman, movement, or group of women in Texas.