For 27 months, between 1942 and 1944, eleven hundred and two women flew military aircraft as part of the US war effort.
They did not engage in combat, but (mostly) ferried new planes to their destinations – a key role, because planes don’t fly on their own.
The story of the Women Airforce Service Pilots is one of those often overlooked bits of history that are the main reason why I love history.
Now, Sarah Byrn Rickman, probably the foremost expert on WASP history, has published WASP of the Ferry Command, a complete overview of the WASP ferry pilots – based on official reports and documents and, most importantly, on interviews with the surviving members of the unit.
The WASP was created in the aftermath of Pearl Harbor, with the purpose of freeing men from non-combat duties so they could fly in combat. If men were to fly in battle, women would have to cover the non-combat posts.
Far from being glorified taxi drivers, the WASP pilots flew a total of nine million miles in those 27 months – and theirs is a story of adventure and derring-do… with the added bonus of being non fiction.
The cast of characters is absolutely stunning – as the WASP began by enrolling any woman in the US of A holding a flying license… a sure way, in the 1940s, to put together a collection of strong, unconventional, fascinating women.
And indeed, the women of the WASP do remain with the reader once the story is over.
The volume, published by the University of North Texas, gives a vivid portrayal of the women in WASP, following them from training to the disbanding of thegroup.
The author also focuses on the two leaders and “souls” of the structure, Jacqueline Cochran and Nancy Love, whose diverging views on the evolution of the service – and its eventual militarization – brought the WASP to an end in 1944.
Highly recommended for history buffs, adventure aficionados, and anyone willing to spend a few hours with some extraordinary real women.