On our next stop, we visited the WASP museum.
There will be a lot of history in this post, but these women deserve recognition.
After the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1942, pilots were in short supply. Men were being sent to fight and planes needed to be flown from where they were manufactured to bases. The Army needed pilots to deliver newly built trainer aircraft to the flight schools. Our first female squadron was formed of 28 experienced civilian women pilots who volunteered to move the planes.
From 1942 to the end of 1944 more than 1,000 women trained to fly military planes at Avenger Field in Sweetwater, TX. The WASP flew every type of plane that the Army had in use at the time brand new from the factory. This was not the only dangerous service they performed. They also towed gunnery targets, transported equipment and non-flying personnel, and flight-tested aircraft that had been repaired before sent off to war. For two years, the WASP served at 120 bases all over the country.
Over 25,000 women applied to the program but only 3,000 had their pilot licenses. Of those only 1830 women were accepted to training. Only 1,102 became WASPs and flew over 66 million combined air miles in 77 different types of airplanes. This included the fastest attack fighters to the largest bombers of the day. Amazing!
Sadly 38 were killed in service.
The museum is made up of 2 hangers. One has planes and the other is filled with exhibits.
The company patch was designed by the Walt Disney Company.
The women that served in the WASP were not officially designated as members of the United States military until 1977 when they were granted military status. Amazing how short-sighted the military and politicians were at denying status for 33 years.
The most surprising thing about the museum is that it did not open until 2005 over 60 years after the end of the program.
A dedication to the surviving women is at the museum.
The airport was returned to public service and is still in use today. In fact some of the planes for the museum still fly and are taken to airshows.
Over at the airport is a memorial and statue to the WASP service.
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