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Women in the Air Force – displays in World War II Gallery

Black and white picture of Jacqueline CochranFollowing the Story of Jacqueline Cochran

Flying with a Mission

Prior to the development of the Women’s Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) program in the United States, Jacqueline Cochran recruited American female pilots to join the Royal Air Forces Air Transport Auxiliary during World War II. Women’s participation in the war publicized the shortage of pilots available to deliver aircraft to combat areas and demonstrated the usefulness of female pilots.

In the summer of 1942, Cochran returned to the US to organize the US Army Air Forces (AAF) women’s pilot training program per the request of General Henry “Hap” Arnold, AAF Commanding General. From September 15, 1942, until December 20, 1944, Cochran organized 1,074 female pilots for the WASP program and its predecessor, the Women's Flying Training Detachment. During that time period, these pilots delivered 12,650 aircraft of 78 types.

In 1945, General Arnold awarded Cochran the Distinguished Service Medal, the highest non-combat award, for her work as founder and director of the WASP program. This decoration was presented to Cochran in a civilian status because the WASP did not receive military credit for their wartime duties. Her efforts during the war broke down barriers that had prevented women from participating in military aviation careers. Her hard work and diligence expanded roles for women during World War II and for generations of future risk takers.