Setting the record straight
In response to “Female aviators of WWII honored” (article, March 11): The Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) program being honored is great, but it is misleading to say that they were the “first women to fly U.S. military planes.”
The Women’s Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron (WAFS) and Women’s Flying Training Detachment (WFTD) both predated the WASPs, although they were all later merged. My grandmother was in the WAFS, and it was composed of women who already had pilot’s licenses when World War II broke out, a very small number of women in the 1940s.
The WAFS also went into operation on Sept. 10, 1942, before the WASP program was adopted. The two programs operated independently for about a year before being combined. The WASPs were women who did not know how to fly and had to be trained after joining. The skill and professional attitudes were greater in the women who had already been aviators before the war started. The standards of qualification and training were also very different between the two organizations.
Although this is completely anecdotal, I do know that my grandmother, Barbara Towne, said that the WAFS were very professional and had few accidents, while the WASP girls liked to party and racked up a lot of accidents due to their poor training.
I think it’s wonderful whenever men and women are recognized for service to our country, but the article oversimplified history and was actually erroneous in its description of the WASPs as the “first women to fly U.S. military planes.”
Spc. Robert D. DicksonForward Operating Base Ghazni, Afghanistan