Pearson zooms in on the leaders, pioneers, and supporters of the Women Air Force Service Pilots, or WASPs—a group of over 1,000 young women who contributed to the war effort by ferrying bombers, pursuit planes, and trainer planes where they needed to go, freeing up male pilots to head across the Atlantic.
Jacqueline Cochran and Nancy Love, both white women, led recruitment efforts, searching for and training the best flygirls despite opposition. Many of the young women were able to financially back themselves, as the military wouldn’t pay for clothing, food, or housing; the precise number of poorer pilots is not shared. There is scant mention of ethnically diverse women, though the text highlights Cochran’s resistance to accepting black women. Depending on where the women were stationed, they endured sabotage, sexism, and harassment from their male counterparts. During the program and after it was deactivated, the WASPs continued challenging laws that would not accept them as veterans, thus slighting the pilots’ veterans’ recognition, benefits, and burial honors—38 died in service. Pearson offers the stark statistics in the book’s epilogue: the WASPs had flown 60 million miles in 78 different types of aircraft and then waited 74 years for full recognition. Black-and-white photographs and archival images are interspersed throughout, and information from journal entries, letters, memoirs, oral interviews, and more rounds out an adventurous and tumultuous account.
A solid account of women’s contributions as aviators during World War II. (bibliography, notes, index) (Nonfiction. 10-16)