In recognition of the upcoming Memorial Day weekend, today’s post shares an April, 1943 photograph of the first Women’s Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron (WAFS) pilots to begin flight operations in Wichita, Kansas.
Squadron leader Florene Miller (second from left) is shown here with WAFS pilots Delphine Bohn, Betsy Ferguson and Dorothy Scott. They are receiving an order of new Boeing PT-17 Kaydets from First Lieutenant Joe N. Drum (left), A.A.F. Operation Officer at Boeing, and First Lieutenant. T.K. McGuire, Assistant A.A.F. representative at the Boeing plants. The 1,074 women of the WAFS and the organization that succeeded it, the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASPs) collectively flew over 60 million miles in every type of military aircraft between 1942 and 1944; transporting cargo, towing targets for live anti-aircraft gun practice, and simulating strafing missions. Eleven of the women died during training. Twenty-eight were killed on active duty missions, including Dorothy Scott, who died in a mid-air crash at the age of twenty-three. But since the WAFS and WASPs weren’t recognized as part of the military, and were instead classified as federal civil service employees with no military standing, their funeral arrangements were conducted at their families’ expense and traditional ceremonies for fallen service members, such as placing a U.S. flag on the coffin, were not allowed. After decades of advocacy from former pilots of the WAFS and WASPs, who were not eligible for military benefits following the end of the war and were unable to continue to pursue careers in aviation in either commercial or governmental positions, the surviving members of the force were granted veteran status and benefits in 1977 by President Jimmy Carter. They were later awarded the Congressional Gold Medal by President Obama in 2010.This photograph comes from the Hagley Library’s Chamber of Commerce of the United States photographs and audiovisual materials, Series II. Nation’s Business photographs (Accession 1993.230.II) collection. To view more materials from this collection online, click here to