Wednesday, January 3, 2024

Wartime Wednesday: WASPs, but Not the Kind You Think

Wartime Wednesday: 
WASPs, but Not the Kind You Think

National Archives

By 1942, in just about every industry in the U.S., men were in short supply. They were either working in defense jobs or serving in one of the Armed Forces. In late September of that year, two civilian organizations formed that tried to fill the void in the aviation field. The Women’s Flying Training Detachment (WFTD) and the Women’s Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron (WAFS) were employed to fly military aircraft under the direction of the U.S. Army Air Force. Members of these organizations were Federal civil service employees, not military personnel.
The following year, the WFTD and WAFS were merged to form a
Photo: National Air and
Space Museum
paramilitary organization called Women’s Air Service Pilots (WASP). By the end of 1944, when the WASP program was disbanded nearly 1,100 women had ferried planes, towed targets, transported equipment and non-flying personnel, and flight-tested aircraft. Thirty-eight of these pilots lost their lives (11 in training, 27 on active duty), but because they were not part of the military it was the family’s responsibility to pay to ship the victim home. Often members of the girl’s unit would collect money on behalf of the family. During their two years of service, the WASPs flew sixty million miles and delivered 12,650 aircraft of seventy-eight different types.
Author Photo
Early on, the WASPs decided they needed a mascot. They turned to Walt Disney and asked permission to use Roald Dahl’s (of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory fame) illustration from his first children’s book, The Gremlins. The book had been written as a promotional piece for a full-length Disney movie that was ultimately never produced. “Fifinella” was a female gremlin who wore yellow slacks and cap, red blouse, and high-top boots, black gloves, and blue goggles. She also sported a pair of wings. Patches were custom-made, and colors varied.

Fifinella showed up everywhere: WASPs jackets, their monthly newsletter, and in many variations on the nose of many a bomber. Dahl went on to draw other gremlins for Warner Bros. that were used in several WWII cartoons, some of which featured Bugs Bunny.

Have you ever seen Fifinella?

Love At First Flight

Can two people emerge from the clouds of past hurt to find a silver lining of love?

Evelyn Reid would rather fly than do anything else, so when war engulfs the U.S., she joins the Women’s Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron. One of the program’s top pilots, she is tapped for pursuit plane training...the dream of a lifetime until she discovers the instructor is her ex-fiancé, Jasper MacPherson.

Collecting enough points to rotate stateside, fighter pilot Jasper MacPherson is assigned to teach the WAFS how to fly the army way. Bad enough to be training women, but things take a turn for the worse when his former fiancée shows up as one of his students.

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