Nov 222015
 
Betty H Gilles - first female pilot to report for duty. She flew her own plane.

Betty H Gilles – first female pilot to report for duty. She flew her own plane.

Paula here.  What lesbian doesn’t like a woman in uniform or female pilots in leather jackets?  Naturally, it’s not the uniform that is ultimately important but the life of the wearer of uniforms.  Here are some examples of the lives of women set in World War II (1939-1945).

The Telegraph Call -1942

The U.S Army’s Air Transport Command (ATC) issued an invitation to female pilots to come to a meeting in Delaware, USA.  Two dozen responded :flight instructors, barn stormers (acrobatic pilots) teachers and others.  Along with these women were experienced pilots.

Bombing of Pearl Habor (1941)

This event brought the Americans into WWII.  Prior to this date, the military had resisted the training of females -now, involved in a war, the top brass saw the need.

The Task Ahead of Them

Recruits were to be between 21 and 35 and have a high school diploma.  They were expected to log in 500 hours of flying, obtain a commercial license and have a 200 horsepower rating with two recommendations.  They were led by Nancy Love, an experienced pilot.  They would average between 30-45 days of training and fly only small aircrafts on domestic routes.  They were paid $250 per month which was $130 less than the men.  The men after training became commissioned second lieutenants – the women were treated as civil servants without rank.  The women were from diversified backgrounds.  High school diploma holders worked alongside daughters of millionaires who went to prestigious girls schools and universities.  Betty Giles flew her own plane from Long Island, N.Y.  They slept on cots in with army blankets.

Duties

The women, many of whom were pilots, were subjected to useless training.  For example, one task was to dissemble a .45 firearm, but they were never issued with one. Men were released for flying within nine days, but the women continued training for a month. They were known as WAFS (Women’s Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron).

First Mission- Oct. 21, 1942

Six female pilots, dressed in bulky olive bulky leather jackets and pants flew Piper Cubs assembled in Pennsylvania to Long Island, NY.  The Piper Cubs flew at a speed of 75 mph with a range of 225 miles.  They would later be used as reconnaissance planes in Europe.  It was extremely cold with winds seeping through their jackets, but the women prevailed.  At times, they reported being “part of a freak show” as people gathered around them, but they knew the eyes of the nation was watching them. We can come to only one conclusion

Fantastic Female Accomplishment

When a male squadron leader delivered 23 planes, the first six to land were piloted by women.  Yet, after a 90 day achievement, the women’s contract was renewed on a civilian basis!

New Recogniiton

Finally, the WAFS became the WASP (Women’s Airforce Service Pilots), but still a civilian force with a name change.  It would take until 1977 until they were retroactively named a military unit and have their names recorded in American history.

In 1944, General Hap Arnold addressed the WASP graduating class:

We can only come to one conclusion -the entire operation has been a success.  It is on record that women can fly as well as men.  Thirty seven WASPS have died while helping their country move toward the moment of final victory.  The Airforces will long remember their final sacrifice.”

Love and Gilles.

Nancy Love, pilot (left), and Betty Gillies (right), co-pilot, the first women to fly the Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress heavy bomber. The two WAFS were set to ferry a B-17 named "Queen Bee" to England when their flight was canceled by General Hap Arnold.

Nancy Love, pilot (left), and Betty Gillies (right), co-pilot, the first women to fly the Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress heavy bomber. The two WAFS were set to ferry a B-17 named “Queen Bee” to England when their flight was canceled by General Hap Arnold.

On August 15, 1943, Love and Gillies qualified as first pilots (aircraft commanders) on Boeing B-17s and made three deliveries together during the balance of the month. On September 2, 1943 Gillies and Nancy Love departed Cincinnati on a ferry mission to deliver a B-17F to England; however, the mission was canceled before the aircraft left Goose Bay, Labrador.

Gillies remained squadron leader of the Women Airforce Service Pilots assigned to the 2nd Ferrying Group at New Castle Army Air Base until the WASPs were disbanded on December 20, 1944.

Betty and her husband Bud Gillies, had three children. One of her children died at age 4; her remaining son and daughter became commercial pilots, and four of her grandchildren become pilots as well.images-7

 

 

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