Book Review: Fly Girls
The Daring American Women Pilots Who Helped Win WWII
Written by P. O’Connell Pearson, Fly Girls, tells the stories of the daring women pilots who helped win World War II. Only men were allowed to fly military airplanes and as war loomed, the US Army Airforce had a desperate need for skilled pilots. Through pure determination, 1,100 female pilots were finally allowed to ferry planes from factories to bases, to tow targets for live ammunition artillery training, to test repaired planes and new equipment among other things.
There is Jacqueline Cochran whose persistence and perseverance in appealing to the US Army Air Corps, or advancing the ideas to General Arnold at a White House event to allow women to support the military pilots by conducting noncombat flying jobs finally paid off. She was invited to head a program for training women pilots. As head of the Women’s Airforce Service Pilots (WASPs) she supervised the training of over one thousand women to fly experimental Air Force planes.
There is Nancy Harkness Love who convinced Col. Tunner of using experienced women pilots to supplement the existing pilot force and was instrumental in recruiting 29 experienced women pilots to join the newly created Women’s Auxiliary Ferry Squadron (WAFS). During her tenure as Commander of the ferrying squadrons the WAFS merged with the Women’s Flying Training Detachment (WFTD) and became a single entity: the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP).
There is Cornelia Fort who was airborne on that fateful day and saw with her own eyes when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7th, 1941. She went on to become the second applicant to be accepted to the WAFS. She along with many other women pilots flew successful aircraft deliveries.
Fly Girls covers the stories of these and other daring women who through their grit and determination, patriotism, love of flying, and willingness to serve worked tirelessly during the war effort and helped win the war.
A brief description about the book on Amazon reads:
“In the tradition of Hidden Figures, debut author Patricia Pearson offers a beautifully written account of the remarkable but often forgotten group of female fighter pilots who answered their country’s call in its time of need during World War II.”
The book can be purchased as hardback, paperback, or kindle.
Nancy Harkness Love
Betty Tackaberry Blake
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WAFS: Betty Tackaberry Blake
“Just believe in yourself. Study and work hard, and you can get to your goal, no matter what it is, if you just believe in yourself and try“
Betty Tackaberry Blake was a United States aviator who witnessed the arrival of the Japanese at Pearl Harbor and was the graduate from the first class of the Women’s Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron (WAFS).
Source: Veteran Tributes
Born on October 20, 1920 in Honolulu, Hawaii, Betty Guild was encouraged to learn to fly by Amelia Earhart whom she met when she was 14 years old. Betty took her first flight at 15. She earned her license from the Civilian Pilot Program at University of Hawaii and went on to complete her commercial and instructor pilot training. On Dec 7, 1941 she witnessed the bombing of Pearl Harbor from her balcony. She had received her instructor’s rating and regular commercial license the previous afternoon, but civilian flights were immediately banned in Hawaii.
In 1942 Betty married Robert Tackaberry, a naval officer. She later applied and was accepted to the first class of Jackie Cochran’s new experimental flight training program Army Air Corps base in Houston, TX. She served as ferrying pilot stationed in Long Beach, CA. After the WASP was disbanded, she received instruction at the air force officer’s training school in Orlando, FL. She served as simulated flight instructor for air force trainees until 1945, when she divorced Tackaberry and stopped flying.
She later married George Blake, an officer in the Air Transport Command and moved to Arizona. She passed away on April, 9th 2015 at the age of 94. She is believed to be the last surviving graduate of the first WASP training class during World War II.
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WAFS: Betty Gillies
Betty Gillies was an American Aviator who became the first pilot to qualify for the Woman Auxiliary Ferrying Service (WAFS) and the first woman to fly the Republic-47 Thunderbolt.
Born in 1908 in Long Island, NY, Betty Gillies, while a student nurse in New York City, began flying in 1928 and obtained her license in May 1929 after 23 hours of flight. She continued to build hours towards her commercial license. She joined the Ninety Nines in 1929, and was serving as their president between 1939-1941 when the US entered World War II.
Betty became one of the original WAFS members in 1942 and later that year, she was named commander of the WAFS stationed at New Castle Army Air Base in Delaware. She became the first woman to fly the Republic P-47 Thunderbolt in March 1943. WAFS name was changed to Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) in 1943, and Betty remained as squadron leader of the WASP assigned to the 2nd Ferrying Group at New Castle Army Air Base until they were disbanded on December 20, 1944.
After more than 50 years in the air, she stopped flying in 1986 due to vision problems. She died on October 14th, 1998 in San Diego.
March is Woman History Month and Women of Aviation Month
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