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This non-fiction book, by historian Helena Page Schrader, documents and exciting and intriguing chapter in aviation history.
woman pilot
During World War II, a few, carefully selected women in the US and the UK were given the unprecedented opportunity to fly military aircraft. In both the US and the UK, the women pilots flying in WWII often had to overcome scepticism about their capabilities, and sometimes faced outright hostility.   Yet in both countries women pilots rapidly proved that they were capable of performing the tasks assigned to them.   In fact, women in aviation on both sides of the Atlantic proved that in some ways and at some tasks they were more reliable than their male colleagues.

Yet while the women pilots of the British Air Transport Auxiliary (ATA) steadily won nearly all the privileges and status enjoyed by their male colleagues, the American women pilots of the Women Airforce Service Pilots  (WASP) were expressly denied the same status, rank, pay, and benefits as their male colleagues.  Furthermore, the public and official recognition of the services performed by the women pilots varied significantly from one side of the Atlantic to the other.   The women pilots of the ATA - no less than their male colleagues - were praised for their contribution to the war effort.   The WASP were disbanded and sent home early, their contribution to the war publicly ignored and soon forgotten.

What accounts for this dramatic difference in the treatment and fate of women pilots doing essentially the same job in the same war in two nations with the same cultural heritage and military objectives?

There is sufficient documentary evidence to prove that the USAAF still had substantial use for the women pilots already trained - if not for new trainees - and that the Ferrying Division was desperate to retain its trained women pilots.   Yet after a slander campaign, which both denigrated their accomplishments and insulted their competence and motives, the USAAF was prepared to spend more money to discontinue the program abruptly than it would have cost to continue it through the end of 1945.

female pilotThe real questions, therefore, are why did the WASP arouse such violent opposition, and why was the USAAF so quick to discontinue the programme if it were really so successful?

By exploring the cultural context and military traditions in which both organizations operated, as well as tracing the organizational development and accomplishments of the ATA and the WASP, this book seeks to answer these questions.

To the extent possible, the women who participated in the ATA and WASP have been allowed to speak for themselves.  From memoirs, diaries, interviews and other secondary sources, their experiences and opinions are drawn and quoted.  In addition, a number of survivors were contacted and more than a dozen kindly responded.

The story these women have to tell is exciting and intriguing. The love of flying and desire to contribute to the war effort are a common theme, binding the women across the Atlantic.  But the differences are telling, too. Indeed, the entire study casts light on some still very relevant differences between two nations that have repeatedly found themselves fighting side-by-side on diverse battlefields across the globe. 

Editor's Review




NOTE: In building this site, I thought about many things - such as what spelling standard I should use in referring to World War II, and what keyword spelling people might use in a search engine to find this page.  I found it interesting to note the following numbers of page listings for the various ways one might type World War II into a search engine. 

bullet  6,050,000 for world war two
bullet  5,860,000 for world war 2
bullet  134,000,000 for world war II (using the capital i for the 2)
bullet  83,900 for world war ll (using the lower case L for the 2)
bullet  26,200,000 for second world war
bullet  310,000 for 2nd world war

bullet  21,600 for ww two
bullet  804,000 for ww 2
bullet  7,130,000 for ww ii (using the i for the 2)
bullet  46,300 for ww ll (using the lower case L for the 2)

bullet  21,600 for w.w. two
bullet  804,000 for W.W.2
bullet  7,130,000 for w.w.II (using the capital i for the 2)
bullet  46,300 for w.w.ll (using the lower case l for the 2)

Note that capitalization, punctuation and spacing changes introduced no differences.  So if you are looking for information on a particular subject, remember to use all variations of the wrods related to the subject.  The pages a search engine will give you to look at will vary with each method. Also in general, I have referred to World War II on these pages using WWII (using the capital i for the 2).


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 Last updated May 29, 2010