A Summary of WASP Controversy
On 6 April 1943 the Chief of Air Staff, Maj. Gen. George E. Stratemeyer, sent a memorandum to G-1 Division, War Department General Staff, "Women's Pilot Training Program." In this he recommended that as soon as the WAAC was put in the Army by Congress, the new WAC begin to recruit flight officers and commissioned pilots for direct appointment and assignment to the AAF. By covering indorsement, 17 April 1943, N/4'AAC Headquarters concurred and recommended that necessary modifications be made in WAAC Regulations to suit the AAF's specifications.1
AAF WAC leaders later agreed that no especial difficulty would result, since there were only about 800 Wasps, roughly one third of the number of Air WAC recruits the AAF absorbed monthly; and the group would have no special needs, except needs as women, which would be met by the WAC organization, or needs as pilots, which would be met by the regular pilot-training authorities.
In the next two months the AAF reversed its decision. In June 1943, Gen. Henry H. Arnold sent a memorandum to General Marshall, undated, "Incorporation of Women Civilian Pilots and Trainees into AAF." General Arnold opposed putting pilots in the WAC because of the "need for undivided administrative and functional control which would not be possible if the WAAF was serving two masters, i. e., the WAAC and the AAF." A reply from G-1 Division, 20 June 1943, opposed the establishment of a separate Corps of women pilots on the grounds that "We have endeavored to keep the women's organization as simple and flexible as possible," and that it would be wasteful to have two women's corps.2
General Arnold's change of opinion was closely related to the tact that Miss Jacqueline Cochran had been appointed Director of Women Pilots on June 28, and was opposed to enrollment of women pilots in the WAC, preferring a separate corps headed by a female colonel similar to the WAC, WAVES, SPARS, and Marine heads.3 This the War Department steadily opposed, since there were no separate corps for male pilots and all other male Air Corps officers. Nevertheless; on 20 September 1943, a bill was introduced in Congress by Representative John M. Costello to militarize a separate WASP. This ran into trouble because the AAF by this time already had a surplus of pilots. It was defeated in June of 1944, and Congress recommended that the WASP be abolished. Miss Cochran still opposed placing
the group in the WAC, and preferred instead that it be inactivated; which it was, in December 1944.4
Many members of the WASP wrote and carne to Washington to see members of the Air Staff and members of Congress to beg that they be taken into the WAC, assigned to the AAF, and thus given military status, and later veterans' benefits. This matter was presented by the Air WAC Officer to the Air Staff for a policy decision. The decision was made that women pilots would not be commissioned in the WAC. The Commanding General, AAF, felt that in view of Congress' decision such subterfuge would be extremely poor diplomacy in Congressional relations. All inquiries were therefore answered to the: effect that members of the WASP could, if qualified, enlist in the WAC for duty with the AAF, but that they would not be assigned as pilots, or promised flying duty of any sort, or commissioned unless they qualified as other Wacs did through selection by officer candidate boards, or allowed to pilot planes even if they were commissioned.
Page Created August 23 2002
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