She Faced the Enemy in the Skies Over Pearl Harbor

Ruth Ann Hattori

David Aiken Collection, Center for Pacific War Studies

“I saw a plane coming closer...I spotted the insignia on the Japanese plane: a red sun on the fuselage.”

“I could hardly believe my eyes. Then I saw smoke over Pearl Harbor and realized we had been attacked.” Cornelia Fort, a flight instructor on an early morning lesson had just witnessed the beginning of WWII for the U.S.

Wanting to help the war effort, Fort served in the Civil Air Patrol and promoted war bonds. In September 1942, she joined the Women’s Auxiliary Ferry Service (WAFS). Fort and over 1,000 other women ferried military planes across the country, freeing up male pilots to serve in battle. These pioneers proved that women could be military pilots. Tragically, in March 1943, Fort was the first WAFS pilot killed while on a mission.