Experiment in the Cockpit: The Women Airforce Service Pilots of World War II Presented by Katherine Landdeck

Charity Roberts

By September of 1942, the U.S. was in dire need of pilots, and the U.S. Army Air Forces decided to try allowing women to fly their planes. Led by famed aviators Jacqueline Cochran and Nancy Harkness Love, over 1,800 women did the same flight training as men, and 1,102 won their wings. They served in the same roles as men service pilots, including flying complicated bombers and towing targets behind planes to train ground gunners who fired live ammunition at them. In the two years, they served the women flew 77 types of aircraft over 60 million miles.
The Women Airforce Service Pilots did not fly in combat, but thirty-eight women were killed flying for their country. They were disbanded in December 1944 as more men began surviving the war and returning home to take over domestic flying. However, despite their important work, they were sent home with no benefits and no recognition. Over thirty years later, after a long grassroots effort, the government finally recognized them as Veterans of World War II.
Speaker Bio:

Katherine Sharp Landdeck, author of The Women With Silver Wings: The Inspiring True Story of the Women Airforce Service Pilots of World War II, is a Professor of History at Texas Women's University, the home of the WASP archives. A Guggenheim Fellow at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, a Normandy Scholar, and a graduate of the University of Tennessee, where she earned her PhD, Landdeck has studied the WASP for over two decades. In addition to her work as a Silver Telly and Emmy award-winning documentary film producer, she has appeared as a historian on several other films globally including “World War II by Drone,” (Smithsonian Channel in U.S.) and “Pearl Harbor: Survivors Remember.” (History Channel in U.S.). She has also served as a consultant for a number of museums including the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum and the Seattle Museum of Flight. A sought-after speaker and historical consultant, Landdeck has appeared as an expert on NPR’s “Morning Edition,” PBS, the History Channel, C-Span, and can regularly be found on the television series "Mysteries of the Abandoned" on the Science Channel and Discovery. She has been co-host or expert on numerous podcasts including “The Stuff You Missed in History Class,” “World War II Television” with Paul Woodage in the U.K., the Smithsonian’s Stem in 30, and countless others. Her work has been published in The Washington Post, The Atlantic, and Time, as well as in numerous academic and aviation publications. She is currently working on her next book project on flight nurses in Europe during World War II, including Prisoner of War Reba Whittle. Landdeck is a licensed pilot who flies whenever she can.