Thoughts on the military and military activities of a diverse nature. Free-ranging and eclectic.

Saturday, May 19, 2007


This is coolbert:

On this date in 1953.

"May 18, 1953: Jackie Cochran, First Woman to Break the Sound Barrier"

During World War Two [WW2], Germany had Hanna Reitsch, the Soviets had the "Black Witches", and America had Jackie Cochran.

Jackie Cochran was perhaps the foremost woman pilot of her time. Had a whole string of accomplishments. To include:

* "learning to fly with only three weeks' training and earning a commercial pilot's license before she was 30."

* "She flew in her first major race in 1934 and was the only to woman to compete in (and win) the Bendix race, a transcontinental, point-to-point sprint."

"She won five Harmon Trophies as the outstanding woman pilot in the world. Sometimes called the 'Speed Queen,' at the time of her death, no pilot, man or woman, held more speed, distance or altitude records in aviation history, than Jackie Cochran."

* "During World War II, Cochran helped deliver American-built planes to Britain and played an instrumental role in recruiting qualified women pilots into the Air Transport Command"

"Following America's entry into the War, in 1942 she was made director of women's flight training for the United States. As head of the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) she supervised the training of more than 1000 women pilots. For her war efforts, she received the Distinguished Service Medal and the Distinguished Flying Cross."

With regard to the "qualified women pilots, these were the members of the WASP unit.

Women's Airforce Service Pilots. Women who would not see combat during WW2, but did ferry aircraft from the manufacturing plant to the battle front.

"The motivation for both proposals was to free up more male pilots for combat roles by employing qualified female pilots on missions such as ferrying aircraft from factories to military bases, and towing drones/aerial targets."

And were very successful at doing so too. Proved to be more able pilots than most men. Had an enviable safety record and are in hindsight recognized for having done a superb job as part of the war effort.

But were not thought of so highly during the war. Military leaders were hesitant and very reluctant to utilize the resource of trained women pilots. It was only with the greatest efforts on the part of Jackie Cochran that these women were even used in the first place.

During the war and for decades afterwards, the efforts of the WASP's went unheralded.

"All records of the WASP were classified and sealed for 35 years, so their contributions to the war effort were little known and inaccessible to historians for many years."

NOT until recently has the many accomplishments of these outstanding women pilots been noticed and rewarded. Belatedly so, but still, well earned and deserved!!




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