ORIGINS OF THE WASPs
Ferrying Division Air Transport Command
Up until three o'clock in the afternoon of May 29, 1941, there was no organization of any kind in American military aviation to provide for either the delivery of planes or air transport of material.
By the end of that day, the Air Corps Ferrying Command, which grew into the Air Transport Command with its major component the Ferrying Division, was in existence with an assigned military personnel of two. William H. Tunner, a Major, was one of the two. By June 1944 there were 50,000 personnel, 8,500 of which were pilots and the Major was a General.
Those chosen for ferry duty in the early part of the war were the experienced pilots of the time, most from civilian life. Among them were many famous names - Barry Goldwater, Gene Autry, racing pilot Joe de Bona, and Indianapolis racer Rex Mays. Usually considered too old for the combat training much to their disappointment, they had nevertheless been welcomed into the Ferrying Division of the Army Air Corps, Ferrying Division. They performed the invaluable service of flying all military aircraft types from factories to various destinations around the world.
Enter the WASPs
By September 1941, the shortage of pilots was acute and licensed women pilots were selected for ferrying duty.
Although restricted to flights within the U. S., they satisfactorily crisscrossed the country in all directions to deliver various types of planes (i.e., primary, basic and advanced trainers, small tow-target planes and large cargo carriers).
Eventually over a thousand women were hired to fly military planes, with 303 in the Ferry Division. This dropped to less than 150 when the restrictions for women to remain in ferrying demanded qualification in fighter aircraft, because many preferred other duties such as target towing, instrument instructing, flight testing after repair and overhaul, etc.
Those remaining in the AFC ferried all types of fighters, bombers, drones, and transports to assigned destinations within the confines of North America. Besides the twin and four engine bombers such as the B‑25, A‑20, B‑26 and B‑17, these women ferried the single engine P‑39, P‑40, P‑47, P‑51 and P‑63 plus the twin engine pursuits, the P‑38 and the P‑61.
After completion of Pursuit School for the P‑39, P‑40, P‑47 and P‑51 the pilot returned to home base (Long Beach, Palm Springs, Dallas, Wilmington or Romulus). There the types of fighters to be delivered largely depended on geography. Although capable of flying any of the four, Wilmington pilots consistently flew P‑47's from the nearby Republic factory, Romulus WASPs went to Bell for the P‑39's and P‑63's, and those from Dallas, Long Beach, and Palm Springs had P‑51's to deliver, being close to either a modification center or the North American factory.
Orders for flying the various types of pursuits and bombers usually depended upon one's base of operation. Those in the west near the Lockheed factory, considered themselves extremely fortunate to have access to the famous P‑38 "Lightning." Some few of these pilots were able, because of seniority and luck, to ferry the Lockheed P‑38 and Northrop P‑61 Black Widow. Only twenty-three WASPs were so fortunate as to ferry the P‑38 to destinations in WWII.
We ran across this cool painting called "Lightning Lady" -- which is a tribute to the WASPs, and it looks like you can order a print from the artist, Stan Vosburg, if you like it as much as we do!
Another great painting (Artist is Gil Cohen).
During the late Autumn of 1944 on the tarmac of the Lockheed Aircraft Plant in Burbank, California, a group of four Women’s Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) are gathered around their flight leader.
The P-38 Association does not receive a commission from referring you to these artists. We just thought they were neat.