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CAF RISE ABOVE: WASP is a national educational programwhich shares the inspirational story of the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP).  This story is told through the Commemorative Air Force’s unique collection of flying aircraft, such as the Houston Wing Vultee BT-13 Valiant.

The WASP were women pilots who overcame tremendous obstacles so that they contribute to the war effort during World War II.  When war broke out, many male pilots were called to the frontlines, creating a shortage of pilots in the U.S. Women volunteered to help, but were initially told “NO!,” that they could not safely operate something as complex as a military aircraft.  These determined women persevered and would break through this gender barrier.  From September 1942 to December 1943, Women pilots flew more than 60 million miles, in more than 78 different aircraft types.

More than 25,000 women applied to the WASP program, but only 1,074 would get the opportunity to fly modern military airplanes.  Of those women, 38 would lose their lives in service to America.  The wom
en had to make their own uniforms, pay for their own room and board and had to chip-in to return the bodies of their fallen sisters back to their families after an accident.

The Houston Connection

Jackie Cochran, who would later head the WASP program, trained her first class of women pilots, known as the Guinea Pigs at Houston Municipal Airport, which is now Hobby Airport.  These women trained in a mixture of available airplanes, including the BT-13.  Of the 38 women in this first class, 23 graduated.  The next class at Houston began in December 1942 but the training program was moved to Sweetwater, Texas to escape the fog and moisture around the Gulf Coast.