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For one Larned, Kansas, native, Women’s History Month means more than just honoring the many women in science and the military who set the stage for the women of today and in the future.

Lucile Doll Wise, a Women’s Airforce Service Pilot, or WASP, during World War II, is one of those pioneers. In September 1942, the Army Air Forces needed pilots, so after the attack on Pearl Harbor, Army Air Forces commander Gen. Henry H. “Hap” Arnold established the Women’s Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron, or WAFS, and the Women’s Flying Training Detachment, or WFTD.

According to the Air Force Historical Support Division, the WAFS and WFTD merged into a single unit on July 5, 1943. The now-unified group was called the Women’s Airforce Service Pilots, or WASP, with its pilots known as WASPs.

“Our mission was to perform flying duties in this country to relieve male pilots for overseas combat service,” Wise said.

Call to Serve

Wise joined the WASPs in May 1943, and served until they were disbanded in December 1944. “I was thrilled at the prospect of flying the larger and faster military aircraft and at the opportunity to help in the war effort,” she said.

Her younger brother enlisted in the Navy just before he graduated from high school in 1943, and he was permitted to graduate before he headed to serve on a ship in the South Pacific. “Of course we were all worried about him,” she said. “He returned safely, but perhaps a bit damaged emotionally.”

Wise said she went through the same training as the male cadets, living in barracks under military discipline, learning to march, making beds the Army way and more.

“It was a cultural shock, giving up our comfortable homes, nice clothes and social life but we didn’t complain because we were so thrilled to be flying military aircraft,” she said.


After graduation, Wise was assigned to the Army Air Forces Weather Service Region in Kansas City, Missouri.

“Our first and most important job was probably ferrying aircraft from factories to air bases and points of embarkation. There was an alarming shortage of pilots at the beginning of the war, and we delivered more than 12,000 aircraft in the two years we operated,” she said. “We also performed many other domestic flying duties.”

She said they had a Cessna twin engine C-47, a five passenger plane they had flown in training.

“It was slow but dependable,” Wise said. “Later, another WASP was assigned there, and we got the larger Beech C-45. Our assignment was to fly the weather officers wherever they needed to go, usually on inspection trips to all of the AF bases in the region and to meetings. My favorite aircraft, and the favorite of most of us, was the AT-6 [Texan], which we flew in advanced training. It was a wonderful plane. I got plenty of flying.”

She said when she entered the WASP program, she had 50 hours, and when it disbanded, she had almost 700 flying hours.

“When traveling, I usually stayed on base in the nurse’s quarters, although sometimes we stayed in hotels,” Wise said. “One base in Nebraska had no women on base, and the small town had no hotels, so I was given a room in the hospital. Our trips often lasted four or five days, leaving on Monday and spending a day at each air base and returning later in the week. It was a large seven-state region with many air bases.”

She said she loved her job.

“I loved every minute of it, but it was not easy,” Wise said. “It was hard work, and I came back from trips pretty tired.”

The Disbandment

Arnold fought to have the WASPs militarized into the Army Air Force, but Congress disbanded them, Wise said, adding that she was disappointed.

“We had a handsome uniform and officer privileges, but I really wanted to be militarized and get a commission,” she said. “We were working hard and did not realize that we were making history as the first U.S. women to fly military aircraft.”

Recognition at Last

For 33 years, the women weren’t allowed to call themselves veterans and their records were classified and sealed from the public. They fought Congress and pushed for publicity. On Nov. 23, 1977, President Jimmy Carter signed a public law granting former WASPs veteran status with limited benefits. The Air Force graduated its first female pilots that same year.

“It was wonderful,” Wise said. “I was living in the D.C. area at the time and helped with the lobbying effort. It was a thrill to attend the hearing and have contacts with Congressmen. It was a great help for a few of us who were without health insurance or in financial trouble to be eligible to be treated at military hospitals.”

Life after the Serving

Wise said she made great friends and meets up with her fellow WASPs at reunions.

“I made some great friends in the WASP program,” she said. “Some of them were from wealthy families, but I did not realize it at the time. We all looked alike in our ‘zoot suits.’ We met often at reunions and other women’s aeronautical meetings. I am grateful for my opportunity to serve, and I believe we all feel the same way. The WASPs went through a unique experience, and we all have a close bond.”

Wise said she’s happy to have been a pioneer, and she’s happy to meet women who are currently serving and children who may serve in the future.

“I’m so impressed by what women pilots are doing today, especially flying into combat,” she said. “They are doing some great flying and proving once again that women can fly military aircraft as well as men.”

She said she tells young women who may be considering the military that “the military is not for everyone, but it offers a great opportunity to young women.”

Shannon Collins is a writer for DoD News at Defense Medica Activity in Fort Meade, Maryland. She is an U.S. Air Force Veteran. This article was originally posted on, (Follow Shannon Collins on Twitter: @CollinsDoDNews)

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Published on Mar. 3, 2016

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  1. MP March 8, 2016 at 11:29 am

    What I don’t understand is that we, myself included, make excuses for systematic abuse where we consequently, say to ourselves, we will push 150% harder to prove them wrong. How ’bout they stop with responses such as women are not on the frontline, women are not allowed on the frontlined, women can’t survive combat, women can’t, can’t, can’t…. I have interviewed women who have ‘played God’ on the frontline, women who lead a convoy through Iraq, etc…. This is exhausting so will do something about it. Please pung me if you’re interested in joining the stories I will put on film acknowledging “Women on and beyond the Frontlines.”

  2. Robert Basham March 5, 2016 at 2:25 pm

    I am a Vietnam veteran, if these women were under military command was paid by the military, they deserve to be recognized as veterans, receive the same benifits as other veterans.

  3. Thomas A. Myers March 4, 2016 at 10:19 pm

    Thank you, again, Ruby E. Mullins Mensching, Class 43-W-4, for your outstanding service.

    She was my flight instructor in Akron, Ohio, in the 1960s. Great Lady, Great Pilot, Great Instructor.

    Thank you, Ruby!

    Planes Ruby flew during her service:
    B-17, B-25, B-26, A-20, C-45, C-46, C-47, C-54, P-40, P-47, P-38,
    P-39, P-51, P-63, P-61, BT-15, AT-6, UC-78, P-19.


    From Tom Myers, U.S. Army past 1LT, AG, HQ VII Corps, Stuttgart Moehringen.

  4. Rigoberto Maldonado March 4, 2016 at 8:53 pm

    They deserve to be honored. They were part of the same military defense system. Do the paper work right.

  5. Jack Henderson March 4, 2016 at 6:53 pm

    My Aunt Lula Polk was a WASP and proudly attended reunions, all over the country after the war. WASP’s deserve recognition that has long been denied their contribution to the war effort.

  6. Robert Lambert March 4, 2016 at 3:49 pm

    They deserve ANY and ALL the benefits that men receive during that time while serving in the military… How many men pilots did they free up to fight in the war ??? What if these women were not flying these war aircraft ??? Could have been a different outcome… I firmly believe there job was a complete and honorable position to fill at that time… Give them what they deserve and should have been given many years ago… It’s sad the direction this country is heading, and it’s going to get WORSE… Just look at who’s running for this country’s top job and especially the @#$%& who’s leaving it… SAD-SAD-SAD.

  7. Meg McCarty-Marple March 4, 2016 at 3:02 pm

    This battle for equality is ongoing. Currently, WASP have lost their right to be buried at Arlington National Cemetery due to current Sec. of Army. Let your Senators & Congress Representative know this needs to be overturned for the less than 10% of living WASP. Thanks!

  8. Etta March 4, 2016 at 2:03 pm


  9. Eugene S. Burke March 4, 2016 at 1:26 pm

    These are great articles. Keep them coming!

  10. Michael Brose March 4, 2016 at 12:54 pm

    I was stationed at Sweetwater AFS in Texas in 1966 and 1967. Sweetwater was a WASP training base, and is now the municipal airport. Unfortunately I never made it “across the fence” while I was there even though the airfield was right next door. There is a WASP museum at the airport.

  11. Femblix Meek Tom Jr March 4, 2016 at 12:53 pm

    Proud to be good citizen desired tooth and spinal code utility traditional approach therefore deserved the right earn benefit with historical displays creativities has a genius benefit accuracy just like my Mother Proud to be good Veteran without modern technology skill War 11
    Female Pilot steam up universal out come women lead can that heart of trust remain the same ? VA Future 20/20
    Address this issue to Congressional .gov Pentagon children left behind tragedy and resolve

    Femblix M Tom Jr
    Student Forensic Science/
    First Responder/ Emergency Management

  12. James Maxwell March 4, 2016 at 12:08 pm

    Both the WASP and theTuskagee pilots faced stiff opposition to their service in defense of our nation in time of Need
    and need to be honored. GOD BLESS THEM ALL>

    • Benjamin Solheim March 5, 2016 at 11:35 am

      The woman’s aux did not have any issues while serving it was only after wards… when they went to get treated for agent orange and osteoporosis, the tuskagee pilots did not exist… they are simply a unit from WWI and WWII that some producer decided to make into a flying civil war unit. The tuskagee lane is on Fort Dix in New Jersey, there was a memorial plaque on a stone podumn sitting out in from of the barracks, with a photo graph of the the last fighter squadron to live in the barracks before I was stationed there. I know because it was one of the one barracks when they needed a place for me stay while they did not have room on McGuire AFB next door. It was four story empty barracks with no one living there. When you have to clean an entire barracks while serving in neck brace you tend to notice things like that. Tuskagee Airman lane were mustangs… and at that time people of low education backgrounds were sent to infantry school not expected to figure out how to fly a plane. Anyone claiming to be a descendant of Nigerian descent and flew a plane in WWII is simply an actor who wanted to be famous rather than serve his country. Real military are proud of what they did since every job is necessary or it would not be a skill code. I loaded weapons on fighter jets.

  13. Michael R. Straw, Sr March 4, 2016 at 11:03 am

    These brave ladies deserve the same rights and benefits that any other veteran, combat or non-combat receives. This is another American Tragedy!
    Let’s resolve it now!

    M. Straw
    USMC – Sgt – Vietnam Veteran

    • Edward Zavada March 4, 2016 at 12:52 pm

      Being a veteran I totally agree the the WASP unit (they acted as military, following military orders, and were treated as military) should have 100% of all veteran benefits. I for one will be writing my congressman the moment I finish this comment.

    • Malcolm J March 4, 2016 at 1:10 pm

      Re-read the article.

Comments are closed.

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