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Filing Cabinet - Pearl Harbor

Nancy Love and the WAFS
Women's Auxiliary Flying Squadron

Nancy Harkness Love, was an accomplished pilot, who by the fall of 1942, had logged over 1200 flight hours, held a CAA instrument rating, a CAA commercial license, a sea plane rating, and was qualified to fly planes of 600 horsepower.  Having worked to assist a company in ferrying aircraft, Mrs. Love had a vision for the ability of women pilots to serve their country during wartime.

 In a May 1940 letter to Lt. Col. Robert Olds, an officer in the Plans Division of the Office of the Chief of the Air Corps, she proposed the use of women pilots by the military:  “I've been able to find forty-nine qualified women pilots I can rate as excellent material … There are probably at least fifteen more of these whom I don't know about and so haven't starred. I really think this list is up to handling pretty complicated stuff. Most of them have in the neighborhood of a thousand hours or more -- mostly more, and have flown a great many types of ships.”  The Chief of the Air Corps, Maj. Gen. H. H. Arnold, turned down the proposal stating that “the use of women pilots serves no military purpose in a country which has adequate manpower at this time.”

Pearl Harbor and the escalation of American involvement overseas would change his mind.  Suddenly the demand for male combat pilots and warplanes overseas left the Air Transport Command with a shortage of experienced pilots in the United States.  Nearly two years after her original proposal, Miss Love, at the age of 28, was hired to recruit twenty-five of the most qualified women pilots in the country to ferry military aircraft.  These elite women pilots formed the Women’s Auxillary Ferrying Squadron (WAFS).  Initial requirements were 500 hours of certified logged flight time, a commercial pilot’s license, qualified in 200 hp engines, ages within 21 – 35, and a high school education.

The goal of the WAFS, under the Ferrying Division of the U.S. Army’s Air Transport Command, was to free the male pilots for combat flight by ferrying new planes from factories to military bases around the country.  The WAFS later merged into the WASP (Women Airforce Service Pilots).   Although under the authority of the U.S. Army, these accomplished women pilots serving their country did so as civilians.  The early uniforms designed by Nancy Love and worn by the WAFS were paid for by the WAFS themselves.

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