Nancy Love and the WASP Ferry Pilots of World War II
Who was Nancy Love?
She flew the P-51 and the P-38, but the four-engine B-17 Flying Fortress was her forté.
First, the Army needed pilots to “ferry” its trainer airplanes to flight training bases. In 1942, Nancy Love recruited and led the first squadron of 28 women pilots who ferried those military aircraft for the U.S. Army in World War II.
Later the Army needed the women to ferry combat-bound pursuit aircraft to the docks for overseas deployment. By personal example, Love won the right for her women pilots to transition into increasingly more complex airplanes. She checked out on 23 different military aircraft and became the first woman to fly several of them, including the B-17.
Nancy Love believed that the women attached to the military needed to be on equal footing with the men and given the same opportunities to prove their abilities and mettle. Young women serving today as combat pilots owe much to Love for creating the opportunity for women to serve.
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Read an Excerpt
An excerpt from the prologue of Nancy Love and the WASP Ferry Pilots of World War II, pages 3 and 4:
After landing, parking the airplane, cutting the switches, and cleaning up the cockpit, she rose, dropped her headset and oxygen mask on the seat, and followed her passengers and crew out of the airplane into the thin, high-altitude air and pale winter sunshine. She wore an Army-issue flight suit. Had it not been for her softly curled, chin-length hair—caught behind her ears in deference to the earphones she had worn and definitely out of place in the crew cut male world of 1945—she might have passed for a young crewman.
As she walked toward the group of officers clustered on the ground, she did not stride purposefully nor did she walk like many women would have, to call attention to herself. She was, in fact, slightly pigeon-toed and had a hint of a glide to her step. She moved with a poise that bespoke more self-assurance than she actually possessed.
When she smiled, her luminous, gold-flecked hazel eyes took in each man, graciously making him feel as if he, personally, was the object of that smile. Her firm pilot’s handshake, offered in greeting, belied the small, slender, feminine hand beneath.
Thirty-year-old Nancy Love was a strikingly beautiful woman with high cheekbones and delicate features. She had begun to go gray at nineteen, beginning with a streak that swept back from the right side of her forehead. By 1945, her light brown hair had turned mostly silver, casting an aura of maturity about her.
Her reserve, carefully honed over those thirty years, masked her drive. Nancy greeted challenges with cool assessment, never allowing the passion that lurked just beneath the surface to show in her cultured, contralto voice. That she had been asked to take part in this [special] flight, to fly this airplane, was a coup—the high point in a distinguished aviation career that, by 1945, had covered fifteen years.