When and why did you decide to become a pilot in the United States Air
Force?  What Age?
(At that time it was not the United States Air Force.  It was the Army Air Force.)
ANSWER:  In 1942, America was engaged in WWII and every patriotic American
was doing whatever he/she could do best to help our country.  I, too, wanted
to help. When I learned that young women, who were already pilots, were
needed to learn to fly military aircraft so they could relieve desperately needed
male pilots (who were being used to fly critical missions in the States) for
combat duty, I applied for admission (Women pilots were never allowed to fly
in combat).  I was not yet the minimum age for acceptance (21), so I had to
wait for almost a year before I was accepted into the training program. During
that time I worked as a secretary at an Army base in my hometown.
Describe what your training was like?
ANSWER:  All of our training (primary, basic and advanced) was done at the
same air field, unlike the AAF cadets who, when they completed one phase of
training, moved to a different air field (most of the time in another State) for
the next training period. Training consisted of 210 hours of flying training, 560
hours of ground school training, (college level courses), calisthenics, etc-almost
identical to the training given the AAF cadets. Training began at  6, with the
bugle wake-up call and lasted all day until about 5, I believe.  Each class was
divided into 2 groups-Flight I and Flight II.  On the mornings when Flight I was
scheduled to fly, Flight II would be in ground school.  In the afternoon, it would
reverse.  Each week you would reverse the schedule.  (The Flight who had
flown in the mornings for a week, the next week they would fly in the
afternoons.)  You were supposed to have 'off' on weekends, but if the weather
had been bad and you were unable to fly, then you had to make it up on
weekends.  Saturday mornings were spent cleaning your 'bay' and having a
'white-glove' inspection. Evenings were spent studying.  I spent seven months
in training. (Almost 50% of my class 'washed out' and never graduated.)
Did you fly any planes in and/or during the war?  If so, what kinds of planes did
you fly and where?
We were not allowed to fly in combat.   However, the WASP flew military
aircraft for two years during WWII, flying missions within the Continental US to
relieve male pilots for combat.   We did our flying training on PT-17s
(Stearman), PT-19s (Fairchild), BT-13sand 15s AT-6s and AT-17's.  After I
graduated, I was sent to Greenville AFB in Mississippi as an engineering test
pilot and also flew administrative and utility missions in BT-13s and UC-78s (a
twin engine cargo aircraft).  I was then transferred to Tyndall Army Air Field in
Florida, where I went through B-26 (Martin Marauder-twin engine bomber)
flight training, and was then retained there as a B-26 'air-to-air tow target
pilot, training gunners for combat (using 'live' ammunition), until we were
How long did you serve with the WASP?
ANSWER: I entered training on Nov 1, 1943 and we were disbanded on 20 Dec
Describe the critical role WASP had in the war effort.
ANSWER:  The WASP played a vital part in the war effort by taking over many
of the critical flying jobs in the States to relieve male pilots to fly combat
missions overseas, which were absolutely vital to America's winning WWII.
How did you feel about the WASP being disbanded?  
ANSWER:  I felt we had done the job we had been asked to do, and we had
done it with honor, with courage, with integrity, with commitment, and certainly
with a great sense of patriotism.   If we were no longer needed, then it was
time to 'hang up our military parachutes' and go on with our lives.  No regrets-
just a sense of pride.
What is your fondest memory about being a WASP?
ANSWER:  Oh, so many.  Perhaps the most important memory was being in the
same squadron and flying with a handsome 1st Lt whom I fell in love with and
married after my WASP duties were over.
After World War II, what did life have in store for you?  Did you stay in the Air
Force?  Start a new career?
ANSWER:   I married that career AF pilot and I spent the next 25 years as an
Air Force wife.  I loved every minute of it.  One daughter was conceived in and
almost born in the Panama Canal Zone, and the other daughter was born in
After my husband retired from the Air Force, I spent over 5,000 hours of my
time volunteering in a hospital. When my daughters went away to Baylor
University, I decided to go to college and get that degree I had never gotten.  
I graduated from the University of Houston  (Suma Cum Laude) in 1979!
It is so important for children to know the story of the WASP and their
importance in aviation history?  Can you expand on this?
ANSWER:  I believe the WASP forever changed the role of women in aviation.
Ask Eileen Collins and she will quickly tell you:  'The WASP were my role
models'. I believe the WASP 'blazed the trail' for the women in military aviation,
even though it took the military over 30 years before they again allowed
women to fly their military aircraft. I believe it is so important for children to
know the history of the WASP, because it is much more than facts about
history-it's a history that will teach them values-values that the WASP lived
AND SACRIFICE.  Every child should be taught those values, and the history of
each WASP reflects those values. Nancy and I have interviewed over 100
WASP in 19 different states in the privacy of their own homes, and each of
their stories of their lives is filled with examples of these values.  In each of
these interviews, the passion for flying and pride in serving their country
comes thru loud and clear.  Every WASP does believe that you can do anything,
as long as it's the right thing and you put your mind to it.  I would only add,
"with God's help."   WHAT A LEGACY!

Women AirForce Service Pilot

Hello, My name is Deanie and I was a WASP during World War II. I currently
do presentations around the country on both the history of the WASP and
an organization for which I am the WASP consultant, ‘
Wings Across America.’

In 1942, as a young twenty-something girl in Florida taking flight lessons in
a Piper Cub, Deanie asked her instructor if he thought she would make a
good pilot.  He told her, “One day, you will know the answer.”  On her solo
flight, when Deanie reached traffic pattern altitude and pushed the “joy” stick
to level out, it came off in her hands.  Quickly realizing the Cub was about to
stall, she removed her seat belt and stood up enough to reach over the
vacant front seat.  With the tips of her fingers, she slowly pushed the front
stick forward to gain air speed.  Climbing over into the front, she regained
control and executed a safe landing.  After taxiing in to her instructor, he
asked her why in the h--- she was in the front seat, and Deanie simply
pointed to the unattached control stick resting flat on the back floor.  He
then said, “Now you know.  You have the right stuff to be a pilot!”  After
obtaining her private pilot’s license, Deanie applied for the WASP program
and made the long train ride to Texas, and into history.

In 1939 Jackie Cochran first proposed using women pilots in any future war
effort.  In 1940 11,000 new aircraft were built, creating a need for pilots to
ferry airplanes from the factories. In 1941, Cochran studied the R.A.F. where
8 women were employed ferrying military aircraft and subsequently
developed a plan to utilize American women in that role.  This would free
American men to fly combat missions, if needed. Initially, Army Air Corps
General Hap Arnold told Cochran that what he needed were fighter pilots,
not ferry pilots.  However, by 1942 America had suffered so many pilot
losses overseas, he had a change of heart and invited Cochran to initiate the
women’s flight training program she had previously proposed.  

Cochran reviewed FAA records to locate girls who were already licensed
pilots, and began the first flight training school for women in Houston,
Texas.  Women pilots would receive the same training as the male military
pilots, but in order to enter the program they were required to have at least
a private pilot’s license, whereas male trainees had no such prerequisite.  
The women lived in “tourist courts” and in the homes of private citizens while
training began at Houston Municipal Airport.  

In 1943, Cochran located a cadet training base at Sweetwater, Texas and
the women’s flight training school was relocated there, to Avenger Field.  
The male cadets were soon moved out, leaving the instructors and civilian
and Army Air Force personnel there to train the girls and maintain the base.  
Avenger Field was the only air base in America used exclusively to train
women to fly America’s military aircraft.  The first class of WASP who had
trained in Houston graduated there at Ellington Field, but all successive
classes graduated at Avenger.  In 1943, General Arnold issued an order that
all women  flying military aircraft, including both Cochran’s unit (the Women’
s Flying Training Detachment) and Nancy Harkness Love’s unit (Women’s
Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron) would be called ‘WASP,’ Women Airforce
Service Pilots.
Click here to see WASP trainee Deanie Bishop and her army check pilot
standing by BT-13--used for instrument training, She must have just
passed her check ride--because she's smiling (she passed all her check
rides--she wanted you to know that). After getting her wings, Deanie's first
assignment was as an Engineering Test Pilot at Greenville AFB, Greenville,
Mississippi--this meant that after the 'red lined' planes were 'fixed'--test
pilots took them up and wrung them out to see if they were air worthy for
the cadets to fly.

Next assignment: B-26 Tow Target Pilot at Tyndall AFB, Panama City,
Florida.  This meant towing a target behind you while the gunners in another
bomber fired live ammunition trying to hit your target.  Needless to say,
these were 'green gunners' which means they were learning...and some
couldn't shoot as strait as others.  This was a very dangerous assignment,
but the WASP did it without any complaints.  Some WASP towed these
targets over gunnery ranges with tanks firing at them.

B-26 Martin Marauder (BOMBER) was also known as 'the Widow Maker"
and "the Flying Coffin"...and the other nickname, "The Flying Prostitute"
(because it had no visible means of support). Many male pilots were hesitant
to fly this plane until they saw WASP at the controls. This was Deanie's
favorite plane...and according to her, it was "hot!"

Click here to see First Lieutenant Bill Parrish (top row, 3rd from the left) and
his crew (including Deanie)at Tyndall AFB in Florida.  During one target
towing mission at Tyndall, First Lieutenant Parrish hat told his gunnery crew
to “aim close”…he wanted to meet the cute girl pilot that was towing their
target.  The crew aimed close, all right.  They shot a few holes into the tail of
her airplane.  When Deanie landed, she started to give Bill a piece of her
...instead, they fell in love...and were married for 47 years. Like so many
WASP, Deanie found a pilot who could fly almost as good as she could!

Thus began the legacy of the WASP.  They paid their own way to Texas for
training and were never recognized by Congress as members of the military
forces.  Among other things, these ladies ferried airplanes, conducted test
flights, provided flight instruction for both men and women, and even flew
live air-to-air gunnery and live anti-aircraft artillery practice to train gunners
for combat duty.  The 38 WASP who made the ultimate sacrifice for their
country were not provided with military burials.  Instead, their peers took up
collections and sent the bodies back home.  There were no American flags on
the caskets, no gold stars in the families’ windows honoring the death of a

In 1944, General Arnold presented a bill to Congress that would allow the
WASP to officially become military officers.  Unfortunately, some opposing
lobby efforts caused Congress to turn down the bill and they deactivated the
WASP on December 20, 1944.  Their training records were sent to
Washington D.C., sealed, stamped “CLASSIFIED” and filed away in the
government archives for more than thirty years.  Consequently, the official
record of WASP service to America was unknown to most WWII historians
and never recorded in history books.  America forgot about the WASP.  

Thirty-three years later, in 1977, an Air Force public relations officer wrote
an article touting the fact that the Air Force had just graduated the first ten
women in U.S. history to fly military aircraft.  Seeing this, the WASP took
action to gain recognition for their service and lobbied Congress for the right
to become veterans.  Senator Barry Goldwater, who had been an Operations
Officer at one base where the WASP were stationed, helped push the bill
through.  Finally the WASP were recognized as veterans, regaining their time-
honored place in history.

Sadly, to this day, many Americans still do not know the history of the
WASP.  It is not a subject taught in most classrooms, and thus the ladies’
patriotic efforts go unrecognized.  This is especially disconcerting considering
that the WASP have forever changed the role of women in aviation.  Their
courage, commitment and sacrifice during some of America’s darkest hours
have laid the groundwork for all other women pilots who have followed in
their footsteps.

With this legacy rooted deep in her soul, Deanie agreed to be the WASP
consultant as her daughter, Nancy Parrish, has undertaken the massive task
of spearheading an effort to document first hand the memories of surviving
WASP.  Baylor University has joined them in a project called ‘Wings Across
America,’ whose goal is to videotape personal interviews with every surviving
WASP, wherever they are located across America.  These interviews are
being placed in an internet-based video archive that will eventually be
developed into a digital library and virtual museum to be used for educational
purposes.  Nancy’s vision is to impact future generations by providing an
interactive web site where children can “see” the cockpit of an airplane, view
historical photographs and eyewitness accounts, and even peruse an array
of personal diaries and memorabilia.  The site also provides lesson plans for
teachers and an interactive chat room allowing student interviews with a
WASP or several WASP.

The WASP are inspirations to women pilots everywhere, and in the virtual
world of ‘Wings Across America,’ they can become heroes and teachers for
future generations of American pilots, both male and female. This resource
can provide data for documentaries, Ph.D. dissertations, multimedia
educational projects and teaching curriculums for all grade levels.  The
history of the WASP is still far too undocumented, and yet all women pilots
in America today have the WASP to thank for facing the formidable challenge
of breaking ground in the world of aviation - helping to prove that, as Nancy
Parrish explains, “The plane doesn’t know the difference between a male or a
female pilot.”  But in a much broader sense, ‘Wings Across America’ can
become a tool for global education, allowing the WASP to become inspiration
for future generations to become the pioneers of tomorrow.

Please read more about Deanie, see more of her scrapbook and pictures,
and learn how you can help to preserve the history of the WASP, by visiting


Deanie's website also has some games to play!

Using aviation to entertain
and educate girls about
their limitless
Using aviation to entertain
and educate girls about
their limitless
Using aviation to entertain
and educate girls about
their limitless
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