We Represented All Women

During World War II, WASPs proved that an airplane couldn’t tell the difference between a male and female pilot.

Vi Cowden during her service with the WASPs in the 1940s. (Courtesy Jonna Hoppes)

(Continued from page 12)

I never lost that quality…I mean being a girl. My room in the barracks at Love Field reflected my feminine side. It came with a single metal bed and a board along one wall for hanging clothes. I fixed that room up. I made a bedspread and curtains for the window and a curtain to hang over the makeshift closet. It looked so cute! Even my base commander appreciated my efforts.

One night he asked me to hang around the barracks to greet some special guests. I wasn’t happy about the assignment.

“But there’s a dance tonight!” I argued. “I want to go to the dance!”

“I think they’ll come in early and you can still go to the dance.”

I could hear the music from the club as I sat fuming in my room. But it all worked out in the long run. President Truman had called Gen. “Vinegar Joe” Stilwell back to Washington. The general, his pilot, copilot and their wives were our guests for the night. I felt really bad for the women. Here they’d flown in from San Francisco with their black negligees and plans for a romantic rendezvous, and they were stuck in our barracks!

“What are you flying?” Vinegar Joe asked me.

“The P-51.”

“I can’t believe you’re flying the Mustang!” he said. “I think that’s wonderful.”

He asked me to join them for breakfast and I did. What an amazing man!

General Stilwell wasn’t the only one who didn’t realize women were flying pursuit planes. I landed the P-51 at one field, pulled over to the hangar area, and a guy jumped on the wing.

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