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 13)

“Where’s the pilot?” he asked.

“What do you think?” I responded. “That the pilot jumped out and I was just playing around and decided to jump in?”

*    *    *

I was flying on December 20, 1944—the day they disbanded the WASP. I could not believe we were being deactivated. I stood at the airfield and looked across a sea of P-51s just waiting to be delivered. Most of the guys coming back were bomber pilots, not yet cleared in pursuit planes. We volunteered to deliver them. For a dollar a year, we would have flown those things for them…heck, forget the dollar!

It was the saddest day of my life. You see, I had this job to do, and it was just about finished, and they told us to go home. Just like that.

I think I felt the prejudice at that time more than any other. I felt that I was doing a great job, helping my country, sacrificing my ordinary life. Then a decision was made: they no longer needed me. I almost felt like what we did didn’t matter that much. It was so easy for them to disband us. Like we were used, but not appreciated. I think most of the WASP felt that way for a time.

But we did matter. Our job was important. It just took 33 years for us to get our veterans benefits.

And now, when I look up at a hawk soaring, I share his exultation. In fact, at 89, I jumped out of a plane with the Golden Knights. My partner was a black aviator and as we were drifting down, floating through that capsule of air, it dawned on me just how much things had changed.

“Mike, do you remember all the prejudice against black pilots and all the prejudice against women pilots? And here we are just floating down together and having such a wonderful time.”

And he said, “You know, Vi, things have changed.”

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