WASPs once flew at March Field

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Erik Figi
  • 452nd AMW Historian

In September of 1942, Army Air Forces Commanding General Henry H. “Hap” Arnold agreed to form two groups of qualified women pilots—the Women's Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron (WAFS) and the Women's Flying Training Detachment (WFTD). These groups were intended to help meet the need for pilots to ferry aircraft during the war. A month later, on Aug. 5, 1943, the WAFS and WFTD merged into a single unit for all women pilots—the Women's Airforce Service Pilots or WASPs. These female aviators flew almost every type of aircraft in the United States military arsenal at the time, including heavy bombers and fighters.


In January of 1944, Patty M. Canada became the first WASP, to arrive at March Field for training. Eventually, twenty-six such pilots would be permanently assigned and many more would cycle through for training. These female aviators towed targets, performed daylight and nighttime tracking missions, carried out radio control work, and practiced laying smoke. March Field WASPs also performed ferry missions which consisted of moving cargo and aircraft. On Dec. 13, 1944, March Field Post Commander, Col. Stanton T. Smith, held a formal dance in honor of the WASPs. In a farewell speech, he hailed the invaluable service the WASPs had performed for March Field. The WASP program would officially inactive on December 20, 1944.