March 24, 2012

Las Vegas WASPs of World War II

U.S. Air Force photo, Air Force Museum
WASPs - Women Airforce Service Pilots

NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. “” The Women’s Airforce Service Pilots, or WASPs, was an organization that existed from 1942 through 1944, composed of women trained as pilots.

The WASPs began with 28 women, hired for their extensive civilian flight experience. Later applicants went through the same pilot training course as men, except for acrobatics or formation flying. By the program’s end, 1,082 WASPs had earned their pilot wings.

Once qualified, they were assigned as civil service employees at various bases across the US, flying various training and support missions and delivering aircraft from factories to depots and bases for overseas delivery.

The WASP unit at Nellis (then known as Las Vegas Army Air Field) existed from Feb. 25, 1944 until the program ended on Dec. 20, 1944. From an initial group of ten, as many as 25 WASPs were stationed here before the program closed. Although they were civil service employees, they were treated as officers and billeted on base with commissioned Women’s Army Corps officers.

They were formed up into a squadron, later a flight, with Ruth C. Jones from the original group of ten as their “commander.” The unit flew most aircraft here, including the P-39, AT-6, AT-11, TB-26 trainers towing aerial targets, and as B-17 bomber co-pilots on training missions.

In a 1989 interview, Virginia Dulaney Campbell related that while flying a TB-26 and towing a target for B-17 gunnery students, she found out that not all students knew they were supposed to shoot at the target sleeve. One time, after landing back at Las Vegas AAF, a student gunner asked her “what was that white flag doing hanging along behind your airplane?” It turned out he had been shooting at her TB-26.

One WASP was killed in the line of duty. Beverly Jean Moses was the AT-11 copilot on an instrument training flight crew on July 18, 1944. Her flight was diverted to search for a parachute reported near Mt. Charleston, but was not heard from again. A search the next day found her aircraft’s wreckage on the mountainside; Moses, Lt. Frank Smith, the pilot, and 4 other personnel were all killed in the crash.

Margaret “Maggie” Gee was one of just two Chinese-American WASPs. From Berkeley, CA, she was a shipyard welder and draftsman, jobs which helped pay for her flying lessons before she was accepted for flight training in early 1944. After graduating in September, 1944, she was here for little more than 3 months before the WASPs were disbanded.

Under political pressure from various groups, the WASP program was cancelled and all remaining pilots were released effective Dec. 20, 1944. Several married pilots they met here, including Madelon Burcham, who married 1st Lt. Jack Hill, a B-17 pilot and Base Operations Officer. She and Maggie Gee were two of the 300 surviving WASPs who received a Congressional Gold Medal in a Washington, D.C., ceremony on 10 March 2010.

All of this week's top headlines to your email every Friday.


Courtesy photograph

Retired CMSgt, GS employee retires after 52 years

Courtesy photograph Chief Master Sgt. John Malone, right, retires after serving 26 years on active duty at a ceremony held on Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., in 1990. Malone served a combined 52 years on active duty and in civilia...
U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Rachel Loftis

Vet visits NAFB first time in 75 years

U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Rachel Loftis Retired U.S. Air Force Maj. Jobie Hammock poses for a photo at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., May 21. Hammock, who joined the Army Air Corps in 1943, was stationed at the Las...

Honor Guard pays respects during Memorial Day ceremony

Airman 1st Class Esteban Castillo, Nellis Air Force Base Honor Guard member, plays Taps during a Memorial Day ceremony at the Davis Funeral Homes and Memorial Park in Las Vegas, May 25. The funeral home, Veterans of Foreign War...


Disabled veterans discover ‘Hope’ through golf program

U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Mikaley Towle Participants in the Professional Golfers’ Association of America Hope Program practice their swing at the driving range on Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., May 14. The PGA Ho...
Photo courtesy of retired Master Sgt. Phillip Sisneros

Darkest before dawn: Retired master sergeant, active duty wife share struggle of overcoming TBI

Photo courtesy of retired Master Sgt. Phillip Sisneros Then Master Sgt. Phillip Sisneros, 99th Communications Squadron comm focal point chief, lays in a coma following a motorcycle accident in Las Vegas on Aug. 13, 2011. Sisner...
U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Thomas Spangler

Nellis Airmen remember Pearl Harbor, remain vigilant for future

U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Thomas Spangler Lt. Col. Jason Camilletti, 57th Operations Support Squadron commander, shares a laugh with Ed Lun, a retired Air Force pilot and veteran of World War II, Korea and Vietnam, ...


Be the first to comment!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>