They Called Us “Fly Girls”

Veteran:  Margaret Phelan Taylor, WWII Aviator
Artist / Writer:  Gayle Gleckler 

When other girls were playing with dolls, I was playing with trucks and airplanes. Growing up in the middle of nowhere, Iowa, life was boring. Ready for adventure at 19, I spied a Life Magazine cover: Female Pilots. I wanted that. 

My dear father gave me $500, (a fortune back then) for me to train to become a pilot. Arriving in Sweetwater, Texas, shorter than the 5‘2” requirement, I just stood on my tiptoes. Not short on gumption, I was accepted.

They called us WASP: Women Air Force Service Pilots. It was a dangerous job. Once I was ferrying an aircraft cross-country and saw smoke in the cockpit. The parachute issued to me, was made for a man. The force of air and speed would rip everything off and I would slip right out. 

This was was a defining moment in my life, I thought, I'm not going to jump until I see flames. I made the right decision because it turned out to be a burned out instrument.

But 38 WASP pilots weren't as lucky. They died serving our country.

In 1942, the country was faced with a severe shortage of pilots. The commanding general of the U.S. Air Force, said he wasn’t sure whether 'a slip of a girl' could fight the controls of a B-17. 

He was so wrong. We flew everything including the B-26 and B-29 bombers. We expected to become part of the U.S. military. Instead our program was canceled after just two years. 

The war was ending in 1944. Flight training programs closed. Men who feared being drafted, lobbied for jobs, and took ours. It was unacceptable to have women replacing men. I couldn’t get another job as a pilot. 

In 1976 For the first time, women were admitted into the Air Force flying program. 

The WASP knew that was a terrible lie. We were first. In 1977 the WASP finally were granted military status. 

Only 300 of my original 1,100 WASP are still alive to receive the Congressional Gold medal. It’s been 65 years since my service, but I will forever be grateful for the opportunity to have served my country.

Everybody was off to war and I didn’t want to be left behind. I wanted to experience our country's fight. 

But more importantly, I was born to fly.