Jacqueline Cochran and the WASPs

By 1941 Jacqueline Cochran was one of the most famous women pilots in the United States. Keenly aware of the Nazi threat to Europe, she approached the U.S. Army Air Corps and suggested the possibility of using women as ferry pilots in wartime. When her initial proposals were turned down she went to England (becoming in the process the only woman to fly a bomber across the Atlantic in World War II) and volunteered her services to the Royal Air Force. For several months she worked for the Air Transport Auxiliary (ATA), a branch of the Royal Air Force. Her work involved recruiting qualified women pilots in the United States and taking them to England where they joined the ATA.

In 1942, following U.S. entry into World War II, the Air Force recognized the need for additional pilots. Ms. Cochran's earlier proposals were resurrected and she was invited back to the U.S. to head a program for training women pilots. As head of the Women's Air Force Service Pilots (WASPs) she supervised the training of over one thousand women, many of whom performed distinguished service flying experimental Air Force planes.

Jacqueline Cochran's interest and involvement in politics led to a close friendship with Dwight D. Eisenhower. In February 1952 she helped sponsor a massive rally on General Eisenhower's behalf at Madison Square Garden in New York City. The rally was recorded and Ms. Cochran flew the film to France for a special showing at General Eisenhower's headquarters. The show of support was a major factor in convincing General Eisenhower to run for president in 1952.

During the 1952 campaign Ms. Cochran persuaded employees at Walt Disney Studios to produce an animated cartoon in support of Eisenhower's candidacy. She attended the Republican National Convention in Chicago in July and assisted with arrangements for General Eisenhower's visit to Los Angeles in October. Dwight Eisenhower appreciated Ms. Cochran's efforts and remained a close friend for the rest of his life. He frequently vacationed at Ms. Cochran's ranch in California and wrote portions of his memoirs there after leaving office.

  1. Documents