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"Back in those days, women weren't expected do things like this, and so many people were against the idea of women flying, endangering their lives." (Video Interview, 10:03)

   Elaine Danforth Harmon
Collection image
Elaine Danforth Harmon [2004]
War: World War, 1939-1945
Branch: WASP (Women Airforce Service Pilots)
Service Location: Avenger Field, Sweetwater, Texas; Nellis Air Force Base, Las Vegas, Nevada
Rank: Lieutenant
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As a student at the University of Maryland, Elaine Danforth heard about the Civilian Pilot Training Program and persuaded her father to sign permission for her to learn to fly. By the time she applied to join the WASP, the number of flying hours required had been reduced, and her 40 hours got her admitted. After training in Sweetwater, Texas, she was sent to Nellis Air Force Base in Las Vegas to work with enlisted men on refreshing their instrument skills. She recalls how controversial the idea of women flying during wartime was and how that prevented the WASP from gaining full military status before they were deactivated.

Interview (Video)
»Interview Highlights  (5 clips)
» Part 1 
Download: video (31 min.)
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 Video (Interview Excerpts) (5 items)
Trained at Sweetwater, Texas; stationed at Nellis Air Force Base in Las Vegas; trained pilots in flying on instruments; how she learned about the WASP; was able to get in with fewer hours of flying time than the original requirement. (03:41) Hearing about the Civilian Pilot Training Program while in college; only one girl admitted for every ten men; because she was underage, she needed a parent's permission; she mailed the form to her father's office, knowing her mother would not sign. (01:33) Training divided into three phases; in ground school they studied weather, aerodynamics, engines, Morse code, and a lot of mathematics. (00:48)
The Air Corps was ready to accept women at the time, but there was controversy over militarizing the WASP, so they were part of the Civil Service; controversy, stoked by columnist Drew Pearson, over whether women should be flying at all. (02:24) WASP did not have uniforms until about seven months before they were deactivated; wearing coveralls, or "zoot suits," when they flew; much too large for the women; since they had only 2 small sinks for 12 girls, they washed the uniforms in the showers; some girls would place their uniform skirts between the mattress and box spring to "iron" it. (01:49) 

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  October 26, 2011
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