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"I thought, 'Well, what better way to serve my country than to fly and do the thing that I love most, and I didn’t have to pay for the gas.'" (Audio interview, 0:34)

   Violet Clara Thurn Cowden
Collection image
Violet Cowden in uniform, with her plane [n.d.]
War: World War, 1939-1945
Branch: WASP (Women Airforce Service Pilots)
Service Location: Sweetwater, Texas; Love Field, Texas; Dallas, Texas
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Post-World War II, many veterans returning home were given a hero’s welcome. But what of those who had served their country proudly, but were not considered veterans? Violet Cowden served with the Women’s Airforce Service Pilots, a stateside program that enlisted female pilots to ferry supplies cross-country, thus freeing up male pilots for combat roles. For Cowden, serving as a WASP gave her the chance to fulfill a lifelong dream of flying while doing her patriotic duty. As the war wound down and male pilots returned home, the program was discontinued. It would not be until 1977--over thirty years later--that the WASP contributions were recognized by the federal government and they were given official veteran status.

Interview (Audio)
»Interview Highlights  (7 clips)
»Complete Interview 
Download: audio (28 min.)
»Photo Album  (1 photo)
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 Audio (Interview Excerpts) (7 items)
Deciding to become a WASP; dreaming of flying ever since she was a small child; deciding to take flying lessons; incomparable feeling of flying; being totally comfortable in the air. (04:09) Beginning of WASP program; flying the same planes and doing same jobs as men; deactivation of program toward end of war; not receiving veterans’ benefits until 1977. (01:32) Favorite types of planes; feeling as if the plane was a part of your body. (02:04)
Needing to pass a physical to enlist; being underweight; eating as much as she could the day of her physical so that she could pass. (02:10) Her mission was to go to the factory and pick up the planes and take them to the point of debarkation; incident in which she got to fly a brand-new plane. (02:19) Prejudice against female pilots after the war; losing jobs to men; lobbying to receive benefits; finally attending a ceremony that named her as a veteran. (03:35)
Didn’t consider herself a pioneer at the time; glad she opened the doors for young women of today. (01:34)  

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  October 26, 2011
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