South Plains College Library to host WASPs exhibit

South Plains College Library to host WASPs exhibit

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LEVELLAND – The Historic Women’s Airforce Service Pilots (WASPs) exhibit will be on display Monday (April 16) at the South Plains College Library. The exhibit runs through May 3.

The SPC Library will host a grand opening reception from 3 to 5 p.m. Monday. The public is invited to attend. The exhibit will be open Monday through Wednesday from 7:45 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.; Thursday and Friday from 7:45 a.m. to 4 p.m.; and Sunday from 2 to 6 p.m.

“We’re doing this as part of an effort to help the women who basically made the air war possible during WWII,” said Jim Belcher, Jr., director of Libraries. “These women did not receive the kind of recognition they deserved.”

The WASPs changed the face of military aviation during World War II. According to their website, following the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, there was a shortage of trained pilots. The male pilots were needed to fight the war. At the same time, the U.S. Army needed pilots to deliver newly built trainer aircrafts to the flight schools in the South. Twenty-eight experienced civilian women pilots volunteered to take those ferrying jobs and they formed the country’s first female squadron late summer 1942. 

More than 1,000 women were trained to fly between November 1942 and December 1944. They trained in Houston and then moved to Avenger Field in Sweetwater. During 1943 and 1944 trainees lived at Avenger Field in wooden barracks in rooms called ‘bays.’ Each bay contained six Army cots, six lockers, two study tables and six chairs. Adjacent to the bay was a latrine, with two showers, two sinks, two commodes and a connecting door which opened into an identical bay.

Nancy Love and Jacqueline Cochran founded the two programs (Women’s Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron and Women’s Flying Training Detachment) that became the WASPs. 

WASPs flew every aircraft in the Army’s arsenal. In addition to ferrying, they towed gunnery targets, transported equipment and non-flying personnel as well as flight-tested aircrafts that had been repaired before the men were allowed to fly them again. For more than two years, the WASPs performed a variety of aviation-related jobs and served more than 120 bases around the country. The WASPs were granted military status in 1977 by way of an order signed by President Jimmy Carter. In March 2010, the WASPs were awarded the Congressional Gold Medal

This display was assembled by The National WASP WWII Museum in Sweetwater and loaned to SPC. 

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