Clipped Wings: The Rise and Fall of the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASPS) of World War II

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During World War II, all branches of the military had women's auxiliaries. Only the Women Airforce Service Pilot (WASP) program, however, was comprised entirely of women who flew dangerous missions more commonly associated with and desired by men.

Within military hierarchies, the World War II pilot was projected as the most dashing and desirable of servicemen. "Flyboys" were the daring elite of the United States military. More than the WACs (Army), WAVES (Navy), SPARS (Coast Guard), or Women Marines, the WASPs directly challenged these assumptions of male supremacy in wartime culture. WASPs flew the fastest fighter planes and heaviest bombers; they test-piloted experimental models and worked in the development of weapons systems. Yet the WASPs were the only women's auxiliary within the armed services of World War II that was not militarized.

In Clipped Wings, Molly Merryman draws upon military documents (many of which were declassified only in the 1980s), congressional records, and interviews with the women who served as WASPs during World War II, to trace the history of the over 1,000 pilots who served their country as the first women to fly military planes. She examines the social pressures which culminated in their disbandment in 1944—even though a wartime need for their services still existed—and documents their struggles and eventual success, in 1977, to gain military status and receive veterans benefits.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Merryman has assembled a formidable study of these women pilots using recently declassified government documents, as well as interviews with surviving WASP personnel."

-Feminist Collections

"Merryman's work has been hailed as a fresh, astute, analysis of the WASP program. The book is well written and draws on a variety of primary source material including, military documents, interviews with former WASPs, newspapers and articles and Jacqueline Cochran's private papers."


"Well written and draws on a variety of primary source material. . . . The book adds to the continuing study of women pilots in World War II."

-Net Book Review

"Clipped Wings lets us peer into the political cockpit of militarized gender construction. I've learned a lot from this fine book."

-Cynthia Enloe,author of Does Khaki Still Become You?

"An excellent study . . . its grounding in feminist history and methodology are timely and welcome."

-American Historical Review

H-Net Book Reviews
Well written and draws on a variety of primary source material. The book adds to the continuing study of women pilots in World War II.
Members of the Women's Airforce Service Pilot program (WASPs) flew fighter planes and bombers, test-piloted experimental models, and worked in the development of weapons systems, yet the WASPs were the only women's auxiliary within the armed services of WWII that was not militarized, remaining instead a civilian group whose members were not granted veterans' status. Draws on declassified documents and interviews with former WASPs to trace their history, examining social pressures that culminated in disbandment in 1944 and their eventual success in gaining veterans' benefits. Their story sheds light on women's participation in the military and the ways in which war affects the social construction of gender. Includes b&w photos. Annotation c. by Book News, Inc., Portland, Or.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780814755686
  • Publisher: New York University Press
  • Publication date: 2/1/2001
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 252
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.61 (d)

Meet the Author

Molly Merryman, Ph.D. is an associate professor and associate chair of Sociology at Kent State University. She has authored a number of book chapters and journal articles and is a documentary filmmaker whose projects have received national and international screenings and awards.

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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
List of Abbreviations
1 Introduction 1
2 The Development of the Women Airforce Service Pilots: From Guarded Experiment to Valuable Support Role 6
3 Becoming Soldiers: Tracing WASP Expansion and Plans for Militarization 30
4 From Praise to Rancor: Media Opinion Changes as Men Return from Battle 44
5 No Allies for the WASPs: Congress Responds to Male Public Interest Groups 75
6 They'll Be Home for Christmas: The WASP Program Disbands 102
7 On a Different Battlefield: The WASP Fight for Militarization after the War 131
8 Recognizing the Gendered Warrior: History and Theory Intersect with the Fate of the WASPs 157
9 Coda 182
Notes 185
Bibliography 209
Index 227
About the Author 239
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