WASPS, WACS, and the Civil Air Patrol: Iowa's Role in the Future of Aviation

The Civil Air Patrol (CAP) provides opportunities for both men and women to serve their country on the home front. Many of accomplishments were done by women. Many of these women were a part of CAP and did many other leaps and bounds for the greater good.

One of the first known all female flight crew was in Iowa. Jane Stallings, Virginia Reynolds, and Phillis Hoopes were planning a training flight in Marshalltown, Iowa. Reynolds was the pilot while Stallings and Hoopes were the flight observers. This flight crew provides an example that women contributed to World War II. These examples go from all of the women in the army,
ordinance workers, nurse's attendants, CAP women and many more. Women in CAP were prevalent that there was another company created exclusively for women.

The introduction of Women’s Army Corp (WAC) provided the all-female company. The WAC company comprised 200 women from all different parts of the nation. They would remain together in Fort Des Moines for basic training to obtain a distinctive Civil Air Patrol guidon. Two of the first Iowa women to join were Ellen J. White of Sioux City and Ida M. Mecum of Muscatine. There was the active recruitment of women for WAC being aided by CAP. Later on, CAP wanted to focus all of their energy on the creation of the group. A woman named Private Marcilla Forgie completed her basic training at Fort Des Moines for WAC; she was then sent to Galesburg, Illinois to continue her service.

Jean White was a woman who already knew how to fly by Morningside College’s program before she joined CAP. She had her fascination with flying at the age of 13. Unfortunately, due to the Great Depression she couldn’t fly; she entered an essay writing competition, winning the ability to ride on a flight from Omaha, Neb. all the way to Washington, D.C. Jean White like Betty Jean Schultz (who was another CAP member) wanted to join Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) but they were deemed too short. White used this experience in CAP as a steppingstone for her career in the United States Military for 26 years.

Another woman in CAP is Willa Beatrice Brown. She was considered the advocate for both women and civil rights in the aviation spectrum, not just CAP. She was the first African American to be an officer in CAP and served in the new US Aviation Commission Board. She provided education to many pilots including those who later joined the US Army Air Corp. She also created the Pilot Trainee program for the Tuskegee Institution; those pilots would later become Tuskegee Airmen. She also was the first to get a pilot mechanic license and a commercial pilot license.

These remarkable women in CAP show the courage and the lasting impact of generations to come through their actions. Some of those actions may not be massive but just a demonstration to the future how women can do what the men can do. CAP is meant for men and women; women of CAP show the capable abilities to do what they please in CAP.

Across the larger Civilian Pilot Training Program (CPTP) organization, there were numerous “firsts” in aviation in service to the nation during World War II. Many women participated in this program, trailblazing and forging a path forward for future women aviators. Some of these women pilots ferried aircraft to forces fighting oversees in Europe and the Pacific. Others instilled a passion for aviation in other women at home.

Throughout the history of the Civil Air Patrol has been countless women who supported the cause and the effort. Women were instrumental in assisting the organizations efforts in administration, flight training, and cadet programming. Others assumed officer ranks fulfilling roles such as transportation and maintenance officers.

These women were also instrumental in the eventual authorization to allow other women into the ranks of the regular Air Force in 1948. It wasn’t until 1993 that the first women pilot took controls of her first fighter, however. 1996 was the first time a woman took control of a bomber in a bombing mission. It was not until these many years later that women began to fulfill the vision of their forerunners from World War II.

Today, women serve in all facets of our military and in all branches. They make up the total collective of our combined force. In Civil Air Patrol, women occupy and bolster key positions that contribute to the stability and success of the organization. Now, just like then, it is the woman aviator and ally of the aviator that helps further the evolution and progression of our success our CAP and USAF.

This publication was originally published for the Civil Air Patrol, and the First U.S. Air Force.  It is reprinted in accordance with guidance and permissions similar to DVIDS publications (dvidshub.net).

These articles are created independently and are distributed by this site (The Havoc) in accordance with other DVIDS and DoD guidelines and copyright policies.  Use of this material does not imply DoD, nor any of its entities, endorsement of this site.  This site is privately owned and operated and has no affiliation with the U.S. Department of Defense, the U.S. Air Force, or the Civil Air Patrol.

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