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Filing Cabinet - Pearl Harbor

Women Pilots in World War II
Cornelia Fort

Cornelia Fort, who first soloed on April 27, 1940, earned her private pilot’s license on June 19, 1940. By the next year, she received her commercial license and her instructor’s rating, and was soon teaching others to fly. When offered an instructor’s job at the John Rodgers Airport in Honolulu, she leapt at the chance to train others who could become the pilots the military so desperately needed. Then on the early morning of December 7, 1941, she took to the skies with a student pilot, practicing takeoffs and landings, in the quiet morning light. At that very moment, the Japanese fighter planes were approaching the island. Read her first hand account of the events of that day that catapulted Miss Fort and other young aviatrixes into their roles as wartime pilots for the United States.

Cornelia FortMiss Fort was the second woman to join the Women’s Auxillary Flying Squadron, under the direction of pilot Nancy Love. She reported for duty on September 10, 1942. To be a WAFS pilot, Cornelia Fort had to have a commercial license and demonstrate to Director Love that her flight log met the required 500 hours of flight time. Only 200 hours of flight time were required for men to be military pilots.

Over the next few weeks, other women pilots arrived at New Castle, Delaware for intensive training in navigation, weather forecasting, the use of firearms and military law. Very soon thereafter, they began ferrying planes to United States Army Air Corp bases within the United States.

Cornelia was thrust into history on December 7, 1941 in Honolulu when an ordinary student pilot lesson turned into a maneuver to escape enemy fire during the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Cornelia was thrust into history in September 1942 when her ordinary civilian pilot lessons were interrupted when her country asked her to serve with the WAFS.
Cornelia was thrust into history on March 21, 1943, when, at the age of 24, while in the course of her ordinary duties of ferrying BT-13 trainers in Texas, she became the first woman pilot to die in the wartime service of her country.

Yet, she always understood that she was part of something larger than herself—a call to courageous action as one of the few elite women pilots that would have the chance to serve their country in World War II.

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