It was a woman, Jacqueline Cochran, who formed the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP). Cochran was a business executive and a pilot. In 1953 she became the first woman to break the sound barrier.
But it was in 1939 that Cochran broke a more persistent barrier when she wrote to Eleanor Roosevelt suggesting that women pilots could fill in for male pilots who went to combat. Her vision was to have the WASP pilots shuttle planes from place to place in the US as needed. It took her until 1943 to sell all the right people on the idea.
Cochran headed the new WASP. She sent out a call for women pilots that resulted in more than 25,000 applications. Initially, only those women between the ages of 21 and 35 and who had 200 flying hours under their belts could apply.
Jacqueline Cochran interviewed every applicant, picking 1,830 of them for training at the Avenger Field Flight School in Sweetwater, Texas. Not everyone who trained made the cut. Over the life of the program, 1,074 women became WASP pilots, serving at 126 bases across the country, including the base in Pocatello, Idaho, where they helped beef up the Mexican Air Force.
If you’d like to learn more about the Mexican Expeditionary Air Force (though little about their training in Pocatello), check out this video.
Another short clip that includes some comments about the WASPs in Pocatello can be found here.