Selma Cronan – Army Air Corps (WASP)

Pilot Selma K. Cronan at the controls.

Pilot Selma K. Cronan at the controls. (Miller Field, New York, 1945)

“From the time my mother took me on a two dollar airplane ride in Asbury Park, New Jersey in the 1920’s, I fell in love with flying and I knew I was going to become a pilot someday.” —Selma Kronan

In 1942, the United States was suffering through a severe shortage of pilots. Men were needed to fight overseas, and the government was forced to take a chance and train women to fly military aircraft. This pioneering group of civilian female pilots was called the Women’s Airforce Service Pilots, or WASP for short. Over 1,000 young women were trained to fly B-26 and B-29 bombers, test new planes, and fly shipments across the country from factories to military bases. Fun fact: the WASP mascot was drawn by Walt Disney, and appeared on each woman’s shoulder patch. Less fun fact: All records of the WASPs were classified and sealed for 35 years, so their contributions were little known and all but inaccessible to historians.

Selma Cronan at Avenger Field. (Texas, 1944)

Selma Cronan at Avenger Field. (Texas, 1944)

In 1943, Selma Kantor Cronan was invited to join the WASPs by Jacqueline Cochran, the legendary female aviation pioneer. After WWII, Cronan took part in flying competitions and earned a name for herself as a competitive pilot. In 1992 she was interviewed at home in Delray, still flying at age 82. Of her time as a WASP Cronan said, “I was very young and gung-ho. My next flight was all I cared about. Looking back, I realize now there was a lot of discrimination against women. You’d fly into an air base and there was never a ladies’ room. I realize now the subtleties of the whole thing. If there’s anything I’m happy about, it’s that we were the forerunner of what’s taking place insofar as discrimination against women.”

[This article republished from the Jewish Women’s Archive with permission of the author].