by Lauren Grizzard
Doris Brinker Tanner was a WASP. No, not the insect that flies around and stings. WASP stands for Women Airforce Service Pilot. During World War II, most men were needed as soldiers. Because of this, the military turned to women for help. One of these ways was to become a pilot!
Many women in Tennessee served as WASPs. One of them was Doris Tanner. Doris learned to fly planes in college. She went to the University of Tennessee in Knoxville. When World War II started, the WASPs recruited women to join. Over 25,000 women applied to be a WASP. Only 2,000 were chosen. Doris was one of them. The women pilots had to go through a very difficult training before graduating.
From 1942 until 1944, just over 1,000 women earned the title of a WASP.
As a WASP, pilots like Doris had many jobs. Some of the jobs were even dangerous. They would test aircraft for safety. Sometimes they had to pull a target behind their plane so soldiers could practice shooting! They also would fly supplies where they were needed.
“I flew everything the US Airforce had that had wings on it,” Doris said. Although Doris and the WASPs did not fly in battles, they paved the way for future women to serve in the military.
As Doris said, “the gutsy women of the World War II Army Air Forces at last occupied their rightful place as the first female military pilots in American history.”
The WASPs helped the war effort by flying important supplies around the country. They also helped expand opportunities for women. Would you like to become a pilot someday like Doris Tanner?
Doris Tanner Uniform
Aircraft – Something that flies like a plane or helicopter
Applied – Asked to do a job
Pilot – Someone that flies a plane or helicopter
Recruited – Sign someone up
WASP – Women Airforce Service Pilots were a group of trained pilots to help during World War II
Gutsy - Brave
Who could be a WASP?
What were some of the jobs a WASP would do?
How do you think the United States changed by letting women help in the war effort?
Watch Doris Tanner talk about her experience as a pilot.
PBS: The War Stories from the Northwest WWII WASP Women Air Force Service Pilots
Tennessee Sate Museum: Change and Challenge
Tennessee State Social Studies Standards:
5.49 Describe Tennessee’s contributions during World War I and World War II, including: the conversion of factories to wartime production, the importance of Oak Ridge, and the influence of Tennesseans (i.e., Cornelia Fort, Cordell Hull, and Alvin C. York).
US.52 Examine and explain the entry of large numbers of women into the workforce and armed forces during World War II and the subsequent impact on American society.
Lauren Grizzard is the Scheduling Coordinator at the Tennessee State Museum