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Peggy Phillips and the WASPs

Peggy Phillips, a docent here at The Museum of Flight is a retired United States Air Force Colonel with over 5,000 hours logged in C-141 and C-17 transport aircraft. She was one of the first women to fly in the US military and recalls the incredible unification of 1983’s Women Military Aviators and the Women Air Force Service Pilots (WASP) of World War II.

To learn more about WASP start with a previous Flight Deck interview featuring 96-year-old Betty Dybbro who spent one year as a WASP during World War II.  

WASP Interview:   

 Peggy remembers growing up in the military, her father was enlisted in the Air Force as part of Security Police. Growing up in the sixties, Peggy felt the buzz from the Space Race, and dreamed of one day becoming an astronaut. Quickly she realized in order to obtain this dream she would have to start off as a test pilot and rise through the ranks becoming a fighter pilot which was not feasible at a time when women weren’t allowed to enter pilot training. With this discouraging realization she then decided to go to school to become a teacher. Through college Peggy met a gentleman who was in the Air Force who rekindled her desire to enlist. The year she graduated from college in 1976 was the year the Air Force started admitting women into their Pilot Training Program. After years of teaching, Peggy persistently applied to be in the Air Force. She was selected in 1979 to begin her pilot training and left her job as a first-grade teacher.  

Peggy decided to join the Reserves and became the first female pilot to be sponsored by the 702nd unit through pilot training. She discusses the overwhelming experience of being the only female in the program and having to represent herself within the group. When Peggy graduated in 1981 she was the 75th woman to earn her wings in the Air Force. When news got out about the military excepting women into Pilot Training, the WASPs caught wind and reached out to some of the early women pilots to act as mentors. They had the mentality that banning together would make an immense impact. They guided the pilots into building a strong foundation, creating the Women Military Pilots Association eventually becoming the Women Military Aviators which included a couple of WASPs and military pilots on the board.  

 The WASPs were a high-spirited, adventurous bunch and bestowed their wisdom onto the group of up and coming pilots. Ultimately these two groups were similar in many ways, paving the way for female pilots spanning multiple generations. Peggy encapsulates the camaraderie and enthusiasm of these two bold groups that came together for support of one incredible mission.  

Want to learn more about the WASPs? Visit the World War II section of our Personal Courage Wing to explore real artifacts from these incredible women 


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