Cover image for Clipped wings : the rise and fall of the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASPs) of World War II
Clipped wings : the rise and fall of the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASPs) of World War II
Merryman, Molly.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : New York University Press, [1998]

Physical Description:
xi, 239 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm
The development of the Women Airforce Service Pilots : from guarded experiment to valuable support role -- Becoming soldiers : tracing WASP expansion and plans for militarization -- From praise to rancor : media opinion changes as men return from battle -- No allies for the WASPs : Congress responds to male public interest groups -- They'll be home for christmas : the WASP program disbands -- On a different battlefield : the WASP fight for militarization after the war -- Recognizing the gendered warrior : history and theory intersect with the fate of the WASPs -- Coda.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
D810.W7 M44 1997 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



During World War II, all branches of the military had women's auxiliaries. Only the Women Airforce Service Pilot (WASP) program, however, was comprised entirely of women who flew dangerous missions more commonly associated with and desired by men.

Within military hierarchies, the World War II pilot was projected as the most dashing and desirable of servicemen. "Flyboys" were the daring elite of the United States military. More than the WACs (Army), WAVES (Navy), SPARS (Coast Guard), or Women Marines, the WASPs directly challenged these assumptions of male supremacy in wartime culture. WASPs flew the fastest fighter planes and heaviest bombers; they test-piloted experimental models and worked in the development of weapons systems. Yet the WASPs were the only women's auxiliary within the armed services of World War II that was not militarized.

In Clipped Wings, Molly Merryman draws upon military documents (many of which were declassified only in the 1980s), congressional records, and interviews with the women who served as WASPs during World War II, to trace the history of the over 1,000 pilots who served their country as the first women to fly military planes. She examines the social pressures which culminated in their disbandment in 1944--even though a wartime need for their services still existed--and documents their struggles and eventual success, in 1977, to gain military status and receive veterans benefits.

Women Who Flew documentary short directed and produced by Molly Merryman & Tom Baumann.

Reviews 1

Choice Review

Flying necessary but noncombat missions, WASPs released hundreds of male pilots for war zones. The story has been told several times before, most recently by Vera Williams in WASPs: Women Airforce Service Pilots of World War II (1994), and by Marianne Verges in On Silver Wings: The Women Airforce Service Pilots of World War II, 1942 - 1944 (1991). From the historical point of view, this reviewer preferred the earlier works. However, Merryman's account does a more thorough job of explaining the politics and gender prejudice involved in the disbandment of the WASPS. There is an annoying amount of repetition in the book, which careful editing might have eliminated. The author's feminist perspective--that gender discrimination was the main reason for the demise of the WASPs--is not clearly proved, although it certainly was to be an important factor. A strong bibliography, good documentation, an adequate index, and appropriate photographs are the pluses of the book. A worthwhile but not essential addition to all academic and large public libraries. All levels. M. O'Donnell CUNY College of Staten Island