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WASP training


Snapp was born in Washington D.C. She lived there for about two years and then moved to Colorado. She eventually moved back to Washington five years later. She loves Colorado however in her old age she has retired to Florida for the warm weather. Her first memory of an airplane was in Colorado. She remembers as a kid that everyone would run outside and look at one if they heard it go by.Her father worked for the government during the Great Depression. She remembers a sense of people being desperate during that time however she does not have one specific memory that she can point to. A big moment in her life that inspired her to fly occurred when she moved back to Washington D.C. when she was eight years old. Charles Lindbergh had a parade down Pennsylvania Avenue. It was only two blocks from her house. Snapp walked the two blocks, sat down on the curb, and watched Lindbergh pass by. Snapp recalls reading articles about Amelia Earhart. On a summer vacation in her college years at Mary Washington she was home in Washington D.C. Snapp and her sister saw an ad for flying lessons in the paper. It seemed fairly reasonable. They went out to the airport, unbeknownst to her family, and took a flying lesson. They were immediately hooked and whenever they could save up the money that summer they would return and get more flight lessons.The first plane she flew was a Piper Cub. Snapp got an offer to work for the government while she was in college. She realized she could go to school at night, save the money from the job, and take more flying lessons. Around that time the Civilian Pilot Program kicked into gear. There was about one woman for every twenty five males. First they had to take ground school. One of the men who ran the school near D.C. was a professor at George Washington University and had a problem with giving a woman a spot to fly. Snapp and her sister appealed but did not get anywhere. Eventually they got into the program and they started with ground school. Snapp and her sister got their private licenses.Cochran and Nancy Love [Annotator’s Note: Jacqueline Cochran and  Nancy Harkness Love,  directors of the WASPs] eventually appealed to President Roosevelt. The WASP [Annotator’s Note: Women’s Airforce Service Program] program was started. They would train right next to the Air Force pilots. Snapp was eventually allowed into the WASP program. The age limit was 21-35 and it required a pilot’s license and roughly 35-40 flight hours logge Next thing Snapp knew she was in Sweetwater, Texas training with the rest of the women. Snapp had not been away from home before so the prospect of traveling to Sweetwater seemed daunting. 


When Snapp arrived at the hotel [Annotator’s Note: in Sweetwater, Texas for WASP training] there was roughly thirty to forty women milling around and they were all there for the same reason she was. They could not go to Avenger field right away because they were not ready to house the women yet. The hotel was very nice and they enjoyed the trips back and forth. They eventually ended up in the same facilities as men, as the men who previously occupied those buildings were shipped overseas. Ther were two bays per building, each bay held six women. The twelve girls had to share one shower and one bathroom. The food was wonderful. They had numerous problems with dust storms. It complicated the women's effort to keep the barracks clean because they routinely checked them for cleanliness. Snapp and the other ladies were not able to socialize with any of the male pilots. The training they received was identical to the male pilot training. At the base they had plenty of planes and equipment. The townspeople of Sweetwater loved the women pilots. They were always extending invites for the women to attend barbeques and picnics out by the lake. There were bad incidents at least twice a month where someone would get severely injured or killed. Snapp stayed at Avenger field for six months. After Avenger field they were sent home for a short vacation and were instructed to wait for orders. Snapp ended up in Delaware at Dover Air Force Base. First they ended up at Wilmington. They were then instructed to head back to Washington D.C. to meet up with Jackie Cochran. They stayed in some nurses quarters near Arlington Cemetery for about a week.


They [Annotator’s Note: women of the WASPs, Women’s Airforce Service Pilots in Washington D.C.] were told at the Pentagon that they needed to fulfill some of the training missions that were up to that point primarily done by men. Some of the men did not like that. They were told they were going to Camp Davis in North Carolina. Their main mission was going to be towing targets so that the anti-aircraft gunners had "live" targets to fire at. They did strafing missions and some weather missions. They also did radar missions. On the radar missions they would drop chaff so that the radar operators could learn how to distinguish chaff on radar. They also conducted searchlight missions. For the searchlight missions they would fly the B-34's. They would also fly A-24's and A-25's to tow targets. They liked the strafing missions the best. Colonel Lovick was the commanding officer at Camp Davis. Snapp describes him as a "crusty, up from the ranks officer." He did not like the idea of the women being there. There was a women’s group there about a month before. Lovick did not let the women fly in that group. However when Snapp's group got there, he had been reprimanded and had allowed that group to fly. There were women who resigned because they did not want to tow targets. One of the women pilots died when her plane flipped over after a bad landing. Snapp was in the air and saw the commotion going on by the field and was informed by the tower to land on another runway. She found out when she landed that the pilot had died. Snapp herself did not have many close calls. The planes however were clunkers and in bad shape because all the good planes were off fighting. The planes were examined and the problems with them were disclosed to the female pilots. A pilot could refuse a flight if she felt as if the problems on the plane would put the crew in jeopardy. The women turned down less planes then the men. Snapp had the A-24's and the A-25's for practice strafing runs. It was Snapp’s favorite activity. They had a limit on how close they could get to the ground, however they would get as close as they could and make people scatter. They would then buzz the airfield and let their hair down so that people on the ground could see that they were women pilots. Snapp remembers getting mooned at one point. They would target fake gun emplacements. Sometimes the pilots would take the anti-aircraft gunners up in a plane so that they could see how well their camouflage worked. The women were supposed to carry a gun however most of the time they did not. They did not carry a weapon, because many were not trained to use a gun.Snapp went through top secret training at Camp Davis. There was a plane called the PQ-8 which was a drone plane. Then there was a mother ship which would usually be UC-78 or an AT-11. The pilot was to chase the PQ-8 and basically see how the drone plane could perform. The landings and the takeoffs were hard to accomplish. They also used regular drones for target practice. However that did not last long because it was too expensive.


Snapp enjoyed flying the PQ-8. It had tricycle landing gear and it was fun and easy to land. It was highly maneuverable. The only drawback was that it had a small gas tank. It kept the mission time to roughly two hours per flight. Snapp suffered one minor injury and it was while flying the PQ-8. It was a bad landing and the plane went off the end of the runway and she broke her nose. In Georgia they were very involved with the anti-aircraft training. Every now and then they would fly officers around as well. No WASP [Annotator’s Note: Women’s Airforce Service Program] was in for longer than two or three years.They were supposed to be militarized but it never happened. They never got paid as much as the men and overall it was not seen as a military operations. Snapp did not know exactly how to feel about it because if they were militarized then they might have been relegated to a desk job. At least with the way things were at the time, they could fly. They did the same things that t men did, yet it did not count the same. It was hard on the women because if they died during their service they did not have any benefits. Some of the women who suffered injuries were not able to secure the proper care for a while after the war. In the 1970s all of that was rectified and they received veteran’s status.


The only benefits they were eligible for was housing and medical benefits. The WASP [Women’s Airforce Service Program] program was discontinued as a result of the men coming back from overseas. There were many things the WASPs were criticized for such as wearing trousers. At the time it was considered undignified for women to wear trousers. They were instructed to not talk to the media and to act like women. A lot of the times the men, especially at bases where the WASPs needed to stop and get more fuel, did not know how to handle the women. Numerous times women were arrested for impersonating an officer. They also did not have their own uniforms for a long time so they had to wear men's uniforms. The work uniforms were men’s overalls. The crotch on the pants would go down to the knees of some of the women. Snapp got out on December the 20th of 1944. At roughly the same time, Snapp's husband came back from the war and was designated for assignment on a bond tour to tell people about the Normandy Invasion. Snapp went with her husband on the bond tour. They started in Philadelphia and worked their way west. One of the props that Snapp's husband had was a diagram of the harbor off of Omaha beach. Snapp’s husband was on limited service because of a wound he sustained in Anzio.At the time, Snapp was very aware of the fact that they were women accomplishing something remarkable in a man’s world. They also felt very fortunate for the opportunity. Cochran [Annotator's Note: Jacqueline Cochran, director of the WASPs] arranged for the media to cover the WASPs. Most of the media members were women. There were people who were happy that the women were serving, however the prevailing sentiment was that women should not be serving in the armed forces. Snapp does not feel that they were treated fairly and that more could have been done to ensure that they received fair treatment. When the first group of women finally received their wings in the Air Force the WASPs were not initially recognized. Snapp cites this as the driving force for their reunions. 


Snapp met some of the women in the First Air Force class, some were astronauts. They had a tough time as well. Snapp's parents were very conservative but they were proud of her. They were surprised when they found out that Snapp and her sister were learning how to fly. Most of the men took the WASPs [Women’s Airforce Service Program] in stride.Snapp feels that World War II changed her. She felt like they contributed to the war, whether it was before they entered service and did what they could to ration, or after they had joined the service and got to fly. Snapp remembers her husband trying to buy furniture for their house. It was nearly impossible to acquire new furniture at the time so they had to settle on second hand furniture. They were very patriotic and they cared deeply for the military and what was going on in the world. Snapp is extremely proud of her generation.Snapp felt that most people had sympathy for Britain and France and that they should have done more to help. She notes that she got her news from the radio. People contributed in every facet of their life during World War II. Certain items were hard to come by. Snapp remembers her local grocery advertising that they had ground beef, yet one could never get it. There would sometimes be advertisements in the paper for shoes yet you would never see them. The gasoline rationing was tough on people as well.Young generations need to remember what happened and how the war was caused. They need to understand how families dealt with the war during their day to day lives. It is also important for people to realize that they need to support the military. Snapp's service changed her life. She learned what she could do and what she could not do. She also learned how to appreciate life and peace. Every day is a good day in her opinion. 

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