Saturday, October 24, 2020

22 Amazing Photographs Documenting Female Pilots Training for Duty in Sweetwater, Texas during WWII


In 1943, LIFE Magazine devoted a cover story to the Women Airforce Service Pilots training in Sweetwater, Texas.

July 19, 1943 cover of LIFE magazine.

Looking at the images from this 1943 LIFE cover story about their training, it’s easy to see why the women of the WASP program fought for that recognition. Though the “girl pilots” seemed to be enjoying themselves during their training in Sweetwater, Texas, they were devoted to their physical and classroom training, and able to meet the challenges the Army sent their way—including planes not designed for shorter pilots.

Hair streams in breeze as fledgling girl pilot solos her trainer in a primary practice flight.

Sunburned nose and forehead are daubed with protective cream by Rebecca Edwards of Yazoo City, Miss., 22-year-old widow whose husband was killed during duty with the Army Air Forces. Standing next to Rebecca and leaning against the corner of the primary hangar from which both of the girls fly is Lorena Daly of Bakersfield, Calif. They each have on the G.I. coveralls, called "zoot suits" in Avenger Field lingo, that are regulation uniform for all working hours. Though suits are not very glamorous, the girls like their comfort and freedom.

Marching around wishing well at Avenger Field, girls toss coins for luck if they're due for a flight with an Army pilot. Always the trainees march in formation to the "Hup, two, three, four!" of their section leader, going to mess, ground school or flight line.

Jacqueline Cochran, glamorous speed flier who developed Women's Flying Training Detachment, is center of this group of protogees in flight-line ready room. While girls wait their turn to fly, they question Miss Cochran on her trip to England and other experiences.

In ground school subjects the girls study more diligently than the aviation cadets who preceded them at Avenger Field, according to the instructors. If marks are low students have extra study halls in the evening to catch up. Trainees above are in meteorology class, learning to read symbols and weather maps of the sort that they will use as ferry pilots.

Flight dispatcher looking through binoculars as she watches overflight training traffic of trainee pilots of the Women's Flying Training Detachment at Avenger Field.

Female pilot of the US Women's Air Force Service posed with her leg up on the wing of an airplane.

Short-legged girls stow extra cushions in basic trainer before starting instrument flight, called a "buddy ride" because it's always flown in pairs, with one girl checking the other.

Cockpit procedure in twin-engine trainer is the first lesson Instructor Helen Duffy (right) gives her advanced students. When flying this plane, girls are near end of training.

Fifinella Macot, designed by Walt Disney for the girl pilots, trims blouse of Anne Armstrong McClellan, 21-year-old from Sonoma, Calif. Anne, whose young pilot-husband has been missing since Bataan, majored in aeronautics at college and wants to fly after the war.

"Arms to the side-raise:" snaps brisk command of an Army officer as a section of girl pilots begin their daily calisthenics drill, while overhead a primary trainer circles for attitude...

This drill is tough sledding during the first week or two when the girls arrive soft from civilian life. Then the kinks iron out of their muscles and the exercises are fun.

In official dress uniform of white blouse, tan slacks and overseas cap, Shirley Slade smiles as her hair ruffles in Texas wind, free from the pigtail anchoring it has in LIFE's cover picture. The girls wear dress slacks for drill demonstrations and at graduation ceremony.

"Ready-room Lieutenants," Mary Thielges of Dansville, N.Y. and Virginia Mullins of Nashville, Tenn., find part of policing job is to clear flight line of cigaret butts. Girls take turns at being officer-of-the-day and other duties.

Cross-country-flight is plotted by Janet Zuchowski of Newburg, N.Y. and Alice Jean May of Englewood, N.J. Norman Schaeffer who aids them, is one of civilian flight instructors that train girls under Army supervision.

 Wearing favorite white baseball cap, Phyllis Jarman of Ypsilanti, Mich. writes up a report in her workbook. Like many Avenger Field pilots, Phyllis started flying in a program of the Civil Aeronautics Administration.

Hard bench is a feather bed to Elaine Jones, Houston Texas, who was flying until 3 A.M. previous night.

Letter home is written by Madge Rutherford to folks in Indianapolis as she awaits her flight period on the basic line. Ordinarily a girl will fly two-one-hour periods in an afternoon on the line. With "buddy rides" in basic, the time is doubled.

In primary ready room, studious girls memorize the Morse code until the whir of a returning PT flight is heard. Then they get parachutes and take over pilots seats themselves.

Jean Landis of El Cajon, Calif. between instrument flights. Note the white adhesive above her right knee, on which Jean scribbles take-off and landing time.

A Sunday sunbath for Avenger pilots.

(Photos: Peter Stackpole—The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images) 

40 Gorgeous Vintage Photographs of Actress Joan Blondell During the 1930s & 1940s


Few actresses, save maybe Miriam Hopkins or Kay Francis, are more closely associated with the era of pre-Code Hollywood than playful but tough-as-nails Joan Blondell.

She was born Rose Joan Blondell in New York City in 1906. Joan was part of a vaudeville family and spent most of her young life traversing the country and around the world. She placed fourth in the Miss America contest in 1926, and soon embarked on a Broadway career.

In 1930 she joined the play Penny Arcade, costarring with James Cagney. It had a short run, but actor Al Jolson bought the rights to the play and sold them to Warner Brothers with the explicit guarantee that they would bring Cagney and Blondell across the country to reprise their roles.

Filmed as Sinner’s Holiday, the movie didn’t leave much of an impression. However, Blondell’s wiseacre attitude and hardworking sensibility soon made her the most popular actress on the Warner’s lot. She was one of the studio’s leading ladies, playing opposite of the likes of Cagney, William Powell, Lyle Talbot, and Warren William.

Several films, such as Havana Widows, teamed her up with comedienne Glenda Farrell, and she was also a favorite in the musicals of Busby Berkeley, where her performance of “Remember My Forgotten Man” is one of the most well-remembered numbers of the era.

She’d made nearly 40 films by the end of the pre-Code era, and continued to work at Warner Brothers through the end of the decade. Blondell had a long career in Hollywood, transitioning into character roles as newer starlets pushed her further from the limelight. These ranged from the noteworthy– like the wonderful A Tree Grows in Brooklyn– to the inexplicable– like Elvis’ Stay Away Joe or legendary disaster The Phynx.

She got a Best Actress Academy Award in 1951 for The Blue Veil and continued to work steadily into the late 1970s. She made one last bow in 1978’s Grease before passing away from leukemia in 1979.