Janet Hargrave, 84;
Flew Noncombat Missions for WASP
Janet Hargrave, one of only 1,074
female pilots who earned their wings as members of the Women Airforce
Service Pilots, a group that flew noncombat missions across the United
States during World War II, has died. She was 84.Hargrave died Jan. 4 at her
home in Malibu after a series of strokes, according to Pauline Greene, a
longtime friend. Starting in 1942, some 25,000
women volunteered to go through WASP training. Only 1,830 were accepted,
and nearly half did not graduate.The group's seven-month preparation
time included a physical regimen that was the same as the one for male
Army Air Forces cadets. The women also took courses in pilot navigation,
meteorology, mathematics and physics.
Those who graduated became military pilots, transporting personnel and
hauling cargo in Army Air Forces aircraft. By filling these noncombat
jobs, the women freed up male pilots for combat duty.
In 1943, WASP merged with the Women's Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron, a
group of 30 women who were highly experienced pilots that did not go
through the military's basic training that was required of WASP pilots.
WASP, which was disbanded in December 1944, lost 38 of its members in
the course of duty.
Because WASP operated under the U.S. Civil Service Commission, the women
did not qualify for military status or benefits. That changed in 1977
when, after years of lobbying, the women finally were recognized for
completing military service and allowed to apply for veterans' benefits.
"The women in WASP left that experience and went on with their lives,"
said Nancy Parrish, whose mother, Deanie, was in WASP and who launched a
website for WASP in 1996 (www.wasp-wwii.org). "From then on,
they believed they could do anything. They were great role models for
their family and for future generations. That was their legacy."
Hargrave, who entered the program in 1943, was born in Oregon and raised
in Los Angeles. She graduated from UCLA with a degree in social studies
After the war, she operated a flight school in Nashville for several
years before she settled in Southern California. She was a social worker
for Los Angeles County and later joined her father in his business,
Palmer Hargrave Lamps.
In 1955, she bought land in Malibu and built a house where she lived
with her dogs, cats and the occasional rescued bird. She also kept a
horse for many years.
When her father died in 1978, Hargrave took over their lamp business,
which she sold after 23 years.
Physically strong until the last months of her life, she traveled
extensively after she retired. Last year she went to Machu Picchu, Peru,
and climbed to the mountaintop city, once an Incan community.
She remained a member of the WASP network and attended meetings. With
her death, there are about 400 living members. The youngest are in their
Hargrave is survived by a sister, Marian, of Palm Springs.
A memorial service in her honor is planned for 2 p.m. today. For
details, call (310) 457-2264.
Reprinted from the
LA TIMES Jan. 20, 2005