WASP Millicent Young Dies in Colorado Springs

Only 1 in 25 women pilot applicants became WASPs.

millicent young
Millicent Young was one of the earliest members of the Women Airforce Service Pilots, and she received a Congressional Gold Medal for her service.Bill Young/Blurb; Air & Space Museum

Millicent Young, one of the earliest members of the Women Airforce Service Pilots, died last week at age 96. The WASPs were a civilian group of women pilots created in the 1940s by the merging of two other civilian flying services designed to free male pilots from non-combat chores like ferrying airplanes and towing targets for gunnery practice.

An Air & Space Museum website story, Women with Wings: The 75-Year Legacy of the WASP, said, "In order to apply, a woman required a civilian pilot's license. Access to a pilot's licenses varied, as women either relied on the assistance of their families or would scrape together every dime they had earned to pay for flight hours and certifications. In addition, women had to pass an Army Air Corps physical and cover their cost of transportation to Avenger Field in Sweetwater, Texas for basic training. After months of military flight training, 1,102 of the original 25,000 applicants took to the skies as the United States' first women to pilot military aircraft."

Young wanted to fly airplanes from an early age after an airplane landed on her family's farm in Nebraska. She took her first airplane ride at 14 and eventually learned to fly in Ogallala, paying for lessons with money she earned growing wheat on land leased from neighbors. Young was awarded her wings by General Hap Arnold and eventually flew the AT-6 Texan towing targets for gunnery practice. She was named Colorado's "Working Woman of the Year" in 1985 and was one of 300 female pilots awarded the Congressional Gold Medal in 2011, the highest civilian honor awarded by Congress.