In 1942, with war raging on two fronts and military pilots in short supply, the U.S. Army Air Force enlisted female aviators to deliver military planes from factories to air bases. These superb pilots flew every aircraft in the U.S. Army Air Force — including B-26s when men were afraid to — logging more than six million miles in all kinds of weather. Yet when World War II ended, their wartime heroism was left unheralded.
In 1961, with the dawn of the space age, a handful of top female pilots took part in a new program termed "Women in Space." Subjected to the same rigorous tests as the Mercury astronauts, thirteen women — top-notch pilots— were admitted to the program. The matter went as far as Congress, where dramatic hearings included testimony from astronauts John Glenn and Scott Carpenter. But these skilled aviators had the "right stuff" at the wrong time, and again women were denied their place in history.
These are stories of courageous women who lived with danger and fought discrimination. They were targets of "friendly fire," both literal and figurative, from a public which by turn reviled and glamorized them. But they wrote unique chapters in America's race to space-chapters which are all the more important because they've been overlooked for almost fifty years.