From Utah News:
Within months after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, the U.S. Army Air Force, faced with an acute shortage of male pilots, decided to use women in domestic aviation to relieve their male counterparts for combat.
This was a first for the military. They knew little about women’s adaptability, attitudes, strength or psychological bearings. So they turned to world-renowned pilot Jacqueline Cochran, who created in-country ferrying and training programs including aerial navigation, target towing, assimilated bombing missions and conveyance.
Cochran had broken international speed and altitude records. President of the Ninety-Nines, an international organization of women pilots, she was a member of the Wings for Britain, delivered military aircraft from America to England and became the first woman to pilot a bomber across the North Atlantic.
Actively recruited, 25,000 young women stepped forward to volunteer, and about 1,800 were accepted into the program. Learning to fly “the Army way,” 1,074 graduated into the Women Air Force Service Pilots, or WASPS.