Helen Wyatt Snapp was one of the first female pilots at Camp Stewart during World War II, and this is her story.
Born Helen Wyatt, she attended primary school and high school in Washington, D.C. She went on to attend Mary Washington College in Fredericksburg, Va., planning to become a teacher.
While on a summer break Snapp began taking flying lessons. After two years, she left college to accept a government position as clerk to pay for her lessons. When flight training became available through the Civilian Pilot Training Program, Snapp enrolled and acquired a private flying license.
This program was initiated by President Franklin D. Roosevelt prior to the outbreak of World War II and was designed to encourage interest in aviation and to create a pool of partially trained personnel, which the military could recruit from in case of war.
In 1942, Snapp married Ira Benton Snapp who was an infantry officer in the Army. Ira Snapp was a lieutenant in Company B, 30th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Inf. Div. Snapp served with the 3rd Inf. Div. during its campaigns in North Africa, Sicily and Italy. He was wounded at Anzio and later transferred to the 29th Division. While with the 29th, Snapp participated in the Normandy landings.
Shortly after her husband was sent overseas, Helen Snapp heard about the Women’s Airforce Sevice Pilot training program. When she applied she did not have enough flying hours for acceptance.
Later in January of 1943, the requirements were reduced. Snapp was interviewed by Jacqueline Cochran at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington, D.C., and then accepted into the program.
She attended Air cadet training at Avenger Field in Sweetwater, Texas, as part of class 43-W-4. With completion of this training in February of 1943 Snapp and her classmates received the equivalent of a
civilian commercial pilots license and were qualified to fly military aircraft.
After graduation, Snapp and others of her class reported to Camp Davis, N.C. It was here that she received training in target towing for anti-aircraft live fire.
Upon completion of this training she reported to Liberty (now Wright) Field, Camp Stewart. Snapp served at Liberty Field until December 1944 when the WASP program was deactivated.
Upon the completion of her service, Helen Snapp had more than 1,000 hours of flying time and flew numerous target missions, towing targets for live fire on Camp Stewart’s anti-aircraft ranges.
Throughout their service, the WASPs were required to wear military-style uniforms and were subject to military discipline and the rules of the UCMJ.
However, Snapp and the other WASPs had served as Government Service civilian employees and were not considered military veterans. Therefore, they were not entitled to Veterans Benefits, regardless of the dangerous and vital defense work that they had performed. After several years of political lobbying, the WASPs were recognized as veterans by congress in 1977. However, it was not until 1979 that the Air Force officially recognized their veterans’ status.
After this long-fought battle, Snapp and her fellow WASPs were awarded the World War II Victory and the
American Defense Medals and full veteran’s benefits for their dedicated military service in a time of national emergency.