Lorraine Z. Rodgers is a native of Park Ridge, Illinois. Following graduation from the University of Illinois, Lorraine worked for the company that built the present O’Hare Airport and used much of her salary to learn to fly and earn her private license.
During WW II the need was critical for male pilots overseas so under the auspices of General “Hap” Arnold, Commanding General of the Army Air Forces, an experimental group of women pilots was formed by Jacqueline Cochran called the Women Airforce Service Pilots – “WASPs”. 25,000 women applied, after the mental and physical exams, 1830 were accepted for training and 1074 earned their wings. The WASP training program, the same as the make aviation cadets, was at Avenger Field, Sweetwater, TX. After graduation the WASP assignments were to the ferrying command, as instructors, towing targets at gunnery schools, as maintenance-test pilots and flying bombers for the instruction of bombardiers and navigators. 38 women lost their lives while on duty. After graduation Lorraine was assigned to the Air Transport Command, 5th Ferrying Group at Love Field, Dallas, TX. She ferried single and twin-engine planes to points of embarkation at the Army Bases and had to live by the commanding officers and the Army Air Corps rules and regulations. The WASPs are considered the original women military pilots. A few months before the WASP organization was disbanded, Lorraine was assigned to Waco Army Air Base as a maintenance-test pilot. This entailed testing planes that had crashed and been repaired. At one time in her career she had to parachute from a plane, After the WASP, Lorraine worked in the Operations Office at the Glenview Naval Air Station; was 1st Lieutenant in the Air Force Reserves; married; raised 4 children and now resides in Alexandria, VA, doing oil paintings.
Written by National Capitol Squadron Monday, 08 September 2003