At 102, WWII veteran pilot Jerrie Badger shared her trailblazing story of courage

During World War II, it became evident there were not enough male pilots. That's when civilian women grabbed the controls and took off into the skies. They were members of the Women Airforce Service Pilots, also known as WASP. They were the first women to fly America's military aircraft and one of those brave women lives in Suwanee. 

At 102 years old, there's still a twinkle in Jerrie Badger's eye when she talks about flying. She took her first plane ride when she was 18 and immediately knew she had found her passion.

"I found everything about it very intriguing, very interesting. I found what I loved," said Jerri. 

In 1942, during World War II, when men were called into combat, the nation needed more pilots. Jerrie, along with other courageous female civilians, stepped up. About 25,000 women applied to be in the Women Airforce Service Pilots. Only 1,100 made it through the program.

"If you got your wings, you know you were good," said Jerrie.

Jerrie graduated in 1944, the last WASP class. Initially, the group of elite women aviators hit some turbulence.

"It was a very sought after career for the men and the women were, well, we should be at home washing dishes," said Jerrie. 

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Jerrie Badger, at 102, is sharing her story of being one of the elite Women Airforce Service Pilots during WWII. (Supplied)

However, with their flying skills and can-do attitude, the WASP soared.

"It was a new field for women, and we were trying to make a name for ourselves," said Jerrie.

"They served at all 120 military bases across the U.S. They flew in all 77 aircraft the government had. They collectively flew 66 million miles in 2 years," said Lisa Taylor, director of the National WASP WWII Museum. 

Taylor says the missions of these brave women ranged from the mundane to the dangerous. They would ferry aircraft to different bases around the country, conduct test flights after repairs were made, and even act as targets for gunnery practice. 

"Just imagine, you're flying an aircraft and 1,000 feet of rope behind you, you've got a windsock and there are men on the ground or sometimes in the air, shooting at your target!" said Taylor. 

"You had to be good period, or you'll get killed," said Jerrie.

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Jerrie Badger, at 102, shares her story of the elite Women Airforce Service Pilots during WWII with Civil Air Patrol cadets. (Supplied)

Jerrie, who now lives in Suwanee, often shares stories of her life in flight. Recently, she spoke to some Civil Air Patrol cadets. She says it was amazing being part of this extraordinary group of female trailblazers and their contribution to our country during World War II.

"Anytime you can help one person, that's nice. A room full of people. That's wonderful," said Jerrie.

While WASPs were classified as civilians, in 1977 they were granted veteran status by Congress under President Jimmy Carter, giving them the recognition they deserved.