Cornelia Fort

Writer, Aviator, Patriot

"But surely this campaign of horror will turn on its creator and smash him also. Surely this wave of barbarism will weaken the ranks of Fascism and restore the faculty of healthy criticism to the mobs blinded with enthusiasm-- We should aid the persecuted Jews with one hand and try to hasten retribution with the other." ~ Cornelia Fort, The Campus, Sarah Lawrence College, November 21, 1938

Born in Nashville, Tennessee, in 1919, Cornelia Fort was the daughter of a physician and founder of an insurance company. Risk averse by nature, her father cautioned his sons not to fly in an airplane, having followed the exploits of Orville and Wilbur Wright a decade before. However, he didn't think to caution his adventurous daughter.

Uncomfortable with the expectations of affluent white society in Nashville, Fort was eager to attend college away from home. Her parents allowed her to enroll at Sarah Lawrence in Bronxville, New York, where she attended for two years, enjoying opportunities to write and experience culture in New York City.

In the winter of 1940, Fort took her first airplane ride in Nashville. By that summer, she had earned her private pilot's license. In early 1941, she earned her commercial pilot's license and became a flight instructor. She worked first in Nashville, and then in Fort Collins, Colorado, and finally secured a job in Honolulu, Hawaii, training sailors and defense workers how to fly. 

On December 7, 1941, Fort was flying with a student near the U.S. Naval Base at Pearl Harbor when she spotted Japanese aircraft and quickly landed her plane. She returned to Nasvhille shortly after the U.S. entered the war and was excited to receive a telegram from Nancy Love, founder of the newly formed Women's Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron (WAFS). She became one of the original female pilots ferrying military aircraft within the United States, reporting for duty in Wilmington, Delaware. 

Sadly, Fort would not live to see the WAFS evolve into the WASP (Women's Auxiliary Service Pilots) because she was killed in an airplane accident over Texas on March 21, 1943. She had been on her way from Long Beach, California, to deliver a military plane to Love Field in Dallas, Texas and became the first female pilot to die in service to her country. It would take another thirty years before the WAFS and the WASP were formally recognizes as military veterans.



"Barbarism A La Hitler"pdf / 1.55 MB Download