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Nancy Harkness Love: Nancy Harkness Love

[ photo: Nancy Harkness Love ]

Nancy Harkness Love

In lieu of a campus job, Nancy Harkness Love, 1935, earned extra money by taking fellow students for rides in an airplane she rented from a nearby airport. Her love of flying grew more intense than her desire for academics, and when family finances grew tight, she left Vassar at the end of her sophomore year in 1933 and pursued a career in flying.

In 1936, she married Robert Love and became a pilot for Inter City Aviation, the successful Boston-based company that they created together. In 1937 and 1938 she flew as a test pilot for Gwinn Air Company, and even served as a test pilot for three-wheel landing gear, which is now standard in most planes.

At the outbreak of World War II, she followed her Air Corps. Reserve major husband to Washington, D.C., and gained a civilian post in Baltimore, Maryland, where she commuted daily by plane. Although women were not allowed to join the U.S. Air Force, Love convinced Colonel William H. Tunner to create a women's division called the Women's Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron (WAFS) in September of 1942. She became their commander.

In 1943 the Women's Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron (WAFS) and the Women's Ferrying Training Division (WFTD) merged to become Women's Airforce Service Pilots (WASP), with Love named the general executive for all WASP operations.

At the end of the war, she received the Air Medal alongside of her husband (who received the Distinguished Service Medal), for "operational leadership in the successful training and assignment of over 300 qualified women fliers in the flying of advanced military aircraft".