Trinity’s Kristin Lent Honored with WW II WASP Memorial Award

by

Jim Hulton, Church Publicist

Kristin (Kris) Lent, an active Trinity member and volunteer, helped create a unique-but little known- part of American history. She appears to be friendly, quiet, and unassuming. But in a momentous part of her life, she leaped into the record books by becoming one of the first women pilots of the then US Army/Air Corps in WW II. On Wednesday, March 10, 2010, she was honored with the WASP (Women’s AirForce Service Pilots) Memorial Award in the Capitol Rotunda Building in Washington, D.C. Surviving WASP members received a special invitation to this important occasion by US Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. 178 of them were in attendance.


Although women during WW II were not allowed to engage in combat activities, there were two women who were instrumental in changing that so women could help in a vital support role- ferrying aircraft from the assembly line to Army/Air/Corps airfields around the country. The original idea came from Britain’s Royal Air Force which used female aviators to ferry aircraft throughout the British Isles. The two American women, Nancy Harkness Love and record-breaking aviator Jacqueline “Jackie” Cochran, ultimately convinced Air Corps Commanding General Hap Arnold (who said “the use of women pilots serves no military purpose”) and President Franklin D. Roosevelt to launch the program. 


In November 1942, the first class of women recruits appeared at Howard Hughes Field in Houston, Texas to begin training. Kris qualified for her pilot’s license in York, PA (class #44W3) and in October 1942 she entered WASP training. 57 of 100 students in her class graduated. Upon graduation, she went to Sweetwater, Texas for further training. She later was assigned as a flight test engineer on B-26s and other flying duties at Garden City, Kansas. The last class graduated from the US program on 12/7/1944. Their flight pay was $150.00 per month. Overall there were more than 25,000 applicants, 1,879 were accepted, and 1,074 graduated. 38 were killed in the line of duty. Kris herself had three mishaps that almost ended her life. During the program, American women aviators flew 77 types of aircraft more than 60 million miles on ferrying missions and other domestic military operations like simulated bombing missions, strafing operations, and towing targets. Aircraft included were the Steerman Bi-plane, Fairchild PT-19, BT -13 (Vultee Vibrator), P-61, UC-78 Cessna Bomber, AT-6 fighter plane (Kris’s favorite), and the famous bombers B-17, B-24, B-26, and B-29. The program was terminated and the WASPs were honorably discharged at the end of December 1944. It opened the door 30 years later for women to serve in the military for combat roles such as flying, even for flight into outer space.


Following her eventful career and deactivation in the military, she went to Kansas City Airport, Kansas to become a commercial instrument flight instructor. When asked why she became a woman aviator, she exclaimed “We did it because we loved it. It was a special, exciting time!” Humbled by the award, she further stated, “If you have a dream, pray about it, and let God do His work. It was a dream that I had to fly. I was inspired to serve God and my country.”