Jacqueline Cochran

Jacqueline Cochran, a hero from World War II, became the first civilian woman to be awarded the Distinguished Service Medal and in 1945. She was commissioned a lieutenant colonel in the Air Force Reserve in 1948.

Born in Muscogee, Florida in 1906 as Bessie Lee Pitman, Jacqueline Cochran grew up in poverty and had little formal education. She moved to Georgia at the age of eight, to work in a cotton mill. Cochran married her husband at the age of fourteen, whom she divorced in 1927. A trained beautician, she pursued that career for several years and took her first flying lessons in 1932. She achieved her pilot's license in three weeks and mastered the technical aspects of aviation and navigation. Meanwhile, in 1935 she organized a successful cosmetics firm, which she sold in 1936.

In 1935 Cochran became the first woman to enter the Bendix Transcontinental Air Race. She came in third in 1937 and in 1938 she won the Bendix Trophy, flying a Seversky pursuit plane. In June 1941 she piloted a bomber to England. As a flight captain in the British Air Transport Auxiliary she trained a group of female pilots for war transport service. In June 1941, she piloted a bomber to England. As a flight captain in the British Air Transport Auxiliary, she trained a group of female pilots for war transport service. Upon her return to the United States, she supported a similar program for the Army Air Forces and in July 1943 was named director of the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP), which supplied more than a thousand auxiliary pilots for the armed forces. 

In 1953, eager to make the transition to jet aircraft, Cochran became the first woman to break the sound barrier, piloting an F86. American pilot from DeFuniak Springs who held more speed, distance, and altitude records than any other flyer during her career. In 1964 she flew an aircraft faster than any woman had before.

Date of Death / August 9, 1980 (1906-1980)