Jay I. Kislak World War II in the Air
Opening in 2025

An artist's rendering of Jay I. Kislak World War II in the Air


Jay I. Kislak World War II in the Air is made possible by the generous support of:

Kislak Family Foundation / Jay I. Kislak

About Jay I. Kislak >>

Daniels Fund in Honor of Bill Daniels
David M. Tolley
Mary E. Jenkins

Stuart and Paula Fred
Foster and Coco Stanback
Jim and Sharon Todd
Paul R. Wood
Exhibition Preview

    Mechanics at Tuskegee Army Air Field, Alabama, maintain an engine of a Vultee BT-13A Valiant. This aircraft was used for basic flight training for the Tuskegee Airmen. 

    The WAVES (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service). Approved by Congress and signed into law by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1942, the WAVES program recruited women between 18 and 36 years old (and officers between 20 and 50) to serve onshore in the continental United States. Many of these women, starting in 1944, also served in Alaska and Hawaii.

    Here, WAVES specialist first class Lorraine Taylor perches atop the nacelle of the number one engine of a Naval Air Transport Service four-engine Skymaster. Inspecting the accessory action on the engine is specialist first class Martha Harrison. These WAVES aviation mechanics are working on the ramp at Naval Air Transport Squadron Four, NAS, Oakland, California.

    Lt. Clifford Allen of Chicago, Illinois, stands in front of a C-47 preparing to drop the 555th Parachute Infantry Battalion. The 555th was the only African American parachute unit and was not ready in time to deploy to Europe. Instead, as incendiary Japanese balloon bombs were launched towards the U.S. in mid-1945 in hopes of starting large fires in the Pacific Northwest, the 555th was assigned to jump on fires to extinguish them as part of “Operation Fire Fly.” The unit made 15 such jumps. Note the 150-foot rope for descending from tall trees; the plastic helmet and catcher's mask were protection against branches and brambles.

    A riveter works on a wing panel of a Vultee A-31 Vengance dive bomber at Vultee’s Nashville, Tennessee, plant in February 1943.

    Lt. Hiawatha Mohawk, one of the few Native American fighter pilots of World War II, flew with the 319th Fighter Squadron, 325th Fighter Group. Here, he straps into his Republic P-47 for a mission in Italy supporting ground troops of the Fifth Army. Mohawk had two aerial victories during the war and went on to a long career flying fast jets in the Air Force.

    When military leaders agreed and approved the creation of the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP), about 25,000 American women applied to be an auxiliary part of the home-front army. A fraction of the applicants — 1,820 in total —were accepted into the program, and 1,074 graduated. The WASP flew 60 million miles in all types of military aircraft, including fighters and B-17 and B-29 bombers, and paved the way for today’s fully vested female military pilots. These women ferried aircraft, cargo and personnel; tested aircraft; and towed targets throughout the 48 states, filling in gaps left by male pilots who had been sent to war. 

    Here, Lt. Robert Williams, a maintenance officer, briefs Lorena Daily, a Women Airforce Service Pilot (WASP) before she departs with a Beechcraft C-45 assigned to the Royal Air Force (probably for multiengine training). Daily had learned to fly from famed barnstormer “Tex” Rankin. She joined the WASP in 1943 and ferried a range of aircraft across the U.S., including the Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress.

    An intelligence officer briefs pilots for “Operation Strangle” in spring 1944. They were to attack key supply lines keeping German forces operating in Italy.

Related Topics