Jacqueline “Jackie” Cochran
Aviation Pioneer, Air Racer, WASP leader WWII
American Aviation Pioneer, Jackie Cochran Print Size 12×18″
Poster Print $14.95
I have 20 posters that have been autographed by WASP pilot, Bee Haydu.
Price $40.00 signed Poster.
Jacqueline “Jackie” Cochran
By: Sir Ernie Hamilton Boyette
Jackie was born around 1905 to 1908, according to her autobiography. To the best of her knowledge she was born in or somewhere near Muscogee, Florida She was born Bessie Lee Pittman but as she grew older Bessie remade herself and changed her name. Born in poverty, which was common at the time, Bessie was orphaned and was raised by a foster family that was extremely poor. Jackie was born in an area she called “Sawdust Road.” The area was a mill town industrialized by limber mills that cut up timber harvested from the Florida forest. Jackie remembered having no shoes until she was eight years old and wearing dresses made of cast-off flour sacks.
Her foster father had no trades or talents and for many years worked for companies that paid him in credits, not money. These credits could be used at the company store, which was over priced, and they were forced to live in company housing which were literally shacks. Jackie didn’t even have a bed but slept on a pallet. Her foster parents were nothing more than slaves.
At the age of seven Jackie became a mid wife for the pregnant women in the area whose husbands worked at the local factories. She would earn ten cents a day helping the women through their birth and then helped the mother get back on her feet afterwards. She would cook the meals and take care of the babies to give their mother a break. This is where Jackie says she learned to cook along with how to deliver a baby. Jackie also learned how “not to live your life”.
Jackie hated school and did not stay long. Working and making money was her first education. At the age of eight she got a job at a local cotton mill in Columbus, Georgia. This is where her foster parents moved after the jobs in Florida dried up. The family moved as they reached the very point of starvation. Jackie earned six cents an hour. At the end of her first week of work Jackie had $4.50, which was then taken by her foster parents for the good of the family. Even though Jackie did not know math or how it worked, the next week she gave her foster mother $3.00 telling her that was all she had made for the week. Jackie keep the rest for herself.
At the age of ten Jackie was promoted to inspection room supervisor. She enjoyed the responsibility and was a natural leader. Jackie was in charge of a crew of other children with some being older than her. The experience of personal responsibility as a child would help Jackie for the rest of her life. She was a leader of others and after seeing so many people including herself being abused by their bosses was a great lesson. Jackie would be a leader the rest of her life. She would be stern but fair and not afraid to get her hands dirty.
Jackie worked from six at night to six in the morning in terrible conditions including the fact that there was no bathroom and with only one thirty-minute break at twelve midnight. There were no unions at first but as soon as there was one Jackie gladly paid her $1.00 dues.
Jackie knew that her future was not in the factories of the south. She longed for more and put her mind to work to figure out what her next move would be. She identified a family where both the father and the mother worked. The lady of the house owned her own beauty shop and Jackie appealed to her for a job to help around the house with the cleaning and cooking. She told the woman that while she worked at her shop Jackie could keep everything up around the house for her. Jackie was accepted into the home as a cook and housekeeper.
After months of service at the home of the beauty shop owner Jackie then pressed the woman to give her a job at the beauty shop. Jackie was hired and by the time she was 13, she matured in the business and was cutting hair professionally. Jackie always wanted to know more about what ever she did. Jackie desired to be the best at what ever she did. The mixing of the chemicals that make hair color intrigued her to a point that she took on this job eagerly. She became one of the first women to master the newly invented permanent wave in the 1920’s.
Jackie quickly developed a following of steady customers and as you can imagine she demanded a higher salary. And Jackie got the raise. One of her favorite customers adored Jackie and wanted to help her with a new career.
She suggested to Jackie that she would make a wonderful nurse. The client had connections and opened the doors for Jackie. With almost no formal education, Jackie enrolled in the school. Once Jackie was serving in the profession during her training she had second thoughts. Jackie completed three years of training to be a nurse, however she never adjusted mentally to the profession.
Jackie was comfortable with the sight of blood and the other duties the profession required but she just realized that this was not her calling. She knew that a nurse was more valuable to society than a beautician. Even though Jackie was a mid wife when she was still a little girl to poor women in her neighborhood, she did that job because it was a job and there was a need. And Jackie as a child knew that she could handle the job. This should have been the highest motive for her to continue to help her fellow man and woman, yet it was that experience that led her away from the medical profession back to the profession of a beautician. It wasn’t the blood, or giving shots, or changing a bedpan. It just wasn’t what she wanted.
Jackie wanted more and she went back to the beauty shop but this time it was in New York at a famous salon, Antoine’s at Saks Fifth Avenue. This change of cliental would change Jackie’s life. She would eventually meet her future husband at one of the many functions she was always invited too. Everyone liked Jackie, she was beautiful, and a strong woman with a positive attitude who spoke her mind. Even without formal education, Jackie was intelligent and acted and spoke intelligently. Some men like that in women and many don’t.
Jackie met Floyd Odlum who was a millionaire financier at a dinner in 1932. Floyd was the founder of Atlas Corporation and CEO of RKO in Hollywood, California. He was also known to be one of the richest men in the United States. Both found each other interesting. Jackie could talk to Floyd about her ideas and business plans. Jackie was interested in the beauty profession and the development of new products. Floyd encouraged her. She eventually started her on cosmetic company, Jacqueline Cochran Cosmetics.
Floyd would always give Jackie competent advice and support. She was well aware of the potential financial reward one could reach with a successful line of beauty products. Jackie had been using, mixing, and experimenting with products for years. This really intrigued her to a point of looking into how to develop her own products. She was excited about product development and marketing and everything that went into business development.
At this time in her life Jackie was also becoming interested in aviation. Floyd played on that interest and advised Jackie that if she was ever to realize her dream of setting up her own firm learning to fly would give her a great opportunity to cover her travels. This would also give her a foot-up with respect from the men she would be marketing her products to. Jackie took the advice and that summer she learned to fly. Jackie later stated that she knew when she took her first lesion that her job as a beautician ended and an aviator and an entrepreneur was born. Jackie was always a person whose aspirations soared, but flying would take her to every goal she would ever want.
Jackie had been around Naval pilots and enjoyed talking with them. Jackie was more comfortable talking to men than she was with women. Some men would talk down to Jackie, which annoyed her greatly but most men quickly realized that Jackie was sharp and was able to have an intelligent conversation with her. Floyd was one of those men. He found Jackie to be quick to learn and understand different things. Jackie was not just another woman who wanted to sit around and talk about cloths or furs, or hats, and shoes.
1932 was the year that Jackie’s interest in aviation consumed her. She researched what was involved in becoming a pilot. She found out there were certain requirement and a number of hours of flight time needed to get a license. Jackie was smart, sharp as a tack, however she was still uneducated. Jackie could not read or write.
Jackie made a deal with the local flight instructor that she would receive the written part of the test orally. Jackie took a three-week leave from work and she spent the entire three weeks working everyday on getting her license until she finally soloed. Normally getting your pilots license took several months with one or two flights a week plus ground school. In two days Jackie soloed and eighteen days later had her pilots license. Let me repeat that fact. Jackie soloed in two days and obtained her license in eighteen days. Is it fair to say here that it took Earhart almost a full year!
Jackie did not want to wait long once she got the bug to fly. She wanted to fly right now. Jackie never let up on anything once she set her mind to it. Jackie soloed and received her pilot’s license at Roosevelt Field which was a small airfield on Long Island. The first airplane Jackie flew was a fleet trainer. Once Jackie got her license she wanted her own aircraft and soon owned her first, a Travelair.
Jackie’s life changed and she was led to California where she could get better flight training. Jackie took further instruction at the Ryan Flying School in San Diego, California. Her instructor was Bob Kerlinger flying a Great Lakes Sport. It was while in California that Jackie bought her next aircraft.
The Bendix Race and other races.
Jackie began competing in American and international air races. In 1934 Jackie entered her first race. This was very aggressive for anyone especially for a beginner to enter. The event was the Mac Robertson Race that started in England and ended in Australia. Her co-pilot was Wesley Smith. Their aircraft experienced engine trouble and the duo was forced to land in Rumania taking them out of the race.
Jackie then pursued different aspects of aviation careers. She got a job as a test pilot. She flew and tested the first turbo-supercharger ever installed on an aircraft engine in 1934. During the following two years, she became the first person to fly and test the forerunner to the Pratt & Whitney 1340 and 1535 engines.
In 1935 Jackie was the first woman to enter the Bendix Race however aircraft failure caused her to drop out. Later that year Jackie started her cosmetics company. Everything about starting a company with production to marketing intrigued her. Jackie studied each level of business with the help of Floyd. All of Jackie’s endeavors were well planned. Jackie married Floyd Odlum on May 11, 1936 in Kingman, Arizona after his divorce was final. Jackie maintained the Cochran name after she married which was unusual for a woman at the time.
In 1937 Jackie entered the Bendix Trophy Race finished in third place overall and first place in the woman’s division. The race was between Los Angeles, California to Cleveland, Ohio. Her time during that race was 10 hours, 19 minutes, and 8.7 seconds. Her average speed was 194.74 mph in a Beechcraft.
Jackie would go on to enter other races. Eleanor Roosevelt awarded Jackie her first Harmon Trophy on April 4, 1938. This was in recognition of Jackie being hailed as the most outstanding female pilot of 1937. In 1937 Jackie set three speed records. The first was 203.895 mph in a Beechcraft Staggerwing. The second record was 292.271 mph in a Seversky Pursuit. The third record was in a race from New York to Miami that was held annually. Her time was four hours, twelve minutes, and twenty seven seconds in a Seversky Executive. Jackie eventually won fifteen Harmon Trophies.
In 1938 while flying a Seversky Pursuit Jackie won the Bendix race. Jackie flew 2,042 miles from Burbank, California to Cleveland, Ohio in only eight hours, ten minutes, and thirty-one seconds with an average speed of 249.774 mph. With only enough gas left in the gas tanks of her P-35 for a few more minutes of flight, Jackie Cochran crossed the finish line. It was exactly 2:35pm on September 23, 1938. Jackie had won the transcontinental race. The race was a challenge for everyone who entered.
The best men pilots in the country had always won the race, now for the first time a woman had won. She was also the first pilot to finish the race, flying non-stop with out landing and refueling.
Upon landing Jackie was personally congratulated by Vincent Bendix himself and given the trophy for winning the race. Jackie then climbed back into the Seversky Pursuit after it was refueled and flew to the Bendix Airport in New Jersey and promptly set a new west-to-east transcontinental record by a woman with a time of ten hours, seven minutes, and ten seconds flying back to California.
Vincent Bendix personally shook Jackie’s hand after her win in 1938.
After winning the Bendix and then recording a time record flying from New Jersey to California gained Jackie another prestigious prize. She was awarded the women’s Harmon trophy for both accomplishments.
1939 was a busy year for Jackie. On August 8th she made the fist “blind landing” by a woman by landing successfully using instruments only at the Pittsburgh Airport. She also set a woman’s altitude record of 30,052.43 feet over Palm Springs, California. Jackie continued her record-breaking pursuits by setting an international speed record on a straight course of 621 miles at 305.926 mph.
On April 6, 1940 she set a world speed record in a Seversky Pursuit flying at 331.716 mph going from Mount Wilson, California to Albuquerque, New Mexico and back totaling 1,245 miles. Jackie was particularly pleased with herself because she could not stand the fact that a German pilot flying a Messerschmitt Bf 109 currently held the record. She beat Ernst Seibert’s record by 20 mph.
Jackie at her best.
To sum up the first six years of Jackie’s achievements she set three speed records, won the Clifford Burke Harmon trophy three times and set a world altitude record of 33,000 feet. All this was from the time she earned her license in 1934 to the end of 1940. Jackie was hooked on flying and she wanted to set every record she could.
In 1940, Jackie made the first flight in the Republic P-43, and recommended a longer tail and different tail wheel installation. This aircraft became the famous P-47 fighter. Between 1935 and 1942, Jackie flew many experimental flights for Sperry Corp., testing gyro instruments along with different engines, and aircraft designs.
Jackie was concerned with the advancement of the Germans in aviation medical research. She had learned and had proof of the German advancement in high altitude flight and the use of oxygen to help the pilot. Jackie was trying to get congress interested in funding aviation medicine. As you can imagine congress was not interested. She alone worked with Dr. Randolph Lovelace, and helped design the first oxygen mask, and then became the first person to fly above 20,000 feet wearing one. She also was concerned with the advancement of German aircraft and the build up of the Luftwaffe.
Jackie refreshed her make up every time she landed.
The War and the WASP
World War Two did not catch Jackie by surprise. She and many others watched Germany build into a threat. Jackie started her lobbing for the importance of women in aviation if war broke out. When the German war machine started its march across Europe, Jackie could see that Europe would not satisfy their hunger for power and that Germany would turn to American after they consumed Europe.
England had been bloodied in France and Holland. Their men and equipment were driven to the sea. The RAF was making a good show but they had limitations. To begin with there were just so many trained pilots at the time and to train more aviators put England at risk of Germany crossing the Channel and putting the recourses of the English people to the supreme test.
Jackie’s attention was caught when she learned that the RAF was using women aviators in non-combat functions. When Germany was bombing Poland Jackie was writing letters to Eleanor Roosevelt. Mrs. Roosevelt had a reputation with helping the poor and women during the depression and Jackie knew that if she could get the attention of the First Lady, then the introduction of women into military aviation would have a chance.
Jackie’s approach was quite simple, to free up the trained men for combat services. Women pilots could fly military aircraft from factories to airfields and perform other support missions. Jackie openly volunteered her services for this task.
The First Lady had meet Jackie when she awarded her the trophy of being the outstanding woman pilot in the past and Jackie’s reputation was well know by all. Jackie Cochran’s qualifications were perfect for the job. However Jackie’s request to help languished due to men in high places squashing the idea.
The RAF turned to women pilots more than they had expected. The war against the Luftwaffe was all consuming. Women pilots were common in the support roles that Jackie for told they would be needed. The group of women flying for the RAF was known as the British Air Transport Auxiliary.
English flight schools could not keep up with the demand the Luftwaffe levied against the Island Nation. The RAF was accepting pilots from all allied countries, Australia, Canada, America, Poland, African, France, and many others. This was a monstrous effort the world had never seen before and the RAF gladly turned to trained women aviators for their help. Did I say gladly? Yes I did, the Englishman is not the same as an American military man in their acceptance of women.
Jackie was able to gain support of the British Minister of Supply who at the time was Lord Beaverbrook. Jackie worked with American General “Hap” Arnold in allowing her to work with the RAF. Jackie wanted to show that women could handle military aircraft as well as men. Jackie offered to prove this by flying a medium bomber from Canada to England. At the time the American government was supplying the Royal Air Force with aircraft that were shipped or flown to the besieged island nation.
Jackie and Hap Arnold
The uproar from male pilots was deafening. The protest from male pilots and the politicians that supported them was inflammatory. In a final compromise Jackie was allowed to fly the bomber but she had to have a man as a co-pilot who would take the bomber off, then turn the controls over to her in flight. When it was time to land, Jackie had to hand the controls back to the male co-pilot for him to perform the landing. How stupid.
Even though Jackie was rated to fly multi-engine aircraft that were the same size and weight of the bomber this was just a compromise to get into the cockpit. As soon as the Wasp’s were formed, hundreds of women would be flying the largest bombers and fastest fighters this country produced. On June 17, 1941 Jackie’s crossed the Atlantic in a military medium bomber.
There were men in the military that agreed with Jackie and wanted to help with her effort, but it was like trying to push over an elephant. The RAF let women ferry all types of aircraft around the British Isles. The accident rate with the women pilots were less than that of the men aviators.
In the summer of 1941, Jackie was allowed to go to England to study how the RAF operation with women pilots. When Jackie returned to the United States she was instructed by President Roosevelt to research ways of using female pilots in the U.S. Army Air Corps. Within months, Jackie returned to England with 25 of the most qualified American women who would help ferry planes for the British Air Transport Auxiliary.
Women pilots were required to have more than twice the qualifications as men to earn their wings in the service. The Army Air Corps put the requirement for women much higher than the men who entered training. The male cadet needed only one requirement, 1. 250 hours of flying time to qualify. Women were required to have three achievements. 1. 500 hours flight time, 2. a commercial rating, and 3. a 200 horsepower rating.
Jackie and Hap at WASP graduation.
Finally Congress approved the Jackie’s idea of the WASP and General Arnold asked her to return to the U.S. and establish the program to train women for their duties. In August of 1943, Jackie got to work.
The service or group would become the Women’s Air force Service Pilots (WASPs). It was Jackie who put the complete program together from laying out the entire management plan, to training. Jackie even paid with her own monies for the design of the WASP uniforms by a famous dress designer in New York. The Army actually wanted the women to wear men’s uniforms!
Jackie’s girls were not pilots all the time. Some of the most qualified women were used to train men to be military pilots while some were training men to be B-17 turret gunners. Some were working as test pilots at repair shops, and some were training male pilots at navigator schools. Some were used to tow targets for male aviators for combat practice. As with the successful use of women in the RAF, Jackie’s girls had accidents rates much lower than the male aviators. Imagine that!
Jackie had her supporters and her enemies. She made her enemy’s hate her even more because of how well the WASP preformed. The program was running above expectations. Jackie was proud to hand in a report of all the achievements the WASP’s had accomplished to General Hap Arnold. Jackie hoped that the review would convince Congress to officially bring the WASP into the official Army Air Force.
With the excellent record of achievement Jackie expected the best for her group. The worst happened! Congress voted against allowing the WASP to officially join the Army Air Corp and to further insult Jackie and her girls the program was deactivated. The war at this time was coming to a close and the need for women was not as necessary as it was at its conception. But the WASP were treated vulgarly. They were used until they were not needed anymore.
Congress said that there was no reason to continue with the program. They refused to make the women official officers and give them full military benefits. The women were even denied the collage benefits that all the men received when the war ended. The campaign against the WASP by the male pilots was extremely effective. On December 20, 1944, the WASP pilots were flown home. Very cruel men had undermined Jackie’s efforts but they could not keep her grounded. They could not control her life after the war.
The war came to an end with one atomic bomb dropped after the other until Japan surrendered. Jackie always wanted to be in the middle of every thing and she was hired by a magazine to report on global post-war events. Jackie jumped at the job offer. In this role, she witnessed Japanese General Tomoyuki Yamashita’s surrender in the Philippines. She was the first woman to enter Japan after the War and she was able to attended the Nuremberg Trials in Germany. While Jackie was in Germany for the trials she visited Hitler’s bunker and brought back a door knob from one of the doors from Hitler’s office.
During all this span of time, which lasted several years, Jackie spent months on end away from her husband. Jackie and Floyd found ways to keep in contact with each other as best they could. And Jackie’s cosmetic company continued in the management of competent employees.
After The War
Here she goes again!
For her hard work in helping with the national effort during the war Jackie was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal in 1945. The president of the United States wanted to give Jackie the award but Jackie turned down the President’s request. Jackie insisted that the person who helped her so much in her efforts to develop the WASP service General “Hap” Arnold. She stated that General Arnold should bestow her with the honor. This shocked General Arnold who said to Jackie, “Jackie, you just don’t turn down the president of the United States!” Jackie replied, “Yes I can!” And yes she did!
General Arnold and Jackie.
I agree, this is the man that deserved the honor of presenting Jackie the medal for her efforts.
After her brief job as a correspondent, Jackie started racing again. She flew in the 1946 Bendix race and placed second flying a war veteran, a P-51C Mustang. She flew from Los Angeles to Cleveland in just four hours, fifty-two minutes at a speed of 420.925 mph. What was even more amazing was that the Mustang just about fell apart from under her. Jackie flew several races with her aircraft developing mechanical problems but she always was able to work her airplane to perform to its best. Jackie was a “Doer!” She would always plan well and then do it! Jackie could think on her feet.
Jackie was definitely not haphazard about her approach to tackling an idea and accomplishing her goals. She planned well and preformed above average. What more could anyone ask of themselves. Jackie is the type of role model teenage girls should be following.
Jackie was always looking for another project so she started another of her many campaigns. She knew that as long as the Army had control of the Air Force the Air Force would always get second hand treatment. She had watched the Air Corp grow from less than a hundred aircraft before the war to fleets of thousands of the best fighters and bombers ever developed.
Jackie did not want to see the Air Corp fall back into the roll of the unwanted stepchild under the control of the Army. The Army was under the impression that it was the man on the ground that won the war against Germany. It was actually the fighter aircraft that shot down the German fighters that got the bombers through which leveled the German factories and infrastructures. Jackie knew that the Air Corp had matured and should be on its on and determine its on fate.
Jackie was successful in lobbying for the independent Air Force, which broke away from the Army. The Air Force became its own branch of the services in 1947. Jackie was also able to get proper recognition for the entire group of WASP pilots that served with her during the war.
Jackie was active in politics and was invited to a fund-raiser for Lyndon Johnson who was running for congress at the time. When Jackie arrived at the event she found Johnson seriously ill and personally flew the future President in her own aircraft along with Ladybird Johnson to the Mayo clinic for emergency surgery saving his life in 1948. During the flight with her medical knowledge Jackie had to administer shots for the pain to Johnson in order to stabilize him until he could get proper treatment.
In 1948 Cochran joined the U.S. Air Force Reserve where she eventually rose to the rank of Colonel. Numerous countries around the world recognized Jackie’s achievements in aviation. She was given many citations and decorations. In 1949, the government of France recognized her contribution to the war and aviation by awarding her the Legion of Honor and in 1951 she was awarded the French Air Medal. Jackie is the only woman to ever receive the Gold Medal from the Federation Aeronautique International. She would also be elected to that body’s board of directors. Jackie also served as director of Northwest Airlines. The Air Force also awarded Jackie the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Legion of Merit. The Air Force really owed a lot to Jackie for breaking them free from the control of the Army and giving them wings to fly.
Jackie earned one of her greatest honors when the selection committees for the Harmon Trophy chose her as the outstanding woman pilot of the decade from 1940 to 1949. In 1950 Jackie set a record again flying a P-51 Mustang when she flew a 311 mile course at 447.47 mph. This was an international speed record for a propeller-driven aircraft. In 1951, Jackie was voted one of the 25 outstanding businesswomen in America by the Boston Chamber of Commerce.
Since the end of the war Jackie and Floyd became friends with General Dwight D. Eisenhower. Jackie tried to convince Eisenhower to run for the office of the President of the United States. Eisenhower was not interested in running for office at all. Jackie did not stop there. In the early part of 1952, she and her husband helped sponsor a large rally at Madison Square Garden in New York City in support of an Eisenhower presidential candidacy. At the time General Eisenhower was stationed in France and was completely unaware of this function. The rally was a huge success.
This was Jackie’s brainchild and she had the whole event documented on film. She then personally flew the film to France for a special showing at Eisenhower’s headquarters. Eisenhower was blown away.
Jackie’s efforts were the factor in convincing Eisenhower to run for the Presidency in 1952 and she played a major role in his successful campaign. Eisenhower frequently visited Jackie and Floyd at their California ranch after leaving office where Eisenhower wrote portions of his memoirs in a special cabin on Jackie’s property she provided for him.
Two Great Americans. Ike and Jackie.
Jackie remained active in the USAF reserve as a Lieutenant Colonel. In 1953 she visited Tokyo again on an inspection tour. After her tour of Japan she visited the Tactical Air Command bases in South Korea. The Korean War caught America off guard but the Army and the Air Force worked successfully together. The Air Force matured into a solid service and was now a jet air force. Many Air Force pilots became aces during the Korean War while many WWII aces added to their aerial victories.
Jackie loved the new F-86 Saber Jet and would have loved to fly it into combat. But that would never happen. Several thousand Russia women flew and fought in WWII but not American women. I have talked to Florene Miller who was one of the first WASP pilots under Jackie and she told me that she and many of the other women pilots who were WASP openly volunteered for combat.
Charlie Brown who was a B-17 pilot in WWII that I worked with in the past told me that he had dated a WASP during the war. Charlie told me that his girl friend and the other women she flew with were itching to get into the fight. They would have flown into combat against the Luftwaffe in a heartbeat.
After the Korean War ended Jackie would find herself in the cockpit of a Saber Jet breaking the sound barrier. First she trained in the T-38 with the help of Chuck Yeager. She then graduated to a Canadian built F-86 Saber in which she made history as the first woman to break the sound barrier at an average speed of 652.337 mph on May 18,1953.
This led to new another award when President Eisenhower presented her with the Harmon Trophy for being the outstanding woman pilot for 1953. Beside Jackie was her personal flight coach, Chuck Yeager who also received the male pilot Harmon Trophy for that year. In 1953 and 1954 the Associated Press named her “Woman of the Year in Business.”
Jackie, Chuck, and Ike. Three Great Americans!
After being involved in politics with the election of Eisenhower Jackie decided to take a stab at politics herself. She decided in 1956 to run for congresswoman from California. During her campaign her toured her district by piloting her own airplane. This was great fanfare however she was unsuccessful in her bid. Jackie ran as a republican and defeated a field of five male opponents to win the Republican nomination. However in the general election she lost to a Democratic candidate. Some who were close to Jackie said that the loss was a blow to her and bothered her for the rest of her life. She had never failed at everything she did.
This was a shame, even though she was familiar with the workings of politics, she made a few mistakes in her approach to campaigning and it cost her the election. Jackie would have made a great congresswoman. With what she did with the advancement for women in aviation, imagine what she would have done for the country if she had been elected.
Jackie made the news again in 1961 while in her mid fifty’s. She set new records in a new jet fighter, the T-38 that later became the F-5. Jackie set eight major speed records in the Northrop jet fighter. Northrop wanted to promote their new fighter and there was no better way than to put Jackie Cochran at the controls.
With Chuck Yeager at her side he helped Jackie as she set one record after another. She reached a top speed of 639.38 mph in a straight-line 1000-kilometer course and she set an altitude record of 56,071.8 feet.
Jackie had another presentation by yet another President. John Kennedy presented Jackie with her 14th Harmon Trophy on October 18, 1962. Jackie didn’t stop here, because on May 4, 1964 she set the woman’s international speed record of 1,429.297 mph in a Lockheed 104G Starfighter on a straight-line course. On June 1, three weeks later flying the same Starfighter she set a new international speed record on a circular closed 62 ½ mile course going 1,303.241 mph.
Jackie and the Lockheed 104 Starfighter.
When ever Jackie landed for any period of time she was at the offices of her cosmetic company. Floyd used his Hollywood connections to get Marilyn Monroe to endorse her line of lipstick. This was special and helped sales enormously. Floyd had considerable influence in Hollywood which was useful.
At this time in the 1960’s the space program was well under way and the nation was planning on going to the moon. As you can imagine there were men that didn’t want women to be astronauts but Jackie Cochran lobbied like crazy for women to be included into the NASA program. Jackie and her husband personally funded the testing for women to see if they were in fact, fit for space flight. They chose 20 women and had them put through the same exact test and trials that the men at NASA endured. Twelve of the women passed proving that women were qualified.
Age would keep Jackie out of the last frontier, space. However I believe that Jackie would have been the best. She was always the best at everything she did. Even though Jackie was full of her self, in that she wanted to be good, and when she did good, she knew it. Chuck Yeager said after her passing that not even Jackie was really aware of all that she had accomplished. Coming from Chuck Yeager that was the best compliment Jacqueline Cochran could have ever received.
In the early 1970’s, doctors told Jackie that she needed a pacemaker. They also told her that she could no longer fly. Jackie was the type that would try to think her way out of her situation. She did have to give up flying because it would be dangerous so she bought a recreational vehicle and she drove it all over the country.
Jackie donated a great deal of time and money to charitable works, especially with the impoverished. In 1971 Jackie was inducted into the National Aviation Hall of Fame becoming the first woman to be honored with a permanent display of her achievements at the United States Air Force Academy where she was presented with a sword at the ceremony.
Jackie and Floyd entertained a lot at their ranch. Jackie would bicycle around the large ranch, and work in her garden. Presidents past and present visited them at the ranch. Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson were always welcomed.
Jackie’s health deteriorated after her husband Floyd died in 1976. Pain was racking her body and she expressed to her friends her wishes of what to do when she passed away. Jackie had been awarded a sword by the Air Force Academy at a ceremony held in her honor. She asked for that to be placed into her coffin. When asked by a friend why she wanted the sword placed in her coffin, Jackie said that “she may need it to fight her way out of hell if she accidentally ended up there”. Her other request was that a doll she had since childhood be buried with her. The sword was eventually returned to the Air Force Academy and the doll was buried with her.
Jacqueline Cochran died on August 7, 1980 at her home in Indio, California. On August 12, 1980 Jackie’s friends gathered. There were thirteen of them present. Under a clear blue sky etched with white contrails of Air Force Jets flying overhead, Jacqueline Cochran was laid to rest.
Jackie still holds more distance and speed records than any pilot living or dead, male or female. In 1996, the United States Post Office honored Jackie with a postage stamp.
Jacqueline Cochran’s aviation accomplishments gained media attention during the many years that she continued to break records. The accomplishments of Amelia Earhart were minimal compared to Jackie’s. Both women were in fact friends and Amelia visited Jackie and Floyd many times at their ranch before her death. However the public’s fascination with those who die young at the peak of their careers drew more attention to Earhart than Jackie. Jackie actually flew rings around Earhart and deserves better recognition.
Adding to her accomplishments Jackie briefly served as a pilot for Canadair and I believe that she was the first female pilot for an airline. Jackie also served as company pilot for Lockheed and Northrop. From what I have read, I think that she served as the first woman corporate pilot. Mind you that Jackie was very rich during the time of these accomplishments but she always wanted to be the best. Jackie also earned the USAF Distinguished Flying Cross in 1969, and was named Honorary Fellow, Society of Experimental Test Pilots in 1971, and was inducted into the Aviation Hall of Fame that same year.
In a reflection of her life, if Jacqueline had been elected into politics in California she would have never been able to accomplish the dozens of other goals that she accomplished in the 1960’s. Losing that race kept Jackie in the cockpit where she was the happiest.
I found one reference to the effect that Jackie was also the first woman to take off and land on an aircraft carrier, but I can not find any confirming information on that and it was not mentioned in her autobiography.
Jacqueline Cochran, a beautiful woman and a beautiful person.
I hope you enjoyed my tale of Jackie. If I have made errors, please contact me so I can correct them. If I said anything that offended you then you need to know that I am personally a strong supporter of full rights for women, blacks and the poor. Thank you very much!
Jackie Cochran Addendum 7-15-06
Jackie was well learned in navigational skills. She was level headed in her commercial application to her businesses and had a great sense of practical imagination. Once during an air race in 1949 Jackie demonstrated her flying skills in awing the spectators with aerial spraying techniques. Everyone knew that crop dusters were used in agriculture applications however this time Jackie flew over and sprayed the audience of approximately 75,000 people with one of the perfumes that her cosmetic company produced and sold. The spectators were lightly sprayed with Shinning Hour perfume. She loved to combine her two businesses and loves in life. Her cosmetic company and her flying. This was a perfect combination of the two.
Jackie’s lucky number 13 is on the side of the fuselage.
Jackie did not name her aircraft but had her personal political statement painted on.
“WANTED, A STRONG COEQUAL AIR FORCE”
Jackie is truly my hero. She was ahead of her time and had the spirit of a lion that was tamable only by herself.
She was strong, temperamental, respectful and very diplomatic.
Sylvia is on the left and Jackie, the right.
Both women were good friends. On this trip to the Dandury Fair Jackie came to visit with Sylvia.
The two photographs above were donated to my web site by Sylvia Miller Burrill’s daughter, Cindy.
Thank you Cindy. (No one is allowed to copy and use these photos with out the clear permission of Cindy)
This is the original painting used for the print. This painting is available for sale.
Painting size is 2×4′, or two feet by four feet. It looks great on the wall!
This painting has also been autographed by six WASP pilots that served under Cochran’s command during the War.
Contact the artist below for shipping instructions.
Sir Ernie Hamilton Boyette
107 Arthur Moore Drive
Green Cove Springs, Florida 32043
E-Mail Address; firstname.lastname@example.org
This story is written by Sir Ernie Hamilton Boyette.
Please do not use any of this story without my permission.
Jackie Cochran is my hero and I spent a lot of time working on this page.
Respect me and I will let you use any or part as long as I get credit.
I type a lot and fast. I have over 100 stories I am working on and slowly editing.
If you find a mistake, like grammar, please excuse me and tell me where it is. I will change it right away.
I am most interested in historical facts! Please tell me if I miss-quoted anything anywhere.
I do not mind any one bringing any mistake to my attention.
One of Floyd Odlum’s son’s and he told me that I did a fine job.
Thank you Mr. Odlum.