It can be said that Jackie Cochranšs sole advantage in the beginning was her great determination for she certainly didnšt have much else. Born somewhere around 1906 into a life of extreme poverty, the orphaned Jackie never owned a pair of shoes until she was eight years old. Nevertheless, Jackiešs determination helped her to break free from the enslaving factories and the poverty when she taught herself to read. By the age of fourteen, fully self-trained and having selected her name out of the phone book, Jacqueline Cochran set out alone to win her fortune. She opened her own shop and became such a success that she eventually moved to New York. At the age of 22, Jackie used the money she had saved to develop her own line of cosmetics, which would later turn into an empire. Her husband to be, millionaire businessman Floyd Odlum, suggested she learn to fly in order to use her traveling time more efficiently. On a dare, Jackie got her pilotšs license in twenty days and she never looked back.
Jackie was the first woman to enter the Bendix Race in 1935 and, although she didnšt win it that year, she placed first in the womanšs division and third overall two years later. Before 1940, Jackie set three speed records, won the Clifford Burke Harmon trophy three times and set a world altitude record of 33,000 feet. She also married Floyd and they had four houses, thus fulfilling the American dream.
With her skillful flying, Jackie earned the respect and admiration of leaders worldwide, including Amelia Earhart, Presidents Eisenhower and Johnson, Eleanor Roosevelt and General Chuck Yeager. With World War II on the horizon, Jackie realized the values of women aviators and began recruiting women pilots to ferry planes for the British Ferry Command. She also became the first female transatlantic bomber pilot. She soon embarked on a three-year campaign to convince the United States military that, by performing noncombat aviation jobs, qualified women pilots could free more men for combat duty. In 1942, Jackie recruited over one thousand Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASPs) and supervised their training and service until they were disbanded in 1944. They flew every type of aircraft the United States possessed. In addition to ferrying, the women also performed an assortment of dangerous duties, including target towing, smoke laying, test flights, and radar tracking. Under Jackiešs supervision, the women pilots compiled an enviable record overall. The WASPs delivered 12,650 planes of 77 different types. Before deactivation on December 20, 1944, 1 074 WASPs logged 60 million miles flying for the U.S. Army Air Forces. But the determined Jackie didnšt stop there. She went on to be a press correspondent and was present at the surrender of Japanese General Yamashita, was the first American woman to set foot in Japan after the war and went on to visit China, Russia, Germany and even the Nuremberg trials.
Despite the public relations work, flying was still Jackiešs passion. Although access to jet aircraft was restricted mainly to military personnel, Jackie had enough connections to succeed in breaking several more records. With the assistance of her friend, Chuck Yeager, Jackie became the first woman to break the sound barrier in an F-86 Sabre Jet. She went on to set a world speed record of 1,429 miles per hour in 1964. After heart problems and a pacemaker stopped her fast-flying activities at the age of seventy, Jackie took up soaring until her death in 1980. Some of her many achievements include 14 Harmon trophies, received the Mitchell Award in 1938, awarded the French Legion of Honor in 1949, presented with air medals from Belgium, Turkey, Thailand, Spain and Rumania, served as an advisor to the US Air Force, FAA and NASA, company pilot, chairman of the National Aeronautic Association in 1962, first woman to be awarded the Federation Aeronautique Internationale Gold Medal, first woman to be elected president of the Federation Aeronautique Internationale, awarded the USAF Distinguished Flying Cross in 1969 and inducted into the Aviation Hall of Fame in 1971.