American women who flew noncombat missions for the U.S. armed forces in World War II were awarded the Congressional Gold Medal at a ceremony in the Capitol on March 10. Of the 1,000-plus civilian female pilots, or Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASPs), who were given the medal, over 200 attended—many donning their World War II–era uniforms. Family members, including families of WASPs no longer living or too ill to travel, also were welcomed to the event, which was hosted by several women U.S. senators and representatives.
An all-volunteer and civilian force, the WASPs flew testing missions and ferried aircraft from factories to bases, serving their country in hopes of joining the military. Logging more than 60 million flight miles, they even engaged in simulation target missions. The program helped fill the shortage of pilots created when men began flying combat missions during World War II. More than 65 years ago, the WASPs were quietly disbanded by the government, which even attempted to hide their service. The recent ceremony acknowledged that they “would forever be a part of United States military aviation.”
During World War II, 350,000 women served in the U.S. armed forces as members of groups aligned with the U.S. service branches. The Women’s Army Corps (WACs) and Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service (WAVES) provided support for the army and navy, respectively. Although 38 of them lost their lives during the war, WASPs were classified as civil service employees, and thus were granted no military honors or benefits. In 1977 they retroactively received official military status.
- WASPs Awarded Congressional Gold Medal
The official Web site of the U.S. Air Force reports on the recent honor bestowed on the more than 1,000 American women who served during World War II as noncombat pilots.
(Source: www.af.mil; accessed March 31, 2010)
- Decades Later, Women Pilots from World War II Get Their Due
This article recounts the ceremony honoring the WASPs, America’s “Flygirls,” more than 65 years after their wartime service; includes a photo gallery.
(Source: Christian Science Monitor, March 11, 2010)
- WASP–WWII: Wings across America
Part of the Veterans History Project, this official Women’s Airforce Service Pilots Web site is devoted to honoring the WASPs who served their country during World War II; includes links to songs, documents, and photographs, as well as a WWII time line, searchable WASP roster, pilots’ quotes, a scrapbook . . . and paper dolls!
(Source: www.wingsacrossamerica.us; accessed March 31, 2010)