The Women Airforce Service Pilots, the legendary WASP, are the subject of a Senate bill that would award them a Congressional Gold Medal for their service during World War II. The surviving WASP, now in their 80s, are asking for support from the public to get the bill passed.
The intent of the WASP program was to free up male combat pilots from duties such as aircraft ferrying and flight instruction during the war but, ultimately, it “served as a catalyst for revolutionary reform in the integration of women pilots into the Armed Services,” according to the bill’s author, Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Tex.).
The WASP were “the first women in history to fly American military aircraft,” including all types of fighters, bombers (including B-29s), transports and trainers, the bill states. From 1942 to 1944, the women instructed, transported cargo and personnel, ferried aircraft and towed gunnery targets, but never were commissioned or given active military status. They earned veteran status only decades later, largely thanks to the late Sen. Barry Goldwater (R-Ariz.), who had been one of their instructors during flight training.
More than 25,000 women applied to serve, of whom 1,830 were accepted and 1,074 completed Army Air Force flight training before becoming WASP. They logged more than 60 million flight miles on every type of assignment but air combat, 38 of them losing their lives in their service to the country.
Sen. Hutchison’s bill is co-sponsored by 16 other female members of the Senate.
To read the text of the bill: frwebgate.access.gpo.gov/cgi-bin/getdoc.cgi?dbname=111_cong_bills&docid=f:s614is.txt.pdf