Today we're talking about WASPS. No, not the insect kind that like to sting a person. We're talking about the brave women in the military, the WOMEN AIRFORCE SERVICE PILOTS, formed on August 5, 1943. Okay. I'm going back to the 1940s, WWII. So forgive me, but these women deserve our attention.
The WASPS was a paramilitary aviation organization. Each WASP had a pilot's license. They were trained to fly by the U.S. Army Air Forces at Avenger Field in Sweetwater. Texas. Over 25,000 women applied for the WASP, and less than 1,900 were accepted. After four months of military flight training, 1,074 earned their wings and were the first women to fly American military aircraft.
The women were not trained for combat, but their instruction was basically the same as for aviation cadets: no gunnery training and little formation flying and aerobatics.
After training they were stationed at 120 air bases across the U. S. They flew 60 million miles of operational flights, freeing a male pilot for combat service and duties.
Thirty-eight WASP fliers lost their lives while serving during the war.
The WASP was considered civil service and did not receive military benefits.
Elizabeth L. Gardner, WASP, at the controls of a B-26 Marauder
On June 21, 1944, the House bill to give the WASP military status was narrowly defeated. The House Committee n the Civil Service (Ramspeck Committee) reported on June 5, 1944, that it considered the WASP unnecessary, unjustifiably expensive, and recommended that the recruiting and training of inexperienced women pilots be halted.
Photo by Lois Hailey, Class of 43–3 in January 1943—start of training
In 1977, President Jimmy Carter signed legislation granting WASP corps full military status for their service. In 1984, each WASP was awarded the World War II Victory Medal.
On July 1, 2009, President Barack Obama and the U. S. Congress awarded the WASP the Congressional Gold Medal. Three of the roughly surviving WASPs were on hand to witness the event.
On May 10, 2010, the 300 surviving WASPs came to the Capitol to accept the Congressional Gold Medal from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other Congressional leaders.
A couple weeks ago, our local newspaper ran a great article about A WASP pilot in the city who had just died. I think she was 94, not positive. These women deserve to be remembered.
Thanks for letting me go back another generation.