Senator Boxer: Honoring the WWII Women Airforce Service Pilots
Monday, April 20, 2009
I recently joined Senators Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) and Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) in introducing a bill to award the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) of World War II the Congressional Gold Medal. These women pilots have never received formal or public recognition for their wartime service to the United States. Our bill (S.614) has been cosponsored by all 17 women in the U.S. Senate.
From 1942 to 1944, 1,102 women were trained in Texas to join WASP. They went on to fly non-combat military missions so that all their male counterparts could be deployed to combat. They flew every kind of military aircraft and logged 60 million flying miles. Despite this, the WASPs were never awarded full military status and were ineligible for officer status.
Following the war, WASPs paid their own way home. Thirty-eight of these women died in the line of duty, and their families paid to transport their bodies and arrange burials. It was not until 1977 that the WASPs were granted veterans’ status. Their example of honorable service helped to pave the way for the armed forces to lift the ban on women attending military flight training in the 1970s and eventually led to women being fully integrated as pilots in the U.S. military. Today, women fly every type of aircraft and mission, from fighter jets in combat to the shuttle in space flight.
About 300 of the original 1,102 WASPs are living today. Under provisions of our bill, each would receive a Congressional Gold Medal, with medals also going to surviving family members of those who have died. I am pleased to be part of the effort to honor these true American heroes.
U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer