The Forgotten Women of WWII
By Laura Cox Conrad
During WWII women volunteered for the armed forces in droves. But the WASP’s (Women Air Force Service Pilots) are our unsung heroes. The forgotten Women of World War II.
Jackie Cochran, a famous woman pilot of the 30’s and 40’s, recognized the need for pilots in the war efforts. There were thousands of women pilots with licenses to fly. When she brought her program to the U.S Air Force, the military, still stuck on a man only policy , refused to believe that women ‘had what it took’ to serve in the air, turned her down. She then created a program to help out the British Allies. The program used only women pilots and was a huge success. Suddenly the US Army was interested. The W.A.S.P’s were created. They tested and flew all of the airplanes for the US Army.
But, unlike other women who served their country in a military capacity during World War II, the W.A.S.Ps went unrecognized as military personnel. The thirty-eight women who died in the line of duty were buried without military honors. W.A.S.Ps did not enjoy the privileges of other veterans after the war ended, even though they flew military aircraft. They did not get the benefits such as the G.I. Bill to pay for schooling, low interest housing or loans.
In the mid-1970’s, to put salt in their wounds, newspapers announced that the Air Force planned to train its “first women military pilots.” The W.A.S.Ps, were outraged and campaigned for several years for the military recognition they deserved. This recognition finally came in 1977 when Congress declared the W.A.S.Ps were indeed veterans of World War II. Official military acceptance came from the Air Force in 1979. In 1984, each W.A.S.P was awarded the Victory Medal. It took almost 30 years for these women to be recognized as Veterans of W W II.
On Memorial Day, when you’re at that family picnic and see a plane fly by, remember the W.A.S.P’s the valiant women pilots who’s courage will not be forgotten.