03 June 2016

EnteFrances Green, Margaret (Peg) Kirchner, Ann Waldner and Blanche Osborn leaving their plane, “Pistol Packin’ Mama,” at the four-engine school at Lockbourne Army Air Field, Ohio, during WASP ferry training B-17 Flying Fortress.
Flashback Friday - WASP
Nick Minecci, USAG Public Affairs
Many people have heard of Rosie the Riveter and the contribution women made to the war effort at home and overseas during World War II, but one of the lesser known ways in which women helped, and served, was recently honored by the U.S. Congress.

On May 11, the U.S. Senate unanimously passed legislation to reinstate inurnment rights for Women Airforce Service Pilots at Arlington National Cemetery. These women pilots, called WASPs, flew domestic military missions during World War II, freeing men to go overseas for combat duty.

Formed in 1942 when the Women’s Flying Training Detachment and the Women’s Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron were merged to form a single organization, the WASP organization would have over 25,000 women apply to join, with only 1,074 accepted.

When a woman was accepted into the WASP organization, they were sent to Avenger Field in Sweetwater, Texas, and required to complete the same primary, basic and advanced training courses as male Army Air Corps pilots. While the women were not trained in combat tactics and they received no gunnery training and minimal formation flying training, they learned the maneuvers necessary to be able to recover from any in-flight emergencies they could encounter. The percentage of trainee females eliminated compared favorably with the elimination rates for male cadets in the Central Flying Training Command.

Following four months of military flight training, the WASPs earned their wings and became the first women to fly American military aircrafts, and many of them went on to specialized flight training and were assigned to various ferrying commands. Each woman had an average of about 1,400 flying hours and a commercial pilot rating.

By the time the war was over, WASPs flew over 60 million miles and had ferried every type of aircraft in the Army Airforce inventory, and 38 of these aviation trailblazers would lose their lives serving the Nation.

President Jimmy Carter signed legislation #95-202, Section 401, the G.I. Bill Improvement Act of 1977, granting the WASP corps full military status for their service, and in 1984, each WASP was awarded the World War II Victory Medal. Those who served for more than one year were also awarded the American Theater Ribbon/American Campaign Medal for their service during the war.

Starting in 2002, deceased WASPs were able to be buried in Arlington National Cemetery; but a policy change made by the Army in 2015 currently prevents the WASP, who flew domestic military missions during World War II, from being inurned in Arlington. With the passing of the Senate legislation, the bill goes back to the U.S. House of Representatives for final consideration. Upon House passage, the legislation will head to the President’s desk.
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