Are you feeling it?

Women Airforce Service Corps (WASP) B-17 Pilots

There was an AP news release yesterday that at once made me proud and ashamed.  Haven’t read it? Go here now.  I’ll wait.

                   (humming... "Off we go, into the wild sky yonder.
                                      Keep the wings level and true;
                                      If you'd live to be a gray-haired wonder..." 

Oh, good, you’re back.  So, as I was saying…
Yes, I’m proud. 
Over 65 years ago, during WWII, a group of women took to the air to support the war effort.  Underpaid and unappreciated, they flew for their country nonetheless, 60 million miles in two years.  Many were injured, and 38 were killed.
Yesterday, they were finally recognized, and awarded the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest civilian honor given by Congress.  I’m enormously proud.
But ashamed?  Yes, that too. 
How could it have taken so long for these women to be honored?  Oh, wait, silly me.  After all, they were just women, and “civilians” to boot.  Maybe their contribution was just not worthy of recognition.  Let’s take a look:
  • The requirements were tougher for women pilots: they had to have 500 flying hours compared to men’s 200.
  • Their pay was less than men’s.
  • The women paid their own way to Texas for training, room and board.
  • They underwent the same officer’s training as men: ground school, flight school, cross-country flying, night flying, instrument flying, daily calisthenics, flying link trainers, and lots of marching.
  •  Anyone who flunked out, and that was not many, had to pay their own way home.
  • They flew every type of aircraft the Air Force owned—from trainers to bombers.
  • They ferried personnel and cargo, delivered aircraft, tested new and repaired aircraft, trained male cadets, and even towed targets for ground-to-air anti-aircraft gunnery practice and targets for air-to-air–gunnery practice (meaning that they were under live fire).
  •  WASPs were used to prove to male pilots that B-26s and B-29s were safe.
  • And unlike male pilots who were killed in action, the families of WASPs had to pay for the return of the body for burial and received no Gold Star or even a flag to drape the coffin.

(Information excerpted from Classroom Spice Newsletter. February 2006. University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma, Dr. Jeanne Ramirez Mather, Ed.)

How is it possible that it took over 65 years for this country to officially say, “Thank you”?    How is it possible that over 900 of them have died without ever hearing their country say, “Good job! We appreciate it”? 
How is that freakin’ possible???
Oh, and did I mention that I’m also mad, no, no, outraged at this?
Oh, yeah, I’m proud. And ashamed. And OUTRAGED!


  1. Many of the 38 that died persished at the direct behest of their male counterparts who took it upon themselves to cut fuel lines, pour sugar in the tanks, bolt escape hatches shut and destroy their parachutes. Oh yes. They did.

    And is rarely ever discussed, except if you are able to get an audience with one of these rare women.

    There is shame, there is disgrace and outrage at the horror these women endured simply to 'do their part'. The beauty that rises from the ashes, both of their dreams and their fallen planes, is that they inspired women who were not even yet born. To go out. To do. To happen to things.

    Not a day goes by that I am not deeply, profoundly thankful for women all over the world who with great dignity, give the last full measure of their lives- Because They Can.

  2. Eh, it's a disgrace, sure, but it's happened across the board. Also, in the instance of WASP, they were "militarized" in the 70s and issued several military honors as a result.

    Personally, I think the members of WASP who fought so hard for recognition by the military (which was also a problem for the Merchant Marine) aren't too concerned with the civilian recognition. It's almost like soldiers being awarded Eagle Scout titles. Sure, it means something, but they already earned the titles they were vying for. It's a Catch-22.

  3. So sad but wonderful post.
    I am learning so much.

    Mine is up WHEN WILL IT END?

    Happy 55!

    You deserve a FANTABULOUS weekend!


  4. In my city we have a recently added sculpture honoring these women. It's beautifully done, if late in coming.

  5. I've know about these women for a long time. We've all grown up with these rose colored glasses about who we are, as a country, and what we are, as a country. There are aspects of our society, especially as you consider the higher levels of wealth, power and influence, that were and are, very distasteful. It seems the older I get, the more faded those rose colored glasses seem to be, and the more real a picture I get of what we were - and what we are. And I'm not happy with either.

  6. Ti: It makes one wonder what the fly boys were worried about. Why was it so difficult to say, Well done"?

    Jeff: True, WASPs were finally acknowledged by the military, 30 years later. And yes, true, the Merchant Marines and others felt the same neglect. My dad was a Merchant Mariner during WWII, carrying ordnance across the North Atlantic for three years on a largely defenseless liberty ship, often without armed escort. I can tell you that it mattered to him to have his contribution go largely unrecognized. And it didn't help to have Walter Winchell and other journals call the Merchant Mariners "draft dodgers, criminals, riffraff, Communists," and other derogatory names. But even so, there were a few honors they available to them, including the Merchant Marine Distinguished Service Medal.

    The WASPs had nothing.

  7. Nessa: Yes, indeed they do. Fortunately, they prevail, because they can.

    Shakira: Thank you!

    She Writes: I'm so glad to hear that.

    Lou: I couldn't agree more.


Thoughts? I would love to hear from you.