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!