WWII WASP on Gold Medal Path

July 2, 2009

President Barack Obama signed a bill on Wednesday paving the way for the first women to fly American military aircraft to be awarded a Congressional Gold Medal for their service in World War Two.

 Three former WASP  — Elaine Danforth Harmon, Lorraine H. Rodgers and Bernice Falk Haydu — joined Obama at the signing ceremony along with five female active duty U.S. Air Force pilots and female lawmakers who sponsored the bill. 

 “The Women Airforce Service Pilots courageously answered their country’s call in a time of need while blazing a trail for the brave women who have given and continue to give so much in service to this nation since,” Obama said in a statement.

“Every American should be grateful for their service, and I am honored to sign this bill to finally give them some of the hard-earned recognition they deserve,” Obama said. 

The WASP was established during World War Two with the primary purpose of flying non-combat military missions in the United States. Their service freed up male pilots to fight in combat overseas. 

More than 1,000 women joined the program from 1942 to 1943, including 38 who died serving their country. For years, their contribution went unrecognized,  not even being acknowledged with veteran status until 1977, the White House said.

 For more Reuters political news, click here.


We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/

As the son of a WASP, I know first hand of the sacrifice, dedication and strength these women had in serving their country. They had to buy their uniforms, endure sexual abuse and harrassment, pay for their colleagues’ funerals and after the WASPs were disbanded in 1944, all records of their activities were classifed “secret”. Of the more than 28,000 women that applied, only 1000 wore the WASP wings and 38 died in service.

The awarding of this honor is 60 years late!

Posted by Charles | Report as abusive

My grandmother, Martha Ann Wilkinson Mitchell, served her country proudly as a WASP. These courageous and proud woman risked their lives daily and many died without seeing the recognition they so rightly deserved. I only wished my Grandmother could have lived to see this day come. She deserves a Gold Medal. After the war, she flew air ambulance missions to underserved rural areas in Arizona. She died without knowing, but she also saved my life too. She had always instilled within me pride, and knowing where your inner-strengths lie. She always taught me selfo- reliance, because you never know when one needs to use every God-given tallent she hs to survive. These lessons came into play when I needed them very much to survive many verbal and physical attacks from my ex-husband. They also helped me to escape not only with my life, but with those of my children. She never knew all those little life lessons she was giving to her once very shy, and soft spoken grandaughter, would one day earn her own ‘Wings’ following the example of a great woman who had earned hers years before, passing them on down to me. If that doesn’t deserve a Gold Medal – I don’t know what does.

Posted by Carol Mitchell | Report as abusive

As a woman I am so grateful that president Oboma sign this bill to recognise the women who served America during the second World War. Out of about a thousand women only few have lived to see their hard earned work recognised. These were brave women and I think the president has just given them their over due recogntion.

Posted by Rosemary | Report as abusive

My grandmother/mother, Izydora Boghanek Focht, was one of these elite women who served her country during a time of need. My brother and I were raised by Izydora from a young age and lived her exciting life through the amazing stories these WASP pilots had to tell. We are very proud of her and all her fellow pilots for the selfless work they performed. I just wish she was still alive to accept this award. Thank You to all that have worked to make this event come to fruition.

Posted by Jason Focht | Report as abusive