WWII WASP on Gold Medal Path
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.