WWII Women Pilots Granted Congressional Gold Medal
Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) will collectively receive the Congressional Gold Medal of Honor. Senators Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) and Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) introduced legislation that sought to honor the pilots, which passed unanimously in the House of Representatives Tuesday. The WASP pilots have not previously been acknowledged for their service in the US military during World War II. The Congressional Medals will be awarded to the pilots and/or their surviving family members. Of 1,102 Women Airforce Service Pilots, about 300 are living today.
Between 1942 and 1944, WASPs flew in so-called non-combat military missions. After the war ended, women pilots were not given benefits conferred to male veterans and even to pay to return home. During the war, 38 women died in the line of duty and their families had to fund the return of their remains. These veterans were also not allowed to have a flag draped on their casket. In 1977, the WASP participants were finally granted veteran status, according to CNN.
Deanie Parrish became a pilot at age 21 in 1943. She flew a B-26 bomber for air-to-air target practice and assisted in training male gunners for combat. In a press release, Parish said "I think it's important for young people today to realize that WASP[s] flew missions that were dangerous, but in order for our country to be free, that's what it took, and we did it without any thought of recognition or glory."
Media Resources: CNN 6/16/09; Hutchison-Mikulski Press Release 6/16/09