Army Air Force to fly a bomber.' So he left the room for us to talk it over and, of course, we all wanted to fly it." WASP Sandy Thompson, 43-W-5
The WASP flew with an unwavering urgency and a passion for their mission: to free male pilots for combat. WASP not only passed every test, they outscored their male counterparts.
"They had so many airplanes and so few pilots. We were just as busy as we could be all the time. Just every time they came in, they'd have another airplane for you. The P-63…was quite an airplane. I just loved it. I flew as many as I could, as far as I could, as fast as I could." WASP Betty Fernandes, 43-W-3
Thirty-eight WASP were killed while flying for their country, their
bodies were sent home in cheap pine boxes, their burial at the expense of their family or classmates. Still considered civilians, these heroic pilots were denied any military benefits or honors – no gold star allowed in their parents' window, no American flag to cover their coffins.
Three weeks before a 44-W-4 trainee was to graduate, her mother received an official telegram from the country her daughter so proudly served. It simply said: "Your daughter was killed this morning. Where do you want us to ship the body?" AAF Telegram, 1944
With official orders 'not to talk about their training or missions,’
WASP stood helplessly by as General Arnold's request to militarize the women pilots was defeated in the Congress. On Dec. 7, 1944, in a speech to the last graduating class of WASP, General Arnold said, "You and more than 900 of your sisters have shown you can fly wingtip to wingtip with your brothers. I salute you… We of the Army Air Force are proud of you. We will never forget out debt to you."
On December 20, 1944, when victory seemed certain, the WASP were quietly and unceremoniously disbanded. There were no benefits and few 'thank-you's. The WASP' military records were sealed, stamped 'classified' and filed away in the government archives, where they remained, unopened, for the next 33 years, unavailable to historians who wrote the official accounts of WWII. The Army Air Force did forget -- and so did America.
In November, 1977, under the leadership of General Arnold's son, Col. Bruce Arnold,
surviving WASP, and Senator Barry
Goldwater, Congress narrowly voted to give WASP the Veteran status they WITH NO REGRETS
article by Nancy Parrish for “Salute To Freedom” Spring 2008
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