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Women Airforce Service Pilots of World War II (WASP)
October 3, 2010 @ 12:00 am
In 2010, the Dole Institute of Politics awarded the Women Airforce Service Pilots of World War II with the Dole Leadership Prize for their courage and contributions during the war.
About World War II Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP)
Between 1942 and 1944, at the height of World War II, more than a thousand women left homes and jobs for the opportunity of a lifetime–to become the first in history to fly for the U.S. military. They volunteered as civilian pilots in an experimental Army Air Corp program to see if women could serve as pilots and relieve men for overseas duty. Originally, 25,000 women applied to the program, 1,830 were accepted and 1,074 graduated from training. These women became the Women Airforce Service Pilots of World War II, better known as the WASP. Under the determined leadership of Jacqueline Cochran, Nancy Harkness Love, and General Henry “Hap” Arnold, the WASP succeeded beyond all expectations.
The WASP were originally stationed at the Howard Hughes Municipal Airport, Houston, Texas but were transferred to Avenger Field, Sweetwater, Texas in 1943. They received seven months of training including Primary, Basic, and Advanced training, the same as male cadets. The WASP were then stationed at 120 Army Air bases across the United States, where they flew 78 different types of aircraft, every aircraft the Army Air Corps flew, including the B-29. However, in 1944, with more than 900 women on duty, the WASP were deactivated due to military budget cuts.
Between 1944 and 1977, WASP, along with other supporters and state representatives worked to have their service be both officially recognized and no longer classified as “civilian”. In 1977, a bill officially declared the WASP as “having served on active duty in the Armed Forces of the United States for purposes of laws administered by the Veterans Administration.” In 1984, each pilot was awarded the World War II Victory Medal and those who served for more than one year were also given the American Theater Ribbon and American Campaign Medal.
Finally, on July 1st, 2009, President Obama signed the bill that would lead Congress to award WASP the Congressional Gold Medal. WASP received the medal on March 10, 2010, at a ceremony in Washington D.C.