Tuesday, May 5, 2009

WASP -- A PLEA for S.614

by Aleta Vinas
Special to AVweb

Most people dislike bills yet our Senators and Congress people deal with more bills on a daily basis than we ever want to think about. Granted, they’re not the same kind of bills and there is one bill right now in Washington that needs to be embraced and acted upon - NOW.

Simply stated, Bill S614 in the Senate and HR.2014 in Congress was introduced to award a Congressional Gold Medal to the Women Airforce Service Pilots (‘WASP’).

S614 needs help, the public’s help; YOUR help. Is your Senator (and Congress person) on board? Find out at http://www.wingsacrossamerica.us/bill/index.html#onboard, if not, call, e-mail, twitter – respectfully, of course but let your Senators (and Congress people) know their constituents want support for this noble bill in recognition of the courageous WASP. May 8th is the target date to bring on board the rest of the required co-sponsors in the Senate. A simple phone call and you can make a difference.

The Bill was initiated by Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) and Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) and was co-sponsored by the fifteen other female members of the Senate prior to its introduction. “The Women Airforce Service Pilots of World War II were trailblazers and true patriots. They risked their lives in service to our nation, but for too long their contribution to the war effort has been undervalued or under recognized,” Sen. Mikulski said.

The intent of the WASP was to free up the men for combat missions in World War II. Jacqueline Cochran pitched the idea to General Hap Arnold. Cochran knew the women, given the same training as men, would be capable of performing any flight mission needed. And perform they did, to the tune of 60 million miles flown, in every type of aircraft in the Army Air Forces inventory and in every type mission except combat. For two years, from November 1942 to December

1944, the WASP towed targets, instructed, ferried planes, transported cargo and personnel and much more.The WASP took the military oath and though promised military status, the women were never commissioned or given active duty status nor were they designated as Veterans until decades later. Even a plea to militarize the WASP by General Arnold to Congress was denied. Their two years of extraordinary service was unceremoniously swept into the government archive with a classified stamp.

Glory and medals are the last things on the minds of people who serve in the military but there is a time for praise when the feats are deserving. WASP Deanie Bishop Parrish a B-26 Air-to-Air tow target pilot has this to say "The WASP did not serve their country for recognition or awards. However, should Congress choose to honor us with the Congressional Gold Medal, I would humbly accept my medal on behalf of the children of America who have never heard of the WASP. This national recognition would challenge them to learn, not only about the WASP history, but also about the importance of the values the WASP epitomize: honor, patriotism, integrity, commitment, service, courage, and faith."

On November 23, 1977 the Congress finally gave the WASP part of the recognition denied to them previously. The legislation, spearheaded by then Senator Barry Goldwater and Colonel Bruce Arnold, provided procedures for former WASP to be granted Veteran status, but with limited benefits. In 1979 the first WASP were given their discharge certificates. Finally, four decades after World War II ended, the WASP received Victory Medals or American Theater Campaign Medals for those with one year of service.

These pioneering women paved the way for today’s female aviators and astronauts. The WASP’s success proved women were just as capable in a cockpit as their male counterparts. Major Nicole Malachowski submitted a draft bill of what was to become S614 to Senator Hutchison who, after some revisions, ran with it.

Major Malachowski gives her praise to the WASP “I am convinced every opportunity I’ve been afforded, from flying combat patrols in the skies over Iraq, to the honor of being a USAF Thunderbird, to representing the military as a Fellow, is because of these pioneering women. There couldn’t be a more principled use of time and effort than seeking the Congressional Gold Medal for my personal heroines, the courageous WASP of World War II.”

In their Bill, Senators Hutchison and Mikulski shared an excerpt from a speech given by General Arnold to the last graduating WASP class On December 7, 1944, “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 our debt to you.” Let us hope the General’s words ring true and with everyone’s help, they will.

Images courtesy Wings Across America

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

These women make me wish I could fly! God bless their contribution to our country and aviation. We must never forget!