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ISSUE 109 - March 2010
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By David Rose, Contributing Editor
San Diego, California

They were once more than 1,100. Now fewer than 300 are scattered across the nation, most of them younger than their years; articulate and witty, proud of their contribution and quick to remember the adventure. Gracious to a fault, grateful to the nation, as inspiring as ever, they accepted their honor. The Congressional Gold Medal was awarded to them one and all.
But the satisfaction in their hearts? They reserve that for each other.
At the time, the medals could wait, and the recognition, and the benefits, and the pay. They had a job to do and, no less patriotic than any man, were determined to get it done. The nation was at war and they were needed. There were trucks to be driven and tanks to build and planes to fly. The Army would take women with pilot licenses into the ‘Women’s Airforce Service Pilots’. They would be WASPs.

Twenty five thousand applied, more than 1,800 were accepted for training and over 1,100 served. Flying every plane the Army had, they ferried them, tested them, towed banners with them and eventually flew over 60,000,000 (that’s million) miles in them
But the satisfaction in their hearts they reserved for each other. The Services never provided it. Not then, and not for decades. They were civilians. They paid their own way to training, they paid to live ‘on base’, they paid for their own medical needs; and when it was over, they paid their own way home and were left with no VA or other military veterans benefits.

Thirty eight WASP’s also paid with their lives. The ladies would take up a collection to send the remains home in the box the Army did supply. No gold star in the window for their families, no flag for their coffin, no satisfaction.

But they, most of all, were grateful for the opportunity to have served; they were grateful that there would forever live within them an appreciation for what they, and all the WASPs had been able to accomplish, to contribute.

Then, in 1972, the worst. The government proudly announced that women “For the first time” would be allowed to train as pilots in the military.

It was a WASP’s nest!

This was too much. The old frustrations welled in their hearts and would not be ignored. Petitioning congress, the women were going to be heard. Now politicians rose to the occasion. Bills were introduced; speeches were made; letters were written; and finally only thirty seven years later, on Wednesday March the 10th, 2010, The Congressional Gold Medal.

Thirty seven years, and still it took the efforts of Lt. Col. Nicole Malachowski, the first female pilot to fly with the Air Force's "Thunderbirds", to get the bill written and passed in congress.

Col. Malachowski was the guest speakers at the ceremony stating that "Today is the day when the WASPs will make history once again, if you spend any time at all talking to these wonderful women, you'll notice how humble and gracious and selfless they all are. Their motives for wanting to fly airplanes all those years ago wasn't for fame or glory or recognition. They simply had a passion to take what gifts they had and use them to help defend not only America, but the entire free world, from tyranny. And they let no one get in their way.

Their stories are an inspiration – with the internet it’s possible to track down many of them – they're worth your time.

Read their story available from the
Womens Air and Space Museum _________________________________

Go to one of their websites _________________________________

Read Maggie Ray’s great book – available at _____________________________

View the video on You Tube

By David Rose, Contributing Editor

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