In WWII there was a little known, and little talked about group of women who helped the military do its job. They were known as The Women Air Service Pilots (WASP).
What is a shame, and a blight on record keepers of American history is the fact that the WASP documents were sealed, stamped classified, and unavailable to WWII historians.
Unlike other stories from the war, the WASP stories were rarely talked about or reported by anyone until the 1970s.
This includes the female civilian pilots themselves.
According to the National Archives, military records containing reports about the WASP were treated no differently from other records from the war. In general this meant the WASP records weren’t available to researchers for 30 years.
WASP is a merger of two preceding groups known as the Women’s Flying Training Detachment (WFTD) and the Women’s Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron (WAFS).
These were the pioneering organizations formed by civilian female pilots. These women were employed by the United States Army Air Forces during World War II to fly military aircraft.
Ironically, the military took female pilots who may have been a little too short, tall, slim, or wide, but every single one of them came in knowing how to fly.
Although, the military trained the male pilots from nothing. The female civilian volunteers had to know how to fly upon arrival.
During WWII, WASP members were 1,074 strong. Their job was to fly one of many different types of military aircraft (including the B-26 and B-29 bombers) in noncombat support of male pilots. This freed the male pilots to fly into battle areas.
In 1977, The WASP members were finally granted veteran status and in July 2009, President Obama signed a bill awarding the WASPs the Congressional Gold Medal.
Most of the women who were a part of WASP have since passed on. However, on Sept. 7 at Arlington National Cemetery WASP member and World War II pilot Elaine Danforth Harmon was buried. She was 95 and died in 2015.
The significance of this is huge.
For Harmon to be buried in Arlington National Cemetery took a lobbying campaign by her family, and an act of Congress to accomplish. The funeral was done right – complete with military honors and a flyover.
As well, it was her daughter Terry Harmon, who received the traditional presentation of the American flag.
The acknowledgement the women of WASP deserve has been long, long overdue.