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WASPs finally flying high

January 15, 2013

wasp

The Night Witches, Russian female pilots got their chance to prove women are as good as male for aerial combat. In the US however, female aviators unsuccessfully lobbied for a women’s division of the Air Force. They were not allowed to fly combat missions.

Women Airforce Service Pilots or WASPs were established as a civilian organisation during the World War II. Even with strict requirements including a pilot’s license and many hours experience, more than 25,000 women applied. They could fly planes from the manufacturing plants to military bases and took a part in a training programme designed for future combat pilots. With reversed gender quotas; on every ten men, one woman was allowed. WASPs ended up numbering 1,074 female pilots, each freeing a male pilot for combat service and duties.

After fierce opposition by the press and the Congress, WASPs were disbanded even before the war ended. The records were sealed and historians ignored the World War II American female aviators for nearly 60 years. Finally, in 2009 President Obama awarded WASP with the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest and most distinguished award for a civilian. Sometimes history takes its time to make things right.

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