The groundbreaking Women Airforce Service Pilots were buried without military honors and long denied benefits. But now they’ll receive the Congressional Gold Medal.
* By Johanna Neuman The Los Angeles Times *
Reporting from Washington – When World War II beckoned, she was a 24-year-old mother of two daughters, ages 4 and 2. Her husband was a draftsman for Lockheed in Southern California, and her brother became an Army Air Forces pilot.
Carol Brinton longed to become a pilot herself — “My husband had bad eyes so he couldn’t get in, and I’ve always had a hard time letting my brother get ahead of me in anything,” she said — but the U.S. military had other ideas.
“They kept saying women couldn’t fly anything bigger than a Piper,” she said.
In 1942, with a shortage of male pilots and a desperate need to muscle up for war, the military changed course.
Famed aviatrix Jacqueline Cochran had been lobbying First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt for a corps of female pilots. Eventually, Gen. H.H. “Hap” Arnold agreed. The Women Airforce Service Pilots, or WASP, program was born, training the first women to fly U.S. military aircraft.
Recruited by newspaper ads and public service announcements, about 25,000 women answered the call. Of the more than 1,800 selected for training, 1,102 graduated.
During the war, they flew 60 million miles in every aircraft available — Piper Cubs to B-29 bombers.
Read more at The Los Angeles Times