Wednesday, July 08, 2009

WWII Women Pilots To Receive Medals

The first women to fly U.S. military aircraft will be given gold medals to honor their service to the country under a bill signed Wednesday by President Obama. About 300 of the 1,000 or so women who were members of the World War II-era Women Air force Service Pilots -- WASPs for short -- are still alive to receive their Congressional Gold Medals. The rest will go to the pilots' families. Created during World War II, the all-women unit's primary mission was flying non-combat military missions in the United States to free up their male counterparts for combat. They flew virtually every type of U.S. military aircraft that existed at the time."The Women Air force Service Pilots courageously answered their country's call in a time of need while blazing a trail for the brave women who have given and continue to give so much in service to this nation since," Obama said at the bill signing. "Every American should be grateful for their service, and I am honored to sign this bill to finally give them some of the hard-earned recognition they deserve." Thirty-eight of the WASP pilots died while performing their missions. But it wasn't until 1977 the WASPs were afforded veteran status. Joining Obama at the signing was Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., who helped shepherd the bill through Congress, three WASP members -- Elaine Danforth Harmon, Lorraine H. Rodgers and Bernice Falk Haydu -- and five female active duty U.S. Air Force pilots.

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