Monday, May 23, 2016

Remembering the WWII Women Air Force Service Pilots (WASP) This Memorial Weekend

"Our Eyes are on the Stars", the title of the float,
celebrates and honors the military service of the Women Airforce Service Pilots.
In January 2014, my husband and I attended the Rose Parade in Pasadena, CA, where I learned about a brave group of women. Because of the Wingtip to Wingtip Association float in the 2014 Rose Parade, the 1102 women who served their country as Women Air Force Service Pilots (WASP) received recognition for their contribution to the war in 1942-1944. These brave trailblazers dreamed of flying for their nation. 

Because of the shortage of male pilots for combat duty, the women pushed to become pilots in order to free up the men for fighting the war. The WASP group members were assigned to ferry military planes between military bases in the USA and flights from aircraft factories to ports of embarkation. They also towed targets for live anti-aircraft artillery practice, simulated strafing missions, and transported cargo. A few exceptionally qualified women were allowed to test rocket-propelled planes, to pilot jet-propelled planes, and to work with radar-controlled targets. The WASP were not assigned to combat missions.

The reproduction of the Congressional Gold Medal awarded to the WASP decorates the side of the float. The 38 stars around the medal salute the 38 WASP who lost their lives in service to their country.
When the WASP was disbanded in 1944, the courageous women were not considered members of the military and received no recognition. They paid their way back home and their contribution to the war effort was forgotten. They were not recognized as veterans until 1977 when the WASP records were unsealed. According to Wikipedia, on July 1, 2009 President Barack Obama and the United States Congress awarded the WASP the Congressional Gold Medal. During the ceremony President Obama said, "The Women Airforce 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. 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." 

More than 15000 red Freedom roses decorated the length of the float.

The first issue of the Fifinella Gazette was published February 10, 1943. The female gremlin Fifinella was conceived by Roald Dahl and drawn by Walt Disney, and used as the official WASP mascot that appeared on their shoulder patches.
During this 2016 Memorial Day weekend, let's remember the WASP who opened the skies to later generations of female pilots in the military. 

Thank you to all those who serve in the USA military service both past and present. 

Enjoy your Memorial Day activities, but please take time to tell the children why we have Memorial Day. Let us remember those who gave their lives for our country.

VIDEO:
This excellent video posted by the American Legion HQ enlightens us about the WASP history. The seven minute video will take you back to those WWII days with the music and the sights and the important story of these female pilots who opened the skies for the women military pilots of today.
Women Air Force Service Pilots Video
www.wingsacrossamerica.org
Previously blogged at the Girls Succeed blog



4 comments:

helenafairfax.com said...

What a fascinating post, JQ. It's great that these women are finally being remembered after so many years. There were many similar female pilots here in the UK, and many women who took on the men's jobs while they were away fighting - in the steel industry and other factories - and then were sent home when the war was over, with no recognition.
Thanks for sharing. I enjoyed the photos and video.

J Q Rose said...

Thank you, Helena. I had no idea the impact these women made on the future for women pilots in our military. The war certainly changed the idea of women staying home and being homemakers, didn't it? The video certainly does transport us back to that special time. Thanks for stopping in.

Juneta Key said...

Great post. I saw a movie or series about this and it was very interesting. My dad served in WWWII.

Juneta @ Writer's Gambit

Betty Ann Harris said...

I very much enjoyed reading about the WASPS and their contribution to the USA's war efforts. I'm also glad they were finally recognized for their service to their country. Enjoyed this post very much!