Unsung? I've never heard of them. Unsung: Not honored or praised; uncelebrated.
World War II's Unsung Women Pilots
The trailblazing Women Airforce Service Pilots will finally receive the honors due them on March 10, when they are awarded the Congressional Gold Medal.
By AMY GOODPASTER STREBE
The Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) of World War II will finally be given the recognition and honor they deserve on March 10. That's when they will receive the Congressional Gold Medal in a ceremony to be held at the United States Capitol. These pilots were trailbrazers, a group of 1,102 female civilians that flew military aircraft under the direction of the United States Army Air Forces. They flew more than 60 million miles in 78 different types of aircraft, from the smallest trainers to the fastest fighters and the largest bombers. They undertook every type of mission except combat. Thirty eight of them gave their lives in the service of their country.
From 1942 to 1944 the WASP ferried aircraft from factories to air bases throughout the United States. They were stationed at 120 Army air bases across America, and many also towed targets for antiaircraft gunnery training. The Army Air Forces trained the women to fly the fleet's largest bombers to prove to the men these planes were safe to fly. Despite their outward appearance as official members of the U.S. Army Air Forces, the WASP were actually considered civil servants during the war. In spite of a highly publicized attempt to militarize them in 1944, the women pilots were not granted veteran status until 1977.
When a WASP was killed the women pilots received no formal recognition, no honors, no gold star in the window, and no American flag on their coffin. Fellow pilots contributed money to help bring the body and belongings home—the United States Government refused to pay for the remains to be shipped to their families. When the WASP were unceremoniously deactivated in December 1944, five months before the end of the war, they never received the military status they were promised, even though many of them were sent to officers training school. Even today the WASP can only be buried at Arlington National Cemetery as enlisted members of the military, not with officers' honors. Finally these intrepid women will be honored for their heroic service.
The surviving members of the WASP, who are now grandmothers and great-grandmothers, will unite for the last time in Washington, D.C. They will proudly take their place in history among the unsung heroes of World War II. Fueled by patriotism and a love of flying, their example will continue to inspire future generations of women aviators.
Ms. Strebe is the author of "Flying for Her Country: The American and Soviet Women Military Pilots of World War II" (Potomac Books, 2009). She is on the board of directors of the National WASP World War II Museum, located in Sweetwater, Texas.