WASP Call to Action!

  • Jan 19, 2016 2:45pm GMT

We need your help! Here's a note from CAF President Steve Brown:

Dear Members; I received an email from CAF Life Member Carl Mattson, who alerted me to an issue, where your help is needed. As you probably know, the WASP (Women Air Service Pilots) had finally received veteran status in 1977 and in 2002, Arlington National Cemetery found the WASP eligible to receive standard honors. Unfortunately, according to a recent Fox news report, there is an issue. In a statement, Army spokesman Paul Prince said the cemetery superintendent in 2002 had no authority to allow WASPS' remains into the cemetery. Under federal law, he said, WASPs are eligible only for burial at cemeteries run by the Department of Veterans Affairs — not Arlington National Cemetery, which is run by the Army.

I reached out to CAF COL Heather Penney, our Rise Above WASP Chairwoman and asked for her input on this matter. Below is her response and recommended action for you to help right this wrong.

The WASP were pioneering and courageous women who answered the nation’s call to duty. When the Army Air Forces were short on airmen and outcome of the war still uncertain, these women volunteered against much social prejudice and skepticism. General Hap Arnold, commanding general of the Army Air Forces (the precursor to the U.S. Air Force), intended to militarize the WASP, but because their service was so desperately needed he placed the WASP in a civilian capacity to expedite their creation.

Unlike other women’s service auxiliaries, the WASP performed the exact same domestic missions that men did, freeing male pilots to go overseas at a time when the outcome of the war was in peril. The WASP flew every aircraft type in the Army Air Forces, and performed every kind of flying mission needed in the domestic United States from instruction, target towing, flight test, and aircraft ferry and delivery. The WASP met (and often exceeded) all military physical requirements, took and passed the same military training, and executed military missions - but because their military status had been deferred, they did so with no benefits, no recognition, and for far less pay.

Their military service was finally recognized by Congress in 1977, who granted the WASP long overdue veteran status. In 2002, Arlington National Cemetery found the WASP eligible to receive standard honors. And in 2010, the WASP were awarded the Congressional Gold Medal in recognition of their valiant and pioneering service. These women are veterans, and deserve to be treated and honored as such.

Representatives Martha McSally (R-Ariz.) and Susan Davis (D-Calif.) have introduced The Women Airforce Service Pilots Arlington Restoration Act (HR4336) in the House to allow the cremated remains of the WASP to be placed in Arlington. Senators Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) and Jodi Ernst (R-Iowa) have introduced a similar bill (S2437) in the Senate. Please, contact your representatives and urge them to support these bills to allow the WASP to be placed in Arlington, as is their due; their right to their last rites should not subject to the whims of the Army lawyers.