Monday, March 08, 2010

200 Women Pilots to receive the Congressional Medal of Honor

The ceremony takes places on Wednesday at 11 a.m. at Emancipation Hall in the U.S. Capitol. Surrounded by statues of some of the nation's most treasured icons, nearly 200 women who served as military pilots during World War II as part of the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) program will be on hand to receive the Congressional Medal of Honor.

Recruited to fill a manpower shortage among male fliers, 25,000 women applied. Nearly 1,100 completed training. This little-known band of female pilots -- the first women in history trained to fly U.S. military aircraft -- did everything the men did except participate in combat. They flew trailers so male soldiers could take practice shots at the targets they pulled along. They flew bombardiers so male pilots could practice dropping bombs. They flew test planes, delivered supplies and piloted every plane the Air Force had in its arsenal. By war's end, 38 had been killed -- their bodies returned home and buried at their families' expense. In 1977, Congress finally granted them veteran status. This week, they finally get their due in Washington.

Sitting in the audience at the congressional ceremony will be 92-year-old Carol Brinton Selfridge (shown above in a 1944 photo). In an interview with the Ticket last week that she conducted on Skype, Selfridge reminisced about her adventures -- about the difficulty of finding a uniform to fit her 6-foot-tall frame, about soloing in a rare snowstorm at the base in Sweetwater, Texas, about the granddaughter who was so inspired by her story that she too became a pilot, now Lt. Col. Christy Kayser-Cook.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Just a quick correction. The women received the Congressional Gold Medal, which is a civilian or non-combat award. The Congressional Medal of Honor is a combat award.

Great to see them finally getting recognized!