Ok, maybe it’s not breaking news…since it happened back in 1977. But it is important history, and that’s what we are all about.
Ironically, from its planning stage dating back to 1939, militarization of the Women’s Air Force Service Pilots had always been the Army’s intent. However, in 1944 – after 1074 pilots graduated and 38 died in while on duty – the United States Congress voted down legislation to give military status to the WASP. To see how a mixture of sexual bias and political maneuvering sidetracked militarization for the WASP, browse the National WASP WWII Museum archives on the Portal to Texas History . Since there’s usually two sides to every story, you’ll discover who championed the WASP cause and why – plus the reasons that moved opponents to fight it in 1944 and 1977.
Informative articles found in the Stars and Stripes, June 2, 1977 issue provide six full Congressional statements – pro and con – on legitimizing WASP military status. At issue was the logic of giving veteran status to the WASP when other civil service groups, such as the Army Air Force civilian flight instructors, didn’t have that distinction. Supporters claimed that WASP had trained, dressed, marched, and operated in the military way – with all assurance from the Army that they would be granted full military status.
As the war wound down after the Normandy invasion, lobbying against the WASP began. On June 19, 1944, the bill for militarization was defeated and led to the deactivation of the WASP on December 20, 1944.
The women that had trained as pilots were politely dismissed and shown the door. In a letter to all WASP, General Hap Arnold wrote: “You have freed male pilots for other work, but now the war situation has changed and the time has come when your volunteered services are no longer needed. The situation is that if you continue in service, you will be replacing, instead of releasing young men. I know that the WASP wouldn’t want that.”
It then took 33 more years for WASPs to finally receive status as military veterans. Despite substantial opposition, the WASP finally were recognized as WWII veterans when Public Law 95-202, Title IV, was signed on November 23, 1977. (The WASP really wanted that.)
As a tribute to the bravery and dedication of these remarkable women from the Women’s Airforce Service Pilots, the Abilene Library Consortium and National WW II WASP Museum is pleased to make their history available on the Portal to Texas History. This project is made possible by a grant from the U.S. Institute of Museum and Library Services ( through the Texas State Library and Archives Commission, FY2018).