Wednesday, March 10, 2010

On the 100th anniversary of the first woman to earn a pilot's license...

In Washington, a couple hundred surviving WASP were awarded the Congressional Gold Medal - the country's highest civilian award.

Female WWII aviators honored with gold medal
WASHINGTON – A long-overlooked group of women who flew aircraft during World War II were awarded the Congressional Gold Medal on Wednesday.

Known as Women Airforce Service Pilots, or WASPs, they were the first women to fly U.S. military planes.

About 200 of these women aviators, mostly in their late 80s and early 90s and some in wheelchairs, came to the Capitol to accept the medal, the highest civilian honor bestowed by Congress.

In thanking them for their service, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said these women pilots went unrecognized for too long.


So.... no President Obama? Well, he's busy travelling the country talking to Unions about Obamacare... Meantime, it was George Bush who pinned the medals on the surviving Tuskegee Airmen, who were awarded medals in 2006, and although Reagan signed the paperwork to award medals to the Navajo code talkers, it was Bush who presented them in person, too. http://archives.cnn.com/2001/US/07/26/code.talkers/

But the WASP get Nancy Pelosi.

Having said that, some of the WASP were present when Obama signed the final paperwork on July 4, 2009. (jeez, so much paperwork!) The young brunette at the far right is Major Nicole Malachowski, the first woman pilot in the Thunderbirds Air Force demonstration team. None of the women in the photo are identified in any news report I've seen that had the photo, except obliquely (http://www.459arw.afrc.af.mil/news/story.asp?id=123159023):
"A reservist from the 459th Air Refueling Wing was selected to visit the White House Oval Office and witness as President Barack Obama signed into law a bill to award the Congressional Gold Medal to the Women's Airforce Service Pilots on July 1 at the White House for their invaluable service to the nation more than 60 years ago.

Major Kara Sandifur, KC-135 Pilot with the 756th Air Refueling Squadron was one of five current female Air Force pilots who joined WASPs Elaine Danforth Harmon, Bernice Falk Haydu and Lorraine H. Rodgers in the White House Oval Office.

"I was honored to be there," said Maj. Sanidfur. "It was an unforgettable experience and I eagerly await the day the women are officially awarded their gold medals."



Found the White House website that says who was in attendance, but again, doesn't really ID the women so that you know who each one is! (Perhaps one is to assume that they are ID'd left to right. I know for sure the one on the far right is indeed Malachowski.)

Women’s Airforce Service Pilots
Elaine Danforth Harmon
Lorraine H. Rodgers
Bernice Falk Haydu

Active Duty United States Air Force Pilots
Colonel Dawn Dunlop
Colonel Bobbi Doorenbos
Lieutenant Colonel Wendy Wasik
Major Kara Sandifur
Major Nicole Malachowski

Here's video of the Bill that Senator Kay Bailey Hutchinson introduced 11 months ago.

No video yet at YouTube of the presentation.

The WASP, while forgotten until the 1970s, have long been pursued by admirers who wanted to document their exploits. Many books have been written, and audio histories are available.

Check out:
WASP on the Web: http://www.wingsacrossamerica.us/wasp/
Women Air Force Service Pilots: http://wwii-women-pilots.org/

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