Public Law 111–40
To award a Congressional Gold Medal to the Women Airforce Service Pilots
Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of
the United States of America in Congress assembled
Section 1 Findings
Congress finds that--
(1) the Women Airforce Service Pilots of WWII, known as the ‘‘WASP’’, were the first women in history to fly American military aircraft;
(2) more than 60 years ago, they flew fighter, bomber, transport, and training aircraft in defense of America’s freedom;
(3) they faced overwhelming cultural and gender bias against women in nontraditional roles and overcame multiple injustices and inequities in order to serve their country;
(4) through their actions, the WASP eventually were the catalyst for revolutionary reform in the integration of women pilots into the Armed Services;
(5) during the early months of World War II, there was a severe shortage of combat pilots;
(6) Jacqueline Cochran, America’s leading woman pilot of the time, convinced General Hap Arnold, Chief of the Army Air Forces, that women, if given the same training as men, would be equally capable of flying military aircraft and could then take over some of the stateside military flying jobs, thereby releasing hundreds of male pilots for combat duty;
(7) the severe loss of male combat pilots made the necessity of utilizing women pilots to help in the war effort clear to General Arnold, and a women’s pilot training program was soon approved;
(8) it was not until August 1943, that the women aviators would receive their official name;
(9) General Arnold ordered that all women pilots flying military aircraft, including 28 civilian women ferry pilots, would be named ‘‘WASP’’, Women Airforce Service Pilots;
(10) more than 25,000 American women applied for training, but only 1,830 were accepted and took the oath;
(11) exactly 1,074 of those trainees successfully completed the 21 to 27 weeks of Army Air Forces flight training, graduated, and received their Army Air Forces orders to report to their assigned air base;
(12) on November 16, 1942, the first class of 29 women pilots reported to the Houston, Texas Municipal Airport and began the same military flight training as the male Army Air Forces cadets were taking;
(13) due to a lack of adequate facilities at the airport, 3 months later the training program was moved to Avenger Field in Sweetwater, Texas;
(14) WASP were eventually stationed at 120 Army air bases all across America;
(15) they flew more than 60,000,000 miles for their country in every type of aircraft and on every type of assignment flown by the male Army Air Forces pilots, except combat;
(16) WASP assignments included test piloting, instructor piloting, towing targets for air-to-air gunnery practice, ground-to-air anti-aircraft practice, ferrying, transporting personnel and cargo (including parts for the atomic bomb), simulated strafing, smoke laying, night tracking, and flying drones;
(17) in October 1943, male pilots were refusing to fly the B–26 Martin Marauder (known as the ‘‘Widowmaker’’) because of its fatality records, and General Arnold ordered WASP Director, Jacqueline Cochran, to select 25 WASP to be trained to fly the B–26 to prove to the male pilots that it was safe to fly;
(18) during the existence of the WASP— (A) 38 women lost their lives while serving their country; (B) their bodies were sent home in poorly crafted pine boxes; (C) their burial was at the expense of their families or classmates;(D) there were no gold stars allowed in their parents’ windows; and (E) because they were not considered military, no American flags were allowed on their coffins;
(19) in 1944, General Arnold made a personal request to Congress to militarize the WASP, and it was denied;
(20) on December 7, 1944, in a speech to the last graduating class of WASP, General Arnold said, ‘‘You and more than900 of your sisters have shown you can fly wingtip to wingtip with your brothers. I salute you . . . We of the Army Air Force are proud of you. We will never forget our debt to you.’’;
(21) with victory in WWII almost certain, on December20, 1944, the WASP were quietly and unceremoniously disbanded;
(22) there were no honors, no benefits, and very few ‘‘thank you’s’’;
(23) just as they had paid their own way to enter training, they had to pay their own way back home after their honorable service to the military;
(24) the WASP military records were immediately sealed, stamped ‘‘classified’’ or ‘‘secret’’, and filed away in Government archives, unavailable to the historians who wrote the history of WWII or the scholars who compiled the history text books used today, with many of the records not declassified until the 1980s;
(25) consequently, the WASP story is a missing chapter in the history of the Air Force, the history of aviation, and the history of the United States of America;
(26) in 1977, 33 years after the WASP were disbanded, the Congress finally voted to give the WASP the veteran status they had earned, but these heroic pilots were not invited to the signing ceremony at the White House, and it was not until 7 years later that their medals were delivered in the mail in plain brown envelopes;
(27) in the late 1970s, more than 30 years after the WASP flew in World War II, women were finally permitted to attend military pilot training in the United States Armed Forces;
(28) thousands of women aviators flying support aircraft have benefitted from the service of the WASP and followed in their footsteps;
(29) in 1993, the WASP were once again referenced during congressional hearings regarding the contributions that women could make to the military, which eventually led to women being able to fly military fighter, bomber, and attack aircraft in combat;
(30) hundreds of United States service women combat pilots have seized the opportunity to fly fighter aircraft in recent conflicts, all thanks to the pioneering steps taken by the WASP;
(31) the WASP have maintained a tight-knit community, forged by the common experiences of serving their country during war;
(32) as part of their desire to educate America on the WASP history, WASP have assisted ‘‘Wings Across America’’, an organization dedicated to educating the American public, with much effort aimed at children, about the remarkable accomplishments of these WWII veterans; and
(33) the WASP have been honored with exhibits at numerous museums, to include— (A) the Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC; (B) the Women in Military Service to America Memorial at Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Virginia; (C) the National Museum of the United States Air Force, Wright Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio; (D) the National WASP WWII Museum, Sweetwater, Texas; (E) the 8th Air Force Museum, Savannah, Georgia; (F) the Lone Star Flight Museum, Galveston, Texas; (G) the American Airpower Museum, Farmingdale, New York; (H) the Pima Air Museum, Tucson, Arizona; (I) the Seattle Museum of Flight, Seattle, Washington;
(J) the March Air Museum, March Reserve Air Base, California; and (K) the Texas State History Museum, Austin, Texas.
Sec. 2. Congressional Gold Medal.
(a) Award Authorized.—The President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives shall make appropriate arrangements for the award, on behalf of the Congress, of a single gold medal of appropriate design in honor of the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) collectively, in recognition of their pioneering military service and exemplary record, which forged revolutionary reform in the Armed Forces of the United States of America.
(b) Design and Striking.—For the purposes of the award referred to in subsection (a), the Secretary of the Treasury shall strike the gold medal with suitable emblems, devices, and inscriptions, to be determined by the Secretary.
(c) Smithsonian Institution.--
(1) In General.—Following the award of the gold medal in honor of the Women Airforce Service Pilots, the gold medal shall be given to the Smithsonian Institution, where it will be displayed as appropriate and made available for research.
(2) Sense of the Congress. —It is the sense of the Congress that the Smithsonian Institution shall make the gold medal received under this Act available for display elsewhere, particularly at other locations associated with the WASP.
EC. 3. Duplicate Medals.
Under such regulations as the Secretary may prescribe, the Secretary may strike and sell duplicates in bronze of the gold medal struck under this Act, at a price sufficient to cover the costs of the medals, including labor, materials, dyes, use of machinery, and overhead expenses.
Sec. 4. National Medals
Medals struck pursuant to this Act are national medals for purposes of chapter 51 of title 31, United States Code.
Sec. 5. Authorization of Appropriations; Proceeds of Sale
(a) Authorization of Appropriations.—There is authorized to be charged against the United States Mint Public Enterprise Fund, an amount not to exceed $30,000 to pay for the cost of the medal authorized under section 2.
(b) Proceeds of Sale.—Amounts received from the sale of duplicate bronze medals under section 3 shall be deposited in the United States Mint Public Enterprise Fund.
Approved July 1, 2009.
Header Image: National WASP WWII Museum, Sweetwater, TX