President Obama signed a bill Wednesday granting the Congressional Gold Medal to a group of women most Americans have never heard of: the Women Airforce Service Pilots, or WASP.
These were the first women to fly military aircraft. During World War II, they volunteered for noncombat duty, as test pilots and trainers. They freed up their male counterparts to go to Europe and fight in the war.
But even though they wore uniforms and worked on bases, they were never considered members of the military. Their contribution to the war effort was so controversial, in fact, that all records pertaining to their service were sealed and deemed classified in 1944. That pretty much consigned the WASP to the dustbin of history for decades.