From Florida Today:
Women fly. They pilot large and small, old and new, private and commercial, military and civilian aircraft. The likes of Amelia Earhart, Jackie Cochran, Bessie Coleman, Eileen Collins and Tammie Jo Shults are but a few notables who share this heritage.
No surprise, then, that a group of women aviators like the Spaceport 99s should have become local custodians of the memory of the Women’s Airforce Service Pilots, the WASP.
The WASP, 1,074 women attached to the United States Army Air Forces as civilians from 1942 to late 1944, flew more than 60 million miles during World War II, transporting every type of military aircraft. They towed targets for anti-aircraft gunnery practice, simulated strafing missions and transported cargo, and before their time in service ended, 38 WASP members lost their lives and one was missing.
They did it to free male pilots for military combat, but were not themselves formally military pilots; they were granted veteran status 32 years after the war’s end. Fifty-four years after it was over, they finally were formally recognized, when President Obama awarded members the Congressional Gold Medal.