Deactivation of the WASPs

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WASPs on the ramp at Waco Field, 1944. Courtesy of United States Army Air Forces via Wikimedia Commons.

The Women Air Service Pilots served in the Army Air Force as civilians. As such, not only did they have no military rank, they also had no insurance, and no veteran, burial, or death benefits.

Congress considered legislation to militarize the WASPs in March of 1944. However, the bill was defeated that June, and the decision to deactivate the WASP program soon followed on October 3, 1944. This decision was made by the War Department, based on signals that by the end of the year there would be enough male pilots for domestic assignments. The WASPs were no longer needed.

At the last graduation ceremony, General Henry “Hap” Arnold praised and thanked the WASPs for their hard work and commitment. During his speech, he said, “I want to stress how valuable I believe the whole WASP program has been for the country…we know that you are capable of ferrying, target towing, and test flying. So, on this last graduation day, I salute you and all WASPs. We of the Army Air Force are proud of you; we will never forget our debt to you.”

With the help of General Arnold’s son, and political support from Senator Barry Goldwater, the WASPs finally gained their belated militarization from Congress in 1977.