The Forgotten Women Pilots Of WWII

by Courtney Bissonette

One of World War II’s most-kept secrets was WASP, the organization of Women’s Airforce Service Pilots. This team of badass ladies played an intricate role in WWII, taking over male pilot’s jobs in order to free male pilots to fight oversea. Recently, their right to have their ashes buried at Arlington National Cemetary has been revoked.  

HSW WASP Checking Chutes e1340227103206

This comes as a particularly harsh blow, as WASP has had a long history of fighting for military rights and recognition. 70 years after the war ended, the fight still rages on for proper recognition. Four decades of lobbying finally earned the WASP’s veteran status in 1977 under public law 95-20. 

 WASPs Arlington

In 2009, President Obama signed a bill awarding the WASP the Congressional Gold Medal. However, in March, Secretary of the Army John McHugh disagreed with their military contribution, claiming that WASPs should never have had burial privledges.  Their eligability was revoked and despite their service, these brave women can’t qualify for military burial honors.  

38 WASP women lost their lives fighting. But due to the fact that they weren’t strictly a part of the military, they were not guaranteed the rights of veterans. If a woman pilot was killed while on duty, her family had to pay for her body to be shipped home. They couldn’t have an American flag draped over their coffin or hang a golden star in their window to show the sacrifice they had made.

To add insult to injury, after the war the WASP records were classified and America forgot about the brave acts these women performed. In 1970, the Air Force announced that women would be accepted into the pilot training program, and the media announced it as though it were for the first time. This caused WASP and their supporters to stand up and fight for recognition. President Jimmy Carter finally signed a bill that granted the WASP corps full military status.

Screen Shot 2016 01 08 at 12.36.39 PM copy

In April 2015, Elaine Harmon and Betty Tackaberry Blake, the last surviving members of the first graduating class, passed away. Elaine Harmon’s family is fighting back, asking people to sign a petition that grants the remaining members eligibility for a final resting place in Arlington. 

Click here to sign the petition! 

If you’d like to learn more, you can visit

More from BUST

Rosie The Riveters Finally Honored At The White House – Get Out Your Tissues

How Hedy Lamarr Gave Us The Cell Phone

Which of These 10 Suffragettes Should Be On The 10 Dollar Bill? Vote For Your Favorite!

You may also like

Get the print magazine.

The best of BUST in your inbox!

Subscribe to Our Weekly Newsletter


About Us

Founded in 1993, BUST is the inclusive feminist lifestyle trailblazer offering a unique mix of humor, female-focused entertainment, uncensored personal stories, and candid reporting that tells the truth about women’s lives.

©2023 Street Media LLC.  All Right Reserved.