Nonprofit Struggles to Raise Money for Female Pilots of WWII Rose Bowl Tribute
by Susana Polo | 4:12 pm, November 7th, 2013
The Wingtip-to-Wingtip Association is a non-profit that’s looking for a new way to bring attention to a group of pioneering women whose accomplishments were hidden from the public for thirty years after they were released from service. But their attempt to bring a parade float honoring World War II’s WASPs to a nationally televised event is turning up short of funds a mere days before their deadline.
We’ve talked about the WASPs, or Women Airforce Service Pilots, before. They were a group of more than a thousand women who flew American military planes domestically during World War II: for transport of planes, cargo, and officials and to test recently repaired vehicles. They even trained other male pilots under the motto “If we can teach them to walk, we can teach them to fly.” WASPs were promised military status, just like the men who did the same jobs, but found that when the war wound down, they were quietly disbanded without ever being taken out of their “civil service” classification.
The families of the 38 women who died were not allowed to display gold stars in their windows, because their daughters were not recognized as veterans.
The WASPs received a letter informing them that their service was over. Two days after that letter came, “several of us received letters from aircraft companies inviting us to come and be stewardesses,” remembers [Alyce Stevens Rohrer]. “I was so angry, I tore that letter up.”
Records of the work of the WASP program were classified until an act of congress opened them to the public in 1977, and granted each servicewoman veteran status. The WASPs have since been awarded the World War II Victory Medal, the Congressional Gold Medal (pictured above), and those who served for more than a year have been awarded the American Campaign Medal. The descendants of others have successfully pushed for long overdue military funeral honors for pilots who died on the job.
Kate Landdeck, history professor and vice president of Wingtip-to-Wingtip, told the Washington Post that the attempt to get the women of WASP their own Rose Bowl float is “really a very public way to do a final honor for these women, to say thanks for their service.” As of Tuesday, the group still needs more than $29,000 before they can commit to building the float. Hopefully some (or a few!) kindly benefactors will help them out.