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What's with the name?

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For A More Civilized Age

Women Airforce Service Pilots Got Their Rose Parade Float Yesterday

If we talk about the Women Airforce Service Pilots a lot, it’s only because they were awesome. Classified as civilians working for the Air Force as they performed the same job as (and even trained) enlisted men, unceremoniously dismissed at the end of the war, with their actions unnecessarily classified for thirty years and subsequently omitted from history textbooks. It’s been a struggle for the aging members of the WASP to find their proper due, but one such effort went off without a hitch this very week.

The surviving members of WASP and their children have persuaded congress to declassify WASP records, and to award its pilots the World War II Victory Medal, the Congressional Gold Medal, and the American Campaign Medal. And this weekend they successfully funded and built a float in the Rose Parade, an annual, nationally televised New Years day celebration in Pasadena, California.

The float was nearly left incomplete for lack of funds, but a last minute rally saw the project to the parade. Eight surviving WASP members rode on the float, including Alyce Stevens Rohrer. Rohrer told CBS Los Angeles:

I wanted to fly up there with the birds. I just felt like I needed to be up there. I can’t explain it any better than that… [The Women Airforce Service Pilots is] a group I’m extremely proud of belonging to because they just didn’t sit on their laurels and quit when they were sent home. They all did something special.

She hopes that the WASP will not be forgotten by history. We do too, for the WASP and all others of our earliest attempts a diversifying the US military. You can see more pictures of the float on BarefootDramaturg’s Tumblr post.

(top pic via BarefootDramaturg.)

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  • A Kaleberg

    I was reading a WWII vintage issue of Vogue a while back and noticed an ad for woman pilots who owned their own planes and were willing to fly coastal patrols in exchange for fuel and ration tickets. If you belonged in the air, and weren’t male and soldier age, WWII was a rough. I always wondered how many women took up the offer.

    P.S. I think this was the issue with Madame Chang, a snazzy dresser and Wellesley grad. I think one of her sisters was married to the Chinese financial minister and her other sister to some other high powered sort. They were like something out of the fall of the Tang dynasty.

  • tanaborealis

    You mean Madam Chiang aka Soong May Ling, wife and partner of Chiang Kai Shek, president of the People’s Republic of China–her eldest sister Soong Ai Ling who married the Finance Minister and her second older sister Soong Ching Ling, wife of Sun Yat Sen and joint-president of the PRC for 4 years?

  • asea

    I used to volunteer at their museum at Avenger Field in Sweetwater, TX when I was stationed nearby at Goodfellow AFB. I had the privilege of meeting remaining members at different events. Yet somehow I managed to be unaware of the whole float thing. (Or forgot. New Years took its toll.) So after I saw it at the end of the parade I made this undignified screech and was incapable of human conversation for a good fifteen minutes. My ladies. Look at my badass military ladies.

  • Anonymous

    WWII was “rough” for a lot of people.

    Nachthexen (Night Witches) was the name German troops gave to the Soviet bomber regiment staffed (mechanics through pilots) by women. Their story is fascinating.

    I saw a TV special on the WASP’s in which some ex-WASP’s met some ex-Night Witches….