Distaff is an old, somewhat sexist term, for women. These unsung heroes of WWII, the WASPs were unsung simply because they were female. They will soon be awarded the Congressional Gold Medal. It’s about time!
More than 1,000 Womens Air Service Pilots, WASPS, served important and often dangerous missions testing and delivering the aircraft that would fly over Germany and Japan. Seventy-nine of them were injured or killed during the war. They were central to the war effort, yet had to buy their own uniforms, and they took up collections to return bodies of their fellow WASPS home after a death. They of course were all volunteers.
After the war, they were rejected by the American Legion, The Veterans of Foreign Wars, and the Veterans Administration, and as they aged, they were denied veterans benefits. Finally Barry Goldwater stood up for them in 1977. It is estimated that 300 to 400 are still alive.
We were honored to be able to fly with several of these fabulous women from Phoenix to Tucson, Claire aboard a B-29 and Bob in a B-24. The Collings Foundation travels around the country offering flights on vintage aircraft, and they take on as many WASPS as they can find.
Claire published a story on the women in the March 2007 issue of The Desert Leaf, along with the photos we took on the flight. We were honored to spend time with these ahead-of-their-time women, and brave Americans. If you are ever lucky enough to meet one of these women, thank them.