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Oregon WASP Honored by Governor
Press Release
March 9, 2010
 
SALEM – Governor Ted Kulongoski has proclaimed March 10 as Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) Day to honor 25 female pilots from Oregon who flew non-combat military missions during World War II.
 
The WASP was established during World War II for the primary purpose of flying non-combat missions for the U.S. in order to free the male military pilots for combat.  Between 1942 and 1944, nearly 25,000 women applied for the program.  Of the 1,830 who were accepted, only 1,074 women successfully completed the flight training. 
 
Governor Kulongoski said the WASP were fearless and committed to their wartime duty.
 
"Through their ability, courage and hard work, these dedicated women proved to everyone that women are outstanding pilots, " the Governor said. "They flew military aircraft more than three decades before females in the United States were even allowed to attend military pilot training. They were true leaders that broke down the gender barriers of their time."
 
The WASP were trained to ferry aircraft, test planes, instruct male pilots, and tow targets for anti-aircraft artillery practice.  They were the first female pilots to fly almost every type of military aircraft operated by the U.S. Army at the time. WASP were stationed at air bases around the U.S. and flew nearly 60 million miles of non-combat missions.
 
Oregon Department of Veterans' Affairs Director Jim Willis said these brave women were all pioneers who paved the way for America's future female military pilots and aircrew.
 
"These ladies proved their skill and valor during the height of World War II and today we again salute their service. America will always be indebted to the WASP for stepping forward and inspiring a generation of future female aviators," Willis said.
 
These pilots finally gained their belated military recognition from Congress in 1977 thus making them eligible for veterans benefits.  In June 2009, Congress unanimously approved a bill that would make WASP veterans eligible to receive the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest civilian honor Congress can bestow. 
 
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will award the medals to surviving WASP, or their surviving family members, in a ceremony Washington DC on March 10. 
 
Nearly 300 are still living today. In Oregon there are fewer than 10 surviving WASP.

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