Honoring the Women Pilots of World War II

These four female pilots leaving their ship at the four engine school at Lockbourne are members of a group of WASPS who have been trained to ferry the B-17 Flying Fortresses. (U.S. Air Force photo)

This March, as our Nation celebrates the lives and accomplishments of women throughout American history during Women’s History Month, I believe it is especially important to recognize the countless women that have served in our Nation’s Armed Services and have sacrificed so much to defend our country.

One of the most extraordinary groups of American female military members is the Women Airforce Service Pilots, or WASP’s, of World War II.

This unit of female Servicemembers was the first group of women to serve as pilots and to fly military aircraft for the United States. During World War II, there was a shortage of male pilots. The WASP’s logged over 60 million miles in over 12,000 aircraft during their service in the war. 38 WASP’s lost their lives while serving.

Like all of those who served and sacrificed so much during World War II, our Nation owes these military members a great debt. Unbelievably, WASP’s are not afforded the same burial honors as other Servicemembers, specifically being barred from burial at Arlington National Cemetery.

In 1977, a law was enacted giving WASP’s military recognition and Veteran status. In 2002, Arlington National Cemetery decided to allow WASP’s, among others listed as “Active Duty Designees,” to receive benefits consistent with the Veteran status awarded in 1977, including inurnment and full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery. However, in 2015, then-Secretary of the Army John M. McHugh rescinded the 2002 decision for “Active Duty Designees,” effectively removing inurnment eligibility at Arlington National Cemetery for WASP’s.

I adamantly believe that anybody who has served our country—to protect our freedom, to protect our way of life, to protect our kids—should receive the full benefits, the full honors of anybody who served in uniform.

There is absolutely no reason why the Pentagon should say there’s no room at Arlington. Over 1,000 of these brave, patriotic women—during a time where women were not always welcome in doing what men were doing—stood up and served their country. They stood up and they left their homes, they left their families, and they did what was right.

That is why I am proud to stand with my colleague in the House, Congresswoman Martha McSally (AZ-02), and cosponsoring the Women Airforce Service Pilot Arlington Inurnment Restoration Act. This bill will reinstate inurnment eligibility for WASP’s at Arlington National Cemetery, giving these brave World War II Veterans the honor and respect they undoubtedly have earned and deserve.

I am grateful for Congresswoman McSally’s hard work in introducing this legislation. Congresswoman McSally is a decorated Veteran and former pilot in the U.S. Air Force herself. In fact, Congresswoman McSally is the first female fighter pilot to fly in combat in our Nation’s history, retiring at the rank of Colonel. It is an honor to stand with her in support of the women pilots that served our Nation during World War II.

As we celebrate women’s history this month, let’s especially keep in mind the women that have served and sacrificed for our Nation.


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