Female WWII Pilots Honored with Gold Medals

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Congress offered a long-deserved thanks to the Women Air Force Service Pilots of World War II, otherwise known as the WASPs.

Hundreds of former Wasps were on hand Wednesday to receive the prestigious Congressional Gold Medal.

WASP pilot Deanie Parrish, 88, of Waco, Texas said the women had volunteered without expecting any recognition.

"We did it because our country needed us," Parrish said.

"I really don't care for publicity, but what I really do care about is the 900 or more that are already dead and gone and have not had the cognizance and recognition that I feel they should have for their families," said WASP Ty Hughes Killen, 85, of Lancaster, Calif.

More than 1,000 women, who were known as Women Air Force Service Pilots, flew planes during the war with their primary mission being to fly non-combat missions.

The Air Force created WASP so more male pilots could serve on the front lines. Although the female pilots were denied the privilege of flying in combat, they were permitted to transport military personnel and shuttled artillery. Most of the women paid for their own training and travel.

The group, who served between 1942 and 1944, was not granted military status until 1977.

Last year, Sens. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, and Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., decided to go a step further in recognizing the pilots and introduced a bill calling for them to be honored.

"Their service was intrepid, unprecedented and, for many years, largely unnoticed," Hutchison said. "Their success in the line of duty paved the way for the armed forces to lift the ban on women attending military flight training in the 1970s, and their efforts eventually led to women being fully integrated as military pilots."

The Congressional Gold Medal was awarded in 2000 to the Navajo Code Talkers and in 2006 to the Tuskegee Airmen. The medal is the highest award Congress can bestow on civilians for achievements and contributions to society.

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