Obama Honors First Female Pilots

The White House posted photos of President Obama signing WASP gold medal bill inside the oval office yesterday. The bill, formally named S. 614, awards a Congressional Gold Medal to the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP).

"Every American should be grateful for their service, and I am honored to sign this bill to finally give them some of the hard-earned recognition they deserve," Mr. Obama said.

He was joined by three members of WASP and five active duty United States Air Force pilots at the bill signing, shown in the photos below.

WASP was established during World War II for the primary purpose of flying non-combat military missions for the U.S. in order to free the male military servants for combat. Between 1942 and 1943, more than a thousand women joined, flying sixty million miles of non-combat missions. An estimated 300 are still living today, the White House says.

WASP were the first female pilots to fly almost every type of military aircraft operated by the United States Army at the time. Although 38 of them lost their lives for the missions, their efforts went largely unrecognized. The pilots were not acknowledged with veteran status until 1977.

Before being signed by the president yesterday, the bill was passed by the Senate on May 20 and the House on June 16.

(White House/Pete Souza)
Flanking the president are Bernice Falk Haydu, far left, Elaine Danforth Harmon, and Lorraine H. Rodgers, right. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) is at far right. Behind the president are active duty U.S. Air Force pilots.

(White House/Pete Souza)
WASP pilot Bernice Falk Haydu pulls back the chair of Mr. Obama after he signed S.614, the bill to award a Congressional Gold Medal to the Women Airforce Service Pilots, in the Oval Office. At far left is WASP pilot Elaine Danforth Harmon, and at right is Lorraine H. Rodgers. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) is at right in green. Current U.S. Air Force pilots are in the background.

(White House/Pete Souza)
Mr. Obama with WASP pilots Elaine Danforth Harmon, left, Bernice Falk Haydu and Lorraine H. Rodgers, right, after signing S.614, a bill to award a Congressional Gold Medal to the Women Airforce Service Pilots, in the Oval Office yesterday. Also pictured are active duty U.S. Air Force pilots and Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.)

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