​Remembering the WASPs: Women who were aviation trailblazers

Bond's documentary, "We Served Too," hopes to give the WASPs their due -- before it's too late.

Riggs asked, "How many of the women that flew for the WASPs are still around?"

"There's under 200 women still left," said Bond, "so I feel a sense of urgency to get this story out so those that are still with us can see they are being recognized and that the country is really rallying behind them."

While none of the WASPs saw combat, flying fast, powerful war machines was dangerous business. Thirty-eight women died in crashes. And since the women were classified as civilians, neither they nor their families received military benefits.

"If a girl got killed, her parents didn't get anything, not even a flag -- nothing," said WASP Barbara Erickson London. "Not even any acknowledgement that their daughter had been in the military."

All that changed in 1976, when -- with great fanfare -- women were admitted into the Air Force. The WASPs took notice.

"They were putting out news releases that for the first time women would be flying military aircraft, and they had just kind of forgotten about us," said Lucille Wise. "And that's when we got organized."

They got organized . . . and got results. In 1977 the WASPs were re-classified as military veterans and granted full benefits.

But for Lucille Wise and the others, real recognition came in 2009, when President Obama signed a bill awarding the WASPs the Congressional Gold Medal.

"Simply put, the outstanding success that America achieved in the air during World War II would not have been possible without the Women Airforce Service Pilots," House Speaker John Boehner said at a Washington ceremony the following year.

Deanie Parrish accepted the award for all the WASPs: "I believe this is the day that when the people of America will no longer hesitate in answering the question, 'Do you know who the WASPs were?'"

Today, more than 60,000 women serve in the U.S. Air Force, flying on the wings of a legacy that was almost left behind.

"Those women give you the credit for opening the door for them," said Riggs.

"They do, yes," said Wise. "If we had any part in it, I am very pleased. They probably would have done it without us, but maybe we made it a little bit easier for them."

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