We’ve broadcast several pieces commemorating Memorial Day and recognizing the 70th anniversary of Operation Overlord, the landings at the beaches of Normandy that led to the liberation of France and the defeat of Nazi Germany.
There’s no shortage of heroes among the thousand of soldiers who went ashore on June 6, 1944, especially those who made the ultimate sacrifice.
But there were also 1.074 heroines who never made it to the front lines but nevertheless were just as brave and courageous. And the reason you may never have heard their story until now is that it was kept secret, for reasons that aren’t clear, for 35 years after the war ended.
These heroines were the Women Air Force Service Pilots, the WASPs. They trained just as long and hard as the men and flew the same planes, fighters and bombers alike. But they weren’t permitted to fly in aerial combat. Instead, they flew over 60 million miles of operational flights, towed targets for live-fire practice and transported cargo. Several of them were test pilots for jet-powered aircraft.
Thirty-eight WASPs lost their lives serving their country, all in accidents. But because the rules didn’t classify them as being military, they were sent home for burial at their family’s expense, without honors. In fact, the Army would not allow the US flag to be placed on a WASP’s coffin.
Thanks to our friends at the Public Radio Exchange, we were able to broadcast the story of the WASPs and are able to make it available here for a limited time.
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