It’s About Time!

WWII Women Aviators Receive Congressional Medals

(Adapted from Feminist Majority Foundation‘s Feminist News)

Amy Johnson was the first woman to fly from Britain to Australia (1930)

The women who flew US military aircraft during World War II were awarded with Congressional Gold Medals on March 10, 2010.  The Congressional Gold Medal is the highest honor Congress can give civilians, according to the Associated Press.

The Women Airforce Service Pilots, or WASP, was formed in 1942 despite the initial hesitation of Army Air Corps Chief Lieutenant General Henry “Hap” Arnold to let women fly, according to the Air Force Times. There were a total of 1,102 women aviators during WWII, and 38 of them lost their lives during the war. About 130 of the 300 women WASPs alive today will attend the medal ceremony.

WASP pilots were given permission to fly domestic aircraft in order to free male aviators to fly overseas. These women test-flew every aircraft of the time, reported the Air Force Times, including the B-26 bomber, nicknamed the “Widowmaker.”

Despite their efforts, WWII women aviators did not receive any military benefits or honors. The WASP was disbanded in December 1944 and the records were kept classified. However, with the help of former Lieutenant General Arnold’s son, Colonel Bruce Arnold, and former Senator Barry Goldwater (AZ-D), Congress eventually recognized WASP pilots as veterans in the 1970s. According to the Air Force Times, Deanie Bishop Parrish, one of the original women aviators, and her daughter Nancy, interviewed 110 former WASP pilots during the 1990s, resulting in “Fly Girls of World War II,” an exhibit currently on display at the Women in Military Service for America Memorial at Arlington National Cemetery.

Media Resources: Air Force Times 2/23/10; Associated Press 3/10/10

Also read “The Women Who Dared the Skies” about women aviators before WWII. (See picture of one of them at right.)

Women in the Military

AP Photo of Alexis Hutchinson and son Kamani

Back in November, the Associated Press reported on the case of Alexis Hutchinson, an Army cook and single mother who refused to deploy with her unit to Afghanistan because she had no one to care for her then 10-month-old son, Kamani. Spc. Hutchinson was arrested and charged with offenses that could have led to a court martial. Last Thursday, however, the New York Times reported that Hutchinson received a less-than-honorable, or administrative, discharge instead. (Which means no health care or other benefits.)

Needless to say, Hutchinson’s case caused a lot of controversy. People’s reactions ranged from empathy to outrage. Some felt that she should be court-martialed, because her duty to her country takes precedence over her duty to her child. Others felt that any woman in the military could find herself in the same situation through no fault of her own and that she should be cut some slack. There were those who criticized her for getting pregnant in the first place and others who criticized her mother for pulling out of her agreement to watch Hutchinson’s son.

This case is a prime example of the kind of situation anti-feminists point to when they say that feminism has created more problems than it has solved. But those who think feminism is unnecessary or even wrong don’t know their history. During World War II, women were sought by the military to man desks and do other non-combatant work to free the men up for fighting. Assistant Chief of Staff John Hildring explained that “we have found difficulty getting enlisted men to perform tedious duties anywhere nearly as well as women will do it.” *

Continue reading “Women in the Military”