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What drives someone to climb into the cockpit of a flying death trap to test dangerous aircraft that most men were afraid to fly?

What drives someone to rebel against social convention and gender roles to risk their life for two thirds of the pay of their male counterparts? What drives someone to risk their life, knowing all along that if they die in a plane crash, or training accident that their sister pilots would end up passing the hat to pay for their funeral expenses because you were considered a civilian contractor versus a veteran?

The answer is pure passion. Passion for flying, coupled with passion to serve and help defend their country. These two elements combined gave the brave women of the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) the courage and the drive to overcome the obstacles preventing their service in the air. Theirs was a sisterhood, women banded together with a common sense of drive and purpose. They were U. S. federal civil employees, and therefore did not qualify for military benefits. For some, it was all they could do to scrape together the money for transportation to their training site. Once there, they were required to pay for not only their own room and board, but also for their uniforms. Their purpose was to free male pilots to fly combat missions by ferrying aircraft from factories to airbases, testing aircraft and training other pilots. They risked their lives daily, not only flying and testing aircraft, but also as part of a training program which involved towing target aircraft to be used by combat pilots on the ground for target practice. On more than one occasion, the pilots who were practicing on the ground mistakenly shot down the towing plane instead of target plane. The whole operation was risky and extremely dangerous. These brave women pilots knew that going in, but unflinchingly did it anyway.

The WASPs unselfishly served their country during World War II and above all things, wanted to continue their service after World War II ended. In order to do that, they would need to be granted veteran status. In 1944, U.S. House Bill HR 4219 was introduced to provide military status for the WASP’s, but unfortunately it was narrowly defeated due to the expense of the program and the fact that maintaining the program in peace time would take pilot positions away from men. Many WASPs so loved their service that they volunteered to continue flying aircraft for US$1.00 an hour, (roughly equivalent of $14.50 in 2019.) Their offer was rejected and sadly they were disbanded. It was a crushing blow, but they did not give up on their quest to achieve Veteran status. They launched a lobbying effort which took 33 years to come to fruition. In 1977, a bill was signed by President Carter awarding them veteran’s status.

These women operated out of pure passion -for aviation and for service. The face of opposition did not deter them. Instead, they pressed forward, braving the way for generations of women pilots to come. Silver Wings is a tribute to them.


Although the WASPs were not an actual branch of the military, they still had to wear uniforms. WASP silver wings were worn on the chest, along with the wing and prop insignia and gold

“W.A.S.P.” insignia on the lapels. Early WASP wings were given as a gift to the graduating classes. Official WASP wings were designed and made available by December 1943.