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Women Make History

'Fly Girls of WWII' change face of U.S. military
Written by , published November 10, 2014

flygirlsThey changed the face of the United States Military when they answered the call of duty in World War II. On Veterans Day, the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) will be celebrated at the Bullock Museum in Austin.

"Fly Girls of WWII" is on view daily in the Rotunda Gallery on the third floor of the museum. The IMAX film, "D-Day: Normandy 1944" will show at 10 a.m. in the Bullock Museum IMAX Theatre.

In their service, the WASP women had flown more than 60 million miles with a comparable safety record as male pilots. Based on their documented successes, Gen. Hap Arnold appealed Congress to militarize the unit, but the WASP were deactivated in June 1944. The WASP pilots were disbanded on Dec. 20, 1944 with no honor or benefits. They paid their way home.

Postcards from Sweetwater: Home of the WASP

Special programs, open to the public, begin at 11 a.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 11, to spotlight Veterans Day and the museum’s newest exhibition, “The Fly Girls of WWII,” which runs through Feb. 1.

The exhibit sheds light on the inspirational story of women who earned their silver wings after military training at Houston’s Municipal Airport and Avenger Field in Sweetwater.

In the face of a critical shortage of combat pilots, after the attach on Pearl harbor in 1941, America’s top female pilot, Jacqueline Cochran saw an opportunity for women to help. She convinced the Commanding General of the Army Air Forces that women, if given the same training, would be equally capable of flying military aircraft.

After seven months of training, 1,074 graduated to become the Women Airforce Service Pilots.

Through uniforms, historical artifacts and memorabilia, the exhibit tells the story of the women who not only changed the face of American military aviation. For many, that came at the greatest cost.

Of the military trained WASPs that were deployed to 120 bases across the U.S., 38 died in the line of duty. Still, the WASPs were considered civilians and ineligible for veteran status until after 1977. In 2010, they received the Congressional Gold Medal.

The schedule includes writer Debra Winegarten who will discuss (at 11 a.m.) the latest research on Oveta Cup Hobby, the founder of the Women’s Army Corps.

At 2 p.m., Wings Across America Executive Director Nancy Parrish, leads a conversation with women who trained and served as WASPs during World War II. The session is followed by Parrish’s book signing of “WASP in Their Own Words.”

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