Earning Their Wings

The WASPs of World War II and the Fight for Veteran Recognition

By Sarah Parry Myers

256 pp., 6.125 x 9.125, 8 halftones, notes, bibl., index

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-1-4696-7503-9
    Published: September 2023
  • E-book EPUB ISBN: 978-1-4696-7504-6
    Published: September 2023
  • Hardcover ISBN: 978-1-4696-7502-2
    Published: September 2023

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Established by the Army Air Force in 1943, the Women's Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) program opened to civilian women with a pilot's license who could afford to pay for their own transportation, training, and uniforms. Despite their highly developed skill set, rigorous training, and often dangerous work, the women of WASP were not granted military status until 1977, denied over three decades of Army Air Force benefits as well as the honor and respect given to male and female World War II veterans of other branches. Sarah Parry Myers not only offers a history of this short-lived program but considers its long-term consequences for the women who participated and subsequent generations of servicewomen and activists.

Myers shows us how those in the WASP program bonded through their training, living together in barracks, sharing the dangers of risky flights, and struggling to be recognized as military personnel, and the friendships they forged lasted well after the Army Air Force dissolved the program. Despite the WASP program's short duration, its fliers formed activist networks and spent the next thirty years lobbying for recognition as veterans. Their efforts were finally recognized when President Jimmy Carter signed a bill into law granting WASP participants retroactive veteran status, entitling them to military benefits and burials.

About the Author

Sarah Parry Myers is assistant professor of history at Messiah University.
For more information about Sarah Parry Myers, visit the Author Page.

Reviews

"An inspiring story of women who, though dismissed by many as mere novelties, combatted public suspicions and fears, subterfuge, and congressional resistance as they demanded an opportunity to serve in World War II and then waged an even longer war to be recognized as veterans. [This book] returns a fierce group of women pilots to their rightful place in history, at the center of vital questions about the meanings of women's wartime service."—Kara Dixon Vuic, author of The Girls Next Door: Bringing the Home Front to the Front Lines

"By introducing us to the WASPs, Myers reminds us that equating 'veteran' with 'combat' misunderstands the highly technical nature of modern US warfare. WASPs didn't just free men for combat but brought an essential skill to the US military."—Heather Marie Stur, University of Southern Mississippi

"An excellent contribution to women's history, aviation history, and military history."—Lynn Dumenil, author of The Second Line of Defense: American Women and World War I

"Myers's work illustrates that servicewomen today are the latest generation of women in the air, and their position has been strengthened by the work that WASPs undertook to achieve recognition of their roles."—Tanya L. Roth, author of Her Cold War: Women in the U.S. Military, 1945–1980