Rose Parade Honors WASPs

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70 years after their groundbreaking service, a Rose Parade float carrying eight former Women Air Force Service Pilots (WASP) and accompanied by numerous active women pilots honored the accomplishments of the women who flew for their country in World War II. Dominated by a floral replica of the AT-6 advanced trainer flown by all WASPs during training, the float included 38 stars representing the 38 WASPs who gave their lives in service, a rotating hexagon with historical pictures and the Fifinella symbol created for the WASP by Disney studios. According to the Pasadena Star-News, the road to the Rose Parade for the float was not easy, with fundraising and work on the float going on to the last minute.

Formed to free up male pilots for combat, the WASP organization was created in 1942 over bitter opposition by those opposed to women as military pilots. Technically, they were civilians flying Army airplanes without military benefits—when a WASP was killed in service others had to pass the hat to raise the money to ship the body home. As reported by NBC News, it took until 1977 for WASPs to succeed in being granted veteran status. Out of just over 1000 original WASPs, in 2010 there were only about 300 still alive when the WASPs were awarded the Congressional Gold Medal. At the ceremony awarding the Medal, President Obama said, “The Women Air Force Service Pilots courageously answered their country’s call in a time of need while blazing a trail for the brave women who have given and continue to give so much in service to this nation.”