WASP. Makes you think of the bug, right? Or maybe a bunch of uptight white people?
Well, it also stands for "Women Airforce Service Pilots".
They were a pioneering organization of civilian, female pilots that were employed to fly the military aircraft during WW II. There were a little over 1,000 of them.
They flew only non combative missions, such as ferrying the aircraft from the factories, to the military bases, or towing the drones and aerial targets.
The women involved all had their commercial pilot rating, and they received 30 days of orientation to learn the Army paperwork, and to "fly by military regulations". Then they were assigned to various ferrying commands. The training took place in Sweetwater, Texas. More than 25,000 women applied, and less than 1900 were accepted. 1, 079 of them got their wings and became the first women to fly military aircraft, and they flew from 120 air bases from across the country, relieving male pilots for combat duty. They flew sixty million miles of operational flights, in practically every type of aircraft that was flown during WW II. Some of them were even allowed to test the rocket-propelled planes. Between September of 1942-December 1944, they delivered 12, 650 aircraft, of 78 different kinds.
Thirty eight of the WASP's lost their lives during this time, eleven in training, and twenty-seven of them during active duty. They were not considered to be "in" the military, and were sent home at the family expense, without even a flag for their coffins.
The ones that did survive did not receive any military benefits, either. Their records were sealed, classified, for thirty five years, so their contributions to the war effort were little known. In 1975, the WASPs went to Washington DC, to obtain recognition as veterans of World War II. They gained this in 1977. In 1984, they were given the WW II Victory Medal. Recently, they were given the Congressional Gold Medal. Roughly 300 of these women are surviving, now.