An oversight that lasted far longer than it should have was partly corrected Wednesday with U.S. lawmakers awarding their highest honor, the Congressional Gold Medal, to the women who served the nation as as Women Airforce Service Pilots or WASPs during World War II.
It was a bittersweet ceremony — it celebrated the long-ignored contributions of women who did dangerous work as part of the war effort, testing and ferrying war planes and flying targets for artillery gunners. But there was also the admission that the recognition came too late for many WASPs who've already passed away.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said:
Answering our country's call, the WASPs demonstrated courage and patriotism and excellence and competence. Their bravery inspires and awes us; their success allowed the success of generations since and generations to come.
Today, the accomplishments of the WASPs will be writ large in our nation's history. But as others have said, we know that this day comes too late for some. Let us remember the WASPs who have left us before they could receive this honor.
We acknowledge that for too long the proud service of the WASPs was not recognized - in word, or in deed. As the resolution says today: 'There were no honors, no benefits, and very few thank yous.'
NPR's Susan Stamberg, did a lovely piece, a curtain-raiser as we journalists call it, on Morning Edition earlier in the week in anticipation of Wednesday's ceremony. Meanwhile, All Things Considered reported on the gold-medal event after the fact.