Congress has passed legislation that allows members of the Women Airforce Service Pilots of World War II, commonly known as WASP, a space in Arlington National Cemetery outside Washington. The cemetery is reserved for those who have served in the U.S. armed forces.
The women served a critical role during the war flying WWII aircraft for such missions as transport, flight test and target towing. Towing targets while being shot at with live ammunition was one of many potentially deadly missions assigned to the group. While they were not allowed to fly combat missions, it has been reported that 38 WASP died in service.
Despite their critical work in the 1940s, the WASP did not immediately receive any military benefits. It wasn’t until 1977 when the group was recognized as veterans. In 2010, the WASP received the Congressional Gold Medal. While most of the approximately 1,100 women who served under the program are now deceased, there are still about 100 alive today.
“I realize that at some point they are going to run out of space at Arlington. We understand that,” Congresswoman Martha McSally, who introduced the legislation, told NPR. “But look, when we are totally out of space … why would we not want to have the story of the WASP as part of that legacy?”