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Archive for June, 2009

SPECIAL TRIBUTE

Honoring Forgotten WW II Heroes:

WASP

Women Airforce Service Pilots

 

 

INTRODUCTION

       Every Memorial and Veterans Day this country pays homage and respect to American’s Veterans for their service and sacrifice to this country.  Among those forgotten veterans and heroes are the women who became pilots during World War II.

      They were known as WASP (Women Airforce Service Pilots.) Their quest for proper recognition of their duty and service, and the earning of veteran’s status decades long overdue, is a story of courageous women who overcame many sexist obstacles at home as well as overseas.  The women of WASP deserve our undying respect for their contributions to this country.

  ORIGIN OF THE WASPS

      The Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP), and the predecessor groups the Women’s Flying Training Detachment (WFTD) and the Women’s Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron (WAFS) (from September 10, 1942) were pioneering organizations of civilian female pilots employed to fly military aircraft under the direction of the United States Army Air Force (USAAF) during World War II. The female pilots would number thousands, each freeing a male pilot for combat service and duties.  

     Two women in particular are famous and were instrumental in the formation of WASP.  By the summer of 1941, the famous women pilots Jacqueline “Jackie” Cochran and test-pilot Nancy Harkness Love independently submitted proposals for the use of female pilots for non-combat missions to the USAAF, the predecessor to the United States Air Force or USAF we know today. Jacqueline Cochran had served the British flying military aircraft for them after the outbreak of World War II in Europe. Cochran could see the writing on the wall. It was only a matter of time before the United States would be dragged into WW II.

      The initial motivation was to free male pilots for combat roles by employing qualified female pilots on missions such as ferrying aircraft from factories to military bases, and towing drones and aerial targets. Just prior to Pearl Harbor, General “Hap” Arnold, commander of the USAAF, had turned down both proposals. However, by the summer of 1942, Arnold (who later became the very first 5-star general of the USAF) was willing to consider the prior proposals seriously.

      Cochran and Love’s squadrons were initially established separately: as the 319th Women’s Flying Training Detachment (WFTD) at Municipal Airport (now Hobby Airport) in Houston, Texas, with Jackie Cochran as commanding officer, and the Women’s Ferrying Squadron (WAFS) at New Castle (Delaware) Army Air Base (now Castle Airport) respectively in 1942 and then merged to form the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) in July 1943.

      WASP training spanned 19 groups of women including the Originals, or WAFS lead by Nancy Lowe, and The Guinea Pigs, Jacqueline Cochran’s first of 18 classes of women pilots. The WASP women pilots already had a pilot’s license. They were trained to fly “the army way” by the U.S. Army Air Force at Avenger Field in Sweetwater, Texas. More than 25,000 women applied for WASP service, and less than 1,900 were accepted. After completing months of military flight training, 1,078 of them earned their wings and became the first women in history to fly American military aircraft.

 WHAT DID THEY ACCOMPLISH?

       After training the WASP were stationed at 120 air bases across the U.S. assuming numerous flight-related missions, relieving male pilots for combat duty. They flew sixty million miles of operational flights from aircraft factories to ports of embarkation and military bases, towing targets for live anti-aircraft artillery practice, simulated staffing missions, and transporting cargo.

      Almost every form of aircraft was flown by the USAAF during World War II, including the early U.S. jet aircraft, was also flown by women in these roles. Between September 1942 and December 1944, the WASP delivered 12,650 aircraft (78 different types). Over fifty percent of the ferrying of combat aircraft within the United States during the war was carried out by WASP, under the leadership of Jacqueline Cochran.

 THE LONG ROAD FROM DISCRIMINATION TO DIGNITY AND RECOGNITION

      Thirty-eight WASP fliers lost their lives during the war. Because they were not considered to be in the military under the existing guidelines, a fallen WASP was sent home at family expense without traditional military honors or note of heroism. The military would not even allow the U.S. flag to be put on the fallen WASP pilots. On June 21, 1944 the United States House of Representatives voted to give the WASP military status. The Bill was narrowly defeated. After that, General Hap Arnold ordered the WASP be disbanded by December 20, 1944. This strange odyssey doesn’t end here. All records of the WASP were classified and sealed for 35 years, so their contributions to the war effort were little known and inaccessible to historians for many years. However, in 1975 under the leadership of Bruce Arnold, son of General Hap Arnold, the WASP fought the “Battle of Congress” in Washington, D.C., to belatedly obtain recognition as veterans of World War II. They organized again as a group and again tried to gain public support for their official recognition. Finally, in 1977, with the important support of Senator Barry Goldwater (who himself had been a ferry pilot during WWII), President Carter signed legislation #95-202, Section 401, The G.I. Improvement Act of 1977, granting the WASP corps full military status for their service. In 1984 each WASP was awarded the World War II Victory Medal. Those who served for more than one year were also awarded American Theater Ribbon/American Campaign Medal for their service during the war. Many of the medals were received by their sons and daughters on their behalf.

 2009—A LANDMARK YEAR FOR WASP

      A bill (S. 614) unanimously passed in the United States Senate to award WWII Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) the Congressional Gold Medal. Some 75 Senators co-sponsored this bill, including all 17 women in the Senate. Upon passage of the companion bill, H.R. 2014, in the U.S. House of Representatives, the bill will then go to the President for final approval. Of the women who received their wings in WASP, approximately 300 are living today. The Congressional Gold Medals will be awarded to all pilots and/or their surviving family members. Every American living today owes a debt of gratitude to the courageous women who served as pilots in World War II. Next Veterans Day think of them as well as all the other military veterans who have served their country.   

 WEBSITES AND RESOURCES

      The following information below was obtained from the “WASP on the Web” website. This site along with the The National WASP WWII Museum in Sweetwater, Texas, are worth visiting to pay your respects to the courageous women who, without fanfare or much initial recognition, served our country so gallantly.

R E M E M B E R | T H E | W A S P

During World War II, a select group  of young women pilots became pioneers, heroes, and role models…They were the Women Airforce Service Pilots, WASP, the first women in  history trained to fly  American military aircraft.  In memory of those we have lost and in honor of those we still cherish… WELCOME TO WASP on the WEB, a site dedicated to sharing the history of the Women Airforce Service Pilots of World War II, and shining a light on the inspirational stories of their lives before, during and after WWII.


“This is not a time when women should be patient.  We are in a war and we need to fight it with all our ability and every weapon possible.  WOMEN PILOTS, in this particular case, are a weapon waiting to be used.”      
Eleanor Roosevelt, 1942


“You don’t need legislation to prove something…you can be whatever you set your heart and head to be, and don’t let anybody tell you can’t be, because 1078 women pilots did it in World War II.”   
WASP Annelle  Henderson  Bulechek  44-W-2


“If the nation ever again needs them, American women will respond.  Never again will they have to prove they can do any flying job the military has. Not as an experiment. Not to fill in for men. They will fly as commissioned officers in the future Air Force of the United States with equal pay – hospitalization – insurance – veterans’ benefits.

THE WASP HAVE EARNED IT FOR THESE WOMEN OF THE FUTURE”
WASP Byrd Howell Granger, 43-W-1
p. 476 “ON FINAL APPROACH”

 

The following books are recommended to read about the WASPs.

 Granger, Byrd Howell. On Final Approach: The Women Airforce Service Pilots of W.W.II. Falconer Publishing Company, 1991.

 Haynsworth, Leslie, and David Toomey.  Amelia Earhart’s Daughters. William Morrow & Company, 1998.

 Merryman, Molly. Clipped Wings: The Rise and Fall of the Women Airforce Service Pilots. New York University, 2001.

 Schrader, Helena. Sisters in Arms: British and American Women Pilots During World War II. Pen and Sword Books, 2006.

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The Never-Ending Abortion Issue:

The Cultural Conflict of Social Values, Politics and Science 

 Introduction

 Abortion is one of the most troubling and hotly debated issues of our time. It is never-ending because literally many decades have gone by with no sign on the horizon that the issue will be resolved soon. Abortion is a very complex issue because it (a medical procedure) is so intimately intertwined with two aspects of life: (1) the definition of life, and (2) the social value one places on life itself in so many different social contexts.

Weighing the social value of life is at the heart of the abortion issue. But the value of life per se seems to be the focal point of many other social issues. Many issues today, not only abortion, are coping and dealing with value that is placed on life itself. These issues include: the death penalty, slaughtering animals so we can all buy meat or aquatic vertebrate fish in our local grocery stores, stem cell research, the use of animals for medical research, killing an enemy combatant in war, and, of course, ending the life of the terminally ill.

In addition, there is the highly personal issue of suicide, the taking of one’s own life. Lastly, there is premeditated murder which ends the life of 20,000+ lives of victims each year in the United States. All of these related issues to abortion center around how we value life as a society. While most of these life issues relate to “Post-Womb” life, only abortion and stem cell research deal with the additional issue of the “definition of life.”

But let’s get back to the heart of this Blog article: the cultural conflict between social values, politics and science as they relate to the abortion issue.  And, a related question one has to ask is how does science and logical analysis help to throw any light on an issue that is so sensitive as abortion? I have a few thoughts about this so I will get started.

The Issue

The crux of the abortion issue seems to come down to two opposing sides. They include, “a woman’s right to choose” fostered by liberals and woman’s groups, versus “a right to life” fostered by conservatives and Rright-to-Life groups. One of the long-standing groups against abortion has been the Catholic Church. However, many Catholics worldwide, and others, want to overturn the Catholic Church’s long-standing ban on abortion. Maintaining the ban rather than accepting some alternative course of action violates one of the Church’s basic tenets—belief in the sanctity of life. This is an appeal to tradition more than anything else. It is also an appeal to faith, particularly faith in the righteousness of the Church’s position taken.

While many people believe in the sanctity of life, it may actually be that more lives would ultimately be saved if abortions were not banned. This hypothesis is as yet untested. However, one can hypothesize that protecting life through banning abortion may not necessarily protect the sanctity of life any better than the alternative course of action to overturn the ban. Better availability of birth control measures, better health care and job/or monetary assistance for unwed mothers, and family and individual counseling, and psychotherapy for both unwed mothers and unwed fathers, might go a long way toward saving unborn children from death, as well as saving the lives of more women from the clutches of illegal abortion clinics, and the unsavory who want to profit from the social problem of abortion. Many married women use abortion as a substitute alternative to birth control, thus terminating the life of the unborn because of convenience.

The biological definition of life is very consistent with the social definition of human life as espoused by Right-to-Life groups. In the 1940s and 1950s a common social definition of life was that, “life begins at conception.” The best definition of what a living organism is—is a scientific one. Although no one agrees on the social definition of life, there are generally accepted biological manifestations that life exhibits the following phenomena: Organization, Metabolism, Growth, Adaptation, Response to Stimuli, and Reproduction.

 All six characteristics are required for a population to be considered a life form. Fetuses, in the earliest of their development, manifest all six characteristics. So why then is there such social conflict over the issue of abortion? If biologists have given us a definition of life that is correct, then why is our social definition of life in the 1940s and 1950s so out of whack now?

The answer appears to be political, not scientific or data-driven. It’s all about changing social underlying values that often masquerade in political debates as objective argumentation.

The Rocky Road Ahead

Abortion is, of course, a very complex issue riddled with value judgments on both sides of the issue. A Women’s right to choose is more than a slogan. Feminists and abortion rights groups also reject any alternative proposals (from their organizational power structure and authority) that would seek to politically protect the unborn. Who speaks for the unborn politically, if not the church and Right-to-Life groups?

What makes this issue of abortion so beguiling is that the only perceived way groups can assure the rights of their own group is by denying the rights of some other group. This entrenchment on both sides of the issue implies that logic and reasoning are the enemies of both sides; values and value judgments dominate the social landscape of the debate over abortion. The biological definition of what life is seems to carry very little weight compared to the social definition of life some groups want to change for their own particular advantage.

By changing the social definition of life from conception to birth, this change in definition has a profound effect on the debate over abortion. Those for and against abortion prefer to use their own definition of when life begins. It is unfortunately a debate where definitions of when life begins, logic, reasoning and data are clearly at odds with a divided public. It is for these reasons that the issue of abortion is unlikely to be resolved any time soon.

It is worth noting that the value of life has always been dictated by social context. That is, conservatives overwhelmingly tend to support the death penalty and willingness to take a person’s life, yet form the major support group against abortion. Liberals tend to support a ban or moratorium on the death penalty, yet have no problem terminating the life of the unborn. Liberals tend to accept the right to die claims of the terminally ill, and conservatives and the Catholic Church see it wrong or sinful. Both liberals and conservatives buy meat or fish at their local corner grocery store and both don’t seem to have any problem terminating life among other species in the animal kingdom. Both liberals and conservatives serving in a war zone overwhelmingly are willing to take the life of an enemy combatant. Conscientious objectors are indeed a rare breed.

All these observations aside, there is no absolute valuing of life. It appears to be regulated by the social context of the situation. Currently, with Roe versus Wade, abortion advocates have won the legal debate over abortion. As a result a universal standard for the value of unborn life may never be achieved in our lifetime.

For this writer, I understand the value conflicts of the many different groups in society. Why, because I harbor some of the same conflicts in my own life. In my reverie I dream of a world where at least all human life is thought worthy of value. Yet, I harbor a willingness to kill all disease-carrying insects, rodents and vermin. The unbridled support of all life forms is impossible to achieve and perhaps never will be. As a human being I wish I was better than this. Unfortunately, I’m not and neither are you.

If I knew what the evolutionary path ahead for mankind holds maybe I could make better decisions about the value of life. But it’s not possible to know in advance where mankind is headed. As chaotic as it is for me to predict the future I share one thing with the unborn fetus. The path to survival or the future is never clear. And that’s another reason why the abortion issue is indeed—never-ending.

 

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