AOPA is supporting legislation in the House and Senate that would once again allow Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASPs) to have their ashes placed in Arlington National Cemetery. In Feb. 25 letters to the sponsors of H.R. 4336 and of S. 2437, AOPA President Mark Baker called WASPs “pioneers who serve as role models for today’s female pilots,” and said they should be allowed inurnment at Arlington for their service to the United States during World War II. Baker sent the letters in support of the Women Airforce Service Pilot Arlington Inurnment Restoration Act to the bills’ bipartisan cosponsors, Sens. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) and Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), and Reps. Martha McSally (R-Ariz.) and Susan Davis (D-Calif.).
The House Veterans Affairs Committee approved the bill by voice vote on Feb. 25. The House Armed Services Committee also must consider the bill before it can go to the full House for a vote. The bill currently has 148 bipartisan cosponsors in the House.
The Senate bill, which has been referred to the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, currently has 22 bipartisan cosponsors.
Between 1939 and 1944, the WASP program accepted 1,900 women who flew a wide range of missions for the military in order to free male pilots for combat during World War II. Those missions included testing newly built aircraft, towing gunnery targets, and transporting cargo.
But WASPs were not awarded full military status until 1977. In 2002, they were approved for inurnment at Arlington National Cemetery, but the Secretary of the Army reversed that decision in 2015.
A petition in support of the legislation is available online. The petition was started by the family of WASP Elaine Harmon and has gathered approximately 166,000 signatures to date.