According to a report by The Associated Press, women pilots who served in World War II saw their chance to be buried at the Arlington National Cemetery revoked early last year. The so-called WASPs (Women Airforce Service Pilots) were part of a special program from 1942 to 1944, where they flew noncombat missions so male pilots would be freed up for combat. They were granted official veteran status in 1977 and since 2002 were mistakenly permitted to have their ashes placed with military honors at Arlington. However, in early 2015, then-secretary of the Army John McHugh ruled that WASPs, along with other World War II veterans classified as “active duty designees” were ineligible for the honor. “These women have been fighting this battle, off and on, for over 50 years now,” said Terry Harmon, the daughter of former WWII veteran and WASP Elaine Harmon, who passed away at age 95, and had lead the effort to gain recognition for the WASPS. A spokesman for the Army explained that the cemetery superintendent never had the authority under federal law to allow these female pilots into the cemetery in the first place, as Arlington is run by the Army and WASPs were only eligible for burial at cemeteries run by the Department of Veteran Affairs. However, Kate Landdeck, a Texas Woman’s University history professor who has devoted much of her research to the WASPs, said it was unclear to her why the Army would go out of its way to revoke this right from “a distinct group of women, with the surviving 100-or-so women all in their 90s.” She added, “It is just mean-spirited for the Secretary of the Army to question their value to their country. Again.”
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