BROOMFIELD, Colo. (5/22/10) – The Adjutant General of Colorado, Maj. Gen. H. Michael Edwards, spoke at a ceremony, May 22 as Sen. Mark Udall and Congressman Jared Polis, both of Colorado, present a Congressional Gold Medal to Mrs. Josephine Kater Robinson for her service as a Women Airforce Service Pilot in World War II from 1944-1945.
The Congressional Gold Medal was approved for the WASP by Congress January 6, 2009, in Congressional Bill S.614, and is now being presented to former WASP members across the country, both in person and posthumously.
The WASPs were not officially recognized by the military for their service until the 1970s, so this award, the highest award Congress can present to civilians, is an effort to honor them for their courage and bravery, as they led the way for women in aviation and in the military.
“I just loved flying. To me it sounded very fascinating and it was something I could do for the cause, to be a part of it,” Robinson said of the war effort. She trained as a WASP and was stationed at Avenger Field in Sweetwater, Texas, which is now home to the National WASP World War II Museum.
WASPs were paid $250 per month, with no benefits. “We went in not for the money; we went in because the boys were away, and they needed more help,” Robinson said.
The women had to pay for their lodging and food, and they pooled their money to ship home the remains of fellow WASPs who died in service, since it wasn’t paid for by the government.
“For me it is a great honor to speak at this ceremony,” said Edwards. “I am a fan of history and a pilot. Their service is truly incredible, as they broke many barriers and led the way for women and diversity in the military. While we, in the Colorado National Guard, celebrate 150 years of service to our state and nation, heritage has never been more on our minds. It is critical to remember the efforts of all who have sacrificed to make this great nation.”
Congressional Bill S.614 states that more than 25,000 women applied for training, but only 1,830 were accepted and took the oath. Of those, 1,074 graduated from the Army Air Forces flight training course and received their Army Air Forces orders. WASPs were eventually stationed at 120 Army air bases across America.
During the existence of the WASPs, 38 women lost their lives while serving their country, but even still, their story was missing from the history of America – until now.