WASP Pilots Eligible For Burial at Arlington National Cemetery

Women of the WASP are now eligible to be buried at Arlington National Cemetery thanks to new bipartisan legislation.

After years of debate, President Barack Obama signed a bill on Friday that allows women of the WASP (Women Airforce Service Pilots) to be laid to rest at America’s hallowed Arlington National Cemetery.


Frances Green, Margaret (Peg) Kirchner, Ann Waldner and Blanche Osborn during WASP flight training at Lockbourne Army Air Field, Ohio

As a paramilitary organization, the WASP’s were not granted veteran benefits until 1977. In 2002, they were approved be buried at Arlington National Cemetery, but this was revoked in 2015 by then-Army Secretary John McHugh, after lawyers determined that civilian WASP pilots did not meet Arlington’s burial requirements.


Florene Watson prepares for a ferrying flight in a P-51 Mustang


Elizabeth L. Gardner poses for the camera before a transport flight of a B-26 Marauder

In a statement, Arlington officials said the women did not “reach the level of Active Duty service required” to be buried at the cemetery. They went on to say that space at Arlington is limited and it is projected the cemetery will run out of room in 20 years.

The new bill, signed into law by President Obama, will allow WASP pilots to be laid to rest at the cemetery.

“The Women Airforce Service Pilots courageously answered their country’s call in a time of need while blazing a trail for the brave women who have given and continue to give so much in service to this nation since,” stated the President. “Every American should be grateful for their service, and I am honored to sign this bill to finally give them some of the hard-earned recognition they deserve.”

1074 women flew with the WASPs from 1942 until December 1944 when the organization was disbanded. The women delivered aircraft from factories to military bases, towed aerial targets for gunnery practice and transported cargo. They flew over 60 million miles and delivered 12,650 aircraft of 78 different types to the military. 38 women were killed while serving with the WASPs. Because they were not part of the military, the Army would not allow a US flag to be placed over their coffins or pay for burial expenses.

For More About the WASPS Check out:

Wasps: Women Airforce Service Pilots of World War II

To Live and Die a WASP: 38 Women Pilots Who Died in WWII

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