SBOE Seeks Removal of ‘WASPs’ From WW2 Curriculum in Texas

By Morgan Montalvo

WOAI News 

Proposed  social studies curriculum changes by the decidedly conservative State  Board of Education could delete from U.S. History books in Texas the  accomplishments of a group of female pilots whose skills and daring  contributed to America’s victory in World War Two, WOAI News reports. 

The  recommendation to remove references to the Women Airforce Service  Pilots, or “WASPs” from elementary-level instruction is part of what the  board calls a “streamlining” of social studies learning objectives,  according to a statement issued by the appointed body. 

WASPs  were civilian female pilots who petitioned the War Department to serve  Stateside in a variety of non-combat aviation roles. The women, almost  all of whom were highly accomplished pilots, ferried aircraft from  factories to military bases, test-flew new airplanes, towed targets for  gunnery trainees, and performed related duties that freed male military  fliers for assignment to war zones.  

Ann  Hobing, CEO of the WASP Museum near Sweetwater in North Texas where the  women earned their distinctive “diamond” wings, says omitting the  intrepid aviatrixes from state history standards would dishonor their  struggle, sacrifices and legacy.

 “If  this content is removed from Texas classrooms, that’s an entire  generation that is not going to hear about these World War Two heroes,”  says Hobing. 

The  WASP program grew out of earlier efforts to organize experienced female  pilots for wartime service. Prolonged lobbying of top U.S. Army Air  Force commanders by cosmetics executive and race pilot Jaqueline  Cochrane led to the creation of the WASPs under her supervision. 

More than 25,000 women applied to become WASPs. Ultimately, 1,074 of  more than 1,800 applicants chosen as candidates graduated from a  rigorous, four-month course that stressed military procedures at Avenger  Field, today the Sweetwater Municipal Airport and site of the museum.  

WASP flight training ended in December, 1944. 

Hobing  says, given the WASPs’ intimate ties to Texas, the recommendation to  strike them from the state curriculum is ironic and short-sighted. She  says students should learn early about role models who defy stereotypes  and succeed against ridicule and discrimination. 

“WASPs  came from all 50 states,” Hobing says. “The training ground for this  very important pioneering mission was here in Texas. As the home of the  WASPs, removing this from the Texas curriculum really could influence  other textbooks and other history classes throughout the country." 

During  the war, WASPs were considered civilians and not eligible for military  benefits, although they were stationed at 122 facilities across the  United States, wore distinctive blue uniforms. and flew every type of  aircraft in the U.S. military inventory in all types of weather.  Thirty-eight WASPs died in training mishaps or operational accidents. 

It took decades for the women fliers to be recognized for their  contributions to victory in World War two. Pres. Jimmy Carter signed the  G.I. Bill Improvement Act of 1977, which conferred veteran status upon  the WASPs. 

Two tears later WASPs received honorable discharges and,  based upon their time in the program, wartime campaign and victory  decorations.  President Barack Obama in 2009 signed legislation to award WASPs the Congressional Gold Medal. 

Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath and the State Board are accepting public comment, either in-person and online at 

https://form.jotform.com/81206305801142   through Nov. 13. 

Board members will vote on whether to remove the  WASPs and other items from Texas social studies curricula during their  Nov.13-16 meetings.

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