By Morgan Montalvo
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.