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By Elliott Francis
Wednesday, members of the Women’s Air Force Service Pilots organization will be given the country’s highest civilian honor. They are civilian pilots who flew non-combat missions for the military during World War II.
Four F-15’s are flying the missing man salute, which in this case might be more appropriately named, the missing woman salute.
When first formed in 1943, approximately 1,000 women pilots were trained to fly for the army air corps. They were assigned to operational flights, transporting planes or cargo and sometimes towing targets for live artillery practice. They never flew in combat, but 38 women died in aerial mishaps while flying in world war two.
During the ceremony Vice Admiral Vivian Crea remembered their service.
“They have demonstrated a courage which is sustained not by the fevers of combat, but by the steady heartbeat of faith. Faith in the rightness of our cause and the importance of the work to the men who do go into combat,” says Crea.
All 38 names were read as a wreath was laid at the foot of the air force memorial.
On March 10, 2010, Women’s Air Force Service Pilots received the Congressional Gold Medal during a ceremony on Capitol Hill.