WASHINGTON, May 13 (UPI) -- Congress approved a bill allowing female pilots who flew domestic missions in warplanes during World War II to be inurned in Arlington National Cemetery.
About 1,700 women, members of the Women Airforce Service Pilots, or WASP, flew bombers, fighter planes and other aircraft between U.S. airfields during World War II. They were recruited and trained to alleviate a shortage of male pilots engaged in overseas combat missions, and ferried cargo, training targets and planes in the United States. Thirty-eight female pilots died in the service.
WASP members were regarded as civilian volunteers and ineligible for inurnment of their ashes in Arlington National Cemetery until a 1977 law recognized their service and status as war veterans. The policy was revoked in 2015 by the U.S. Army, which cited limited space in the nation's military cemetery. The new law, which awaits President Barack Obama's signature, will open the cemetery to WASP members' cremated remains.
About 100 WASP members are still alive.
The bill was sponsored in the Senate by Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., and Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa. The House version was sponsored by Rep. Martha McNally, R-Ariz.