WWII female pilots are close to regaining lost burial rights


Women who served in World War II as Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) aren't allowed to be buried in Arlington National Cemetery – a 624 acre cemetery honoring more than 400,000 service members and their families (that's about the population of Minneapolis).

But Congress is fighting for the women's rights, having passed a bill that guarantees any remaining women pilots can be buried in the national cemetery, Sen. Amy Klobuchar tells ABC 6.

The senator has been a strong advocate for those rights. And she credits a Faribault woman for helping her understand why this is so important.

Betty Strohfus used to be a WASP. In fact, MPR said earlier this year she was one of the very first women pilots.

According to Sen. Klobuchar, Betty had ferried B-17 bombers across the country and taught male cadets how to fly.

But unlike her male counterparts, Betty was not given the choice to be buried in the national cemetery.

Following her service, Betty advocated for the few former pilots still alive, saying they should be "treated like the other veterans," MPR reported.

But in March, at age 96, Betty died.

Klobuchar says she hopes the bill that was passed this week will move quickly to President Barack Obama's desk so that it can be signed into law.

History of WASP rights

According to the Military Times, it took until 1977 – decades after WWII – for WASPs to even be considered veterans.

But they still weren't allowed in Arlington National Cemetery.

The women continued to fight for the same recognition as their male counterparts. And in 2002, the women were granted the option to be buried there.

That option was short-lived, though.

Just last year, the Army revoked those rights, saying WASPs didn't meet the requirements.

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