HOW THE WASP WON THEIR MILITARIZATION
From Sarah Byrn Rickman
Here’s a little-known piece of WASP militarization history!
Nancy Batson Crews – an original WAFS [the Women’s Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron that preceded the WASP] – served 1972-1975 as President of The Order of Fifinella , the Post-War organization established by the WASP.
During her time as president Nancy wrote a critical memorandum to all Women Airforce Service Pilots. She shared a copy of this document with this author back in 2000 when she was helping me write my first book, The Originals, the story of the 28 original WAFS (later WASP) who served in WWII. Recently, I rediscovered this document in my voluminous personal WASP archives! I’ve long known of Nancy’s early role in the WASP’s eventual militarization, but I’ve never heard anyone speak of her critical contribution. So, I am sharing the memorandum here for all to see.
Order of Fifinella Memorandum To All WASP
In 1975, Nancy wrote: The subject of WASP militarization is a matter of personal interest to all of us. It is of particular interest to those of us who joined the Reserve after the war and would like military credit for WASP time; to those of us who are Federal civil servants and would benefit from receiving veteran’s preference for job retention purposes; and for those of us who may have a need and could very well use veteran health benefits.
While there have been several separate (and valiant) efforts made by individual WASP to get Congressional approval for the item of specific application to them, I feel it is appropriate that one, coordinated and unified effort be made, under the aegis of the Order of Fifinella, with the aim of achieving veteran benefits for all. I therefore established a WASP Militarization Committee to take on this task.
General “Hap” Arnold’s son, Colonel W. Bruce Arnold, USAF (Ret) – whom you will remember was our special guest at the 30th Reunion (in Reno, Nevada) – graciously consented to chair this committee. Serving with him are WASP Faith Buchner Richards (Class 43-4), Dorothy Deane Ferguson (Class 44-9), and our Secretary-Treasurer, Mary Regalbuto Jones (Class 44-9). I will serve as ex-officio member of this committee.
“We Need Any ‘Special Influences’ You May Have”
I ask each of you to give your full and enthusiastic support to this committee by being responsive to any request you may receive from them. In addition, I would like to suggest that you pass on to Colonel Arnold any information, suggestions, and any special “influences” you may have that would help the committee. [His address followed.] On behalf of the Order of Fifinella, I would like to extend our thanks to the WASP who made the initial efforts (and at their own expense) to achieve militarization/credit for military time. To those women go our sincerest thanks for breathing life into a subject most of us had all but abandoned.
Sincerely, Nancy B. Crews, President, Order of Fifinella (1972-75)
It took two more years for the WASP to achieve militarization.
Bee Falk Haydu (WASP Class 44-7) followed Nancy as President of the Order of Fifinella, taking the reins in 1976. After a lot of work by the committee and the help of many WASP volunteers, President Jimmie Carter signed the WASP militarization bill Thanksgiving Day, November 23, 1977.
What An Achievement for the WASP!
Author Sally VanWagenen Keil (niece of a WASP) tells this story so well in her 1979 book, Those Wonderful Women in Their Flying Machines. Chapter XV, The Battle of the WASP, explores their wartime defeat at the hands of Congress, June 21, 1944. The WASP would have to wait 33 years to see this wrong righted. Keil’s Epilogue, The Year of the WASP, tells the rest of the story – what happened in 1977. A must read!
Next Wednesday, November 23 will mark 45 years since our beloved WASP were officially militarized. It was a long hard road. Only 17 WASP remain with us today to celebrate yet again what came about following Nancy’s memorandum. That’s why I wanted to share all this with you. In addition to Crews and Haydu – along with their dedicated, hard-working committee AND with Colonel Arnold’s many contributions – KUDOS to the many loyal WASP who joined in the fight for recognition, back in the day! It worked!!!
Remember the WASP and their hard-won victory on Thanksgiving Day. Add a “thank up for your service” to your “Turkey Day” remembrances.
Again, my thanks for Nancy Crews who shared this letter – and much much more – with me back in 2000.
 Fifinella is a “sprightly feminine gremlin” created by Walt Disney and “dispatched in January 1943 to be the mascot of the 319th Women’s Flying Training Detachment,” later to be known as the WASP. She is, to this day, the official WASP mascot. – From A View From the Doghouse by Celeste Graves (who was there!), Author House, 2004.
From Sarah: Thank you for reading my blog/newsletter and thank you for reading my 12 books about the WAFS/WASP of World War II !!! You can check them out here.