WASPs to get Congressional Gold Medals

Time for another feel good story. This one comes from a proud but little 'ol lady in Oroville, CA. She definitely deserves what she is getting, and to be in such rare company is fitting. I would so love to hear her stories! Anywho, Enjoy!


Oroville woman to get medal for WWII pilot service

Published Tuesday, Aug. 25, 2009

OROVILLE - Henrietta Speckels Sproat was among the small cadre of women who bucked enormous odds during Word War II to earn their flight wings and become WASPs.

Now almost 90, she and other members of that dwindling band of sky pioneers will receive the Congressional Gold Medal for service to their country.

In a recent interview at the Oroville home of her daughter, Debby Henderson, Sproat said she is thrilled by the honor, mainly because it recognizes one of the happiest periods of her life. Just hearing the phrase spoken out loud - Women Airforce Service Pilots - makes her beam.

“I really like how that sounds,” she said. “Sometimes I just go through the house saying it. How could I have found anything better?”

Being a WASP remains a high point of her long life - a chance to serve her country during a period of struggle, to prove her spirit and make lasting friends.

“To this day I’m thankful that I did what I did, that I had the opportunity to do so much,” she said. “I’m happy because I was there.”

Sproat hasn’t flown a plane in decades, but she still has the demeanor of a top-notch aviator. She’s calm and straightforward with an alert gaze that takes everything in.

She was a young woman working in a medical lab at Kelly Field in Texas when she discovered the WASP program. She had yearned to fly from an early age and used part of her salary to take the prerequisite flight lessons.

Getting into the program was one thing, staying quite another.

“You had to be very careful,” she said. “If you made just one mistake you would be a washout.”

Of 25,000 women who applied, only 1,830 were accepted into the program, and 1,074 earned their wings.

“You were in an area that demanded absolute perfection in what you did,” the Texas native said. “But you were so glad about being there, even though it was difficult.”

When the time came for her first solo flight, elation replaced any sense of fear.

“I was as happy as could be. I wanted to be able to do it over and over again,” she said, her blue eyes alight with the memory.

WASPs performed stateside duties that freed male pilots for overseas combat. They ferried aircraft from factories to shipping ports, flight-tested repaired planes, towed targets for ground and aerial gunnery practice and flew more than 70 types of aircraft, including the B-29.

The work was often dangerous; 38 of the women were killed during their service.

"My mother’s friend asked, ‘Are you really letting your daughter do this?’ " Sproat recalled. "My mother said, ‘If it’s OK with her, it’s OK with me.’ "

On Dec. 7, 1944, her class was the last one to graduate and the program was disbanded shortly afterward.

Sproat knows that she and the other WASPs were trailblazers for succeeding generations of women who wanted to be full-fledged military and commercial pilots. She still wishes she were young enough to be an astronaut.

In 1977, President Jimmy Carter signed a bill giving the women military recognition; they received veterans’ status in 1979.

While then-Henrietta Speckels trained at Avenger Field in Sweetwater, Texas, her beau, William Sproat, served in the military and wrote to her. At war’s end, they married and moved to Southern California, where they reared two daughters and a son.

Her husband died in 1976 after 31 years of marriage.

“I’ve been alone for a long time. But that’s OK,” she said. She filled her life with church volunteer work, travel and art. She entered shows and sold some of her pieces. In 1994 she moved to Oroville.

Sproat is eager to make the trip to Washington along with her family once officials set the date for the medal ceremony. She’ll join other WASPs and renew bonds that have lasted more than six decades through correspondence and numerous reunions.

“Oh, the stories they tell!” she said.


its too bad they are getting it from osama, i mean obama.
maybe they can request to get it from a bank security guard or a local night watchman at an overnight parking lot.

Well done ladys either way.

My sentiments, too.

Glad they are getting the medal. It’s a shame it’s from a Obama - a person without any military background nor any sense of what these women (hell, the nation, for that matter) went through in WW2.


I wanted to keep politics OUT of this, everyone. Besides, should it matter about a President’s military experience, let alone it being a requirement for the office, if Presidents like Adams, Madison, Monroe, Harrison, Fillmore, and FDR had none?

Besides… let’s not take away what accomplishments this lady has done; and honestly, if we were women, we’d be hardpressed to do the same as she.


You can leave politics out of it if you want, I choose not to. Obama is more anti military than anybody who has ever lived in the white house. Receiving a military award from Obama is tantamount to a child receiving a good citizen award from a child molester. its just not right.

When I graduated nursing school, I got to choose who gives me my License, I don’t have to use one of my worthless instructors. I would like to see the medal recipients get to choose who awards them the medal, that’s all. Most students choose a family member that inspired them to be a nurse in the first place.

Receiving an award that means so much to you from someone that your accomplishments mean so little to, doesn’t cut it.

Well, seeing that the person who would award the medal would be the Commander-in-Chief, as they were military, there is only one option, isn’t there? Carter can’t do it, as he gave them military recognition, and he isn’t in Office.

What would you rather do, wait another 3 to 7 years, and possibly DIE before they get recognized? Way to go to award someone for their service. :unamused:

Receiving an award that means so much to you from someone that your accomplishments mean so little to, doesn’t cut it.

I’m not in the mood to argue, so you can take your soapbox elsewhere. Just enjoy the story. Too bad trying to pass on something feelgood was just made futile. :unamused:


Each of these women deserve this decoration for their service to our country. Things like this contributed to the war effort more than we’ll ever know.

Incidentally, FDR was Assistant Secretary of the Navy, which, though an appointed position, could count for something.

Exactly. And for someone to say that they should wait for a President who has ‘military experience’ is very bloody petty, as all of the women left could be dead before that time arrives. Keep in mind that at one time, there was at least a 30 year gap between Presidents who had ‘military experience or background’ (John Adams to Andrew Jackson).

Incidentally, FDR was Assistant Secretary of the Navy, which, though an appointed position, could count for something.

Fair enough.

But to say that Obama has no sense of what they went through, Bush surely doesn’t either; He was just another Fortunate Son, as John Fogerty wrote.

Either way, let’s not take anything away from what these women have done, and besides… they’ve done more than all of us here combined have; until we have, we have no room to talk about their accomplishments, the President, or otherwise.


Speak for yourself, there a quite a few vets on this forum. JHEM comes to mind.

I’m not saying they should wait for a rep pres, I’m saying it should be their choice, let them choose who recognizes them. And i’m not the one who made it political, the politician giving the award did. Obama is only doing it because he wants to be recognized for recognizing something that happened before he was born ,and in a country that he isn’t even a legal citizen of. That’s like using our money to give away and then he wants the credit for giving us something. Thanks, but no thanks.

Please don’t start this legal citizen crap here. In fact, save it for some other political forum. FA doesn’t need it. If Obama isn’t a citizen when his birth certificate has already been gone over many times by those that need to, McCain sure as hell isn’t a citizen either, being born in PANAMA, yet they let him run for President, didn’t they?

Next thing, I’ll bet you’ll say that if she ran for President, Nicole Kidman isn’t American citizen because of her being raised in Australia, despite being born in HAWAII. Wow… same as Obama, no?

Let it die. Better yet, let it die somewhere else, or take the plaint somewhere else. FA doesn’t need it…


Guys, these people are dying at depressing rate. I salute this woman, and her colleagues. Let’s leave politics out of this, and remember, we are the last generation to have these incredible people in our midst. Its awesome to know that when I go out to preflight my jet on a nice morning, I have WWII B-17 commanders watching ME in awe while watching from their lawn chairs. They know me by name. I’m the guy that always hands them a cold coke in the morning, and a cold beer in the afternoon, to me that is rewarding beyond belief, these saviors of humanity, take the time to thank me?? No matter how much of a rush I am in, I ALWAYS make time to let them know that I am in awe of what they have done to allow me to do my job.

They truly are the “Greatest Generation” and we will, God-willing, never know the sacrifices they have made for all of us. So take the political BS and shove it just this once. The opportunity to honor these women is declining very quickly.

God Bless you, Ms. Sproat, from a grateful, and indebted nation!

Amen. Very well said! :smiley:


After all is said and done, what it boils down to is that the WASPs should have gotten their medals many, many years ago!

I just thought I bring the same statement over here from the The end of Camelot . . . (The Kennedy’s) thread. Seems like the very same people are embarrassing them self over here too.

Please don’t pollute this thread with this crap. Let’s not dishonor the honorable, eh?