Air legend Betty Strohfus dies at 96

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz greets Betty Wall Strohfus of Faribault, Minn., on Capitol Hill on March 10, 2010, before she and other members of the Women Airforce Service Pilots were awarded the Congressional Gold Medal. (AP Photo/Lauren Victoria Burke)

Even though the country rectified the wrong it inflicted on hundreds of brave women in World War II, every American should feel a little pang of guilt still that women like Betty Wall Strohfus had to wait so long to be recognized as just as brave and just as honorable as any flyboy.

Strohfus, of Faribault, died this morning. She was one of the first WASPs, the female pilots who ferried airplanes and towed targets for the guys on the ground who couldn’t shoot straight. Some men were so dead set against women as pilots that they put sugar in the planes’ gas tanks.

She quit her job the day after Pearl Harbor and did her part. Part of her job was taking planes up to be sure they were safe enough for men to fly.

That wasn’t good enough for Northwest Airlines, which wouldn’t give her a flying job when the war was over. And it wasn’t good enough for the United States, which wouldn’t recognize her and other women as having been in the military. They were denied benefits that men got until 1977.

Betty Strohfus wanted WASPs to have the right to be buried at Arlington National Cemetery, but it’s not allowed, despite the effort of some politicians to change the rule preventing it.

“It means a lot to me to be treated as the other veterans are treated,” Strohfus said in January. “You know, we haven’t been treated like the other veterans, and I think it’s too bad. We were kind of like the off-shot — if they needed us, they’d come and get us. But otherwise they didn’t really want women to fly.”

Strohfus is survived by several generations of women who fly airplanes, and a country that could be a little more appreciative than it has been.

Related: America said women can’t fly; MN aviator didn’t listen (NewsCut)