The National WWII Museum in New Orleans has awarded Bernice “Bee” Falk Haydu — WWII WASP (Women Air Force Service Pilot) — its 2018 Silver Service Medallion. The award is given to veterans and those with a direct connection to World War II who have served our country with distinction and continue to lead by example.
The Medallion was bestowed during a June 8 luncheon as part of the Museum’s annual American Spirit Awards, presented by Hancock Whitney. Along with Haydu, the Silver Service Medallion was presented to WWII veteran Lt. General Victor “Brute” Krulak USMC (Ret.) — who received the award posthumously — and his son, Vietnam veteran Gen. Charles C. Krulak USMC (Ret.), past Commandant of the Marine Corps and member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Bee Haydu has been a champion of advancing the WASP legacy as the first women to fly military aircraft in the US Army Air Force during World War II. During the war, Haydu completed a seven-month training program and was on track to fly B-25s, but the WASP were disbanded in December 1944, prior to the war’s end. She is a member of the Aviation Hall Fame and her original WASP uniform is on display at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington, DC.
As President of the WASP organization from 1975 to 1978, Haydu led the fight in Congress to acknowledge the WASP as veterans of World War II, as had been promised. And she won: President Jimmy Carter signed a bill in November 1977 recognizing WASP as WWII veterans. In 2009, she witnessed President Barack Obama sign a bill into law awarding the WASP the Congressional Gold Medal.
Haydu has also been awarded the Wright Brothers Master Pilot Award by the Federal Aviation Administration in 2014 and an Honorary Doctorate Degree by the Vaughn College of Aeronautics in Flushing, New York, in May 2015. She’s the author of “Letters Home 1944-1945: Women Air Force Service Pilots, World War II,” which includes letters she wrote to her mother during the war.
Her passion for flying continued even after the WASP run ended, and she went on to become a flight instructor, owner of a Cessna dealership and even part-owner of a flight school. She and her late husband, Joseph Haydu—also a pilot—continued to fly into their late 70s and owned 28 different types of planes.
“Bee Haydu is an American hero and aviation pioneer who served our country with distinction and honor during World War II,” said Stephen J. Watson, President & CEO at The National WWII Museum. “She and her fellow Women Air Force Service Pilots broke gender barriers in the military and became role models for the generations of women that followed. We were proud to present her with the Silver Service Medallion for all that she has accomplished.”
The American Spirit Awards recognizes individuals who best exemplify the outstanding qualities of the American spirit, including teamwork, optimism and determination. It is a multiday celebration that culminates in a formal awards gala on the Museum’s campus. Proceeds from the American Spirit Awards support educational programming at The National WWII Museum, including the ongoing development of classroom materials and professional-development opportunities for teachers in schools across the country, as well as online experiences that bring the Museum and its resources to students around the world.