Bradley University is commemorating the life of a respected professor emeritus and World War II pilot.
99-year-old Mildred “Duke” Caldwell died in her Peoria home Friday.
Caldwell taught physical education at Bradley between 1955 and 1983. Most notably, she's one of the 1,100 women who flew with the Women’s Air Force Service Pilots program, known as WASP, during the second World War.
In 1942, WASP was launched as an experimental program to fill the void left by male pilots who left for the war. The young women, all volunteers, flew military aircraft, including the B-26 and B-29 bombers.
Just two years later, the program was abruptly canceled, but it proved that women were just as capable as men to pilot military aircraft.
In 2009, she received a Congressional Gold Medal from former Pres. Barack Obama for her service.
Bradley University President Wed. offered his condolences and ordered flags on campus to be flown at half staff for three days in Caldwell’s honor. At her request, there will be no formal funeral services.