General Holm remembered in ceremony at Arlington

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. J.G. Buzanowski
  • Secretary of the Air Force Public Affairs
The first female two-star general in both the Air Force and Department of Defense was laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery March 29.

Retired Maj. Gen. Jeanne M. Holm is credited as the single driving force in achieving equality for military women and making them a viable part of the mainstream military. She was a champion of diversity and advocate for equal rights for women.

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz and other senior leaders, active and retired, attended the funeral ceremony and internment.

After the service and burial, members of the Women in Military Service for America Memorial hosted a wake where friends and family members shared stories about the general.

"It's fitting that we're here remembering her," said retired Col. Yvonne Schilz in reference to the Women in Airforce Service Pilots display at the memorial. "Where the WASP cracked the glass ceiling, Jeanne blew it open for the rest of us. I was able to attend the Air Force Academy because of what she did.

"In some way, we just all want to give back to her, so this felt like the right place to be today," Colonel Schilz added.

Retired Brig. Gen. Wilma Vaught echoed the colonel's sentiments.

"She made my career in the Air Force possible," said General Vaught, president of the board of directors of the Women In Military Service For America Memorial Foundation, Inc. "She definitely knew how to get things done and it was amazing to see her work."

General Vaught shared several of her memories of her friend Jeanne, who was partially responsible for the creation of the women's memorial.

"She wanted to write a book about women in the military," General Vaught said. "In truth, she already had a lot of the work done."

General Holm authored two books: "Women in the Military: An Unfinished Revolution," which came out in 1982 and was updated in 1994; and four years later she wrote "In Defense of a Nation: Servicewomen in World War II."

During her 31-year career, General Holm accomplished much.

The Portland, Ore., native attained the rank of two-star general in 1973 after a career that began in 1942 when she enlisted in the Army. General Holm entered Women's Army Air Corps in January 1943 where she received a commission as third officer, the WAAC equivalent of second lieutenant.

General Holm also became the first woman to attend the Air Command and Staff School at Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala., in 1952.

She was promoted to brigadier general July 16, 1971, the first female Airman to be appointed to that grade. She was subsequently promoted to the grade of major general effective June 1, 1973, with date of rank of July 1, 1970, the first woman in the armed forces to serve in that grade.

In recognition of General Holm's pioneering career, Air Force officials renamed the Air Force Officer Accession and Training Schools at Maxwell AFB the Jeanne M. Holm Officer Accession and Citizen Development Center in June 2008. Its mission is Air Force officer recruitment and training within the Air University.

During World War II, General Holm was assigned to the Women's Army Corps Training Center at Fort Oglethorpe, Ga., where she first commanded a basic training company and then a training regiment. At the end of the war, she commanded the 106th WAC Hospital Company at Newton D. Baker General Hospital, W.Va. She then left active military duty in 1946.

In October 1948 during the Berlin crisis, she was recalled to active duty with the Army and went to Camp Lee, Va., as a company commander. The following year she transferred to the Air Force, when a new law integrated women in the regular armed forces.

General Holm served in a variety of personnel assignments, including director of Women in the Air Force from 1965 to 1973. She played a significant role in eliminating restrictions on numbers of women serving in all ranks, expanding job and duty station assignments for women, opening ROTC and service academies to women and changing the policies on the status of women in the armed forces. During her tenure, policies affecting women were updated, WAF strength more than doubled, job and assignment opportunities expanded and uniforms modernized.

The general retired in 1975. She served three presidential administrations: special assistant on women for President Gerald Ford, policy consultant for President Jimmy Carter and first chairperson of the Veterans Administration's Committee on Women Veterans for President Ronald Reagan.

General Holm died Feb. 15.

(Master Sgt. Russell P. Petcoff contributed to this story.)