HomeNewsArticle Display

WWII female pilot honored among brothers, sisters

Terry Harmon, the daughter of Women Airforce Service Pilot 2nd Lt. Elaine Harmon, receives the American flag from a member of the U.S. Air Force Honor Guard during her late-mother’s interment ceremony at Alrington National Cemetery, Va., Sept. 7, 2016. Harmon died in 2015 at the age of 95. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Alyssa C. Gibson)

Terry Harmon, the daughter of Women Airforce Service Pilot 2nd Lt. Elaine Harmon, receives the American flag from a member of the U.S. Air Force Honor Guard during her late-mother’s interment ceremony at Alrington National Cemetery, Va., Sept. 7, 2016. Harmon died in 2015 at the age of 95. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Alyssa C. Gibson)

Members of the U.S. Air Force Honor Guard provide full military honors for the late 2nd Lt. Elanie Harmon, one of the original Women Airforce Service Pilots, during a ceremony held in her honor at Alrington National Cemetery, Va., Sept. 7, 2016. Harmon died in 2015 at the age of 95. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Alyssa C. Gibson)

Members of the U.S. Air Force Honor Guard provide full military honors for the late 2nd Lt. Elanie Harmon, one of the original Women Airforce Service Pilots, during a ceremony held in her honor at Alrington National Cemetery, Va., Sept. 7, 2016. Harmon died in 2015 at the age of 95. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Alyssa C. Gibson)

The remains of 2nd Lt. Elaine Harmon, Women Airforce Service Pilot, are laid to rest at Alrington National Cemetery, Va., Sept. 7, 2016. Harmon died in 2015 at the age of 95. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Alyssa C. Gibson)

The remains of 2nd Lt. Elaine Harmon, Women Airforce Service Pilot, are laid to rest at Alrington National Cemetery, Va., Sept. 7, 2016. Harmon died in 2015 at the age of 95. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Alyssa C. Gibson)

The family of one of 2nd Lt. Elaine Harmon, an original Women Airforce Service Pilot, stand during a ceremony held in her honor at Alrington National Cemetery, Va., Sept. 7, 2016. Harmon died in 2015 at the age of 95. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Alyssa C. Gibson)

The family of one of 2nd Lt. Elaine Harmon, an original Women Airforce Service Pilot, stand during a ceremony held in her honor at Alrington National Cemetery, Va., Sept. 7, 2016. Harmon died in 2015 at the age of 95. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Alyssa C. Gibson)

Family and friends pay their respects as 2nd Lt. Elaine Harmon, one of the original Women Airforce Service Pilots, is laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery, Va., Sept. 7, 2016. Harmon died April 21, 2015, at the age of 95. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Whitney Stanfield)

Family and friends pay their respects as 2nd Lt. Elaine Harmon, one of the original Women Airforce Service Pilots, is laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery, Va., Sept. 7, 2016. Harmon died April 21, 2015, at the age of 95. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Whitney Stanfield)

Terry Harmon and Erin Miller, daughter and granddaughter of 2nd Lt. Elaine Harmon, Women Airforce Service Pilot, hold a portrait of her in Arlington National Cemetery, Va. Jan. 31, 2016. Harmon is the first WASP to be buried in Arlington since the passing of HR-4336, a bill introduced by Rep. Martha McSally, to ensure WASPs are eligible for interment at Arlington National Cemetery. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Katherine Tereyama)

Terry Harmon and Erin Miller, daughter and granddaughter of 2nd Lt. Elaine Harmon, Women Airforce Service Pilot, hold a portrait of her in Arlington National Cemetery, Va. Jan. 31, 2016. Harmon is the first WASP to be buried in Arlington since the passing of HR-4336, a bill introduced by Rep. Martha McSally, to ensure WASPs are eligible for interment at Arlington National Cemetery. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Katherine Tereyama)

ARLINGTON, Va. (AFNS) -- In 1943, Mabel Rawlinson, a Women Airforce Service Pilot, died in an aircraft crash. The government would not pay for her remains to be sent back to her family, nor allow her to have a flag draped over her casket.

Her fellow WASPs passed around a hat, pitching in to have her casket shipped back to her family – flag-draped in defiance, and escorted home by her service sisters.

She was one of 38 WASPs to die in service to her country.

More than 70 years later, as the last of “the greatest generation” dwindles and the WASPs’ male counterparts are laid to rest in Arlington National Cemetery with befitting honors, a WASP is at last also being honored for her service. During a military funeral service Sept. 7, Elaine Danforth Harmon’s ashes were interred at Arlington National Cemetery.

Along with Rawlinson, Harmon was one of 1,074 women to serve as a pilot during World War II, fulfilling what the Air Force Historical Research Agency called a “dire need” to train male pilots and ferry aircraft overseas.

She is the first WASP to be buried in Arlington since the passing of HR-4336, a bill introduced by Arizona Representative Martha McSally to ensure WASPs eligibility for interment at Arlington National Cemetery. When Harmon passed away April 21, 2015, her family applied for her interment at Arlington per her final wishes. The request was denied based on a legal decision that “active-duty designees,” such as the WASPs, did not meet eligibility requirements for the cemetery, which is quickly running out of burial space.

Since then, her ashes had remained in the black box provided by the funeral home, sitting amidst folded sweaters, old photos and hanging clothes in her granddaughter’s closet.

“Gammy doesn’t belong on a shelf,” said Tiffany Miller, Harmon’s granddaughter.

Since her death, her family fought to secure a place for the WASPs in Arlington, aided by members of the self-proclaimed “Chick Fighter Pilot Association,” female pilots who owe their success to the trailblazing efforts of the WASPs.

After the passing of the bill, several of the female aviators proudly flew the burial flag during their missions. They documented the flag’s travels in a journal read during the memorial service.

The flag “went on a journey worthy of a WASP,” according to Lt. Col. Caroline Jensen, an F-16 Fighting Falcon pilot who aided the family’s campaign.

“Because of the legacy of the WASPs and the service of women like Elaine, I stand before you,” she said. “I’m a reservist on active duty, 22 years in the Air Force, 3,500 hours flying fighters, 1,700 in an F-16, 200 in combat, three years as a right-wing pilot for the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds and eight of those while being a mom. So we owe a lot to Elaine and the women like her.”

Jensen was joined by McSally and retired Maj. Heather Penney, each of whom credited their success as female pilots to the WASPs. They gave their remarks alongside beaming photos of Elaine – decked out in her flight suit at the ages of 22 and 85, demonstrating her continued love of flying.

“You could tell that the time they were WASPs was one of the best times of their lives and they were very proud to have served their country,” Elaine’s daughter, Terry Harmon said.

Retired Gen. Henry “Hap” Arnold once spoke to a class of graduating WASP and said that initially he hadn’t been sure “whether a slip of a girl could fight the controls of a B-17 in heavy weather. Now in 1944, it is on record that women can fly as well as men.”

“It was a man’s world, but we did something really great that was needed for the war effort,” Elaine had said during an interview for Library of Congress historical archives.

Elaine wanted people to remember that effort, and in her handwritten will, beseeched her family to place her ashes in Arlington National Cemetery.

“To her, Arlington is more than a cemetery, it’s a memorial for all the people that have served their country,” said her granddaughter, Erin Miller.

Seventy-two years after her fellow WASP died in service of country and was denied military honors, Elaine Harmon died among her family. More than a year later, her children and grandchildren, her fellow WASPs and her service daughters escorted her home.

“For generations to come, when they come to these hallowed grounds that honor our heroes and educate people about their service and sacrifice … these women will be in that history book on their own merit, on their own right,” McSally said.

Another trailblazer was laid to rest among her brothers and sisters-in-arms. Her urn was placed in a niche of the columbarium wall between her fellow veterans, she left her final mark on the white marble: “Elaine Danforth Harmon, WASP.”

Engage

Twitter
#DYK The 379th Bomb Group flew more sorties than any other bomb group in the Eighth Air Force & dropped a greater b… https://t.co/dbNo8vxohZ
Twitter
An F-15C Eagle assigned to the 67th Fighter Squadron takes off during Exercise WestPac Rumrunner @KadenaAirBase. Te… https://t.co/h79oP3cNwH
Twitter
RT @HQUSAFEAFAF: Airmen from the 423rd Security Forces Squadron, @501CSW, were introduced to the M18 SIG Sauer Modular Handgun System & wer…
Twitter
RT @usairforce: “This might be the next greatest generation. Every one of them joined the service while the nation was at war, and their in…
Twitter
From the ground or air, @AFGlobalStrike and its highly dedicated and trained #Airmen remain at the ready to ensure… https://t.co/QhI4R7R7l7
Twitter
Today we're wishing the @USCG a Happy Birthday! #SemperParatus #AlwaysReady https://t.co/LEmZDsdsgZ
Twitter
We call it Hercules for a reason. The C-130 can accommodate a wide variety of oversized cargo, including everythi… https://t.co/WucTjXL4tg
Twitter
Maj. Brad Short, who is assigned to Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, won 2nd place @AFWERX after pitching W… https://t.co/nv9U6tXad1
Twitter
Two U.S. Air Force A-10 Thunderbolt IIs release countermeasure flares over @USAFCENT. The A-10 is a highly accurate… https://t.co/ispk4oQJqF
Twitter
A "zero-day" is a computer-software vulnerability that is unaddressed by the system's operator. The Cyber Resilienc… https://t.co/GjaOQ24QQq
Twitter
“This might be the next greatest generation. Every one of them joined the service while the nation was at war, and… https://t.co/6mnIBq70Vg
Twitter
379th Expeditonary Medical Group personnel conduct training @GrandSlamWing. It helps keep them proficient in rende… https://t.co/Jy6ZPe78jF
Twitter
A B-1B Lancer from the 28th Bomb Wing, Ellsworth Air Force Base, disembarks after receiving fuel from a KC-135 Stra… https://t.co/8abNzzet9S
Twitter
The primary mission of the HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopter is to conduct day or night personnel recovery operations int… https://t.co/HGWswnWFgN
Twitter
U.S. Air Force Airmen stationed @Spangdahlem_AB used their fire fighting training to rescue a vehicle incident vict… https://t.co/nJqd8SyuhC
Twitter
.@GenDaveGoldfein was honored in a July 31 ceremony at Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling, Washington, D.C., & in the ann… https://t.co/vsIyEz2wDM
Twitter
Chief Master Sgt. Rick Cumbo has flown in at least one hurricane every year since 1999, with the exception of 2013… https://t.co/cLzEnyqYor
Twitter
To view the Dept. of the Air Force Arctic Strategy, visit: https://t.co/0IBosTXh8S https://t.co/5z7wyrv5EO
Twitter
RT @AirNatlGuard: The @AZNationalGuard partnered with the Whiteriver Indian Health Services Unit to provide free #COVID19 testing for White…
Facebook
The newest Air Force Podcast recently dropped. Listen to a small snippet of CMSAF Kaleth O. Wright talk with Staff Sgt. New about resiliency. Listen to the entire podcast on Youtube: https://go.usa.gov/xpnAD or Subscribe to The Air Force Podcast on iTunes: https://podcasts.apple.com/podcast/the-air-force-podcast/id1264107694?mt=2
Facebook
Our mantra, "Always ready!" It's the spirit we fly by! #B2Tuesday
Facebook
Need some motivation to get your week started off right? Listen as CMSAF Kaleth O. Wright weighs in...
Facebook
The U.S. Air Force Academy gives its cadets some unique opportunities. Ride along one of this opportunities.
Facebook
A United States Air Force KC-135 Stratotanker refuels an F-22 Raptor over northern Iraq, Nov. 6, 2019. U.S. Central Command operations deter adversaries and demonstrate support for allies and partners in the region. (Video by Staff Sgt. Daniel Snider)
Facebook
Although the Silver Star is the third-highest military medal, it's not given often. Today, TSgt Cody Smith was the 49th Special Tactics Airman to receive this medal since Sept. 11th, 2001. Read more of TSgt Smith's amazing story: https://www.airforcespecialtactics.af.mil/News/Article-Display/Article/2024815/special-tactics-airman-battled-through-injuries-awarded-silver-star/fbclid/IwAR2LZWwx1VHdTnQe39rIEBOuJS_0JvMQBBGt7I-E6zsxxn-Lx9387yu43Bc/ Cannon Air Force Base Air Force Special Operations Command United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) U.S. Department of Defense (DoD)
Facebook
Tune in as our Air Force musicians along with other military musicians are awarded the National Medal of Arts.
Facebook
Like Us
Twitter
1,262,652
Follow Us