My Grandma was a WWII Pilot, But She’s Barred from Arlington

Written by Sean — March 26, 2016
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Elaine Danforth Harmon was a WWII pilot, but she can’t be inurned at Arlington Cemetery.

Harmon was part of the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP), who were the first women to fly American military aircraft. But the Department of the Army won’t let these women veterans be buried or inurned at Arlington National Cemetery or other military cemeteries they manage.

Elaine’s granddaughters — Tiffany, Erin, and Whitney — are fighting to change that and grant their grandmother’s wish to be inurned at Arlington alongside other veterans who served the United States. They’ve started a petition asking Congress to enact a law that would allow inurnment for their grandmother and other women like her.

WASP worked stateside during WWII ferrying planes, towing targets for gunnery training, and serving as instruments instructors for male pilots. These 1,074 women were brave volunteers who flew over 60 million miles in every type aircraft –from fighters to bombers, including B-26s and B-29s. WASP flew all of the same missions that Army Air Force male pilots flew, with the exception of combat missions. Thirty-eight of them died in service to their country.

And yet, it wasn’t until 1977 — after much lobbying — that the WASP finally earned veteran status. In 2009, President Obama awarded the WASP the Congressional Gold Medal.

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