ARLINGTON, VA (WUSA9) - Local aviation legend and World War II Women Air Force Service Pilot Elaine Harmon was inurned at Arlington National Cemetery on Wednesday. But that almost didn’t happen.
Harmon died last year at the age of 95. She never knew that just one month before, the Army ruled that WASPs would be ineligible for Arlington because of limited space. That led to a public outcry and a reversal of the Army’s decision.
In a rare but fitting tribute to Harmon, aircraft from the World War II era soared overhead.
“It was so beautiful. I cried all the way through it,” said Marty Wyall. “It was beautiful.”
The honor of a funeral at Arlington National Cemetery meant so much to so many.
“When I saw two young female pilots from Maguire AFB standing there saluting, it brought it full circle,” said a retired Air Force member, Lt. Col. Wendy Cooper.
Harmon was one of 14 Maryland women who flew non-combat missions during World War II. The WASPs delivered war planes and ferried cargo, freeing up the men for combat.
“We were always doing something fun. It wasn’t bad,” Wyall said. “It was just great.”
The service with military honors followed a battle her family waged all the way to Congress and the White House.
In 2009, President Barack Obama awarded Harmon and her fellow WASPs the Congressional Gold Medal for their service to our country.
“Definitely worth the fight. We had to wait 555 days to bury my grandmother,” said Harmon’s granddaughter, Erin Miller. “But we’ve made sure that all the WASP and she are recognized properly at Arlington National Cemetery as she requested in her last wishes.”
In death as she did in life, Harmon changed the course of history.
Harmon first learned to fly as an undergraduate at the University of Maryland. She started with Piper Cubs at the College Park Airport.