Female WWII pilot to finally be laid to rest in Arlington

Arlington Cemetery file photo
Arlington Cemetery file photo

Credit: Win McNamee/Getty Images

Credit: Win McNamee/Getty Images

She flew noncombat missions as a pilot during World War II, but her service wasn't enough to allow Elaine Harmon be inurned at Arlington National Cemetery.

Harmon was a member of the Women Airforce Service Pilots, or WASP. It was a group of women who flew military planes, but on noncombat missions, WRC reported.

Their service allowed men to fight on the front lines.

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Harmon and other servicewomen weren't granted military status in the '40s. It took until 1977 for them to be named veterans.

Since then WASPs were able to be inurned at Arlington. That was until last year, when the Army decided to make WASPs ineligible for Arlington, citing dwindling available space and saying that WASPs shouldn't have been included in the first place, WRC reported.

But Harmon's family fought the new ruling after she died last year at the age of 95. And in May, President Barack Obama signed a law that allows WASPs their rightful resting place in the national cemetery.

Harmon's remains will be inurned during a service with full military honors Wednesday, more than a year after her death.

More than 1,000 women served as WASPs from 1942 until 1944, according to the WASP museum. Thirty-eight died during the war. Now there are fewer than 100 alive, with the youngest being 93 years old, WRC reported.

They test-flew repaired military aircraft, trained combat pilots and towed targets that were shot at with live ammunition. They were awarded the Congressional Gold Medal in 2009.

It is difficult to be granted in-ground burial at Arlington because of space limitations, but ashes and above-ground inurnment is easier.