In aviation circles, the story of former Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) Elaine Harmon’s remains being moved to Arlington National Cemetery last September was a big deal. It meant America’s memorial resting place for veterans was finally open to everyone who served, including the more than 20,000 women who flew as WASPs during World War II. WASPs flew every aircraft the U.S. military used in WWII, and flew in all conditions except actual combat.
Harmon quickly became a symbol for the women who put it all on the line 75 years ago. It took a new law, strongly nudged along by U.S. Rep. Martha McSally, of Arizona, to allow Harmon to share the same ground as some of her comrades. Previously, only WASPs whose husbands were also former members of the military, were allowed to be buried at Arlington.
In an attempt to tell the story of the WASPs, the Commemorative Air Force (CAF) started a Kickstarter program to fund the acquisition and restoration on one of the actual AT-6 aircraft used for WASP flight training. The aircraft will be featured in a new film, Rise Above: WASP, narrated by actress Sigourney Weaver, forming the basis for a national outreach program to educate young people about aviation and the WASPs’ contribution. The Kickstarter campaign has gathered nearly $70,000 of the $100,000 needed to begin the T-6 acquisition as well as get the film’s production rolling.
Erin Miller hopes her efforts to speak around the nation about the WASPs and tell Harmon’s story in a new book will help speed the effort to raise the needed funds. Miller is Harmon’s granddaughter and herself the daughter of a Marine helicopter pilot.
“It was my grandmother’s dream that [WASP] history live on with next generations and inspire young people to dream big,” she said. Harmon died in April 2015 at age 95.