Army Secretary Rules WWII Women Pilots Ineligible for Arlington Burial

 In Military, opinion, Veterans

Army Secretary Rules WWII Women Pilots Ineligible for Arlington Burial

Slap in the face

The rules just keep getting tighter and tighter for burial at the National Cemetery. After a decade of being allowed burial at Arlington National Cemetery, Secretary John McHugh suddenly reversed the ruling and barred the WWII Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASPs) from burial at Arlington.

“It is just mean-spirited for the Secretary of the Army to question their value to their country. Again.” Kate Landdeck, Texas Women’s University.

The family is hoping that Congress will persuade the incoming Secretary, Eric Fanning, to change the ruling at his upcoming confirmation hearing. The fight for honor for WASPs  has been ongoing for 50 years.

It may not really be about honor, it may be about space. The cemetery is running out of room. But instead of creating more room for burial plots, the Army decided to once again make them ineligible. They even said that the cemetery had “no right” to bury other WASPs there. For the families of the women who served in WWII, that was a huge slap in the face.

A Memo from the Secretary

Fox News wrote,

McHugh’s memo, which Terry Harmon obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, says Army lawyers reviewed the rules in 2014 and determined that WASPs and other World War II veterans classified as “active duty designees” are not eligible for inurnment — placement of their urns in an above-ground structure at Arlington. The largest group affected by the memo is actually the Merchant Marine, nearly 250,000 of whose members served during World War II.

The WASP program was much smaller — just over 1,000 women were accepted into the program, which ran from 1942 to 1944.

Once again, lawyers make the decisions instead of people with a heart.

Army Secretary rules

WASP pilots at the airfield in Waco just prior to disbanding the unit- photo via wikimedia commons


The women pilots trained combat pilots. They test-flew repaired military aircraft. They towed airborne targets so the men could shoot live-fire rounds at them. They were subject to living in a barracks and military discipline.

Their Commander, Gen. Henry H. “Hap” Arnold, created the unit with the intention of it becoming a full military unit…but he was denied. And there are only about 100 or so women left alive- all of whom are in their 90’s.

Expand the cemetery

Arlington National Cemetery should be expanded. A Military veteran – male or female- should have the right to be laid to rest with others who have served this nation.

As the rules and the space get tighter, and the older veterans die, and the cutbacks in the military give less and less to the men and women who have served…the honors may die with them. And that would be a true tragedy.

“There is nothing more important than America’s heroes to be buried with dignity in our own soil, with the earned rights of all men and women have who sacrificed their lives to something greater than themselves.” R. Ferran, USMC veteran



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