Congress passes bill to allow inurnment of WASPs at Arlington National Cemetery

Mikulski: "If [WASPs] were good enough to fly for our country ... they should be good enough for Arlington"

Congress has approved legislation to allow Women Airforce Service Pilots who flew domestic missions during World War II to be inurned at Arlington National Cemetery.

The House of Representatives passed the legislation Thursday. It now awaits the president's signature.

About 1,700 women — including 14 Marylanders — flew noncombat military missions as WASPs. They delivered war planes, ferried cargo and towed targets for other pilots. Thirty-eight died.

The women and their descendants have struggled for recognition. They were not granted veteran status until 1977. And though the superintendent of Arlington National Cemetery allowed the women to be interred there, the secretary of the Army reversed the decision last year.

If signed by President Obama, the bill would allow the inurnment of Elaine D. Harmon of Baltimore. Her granddaughter, Erin Miller of Silver Spring, has said Harmon asked that her ashes be inurned at Arlington.

Harmon died last year shortly before the Army's policy was reversed. Her family has been working to restore the inurnment rights.

Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski introduced the Senate version of the bill with Sen. Joni Ernst, an Iowa Republican, in January.

"Congress has once and for all moved to right a terrible wrong so Women Airforce Service Pilots can be laid to rest alongside our nation's patriots," Mikulski said Thursday in a statement. "If they were good enough to fly for our country, risk their lives and earn the Congressional Gold Medal, they should be good enough for Arlington."

tprudente@baltsun.com

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