The first woman to serve as major general in the Air Force, and the Department of Defense, passed away Feb. 15. Retired Maj. Gen. Jeanne M. Holm is credited as the single driving force in achieving parity for military women and making them a viable part of the mainstream military.
Maj. Gen. Jeanne Holm, pictured here as an Army company commander in 1948, was the first woman to attend the Air Command and Staff School at Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala., in 1949. Her awards include two Distinguished Service Medals and a Legion of Merit. (U.S. Army photo)
2/19/2010 - WASHINGTON (AFNS) -- The first woman to serve as a major general in the Department of Defense and the Air Force passed away Feb. 15.
Retired Maj. Gen. Jeanne M. Holm is credited as the single driving force in achieving parity for military women and making them a viable part of the mainstream military.
The Portland, Ore., native attained the rank of two-star general in 1973 after a career that began 31 years earlier in 1942, when she enlisted in the Army. General Holm entered Women's Army Air Corps in January 1943 where she received a commission as third officer, the WAAC equivalent of second lieutenant.
"With the death of General Holm, we have lost an A-plus professional and person," said Brig. Gen. Dana Born, Dean of the Faculty at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo. "Everyone, and especially every woman, in the Air Force owes a personal debt of thanks to General Holm for her trailblazing service to our Armed Forces and our nation. Her individual accomplishments are remarkable; however, her personal legacy will be forever defined by the doors she opened and ceilings she raised for all women servicemembers following in her contrails."
She was promoted to brigadier general July 16, 1971, the first female Airman to be appointed in this grade. She was promoted to the grade of major general effective June 1, 1973, with date of rank July 1, 1970 - the first woman in the armed forces to serve in that grade.
In recognition of General Holm's pioneering career, Air Force officials renamed the Air Force Officer Accession and Training Schools at Maxwell AFB the Jeanne M. Holm Officer Accession and Citizen Development Center in June 2008. Its mission is Air Force officer recruitment and training within the Air University.
"The Holm Center's vision to 'sustain a culture and environment of continuous learning, enthusiasm, pride and tradition' is exactly what General Holm stood for during her Air Force career and throughout her lifetime," General Born said. "She will be greatly missed, but her life's legacy will continue to inspire us to even greater levels of excellence."
General Holm was also an author of two books about women in the military. "Women in the Military: An Unfinished Revolution" came out in 1982 and was updated in 1994. Four years later she wrote "In Defense of a Nation: Servicewomen in World War II."
During World War II, General Holm was assigned to the Women's Army Corps Training Center at Fort Oglethorpe, Ga., where she first commanded a basic training company and then a training regiment. At the end of the war, she commanded the 106th WAC Hospital Company at Newton D. Baker General Hospital, W.Va. She then left active military duty in 1946.
In October 1948 during the Berlin crisis, she was recalled to active duty with the Army and went to Camp Lee, Va., as a company commander. The following year she transferred to the Air Force, when a new law integrated women in the regular armed forces.
General Holm served in a variety of personnel assignments, including director of Women in the Air Force from 1965 to 1973. She played a significant role in eliminating restrictions on numbers of women serving in all ranks, expanding job and duty station assignments for women, opening ROTC and service academies to women, and changing the policies on the status of women in the armed forces. During her tenure, policies affecting women were updated, WAF strength more than doubled, job and assignment opportunities expanded, and uniforms modernized.
The general retired in 1975. She served three presidential administrations: special assistant on women for President Gerald Ford, policy consultant for President James Carter and first chairperson of the Veterans Administration's Committee on Women Veterans for President Ronald Reagan.
General Holm's awards include two Distinguished Service Medals, a Legion of Merit, a Women's Army Corps Service Medal, a World War II Victory Medal, an American Campaign Medal, an Army of Occupation Medal with Berlin Airlift Device and a Medal for Humane Action.
General Holm was also a member of the Air Force Historical Foundation's Board of Trustees, a member of the Board of Directors for Camp Fire Girls, Inc., a member of the Pentagon Federal Credit Union's Board of Directors, and a member of the Air Force Association.
She received a Distinguished Alumni Award from Lewis and Clark College in 1968, a Citation of Honor from the Air Force Association in 1971, and a Eugene Zuckert Leadership Award from the Arnold Air Society in 1972.
8/1/2010 4:23:25 AM ET I met the General on a C-141 flight from Clark AB to Travis AB. It must have been on 21 September 1972 because it was announced that we had just cleared Philippine air space when President Marcos declared martial law. It was said that if we had been in Philippine airspace we would've had to return to Clark. It sure was a long flight. May she rest in peace.