This information comes from the biographical file for pilot Harmon, CH-147500-01,
-21, reviewed by me in the archives of the National Air & Space Museum,
YOUR PURCHASE OF THESE BOOKS SUPPORTS THE WEB SITES THAT BRING TO YOU THE HISTORY BEHIND OLD AIRFIELD REGISTERS
Your copy of the Davis-Monthan Airfield Register with all the pilots' signatures and helpful cross-references
to pilots and their aircraft is available at the link. Or use this FORM to order a copy signed by the author, while supplies last.
TheCongress of Ghosts is an anniversary celebration for 2010. It is an historical biography, that celebrates the 5th year online of www.dmairfield.org and the 10th year of effort on the project dedicated to analyze and exhibit the history embodied in the Register of the Davis-Monthan Airfield, Tucson, AZ. This book includes over thirty people, aircraft and events that swirled through Tucson between 1925 and 1936. It includes across 277 pages previously unpublished photographs and texts, and facsimiles of personal letters, diaries and military orders. Order your copy at the link.
Military Aircraft of the Davis Monthan Register, 1925-1936 is available at the link. This book describes and illustrates with black & white photographs the majority of military aircraft that landed at the Davis-Monthan Airfield between 1925 and 1936. The book includes biographies of some of the pilots who flew the aircraft to Tucson as well as extensive listings of all the pilots and airplanes. Use this FORM to order a copy signed by the author, while supplies last.
Art Goebel's Own Story by Art Goebel (edited by G.W. Hyatt) is
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Winners' Viewpoints: The Great 1927 Trans-Pacific Dole Race is available at the link. What was it like to fly from Oakland to Honolulu in a single-engine plane during August 1927? Was the 25,000 dollar prize worth it? Did the resulting fame balance the risk? For the first time ever, this book presents the pilot and navigator's stories written by them within days of their record-setting adventure. Pilot Art Goebel and navigator William V. Davis, Jr. take us with them on the Woolaroc, their orange and blue Travel Air monoplane (NX869) as they enter the hazardous world of Golden Age trans-oceanic air racing.
According to his biographical file from the Smithsonian, E.E. Harmon was born
at Dallas, TX on February 8, 1893. He died when he parachuted
from his airplane during a routine flight near Stamford,
CT on August 27, 1933. His aircraft ran out of fuel at night
in a fog, and he finally parachuted too close to the ground.
E.E. Harmon, Undated (Source: Harmon)
Undated portrait, left, as well as some of the other great images on this page, is shared with us by Harmon's grandson (right sidebar).
Harmon landed at Tucson twice. The first time was on Friday, April 16, 1926. He carried seven passengers identified as M.R. Stone, SSgt. Baehr, H.M. Druey, R.F. Stearley, Wyatt Stitts, Capt. Roberts and fellow Register pilot Lt. L.E. Hunting. They were based at Washington, DC and were on what appears from the Register to be a round-robin flight to and from Rockwell Field, San Diego, CA. They were flying in 68-493, which, according to Joe Baugher's site, is a Curtiss NBS-1 twin-engine bomber. Harmon entered it as an "MBS1" in the Register.
His second landing at Tucson was on Sunday, May 2, 1926. He carried as passenger SSgt. Baehr. They were in a Douglas O-2 identified as 25-389. Again based at Washington, DC, Bolling Field, they were eastbound from Rockwell Field, San Diego, CA. They stayed overnight in Tucson, departing the next morning at 6:50AM for Washington.
E.E. Harmon Calling Card, ca. 1926
Harmon's major claim to fame is that he participated
in the "Round
the Rim Flight" in 1919, which circled the boundaries
of the United States for the first time. The flight, which
began at Bolling Field, Washington, D.C. on July 24, 1919,
was made in a counterclockwise direction. The round-the-rim flight was undertaken as a test of the reliability of the Martin bomber chosen for the flight. The round-the-rim flight was undertaken as a test of the reliability of the Martin bomber chosen for the flight.
Below, an article from the San Francisco Chronicle of October 11, 1919. Harmon stands second from left. I spliced this article together with PhotoShop.
"Round the Rim Flight," San Francisco Chronicle of October 11, 1919 (Source: Harmon)
If the article above is too small to read in your browser, please download the PDF (1.4Mb) available at the link. Other information and photographs from the "Round the Rim Flight" follow.
The Round the Rim flight proceeded
westward across the northern states, down the Pacific
Coast, and eastward along the Mexican border and across the
southern states, arriving back at Bolling on Nov. 9, 1919.
According to the Air Corps Newsletter, #8, dated August 29, 1933, the total distance covered was 9,823 miles with an elapsed time of 104 hours and 24 minutes. At least one other Web source cites the distance as 10,000 miles flown
in 114 hours, 45 minutes. The few miles and few hours discrepancy makes no difference, as there was no competition. Regardless, an excellent summary of his "Round
the Rim Flight", with images of the airplane and crew,
is here. Another article is in the journal Aircraft Maintenance Technology. A book about the feat is cited in the left sidebar. A YouTube video of a Martin GMB-1 in flight is at the link (no guarantee of continued availablity at the site). The same video is embedded, with permission, below. This is a silent film. It is undated.
Another record set in 1919 by the 26-year old Harmon is described in the following undated news item. The Col. R.F. Hartz (see photos below) mentioned in the article is the same one who participated in the Round the Rim Flight. Since this flight is not mentioned in this article, the date is probably before July, 1919.
Eighty-Five Minutes, New York to Washington (Source: Harmon)
Eighty-Five Minutes, New York to Washington, Continued
The return flight, and the attempt to reset the record, is cited in the news article below, also undated. His passenger would be different for the return.
Article, below, from the St. Louis (MO) Globe-Democrat shows the Martin bomber over Washington, DC, July 31, 1919.
St. Louis (MO) Globe-Democrat, July 31, 1919
Second Record Attempt, ca. 1919
The article below, from the St. Paul, MN Dispatch of July 31, 1919 describes the first leg of the "Round the Rim Flight." The reason for the Republican National Committee address label attached to the news article is unknown.
The anticipation was high at the Dispatch, as the airplane was scheduled to cross Minnesota, and stop at St. Paul. It did just that, and the airplane and aviators took the the time for a photo opportunity on September 16th. That photograph is below the news article.
St. Paul, MN Dispatch, July 31,1919 (Source: Harmon)
Undated photograph, below, shows Harmon in a hand clasp with an unidentified, well-dressed civilian (Douglas Fairbanks, Sr.? - see below). It is unclear if this is a scene of a heartfelt congratulation, an impromptu descent from the cockpit, or an attempt to hoist the civilian up to the cockpit. "MARTIN USA" can be read in the star in the original photo. Note the gun mount on the front, and the mud guards on the outboard wheels.
Undated Photograph, Ca. Summer, 1919
Below, two photographs and their annotations of Douglas Fairbanks, Sr., Jack Harding and E.E. Harmon. These were taken at Chaplin Field, Los Angeles on Oct. 17, 1919. Notice that the first photo is informal. The second looks like the photographer said "Smile for the camera!" Harding holds an unlighted cigarette.
Informal Portrait, 1919, Douglas Fairbanks, Jack Harding, E.E. Harmon (Source: Harmon)
We have an interesting comparison between the two images below. The top one is from the collection of Harmon's grandson. It is sharp and unannotated. In the original, you can even see the wood grain on the nose of the airplane around the star. Harmon is on the right. The Martin "Round the Rim" aircraft is behind.
E.E. Harmon, Right, September 16, 1919 (Source: Harmon)
Identical image below from the Air Force Museum is annotated with the names of the crew and the location of the photograph, Curtiss Field, St. Paul, MN. Physically, Harmon was a tall man. His friends, of course,
called him "Tiny".
E.E. "Tiny" Harmon, Right, September 16, 1919
Harmon was a popular officer and was well-known
in athletic circles, being a football and baseball player
in college (Bethany College, WV, class of 1913),
and serving as an official in college football games played
in Washington, DC. Following his graduation he was an Ohio
high school principal and athletic coach, attended George
Washington University for a year, was an examiner for the
U.S. Patent Office, and entered the military in September
He attended ground school at Gerstner Field, Lake Charles,
LA and was commissioned 2nd Lt. May 4, 1918. He became a
test pilot at McCook Field, Dayton, OH, specializing in large
aircraft. It was this experience that set him up for his
participation in the "Round the Rim Flight". They had a number
of forced landings on the flight, due to unfavorable weather,
but no significant damage to the airplane, a Martin Bomber.
The trip was significant in that the greater part of it was
traversed over untried routes with few established landing
fields. It also demonstrated the reliability of the Martin
bomber and its Liberty engines. He was promoted to captain.
Below, a photo of Harmon aloft in the cockpit of a "heavy", date and location unknown.
E.E. Harmon in Cockpit of Unidentified Bomber, Date/Location Unknown
Below, an undated photo of Harmon in cold-weather dress.
The Well-Dressed Bomber Pilot, Date/Location Unknown
An unusual photograph, below, of Harmon (left) with an unidentified airman. Unidentified, at least, until on 11/28/10 I heard from his daughter. She says the person on the right in the photograph is, "... Captain George Beatty Patterson, Asst. Chief, Flight Test Branch, McCook Field.Dayton, Ohio. The New York Times of June 1920 called the aircraft the GIANT, and described it as a 'monster airplane.' Capt. Patterson was also in some of your group photos." See the group of Wright Field test pilots, below.
They are standing in front of what appears to be the three-engine L.W.F. Owl (64-012), which had been built earlier as a mailplane, but was tested as a bomber at Mitchel Field in September, 1922. In the bomber role, this was the only one built. The L-W-F Co. (Robert G Fowler, Edward Lowe Jr, Charles Willard) was located on Long Island, NY.
E.E. Harmon (L) in Front of the L.W.F. Owl, ca. 1920-22
According to this REFERENCE, the airplane is described as, "A Caproni-like layout included a center plywood nacelle for a crew of three and the center Liberty, with booms running back from out board engines to triple rudders." aerofiles.com describes its characteristics, "... three 400hp Liberty 12; span: 105'0" (106'8") length: 53'10" load: 7600# v: 110/x/57 range: 1100. Raoul Hoffman; ff: 5/22/20 (p: Ernest Harmon). Tubelike twin booms with nacelle fuselage, high-lift wings, triple fins and biplane stabilizers; six-wheel gear later converted to four. Full-load take-off distance was only 400'. Originally planned as a transport aircraft or long-range night mail plane (hence the Owl name), but only interest came from the Air Service. POP: 1 [AS64012]." Note that aerofiles has Harmon as pilot flying the airplane on May 22, 1920. Additional photos are at aerofiles. Notice the difference in the center engine in one of those images.
Captain Patterson's daughter shares the following photograph with us, as well as this biography of her father (PDF 847kb) published in the Daedalus Flyer, Fall, 2003. The photo was taken near the time of the one above. From his biography, you will learn that Patterson was a prodigious pilot in his own right, and became a successful business man later in life. He rose to the rank of Colonel during WWII.
E.E. Harmon (L) and George Patterson, Ca. 1920 (Source: Allen)
Below, from the NASM via Creative Commons, is another photo of the OWL. Note the size of the people in comparison to the airplane.
LWF H OWL, Date & Location Unknown (Source: NASM)
During the International Air Races at Mitchell Field, NY
in 1925, Harmon won the Detroit News Trophy Race,
piloting the Huff-Daland light bomber at an average speed
of 119.91 MPH. Later in Aerial Gunnery and Bombing Matches
held at Langley Field, Captain Harmon, with bombardier Lt. H.
Lloyd George, won
the Bombing event with a score of 1472 points out of a possible
Harmon's wife, Harriette Alexander Harmon (d. 1969 and pictured farther below) was also an aviator of sorts. The news article below cites her travel from Washington, DC to New York on a military bomber with other passengers and her husband as pilot. Although the exact date is unknown. According to this link, the date is likely ca. 1919.
News Article, Source and Date Unknown
Below, E.E. Harmon, center, and two other airmen. According to Bill Harmon, the other men are, at left, Patterson, and, right, Gerald Dobias, Harmon's Round-the-Rim flight mechanic. The airplane is identified as a Martin NBS1 - "night bomber short range"- (aka GMB2).
Harmon (C), Date & Location Unknown (Source: Harmon)
Below, a cordial Harmon is on the left with a man who looks very much like silent film comedian Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle (b. Mar 24, 1887; d. June 29, 1933). If you browse the link, you'll find many photographs of Arbuckle similarly dressed in high pants with suspenders, plaid shirt, white socks and high shoes.
Harmon and Unidentified Man, Date & Location Unknown (Source: Harmon)
The following photograph is of the group of test pilots at Wright Field, Dayton, OH. The date of the image is November 25, 1918. Although their countenances do not reflect it, the photo is of a celebratory event, as there is a trophy sitting atop the prop hub, overseen by a mascot. I am exhibiting this image vertically, because to show it horizontally would reduce the size of the participants (identifications below). Note the patch repairs on the bottom of the upper wings.
Update of 02/19/10 Bill Harmon found this information about the photograph above. The dog's name is "Kiss". The officers' names are placed in order on a copy of this photo at the Ohio Memory Project of the Ohio Historical Society Web site. Their names are, left to right, Osborne, Patterson, Unknown, Unknown, Modlish, Harmon, Tabuteau, Jones, Shroeder, Oler, Agar, Register pilot Louis Meister, Harold Harris, Eddie Allen, Elsy and Saal.
This Web source from the Northwest Airlines history center provides some insight into Harold Harris: "General Harold R. Harris, Northwest’s president for about a year beginning in January 1953, in 1922 became the first man to make an emergency parachute jump from an airplane. From 1920 to1925, as a military test pilot, he achieved thirteen flying records. Before joining Northwest he was vice president of Pan American’s Atlantic Division." I have not verified this statement.
Aviator Group Information (Source: Harmon)
The cup atop the propeller hub is the "Blunder Trophy". The context around the trophy and its award is described at the link as, "... the 'Cup of Good Beginnings and Bum Endings,' was presented to two-time winner Rudolph W. "Shorty" Schroeder in 1918. The humorous award recognized mistakes pilots made while flying. This blunder trophy reads, 'We smashed not because we ran out of gasoline but because we ran out of knowledge.' The life of a test pilot was intense and dangerous, especially true when flying the unreliable aircraft tested at McCook Field in Dayton following World War I. Humor was one way pilots coped with the stress.
"Schroeder gained national fame for his high-altitude flights at McCook Field, where he reached a height of 33,114 feet in 1920. These dangerous flights were instrumental in the development of high-performance fighter aircraft used in World War II."
Friend of dmairfield.org, Mike Gerow, states,"... pictured third from right in front of the Nieuport 17 on the E.E. Harmon page is Boeing’s legendary test pilot Edmund T. Allen, who was killed in the crash of the XB-29 67 years ago last Thursday [February 18, 1943], along with 10 other men in the plane and 7 people on the ground." A short biography of Allen is at the Boeing site.
Another vertical image is below. Date and location are again unidentified. Harmon is seventh from the right, wearing a parachute. Can anyone IDENTIFY any of the other men or the aircraft? On May 5, 2010 site visitor from the UK, Roger Holden, states, "... the photo shows a squadron of Douglas O-25C observation aircraft, apart from the second plane in which is a visiting Curtiss O-1G (probably Harmon's plane). I think the O-1Gs were mainly based on Long Island and the O-25s in Texas and California, so he probably had quite a flight." On October 9, 2012, Bill Harmon states that the photo, "...was taken at Aberdeen Proving Grounds in Maryland...., where he supervised gunnery training. My grandfather was never stationed in California."
Aviator Group, Date & Location Unknown (Source: Harmon)
Concurrent with his military career, Harmon had a compatible family life. Below, a young E.E. Harmon and his wife, Harriette. They were married Friday, July 23, 1915 at Washington, PA. The photos were obviously taken during a time of leisure.
Harriette Alexander Harmon, Date & Location Unknown (Source: Harmon)
E.E. Harmon, Date & Location Unknown (Source: Harmon)
Although the exact date and location of these photos is unknown, Harmon's family believes the location to be Wheeling, WV. Harmon was based at Wright and McCook Fields near Dayton, OH just before his "Round the Rim Flight".
The Harmons had three sons William Alexander (on the right, d. 1990s, for whom our contributor, Bill Harmon, is namesake), Robert Brooks (at left, our contributor's father, d. 1965), and the youngest, center, Ernest Emery, Jr. He is a retired family doctor, living in Maryland as of the revision date of this page (July, 2009). See below for contemporary photographs of Dr. Harmon. This photograph was taken while Harmon was on assignment in Panama.
Harmon Family, Panama, C.Z. ca. late 1928-30
Below, another photograph of the Harmon family. From the size of E.E., Jr. in the foreground, this photo was taken perhaps several months after the one above.
Harmon Family, Date & Location Unknown
Besides testing large aircraft, Harmon rendered service
to the Department of Justice in defending suits brought
against the United States involving patents on aeronautical
devices. Because of his pre-military patent experience, he
was recognized as the foremost authority on patents relating
to parachutes. His death in 1933 cut short what would have
been a promising military career.
Funeral services were held for Harmon Wednesday, August 30, 1933 at the Arlington National Cemetery. His pall bearers included fellow Register pilots Capt. Ross G. Hoyt, Capt. Harold L. Clark and Capt. Samuel P. Mills.
Enlisted Man's 1938 Retrospect
About five years after his passing, Harmon was remembered in an undated issue of an Air Corps newsletter that is held in his biographical file at the Smithsonian. The article cites an enlisted man's (William Joseph Collins) restrospective that, "... will serve to bring back to mind one of the finest officers he had had occasion to meet in his eight years in the Air Corps -- rough and ready 'Tiny' -- whose friends in the Air Corps and other branches of the service, as well as in civil life, were legion." Collins' Retrospect is at left.
This brief tribute gives us primary insight not only into his personality, but also the respect placed upon him as an officer by his men.
Below, a portrait that hung at Mitchel Field, LI, NY.
E.E. Harmon Mitchel Field Portrait
On June 23, 1941, Stephenville Air Base in Newfoundland, Canada was officially named as Harmon Field. A chart of the location is below (note pointer).
Harmon Field Dedicated June 23, 1941
Update of September 19, 2009 Your Webmaster is sometimes fortunate to meet families of pilots who signed the Register so long ago. One such meeting is documented in the following photographs, taken August 6, 2009 in Washington, DC. Below, your Webmaster (L) with the Harmon family at the Archives of the National Air & Space Museum. Our correspondent, Bill Harmon, is second from left, then his mother, Elaine, and Dr. E.E. Harmon, Jr. You can see E.E. Harmon, Jr. as a child in the photographs just above.
August 6, 2009, NASM Archives
Elaine Harmon, herself a pilot, was a WASP (Women Airforce Service Pilots) during WWII, having flown the PT-17, BT-13, AT-6, and copilot in the B-17. She learned to fly at historic College Park, MD.
On March 10, 2010, the members of the WASP received the Congressional Gold Medal for their service in World War II. This primary link leads to a C-Span video, about an hour long. Please don't let the time deter you from watching. The ceremony is worth watching for its human interest and historic significance. To see an image of the medal she was awarded, please direct your browser to fellow WASP and Register pilot Aline Rhonie.
For your convenience, I have embedded the video below.
Continuing, below, your Webmaster and E.E. Harmon, Jr. (center) discuss his father's biographical folder at the Smithsonian Archives while Bill looks on.
Webmaster (L) and E.E. Harmon, Jr., NASM, August 6, 2009
E.E. Harmon, Jr., NASM, August 6, 2009
E.E. Harmon, Jr., NASM, August 6, 2009
Above and at right, E.E. Harmon, Jr. describes aspects of his father's life. As a boy, he did not know his father for long, as he died in an airplane crash in 1933.
Interestingly, E.E. Harmon, Jr. shares a couple of his father's traits: He is tall and lanky, is garrulous and has an engaging basso voice.
Below, your Webmaster and Dr. Harmon at the historic Occidental Grill in Washington, DC. We had lunch there specifically because a portrait of his father adorns the wall among thousands of other portraits of the famous and infamous. We found his father fourth from the left in the top row.
Your Webmaster (L) and E.E. Harmon, Jr. at the Occidental Grill, Washington, DC, August 6, 2009
Thanks to the Harmon family for joining us and putting a well-deserved perspective on their accomplished and illustrious family.
Update of 10/07/10 From Bill Harmon and the Washington Post of October 3, 2010 we learn that E.E. Harmon, Jr. passed away June 21, 2010. This online obituary summarizes his life well-lived. I include the text below.
HARMON ERNEST EMERY HARMON, MD October 26, 1925 - June 21, 2010 Son of Ernest Emery Harmon, the highly acknowledged aviation pioneer, Ernest Harmon, Jr. "Ernie" was one of the youngest to ever graduate from George Washington University Medical School and become an intern for the US Navy Reserve. He died peacefully from cancer in his home, surrounded by his wife and family. At 23, he started his private practice delivering babies, and married Elsie Lois Stevens. Together, they designed and built what has become a landmark home office, helping treat families in the Silver Spring area and beyond for almost 40 years. Patients would enter the house, walk through an elegant waiting room, and check in with his secretary (his mother, Harriett [sic] Alexander Harmon), who was often busy knitting tiny yellow booties for expectant mothers. After the house was completed in 1950 with his practice in place, Ernie signed up to serve in the Korean War. He was instead stationed in Bermuda for 9 months until the war ended, where he was a Captain in the USAF, and a flight surgeon. Back at home, he made house calls with his brown leather medical bag, containing all the tools needed for diagnosis and treatment. He assisted anyone, anywhere. Often baskets of homemade goods were accepted from those in need, instead of payment. In 1977, he became president of the Montgomery County Medical Society, with the largest concentration of doctors in Maryland at that time. Ernie was only 6 when he lost his father in a plane crash. It was 1932. With his two older brothers nearly grown and gone, he spent the rest of his childhood with great determination. He was one of the youngest ever to become an Eagle Scout, at age 13. He worked his way through his teen years and beyond, scooping ice cream at Gifford''s on weekends and after school, and delivering papers daily before dawn. Scholastically, he skipped to higher grade levels whenever possible. His service in the Navy helped sponsor him through Medical School. Later as a father of three children, he became a Boy Scout leader, and PTA president for Montgomery Blair High School in 1972 and as a Blair graduate himself, was actively involved in their Alumni Association. Treating his precious family time with the same passion as his profession, Ernie included Elsie and their three children in world travels. The five of them rode camels in Egypt, climbed the Matterhorn, the Eiffel Tower, and cruised the Mediterranean. No golf, no country clubs. Ernie continued his world adventures throughout his lifetime, he and Elsie choosing to travel together on their own, taking public busses and trains wherever they could to better acquaint themselves with the daily life of local peoples. His creative ideas and advice were so sought after that he became a travel writer and later led excursions for AAA during his retirement. Also a great patron of the arts, he introduced his family to the vast cultural wealth of the Washington, D.C. area, taking them to countless plays, museums, musicals and concerts. Elsie, Ernie and the kids could also be seen climbing Old Rag Mountain and hiking the Appalachian Trail. Bigger than life, Ernest Harmon, like his father, stood at 6''6''''. Elsie was 5''2 1/2". After commanding the dance floor with their grace and style, people often asked for their autographs, thinking they were Jimmy Stewart and June Allyson. Preferring Tourist Class on cruises for its liveliness, their prominence in any room upgraded them frequently to the Captain''s table. Their last dance was on a transatlantic voyage just months before he died. They were married for 61 years. Survivors include his wife, Elsie; daughter, Stephanie Harmon Simonard; son, Randall Harmon; and daughter, Sally Harmon. All were greatly guided and influenced by their father. Stephanie has lived in Paris, France for 38 years and become a prominent member of the French/American community. As a lawyer, she helped shape international tax laws. Randy, an Eagle Scout at age 12, was an executive for Pan Am and later started his own travel agency. Sally became a concert pianist, educator and recording artist. The six grandchildren include: Sophie, Vanessa and Emilie Simonard; Jillian and Ross Harmon, and Allie Gruner. Allie is a 3rd year Medical student at OHSU, Jillian Harmon is a famous name in women''s basketball, and Emilie is studying aeronautical aviation in France. Sophie audits the US government in Washington, D.C., Vanessa is an artist in Paris, and Ross is enjoying his sophomore year at the University of Arizona. A memorial service with full military honors will be held at Arlington Cemetery on Wednesday, October 6th at 9 a.m. Please meet at the Administration Building promptly at 8:30 a.m. For questions regarding the service, please call Arlington Cemetery at (703) xxx-xxxx.
Update of May 2, 2015 The following obituary for Elaine Harmon appeared in the Baltimore Sun of May 2, 2015. I quote the text below, because I'm not sure how long the Sun will maintain it on their Web site. The inset photograph was included with the article. Our condolences to her family.
Elaine D. Harmon, who was a member of the Women's Airforce Service Pilots during World War II and later worked to gain veteran status for the pilots, died April 21 of complications from breast cancer at Casey House hospice center in Rockville. She was 95.
The daughter of Dr. Dave Danforth, a dentist, and Margaret Oliphant Danforth, a homemaker, Elaine Danforth was born and raised on 34th Street and graduated in 1936 from Eastern High School.
She became part of World War II aviation history in 1944 when she was accepted into the Women's Airforce Service Pilots — or WASPs — over the objections of her mother, who considered it "unladylike," said a granddaughter, Erin Miller of Silver Spring.
"When I began flight training, the school required at least one parent's signature," Mrs. Harmon told the Air Force Print News in a 2007 interview.
"Although my father was very supportive of my adventures, my mother was absolutely against the thought of me flying," she said. "So I mailed the letter to my father's office. He promptly signed it and returned it in the next day's mail."
She had learned to fly while an undergraduate at the University of Maryland, College Park, where she earned a bachelor's degree in bacteriology in 1940.
She joined the Civil Aeronautics Authority Program and learned to fly Piper Cubs at College Park Airport.
Gen. Henry H. "Hap" Arnold established the WASP program in 1942. Its purpose was to train women as ferry pilots.
One of their jobs was to transport new planes from aircraft manufacturing plants to points where they were shipped or flown overseas.
Mrs. Harmon was one of 25,000 women who applied for training. Only 1,830 were accepted, with 1,074 earning their wings. After completing the program, they were assigned to operational duties.
Training consisted of six months of ground school and flight training, with a minimum of 500 flight hours.
"She became a member of Class 44-9 and trained at Sweetwater, Texas, with a group of women that she always referred to as 'extraordinary,'" said Ms. Miller.
After completing her training in 1944 at Avenger Field, she was stationed at Nellis Air Base near Las Vegas. During her career, she flew the AT-6 Texan, PT-17 trainer and BT-13 trainer, and was a co-pilot on the B-17 Flying Fortress.
In addition to delivering new planes, WASP pilots trained male pilots, ferried cargo, and dragged targets that were used for target practice.
During the war, 38 WASP pilots lost their lives. If a WASP was killed in the line of duty, she was not entitled to a military funeral, and her family was responsible for paying to have her body returned home.
They were not authorized to fly a gold star flag that meant a military death of a loved one had occurred, and they were denied veteran status.
The WASP program was disbanded in December 1944.
After the program ended, Mrs. Harmon returned home to Silver Spring, where she lived with her husband, Robert Harmon, a patent attorney, whom she married in 1941. He died in 1965.
All WASP records were classified and sealed for 35 years, which meant little was known of the WASPs' contributions during World War II.
"She said the reason the program was kept secret was because the government was afraid if enemy nations found out the USA was 'so desperate' to allow women to fly planes, it would be seen as a weakness," said Ms. Miller.
During the 1970s, Mrs. Harmon once again joined with other surviving WASP pilots in an effort aided by Sen. Barry Goldwater, who had been an Air Force pilot, to gain veteran status for them.
The culmination of their work was realized in 1977, when President Jimmy Carter signed legislation that granted the WASPs full military status for their wartime service.
In 1984, each WASP or a surviving family member was decorated with the World War II Victory Medal, and if they had served for more than a year, the various theater medals.
A final honor came for them in 2009 when President Barack Obama, surrounded by WASP pilots including Mrs. Harmon in the Oval Office, signed the bill awarding the Congressional Gold Medal to the pilots.
Mrs. Harmon accepted her decoration with other WASP pilots in a ceremony at the Capitol in 2010.
Mrs. Harmon continued flying and enjoyed taking her grandchildren up in small planes, her granddaughter said.
Mrs. Harmon attended WASP reunions in Texas and appeared at museum exhibits and memorial dedications. She enjoyed speaking to schoolchildren and others about the WASPs' exploits and the role women played in the war.
Until nearly the end of her life, Mrs. Harmon would answer letters requesting autographed pictures of her in her WASP uniform.
Mrs. Harmon's WASP memorabilia is on display at the College Park Aviation Museum and on the Denton campus of Texas Women's University, which maintains a WASP collection.
She never lost her taste for adventure. She continued to travel abroad, played tennis until she was well into her 80s, and went bungee jumping in New Zealand when she turned 80.
Plans for funeral services, to be held at Arlington National Cemetery, are incomplete. ...
Update of June 25, 2018 The following obituary for E.E. Harmon appeared in the Air Corps Newletter, August 29, 1933.
E.E. Harmon Obituary, August 29, 1933 (Source: Webmaster)
Update of December 2, 2018 The following five photographs are from Bill Harmon. For the first two photos, he asks this three-part question: Who is standing in front of the plane? What is the insignia on the side of the plane? What make/model is the plane? If you can identify them, please let me KNOW.
E.E. Harmon and Unknown Man (Source: Harmon)
Below, Mr. Harmon guesses that the man in the cockpit is boxer Jack Dempsey. Location of the photos is Mitchel Field, NY (5th or 8th Observation Squadron?) Dempsey was in his heyday during the late 1920s.
E.E. Harmon & Jack Dempsey(?) (Source: Harmon)
The following three photos featuring E.E. Harmon and who Bill Harmon believes may be Clifford B. Harmon (no relation to his family). The airplane appears to be the same one as above.
E.E. Harmon & Clifford B. Harmon (?) (Source: Harmon)
E.E. Harmon & Clifford B. Harmon (?) (Source: Harmon)
E.E. Harmon & Clifford B. Harmon (?) (Source: Harmon)