Elizabeth L. Gardner

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Elizabeth L. Gardner
Elizabeth L. Remba Gardner, Women's Airforce Service Pilots, NARA-542191.jpg
Gardner in the pilot's seat of a Martin B-26 Marauder
Died (aged 90)
Military career
Allegiance United States
Service/branchUnited States Army Air Corps

Elizabeth L. Gardner (1921 – December 22, 2011) was an American pilot during World War II who served as a member of the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP). She was one of the first American female military pilots[1] and the subject of a well-known photograph, sitting in the pilot's seat of a Martin B-26 Marauder.[2][3]

In 2009, the 300 living WASP pilots were awarded a Congressional Gold Medal through a unit citation.[A]

Early life and family[edit]

Gardner was born in Rockford, Illinois,[9] in 1921. She graduated from Rockford High School in 1939.[10] She was a mother and housewife before the war started.[11] After she married, she took the last name Remba.[10]

Military career[edit]

Upon enlisting as a WASP member, Gardner "had two days of training under Lieutenant Col. Paul Tibbets, who later commanded the B-29 that dropped the first atom bomb on Hiroshima".[9][11] She was the subject of an often-reproduced historical photo when she was about 22; the original is held at the National Archives.[12][13][B] The photograph became emblematic of the place of women in the service of their country.[2][3]

Gardner flew Martin B-26 Marauder medium bombers,[15][16] including the AT-23 trainer version of the bomber.[1] One of her stations was in Dodge City, Kansas.[17][18] She was trained as a test pilot and flight instructor,[9] and she also flew aircraft that towed aerial targets.[9]

After years of fighting for recognition of their military service,[19] WASP members were recognized with the Congressional Gold Medal in 2009.[5][20]

Later life and legacy[edit]

Congressional Gold Medal awarded to WASPs

In December 1944, the government disbanded WASP, and Gardner returned to the private sector. She was a commercial pilot after World War II, flying for Piper Aircraft Corporation in Pennsylvania.[10][21] In that capacity, she became involved in public relations, using her piloting skills to ferry Piper customers, meeting with the Department of Defense, and writing all of William T. Piper's speeches.[21]

Gardner worked as a test pilot after the war, including for General Textile Mills, which was working on an aircraft parachute that was intended to safely land aircraft that became disabled in flight. She participated in at least two tests with the device in December 1945, both of which forced her to bail out of the aircraft when the parachute became tangled in the test aircraft. During the second incident, the aircraft entered a dive when its elevators were jammed by the parachute; Gardner escaped from the cockpit, but she was only 500 ft (150 m) from the ground when her own parachute opened.[22]

She died in New York on December 22, 2011.[10][23] Rockford, Illinois held a mural festival downtown in 2019 and included a mural by Ohio artists Jenny Roesel Ustick and Atalie Gagnet based on Gardner's time as a WASP.[10]



  1. ^ They were granted veteran's status in 1977, after a prolonged legal battle.[4] They were also given the right to be buried in Arlington Cemetery.[5][6] Sculptor Don Everhart designed the medal,[7] and it is on display at the Boeing Aviation Hangar at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Virginia.[8]
  2. ^ The photo was taken at Harlingen Army Air Field.[14]


  1. ^ a b Merryman 1998, p. photo 9.
  2. ^ a b Rosser 2008, p. 143.
  3. ^ a b See Ray, Michael. Women Airforce Service Pilots UNITED STATES ARMY AIR FORCES PROGRAM. Encyclopædia Britannica. Archived from the original on May 23, 2019. Retrieved May 30, 2019.; Plane & Pilot (December 7, 2017). "Plane Facts: Women In Aviation". Plane & Pilot. Archived from the original on May 23, 2019. Retrieved May 30, 2019.; Rossen, Jake (April 18, 2018). "The Sky Was No Limit: The WASP Women Pilots of WWII". Mental Floss. Archived from the original on June 2, 2019. Retrieved May 30, 2019.; and Fanelli, James (May 4, 2017). "Women members of the Navy, Army explain what their service means to them". Daily News. New York. Archived from the original on May 23, 2019. Retrieved May 24, 2019.
  4. ^ "WWII Female Pilots Honored With Gold Medal". All Things Considered (Transcript). National Public Radio. March 10, 2010. Archived from the original on May 25, 2019. Retrieved May 25, 2019.
  5. ^ a b "Obama awards WWII-era women pilots congressional medal". CNN. July 1, 2009. Archived from the original on November 24, 2018. Retrieved May 25, 2019.
  6. ^ Blakemore, Eric (May 23, 2016). "Female WWII Pilots Can Now Be Buried at Arlington National Cemetery Seventy-five years later". Smithsonian. Archived from the original on November 20, 2018. Retrieved May 24, 2019. WASPs have won one last battle.
  7. ^ Everhart, Don. "Congressional Gold Medals Don Everhart II". Archived from the original on May 26, 2019. Retrieved March 25, 2019.
  8. ^ "Congressional Gold Medal Women Airforce service Pilots". March 18, 2016. Archived from the original on May 25, 2019. Retrieved May 25, 2019.
  9. ^ a b c d Hultgren, Randy (February 17, 2016). "Female WWII Pilots Deserve Full Recognition". Medium. Archived from the original on May 26, 2019. Retrieved December 20, 2018.
  10. ^ a b c d e Mason, Derrick (May 18, 2019). "Muralists rediscover female Rockford pilot history nearly forgot". Rockford Register Star. Archived from the original on May 27, 2019. Retrieved May 22, 2019.
  11. ^ a b Gordon, Kelli D. (December 28, 2014). "Veteran of the Week". WASP – Women Airforce Service Pilots – World War II. Texas, US. Archived from the original on April 9, 2016 – via web.archive.org.
  12. ^ Erdrich, Ronald W. "WASP history one of stings, buzz and perseverance". Abilene Reporter-News.
  13. ^ "Women's Airforce Service Pilot Elizabeth L. Gardner | DocsTeach". docsteach.org.
  14. ^ "Teachers's Classroom Study Guide" (PDF). George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum. 2011. Archived (PDF) from the original on February 18, 2017. Retrieved May 25, 2019.
  15. ^ Brown & Foreman 2015, p. 129.
  16. ^ Radeska, Tijana (November 23, 2016). "Beautiful women and extraordinary pilots awarded 65 years after their service in WW2". The Vintage News. Archived from the original on September 15, 2017. Retrieved December 20, 2018.
  17. ^ "WASPS Get Set to Sting – Enemy". The Courier-Journal. January 22, 1944. Retrieved May 22, 2019 – via Newspapers.com.(subscription required)
  18. ^ "Women Become Pilots of B-26 Marauder Medium Bombers". Detroit Free Press. January 22, 1944. Retrieved May 22, 2019 – via Newspapers.com.(subscription required)
  19. ^ VanWagenen Keil 1979, pp. 307–316.
  20. ^ Bohn, Kevin (May 22, 2009). "Unsung World War II heroes finally get their due". CNN. Archived from the original on July 1, 2009. Retrieved May 25, 2019.
  21. ^ a b Douglas 2013, p. 110.
  22. ^ "Parachute Test". Life. January 7, 1946. pp. 30–31.
  23. ^ "Paid Notice: Deaths GARDNER, ELIZABETH (LIBBY)". NYTimes.com. January 6, 2012. Archived from the original on May 27, 2019. Retrieved May 27, 2019. ...WASP aviator during WWII, brave and caring social justice activist, writer, computer programmer, autodidact with a vast range of curiosities and pursuits.


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