FORT GEORGE G. MEADE, Md. — Jeanne M. Holm was the first woman in the armed forces to be promoted to the rank of major general in 1973, and is credited as the single driving force in achieving parity for military women and making them a viable part of the mainstream military.
Holm was born in 1921, in Portland, Oregon, and enlisted in the Army in July 1942, soon after the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps was established by Congress. She attended Officer Candidate School at Fort Des Moines, Iowa, and in January 1943 received a commission as a “third officer,” the WAAC equivalent to second lieutenant.
During World War II, Holm was assigned to the Women’s Army Corps Training Center at Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia, 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, West Virgnia. She then left active military duty in 1946 and attended Lewis and Clark College for two years, returning in 1956 for her bachelor of arts degree.
In October 1948 during the Berlin crisis, she was recalled to active duty with the Army and went to Camp Lee, Virginia, as a company commander. The following year, she transferred to the Air Force, when a new law integrated women in the regular armed forces, and was sent to Erding Air Depot, Germany.
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. For her exceptionally meritorious service in this assignment, she was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal.
On March 1, 1973, Holm was appointed director of the Secretary of the Air Force Personnel Council.
She was promoted to the grade of brigadier general July 16, 1971, the first woman to be appointed in this grade in the Air Force. She was promoted to the grade of major general effective June 1, 1973, with date of rank July 1, 1970.
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.
In recognition of Gen. Holm’s pioneering career, Air Force officials renamed the Air Force Officer Accession and Training Schools at Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama, 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.
Holm authored 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.”
Holm died Feb. 15, 2010.
Sources compiled from Air Force History Support Office and Air Force News Service.