In 1973, the first woman was promoted to the rank of major general, establishing a new standard for female service members in the U.S. military. However, this promotion was only the latest in a series of ground-breaking accomplishments for the Air Force's first female general officer, Maj. Gen. Jeanne M. Holm.
Holm joined the U.S. Army in 1942 to support the WWII war effort and served as a truck driver throughout the conflict. After two years at Louis & Clark University, Holm was recalled to active duty, where she transferred into the Air Force and deployed to Germany, where she served as War Plans Officer for the 85th Air Depot Wing during the Berlin Airlift.
In 1952, she was the first woman to attend the Air Command and Staff College. She would later complete her bachelor's degree at Louis & Clark University in 1956.
Throughout her time in the Air Force, Holm's merits and authority were consistently challenged by male leadership in a fledgling military service that sought to purge females from its ranks. However, according to the Washington Post, Holm's tact and strategic savvy from years of service at the Pentagon allowed her to successfully challenge paradigms within the Air Force ranks.
As director of the Women in the Air Force, or WAF, Holm fought for women to serve on overseas duty assignments and other traditionally-male missions, and more than doubled the total size of the female force. Holm's leadership paved the way for today's female veterans, who have served with valor on the front lines in Iraq and Afghanistan and serve with parity alongside male counterparts across most military job fields.
Though she nearly retired out of frustration in 1971, top brass had taken notice of Holm's work, promoting her to the first female general officer in the Air Force. In 1973, she pinned on her second star as a major general, making her the highest ranking female in the U.S. military at the time.
During her final years in uniform, Holm fought successfully to expand military benefits to female service members, allowing their male spouses comparable access to dependent services and care. She retired in 1975 after more than 30 years of ground-breaking service, shortly after the Air Force announced it would train female pilots.
The Air Force and its related associations have recognized Holm's contributions on many occasions, including a lifetime achievement award from the Air Force Association and the establishment of the Jeanne M. Holm Officer Accessions and Citizen Development Center at Air University.
During her time in the military, Holm's accomplishments earned her the Air Force Distinguished Service Medal and the Legion of Merit.
Holm died on Feb. 15, 2010 from complications from heart disease at Anne Arundel Medical Center in Annapolis, Md.
(Photos: Top: Maj. Gen. Jeanne M. Holm shortly after her promotion in 1973. U.S. Air Force photo, released. Bottom: Air Force Tech. Sgt. Emilia Martin, right, teaches Airmen the proper way to salute during Officer Training School at the Jeanne M. Holm Officer Accessions and Citizen Development Center. U.S. Air Force photo by Jamie Pitcher, released.)