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Rosemary Mariner (1953–2019), first female navy fighter pilot

by Kirk Fox

First woman to command an operational air squadron.

Rosemary Mariner was the U.S. Navy’s first female jet pilot and the first woman in the military to command an operational air squadron. Chosen in 1973 as one of the first eight women to enter military pilot training, Mariner went on to become the first woman to fly the A-4C and the A-7E Corsair II. She later served on the Staff of the Joint Chiefs in the Pentagon. After her retirement from the military in 1997, she taught military history at the University of Tennessee and was an advisor to the Department of the Navy as well as PBS and ABC News. 

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Died: January 24, 2019 (Who else died on January 24?) 

Details of death: Died in Anderson County, Tennessee of ovarian cancer at the age of 65. 

Is there someone you miss whose memory should be honored? Here are some ways. 

Tribute to a hero: In Mariner’s honor, the Navy has arranged a history-making tribute. A ceremonial flyover will perform during her funeral in Maynardville, Tennessee, on Saturday — and all of its pilots will be women. It will be the first all-female flyover in history, and several of the pilots will be women who were personally mentored by Mariner.  

Notable quote: “In modern warfare, the emphasis is not on physical strength, but on brain power operating sophisticated weapons systems. A machine gun is a great equalizer.” —Mariner in a 1982 feature in Glamour magazine 

What people said about her: “A huge loss for our nation. Rosemary was a remarkable person, an incomparable aviator and a badass. RIP, Captain. We stand on the shoulders of giants like Rosemary Mariner.” —U.S. Naval Air Forces in a Twitter statement 

“A voracious reader and an eager academic, she devoted herself to a love of knowledge. In recent years, this included the disease which took her life, which she sought to understand as fully as possible. As expected, she tenaciously fought an implacable foe to the end.” —Mariner’s family in her obituary for the Roane County News 

Full obituary: Roane County News 

Birhthdate: April 2, 1953 (Who else was born April 2?)

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