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Taking her place in history

Elizabeth ‘Libby’ Haynes receives Congressional Gold Medal

Created date

December 13th, 2016
After the presentation of the Congressional Gold Medal, guests enjoyed looking at photos and keepsakes from Elizabeth “Libby” and her late husband William Haynes’ personal collection.

After the presentation of the Congressional Gold Medal, guests enjoyed looking at photos and keepsakes from Elizabeth “Libby” and her late husband William Haynes’ personal collection.

On Saturday, October 8, Colonel Bruce Heinlein, commander of National Capital Wing, Civil Air Patrol, bestowed a Congressional Gold Medal to Greenspring community member Elizabeth “Libby” Daggit Haynes for her service as a cadet member of the Civil Air Patrol (CAP) during World War II.

The Congressional Gold Medal and the Presidential Medal of Freedom are the highest civilian awards in the United States. The gold medal is awarded to persons “who have performed an achievement that has an impact on American history and culture that is likely to be recognized as a major achievement in the recipient’s field long after the achievement.” 

The Second Continental Congress awarded the first Congressional Gold Medal to General George Washington in 1776.

“It is a true honor and pleasure to present this award,” says Colonel Heinlein. “The incredible talent and dedication shown by Libby and the cadet members of CAP in support of those in active duty is truly historic.”

Colonel Jayson Altieri, chairman, CAP board of directors; Lieutenant Colonel Janon Ellis, CAP National Capital Wing vice commander; Lieutenant General (Ret.) Judy Fedder; and the Honorable Allison Silberberg, City of Alexandria mayor, joined Colonel Heinlein for the award presentation. Libby’s four children, nine grandchildren, and numerous family and friends also attended the ceremony held at Greenspring’s Hunters Crossing Conference Center.

“I appreciate and am grateful for this recognition, although I do not believe I deserve it,” says Libby. “During those years, no one knew how long the war would go on, but every American was united behind the government. We just knew the war had to be won.”

Patriotic duty

On December 1, 1941, just one week before the Japanese attacked American forces at Pearl Harbor, the CAP was created under the jurisdiction of the Army Air Corps. Thousands of volunteers answered this call to service by performing a variety of critical wartime missions, including anti-submarine patrol and warfare, border patrols, and courier services. 

During World War II, CAP’s coastal patrol flew 24 million miles. They found 173 enemy U-boats, attacked 57, hit 10, and sank 2, dropping a total of 83 bombs and depth charges throughout the conflict. By the end of the war, 64 CAP members had lost their lives in the line of duty.

An aviation enthusiast who first fell in love with flying on a 1934 trip to the airport at Lake Pontchartrain, La., Libby was a freshman at George Washington High School in Alexandria, Va., when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. She joined the Civil Air Patrol, earning her sharpshooter badge and learning to send and receive Morse code. 

“CAP provided an opportunity for cadets to serve the United States and help us achieve victory,” says Colonel Altieri. “The cadets became role models for those who would come after them. No other country in the world had anything like CAP. It set the standard.”

Continuing to serve

In 1944, two days after her seventeenth birthday, Libby graduated from high school and joined the Cadet Nurse Corps, a program sponsored by the U.S. Public Health Service to train nurses for service in World War II. 

Following the war, Libby studied math at The George Washington University while also pursuing her love of flying. She took regular flying lessons, purchased her own plane, Firebird, and piloted her first solo flight in 1945. She then enlisted in the U.S. Air Force, attending Officer Candidate School and finishing second in her class.

“It was almost a calling to join the Air Force,” says Libby.

The Air Force sent Libby to Massachusetts Institute of Technology graduate school to study meteorology. During the Korean War she served in the Air Weather Service at Pepperell Air Force Base in Newfoundland, Canada. There, she met her husband, William Haynes, a transport pilot stationed at Newfoundland.

“I briefed him on the weather like I did for many others, many times a day,” she says. 

The two were married in 1954. The next year, Libby separated from the Air Force and spent the following years raising a son and three daughters.

However, the call to service was strong, and Libby went to work for the National Marine Fisheries Service as an oceanographer studying the effects of climatic conditions in the oceans on commercial fish species. 

“It is a wonderful example of how the military helped shape every aspect of my life,” she says.