Fayette County lost another member of the greatest generation when Helen Denton passed away on Wednesday, Dec. 3. Denton may be best remembered as the Fayette County resident who talked and ultimately wrote about her years as part of the Women’s Army Corps during World War II.
The 91 year-old Denton - known as Helen Kogel back then- was born on a farm in South Dakota on Dec. 9, 1921. She was a part of the Women’s Army Corps and helped recruit more women to the Army. She was selected to join
General Dwight D. Eisenhower’s staff in London. A short training period by the FBI on military security, a ship ride with 30 other WACs and several thousand soldiers aboard the Queen Mary, and she found herself in England.
It was over 50 years before she revealed the secret she had sworn to keep at the time-- that she had spent the days in early 1944 in a closed room, typing the orders for Operation Overlord -- the invasion of Normandy-- known as D-Day on June 6, 1944.
Not even her husband, a former Army signal corpsman, knew what his wife had been doing. She and Noel Denton were married in 1946, after meeting on Utah Beach during the war. The couple located to Jonesboro and they lived there until Noel’s death in 1982. She retired from Delta Air Lines where she was a secretary in the Maintenance Department.
It wasn’t until after the 50th anniversary of D-Day that she told anyone what her work entailed and she was encouraged by a Marietta publisher, Bob Babcock, to write her biography.
World War II WAC debuted in November 2012. Proceeds from the book are funneled to the Georgia USO.
Even after retirement, Denton stayed active in veteran’s groups as she continued to talk about her war experiences and was honored by several veterans and civic organizations. She also served for many years as a volunteer for the American Red Cross.
Denton’s contributions to the war effort and her significant role in history earned her the Gold Medal of Merit, which was presented to her by President Obama at the VFW National Convention last August.
“Helen was a proud patriot who dedicated her life to serving others; locally, in the state and our nation. Until her health restricted her travel, she volunteered at several local schools, giving students classes on our National flag - its history and how to treat it with respect,” said American Legion Post 3650 member Robert Ladd. “Helen was a member of American Legion Fayette County Post 105 and very active in VFW Post 3650. She served as VFW Post 3650’s Commander for several years.”
“We at the Dixie Wing CAF and WWII Heritage Day events have been so fortunate to have her share her WWII stories of service, most notably of her typing the orders for the D Day invasion under Eisenhower,” said Fayette resident and photographer Pam Wood Ellis.
Fayetteville American Legion Post 104 commander Davie Niebes said “She was a proud veteran and we honor her service. Rest in peace, soldier.”
A funeral service will be held Saturday, December 7 at 11 a.m. at the Catholic Church of St. Gabriel, Fayetteville with Father Jimmy Adams officiating. The burial will follow at 2 p.m. at Jonesboro City Cemetery. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Wounded Warrior Project or The American Red Cross.