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Deborah Elizabeth Branson Collection

Identifier: WV 0617

Scope and Contents

The Deborah Elizabeth Branson Papers date from 1970-2016, with the bulk from 1990-1993. The majority of items in the collection are related to issues about concerning the 1991 Tailhook sexual assault scandal, sexual harassment in the military, and women's positions in the military. The collection includes, transcripts, official military reports, training guides, military magazines, military advertisements, military comics, newspaper articles, envelope hat, and VHS videotapes.


  • 1970-2016


Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright is retained by the creators of items in these papers, or their descendants, as stipulated by United States copyright law. Manuscript collections and archival records may contain materials with sensitive or confidential information. Please see our Sensitive Materials Statement.

Biographical or Historical Information

Deborah Elizabeth Branson of Norman, Oklahoma was born on 7 October 1951. Her father and her grandfather both held doctorate degrees in geology and worked as university professors. Branson earned her bachelors' degree in liberal arts special sciences. In 1976, while working on a higher degree in civil engineering, Branson decided to join the United States Navy. However, despite her education, she was rejected from joining the Navy's Civil Engineering Corps because she was a woman. Even after being informed that women were also not allowed to fly aircraft at that time, she still chose to accept a commision into the navy where she found out that women were not allowed to go to sea either. Her first duties included clerical assignments and swearing in new enlistments, including her own younger brother.

Two years later in 1978, Branson began flight training in both Pensacola, Florida and Milton, Florida despite the stigma surrounding women who trained as pilots and the discrimination they were known to face from the military.

In 1982, she was stationed at Naval Air Station North Island at San Diego, California, as a member of Helicopter Support Squadron 1 and the Antisubmarine Warfare Wing. She also was recognized by the San Diego County Women's Council of the Navy League for a Military Women of Achievement award.

Branson was promoted to lieutenant in 1986 and attended War College in Newport, Rhode Island. She was next deployed to the Philippines from 1987 until 1990. There she was assigned to VC-5 Fleet Composite Squadron 5 where she worked as both an administrative officer and maintenance officer as well as a pilot for an H-3 anti-submarine warfare helicopter.

In 1990, she transferred to the Pentagon in Washington D.C. where she held her highest rank of Commander and worked as a congressional liaison. She knew nothing of what happened at the 1991 Tailhook Association Symposium, where male Navy and Marine aviation officers sexually assaulted a number of female and some male officers and personnel, until after the scandal was announced publicly. Branson she became a part of the committees revolving around the changes to Navy regulations as a result of Tailhook. She worked mainly as a part of the Enhancing Professional Opportunities group. Together with the Standing Committee on Military and Civilian Women in the Department of the Navy, they pushed for opening more combat support positions for women as well as mandatory sexual harassment prevention training.

From 1994 until 1998, she worked as an assistant naval secretary on the special assistant for aviation on international coordinate policy. Branson also worked as an instructor at the War College in Newport, Rhode Island from 1998 until 1999. She is now living in North Carolina and working as an earth science professor at Methodist University in Fayetteville, North Carolina.


2.00 Linear Feet (5 boxes)

Language of Materials


Metadata Rights Declarations

  • License: This record is made available under an Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International Creative Commons license.

Method of Acquisition

Gift of Deborah Branson, July 2016.

Offensive Language Statement

The UNC Greensboro University Libraries collects, preserves, and makes accessible unique and historical materials for learning and research. The nature of historical materials is such that some material may represent positions, norms, and values that are offensive and objectionable. These materials represent the opinions and actions of their creators. By providing access to these records in our reading room and through our digital collections, we recognize that archives and rare books can play a vital role in holding those creators accountable and in helping us learn from the past.

Our finding aids and other collection descriptions may occasionally re-use language provided by creators or former holders of the materials, but we strive to place outdated or offensive terminology in context. That said, we recognize that we may not always make the right decision and welcome feedback from all sources so we can learn and adjust our practices. Please contact us at if you encounter problematic language in our finding aids or other collection description. We will review the language and, as appropriate, update it in a way that balances preservation of the original context with our ongoing commitment to describing materials with respectful and inclusive language.

Processing Information

Processed by Brandi Mauldin.

Deborah Elizabeth Branson Collection
Brandi Mauldin
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Describing Archives: A Content Standard
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Repository Details

Part of the Martha Blakeney Hodges Special Collections and University Archives Repository

P.O. Box 26170
320 College Ave.
Greensboro NC 27402-6170 US