Violet Ulen, 79, a longtime Washington resident who received a medal for heroism for her work in helping to save fellow victims of a 1945 commercial airplane crash, died of a coronary occlusion Saturday in her Washington home.
She was one of 22 passengers aboard an American Airlines flight out of Washington that crashed into a mountain four miles southwest of Rural Retreat, Va., at about 2:30 a.m. on Feb. 23, 1945.
Mrs. Ulen later recalled for reporters that it was snowing, and she did not move for some time because when she first tried to move she had disturbed a badly injured Marine Corps colonel. "He begged me to shoot him," Mrs. Ulen said."The colonel died about daybreak," she went on, "then I dug myself out of the wreckage."
After trying to find her shoes, she gave up, and began a barefoot seven-hour trek over mountainous terrain in an effort to find aid for the other survivors. She was discovered by a farmer who helped her to a phone to call for help.
According to newspaper accounts at the time, Mrs. Ulen accomplished this even though she herself was suffering from a fractured collar bone, broken ribs, and assorted cuts as a result of the crash.
Her search for help resulted in additional injuries, including frostbitten hands and feet, and torn ankle ligaments. During the three months she spent in the hospital, it also was discovered that she had a brain concussion, according to later newspaper stories.
Mrs Ulen was awarded a bronze medal by the Carnegie Hero Fund Commission for "risking her life to save others." She was one of five persons to survive the crash.
A native of Alabama, Mrs. Ulen moved to Washington in the late 1920s. She served several terms as president of the Salvation Army Auxiliary in Washington and chaired a number of the organization's annual flower shows and benefit garden parties. She also was president of the Pan American Liaison Committee of Women's Organizations, in the mid-1960s, and the White House Spanish-Portuguese Study Group.
Mrs. Ulen was a member of the Capital Speakers Club, the Washington Club, and the Metropolitan Women's Bridge Club.
Survivors include her husband, retired Navy Capt. Francis G. Ulen, of the home in Washington; and three sisters, Mrs. Harold Cokely, of San Diego, Calif.; and Mrs. Roy Sanford and Mrs. Lee Fulghum, both of Memphis, Tenn.