Women in the US Military: World War II

Introduction

The twentieth century was marked by women’s involvement in the first and the Second World War. As much as their involvement was influenced by their protective and loving nature, it was quite significant because it contributed greatly to victories which were realized during the two wars. In addition, their contribution had a positive impact in their social lives as most of them were able to work, earn a living and become independent. Although women were still involved during and even before the World War 1, their contribution increased greatly during the Second World War. Opdycke1, records that by the year 1945, over two million women were already working in industries which manufactured weapons and other materials used during war.

Apart from providing support to soldiers, women also took active role in the battle since a good number of them went to the extent of joining the military. Although in United States women were not serving in combat positions, the case was different in other parts of the world and since the World War II was different from the World War I in term of severity, various governments including the United States’ government had no option other than to make use of women. Critical analysis of the issues of the World War II illustrate that women were very vital and due to their strength, ability to learn fast as well as to adopt, they contributed greatly in eliminating the stereotype that a woman cannot do what a man does. With that background in mind, this paper shall illustrate how United States would have been at a loss if it had not been for the women in the military and on the home front.

Background

Historians describe Second World War as a war that involved women more than any other war. It provided women with a chance to become members of the military officially. To begin with, Opdycke2 records that around three hundred and fifty thousand women joined the army as Marine, Navy, Army as well as Coast Guard Officers. In total, the number of women who were involved in the military was more than ten times compared with the number of women who were involved during the World War 1.

Apart from serving the military at home, some women were also sent overseas to fight in other countries. Women’s Auxiliary Corps which was established in the year 1942 but latter changed to become Women’s Army Corps was actively involved in seeing to it that women were contributing to the war in different regions. Similarly, the Navy was also established in the year 1942 after the formation of Women Accepted for Voluntary Emergency Service. However, women serving in the Navy were also not allowed to go to fight in other countries although the rule was changed in the 19443.

During the Second World War, women used to serve as military nurses and the group was referred to as the Army Nurses. They were working in United States and the Pacific region. As the name suggests, army nurses were working in health facilities such hospitals, evacuation planes as well as ships. A female branch known as the SPARS was also established under the Coast Guard. On the same note, it is important to point out that as highlighted earlier; most of other female military groups were based in America and got a chance to reach Alaska as well as Hawaii only when the war was almost coming to an end. The job of females who joined the military either worked as auto mechanics, laboratory technicians, telephone operators and clerical workers, to mention just a few.

Women who were working under the Army Air Force were mainly involved in pioneering work. Studies of Yellin 4 record that the branch used to have over nine hundred women who were involved in giving flight instruction, transporting airplanes as well as being involved in air practice missions aimed at offering training to the bombers. Nonetheless, even though women working under air force were quite significant; they suffered greatly from discrimination since their male counterparts took them as threats to their jobs.

Further studies illustrate that they even never qualified for military benefits and worse still; the bill which was to formalize the service was done away in the year 1944. On the same note, it is important to mention that even women in other military services were exposed to gender discrimination. In addition, racial discrimination was also prevalent because black women and other racial minorities were often segregated during working as well as during eating. Women were not even allowed to join some military groups and only small numbers were allowed to in groups like Navy Nurse Corps.

Women at the front during World War II

As highlighted earlier in the introductory part, World War II was more severe than the World War I and therefore, it required more personnel. Women had to be included in the military since men were not enough to provide the required defense if victory was to be realized. As a result, gender roles were changed since women got a chance to join some military branches that that had been opened. Other women who never joined military were working in the factories and started to take up jobs which were initially for men. In addition, those who did not fit in either of the above categories used to do voluntary work in war places and region (Yellin 2005)5.

Behind Enemy Lines

Although the American Military women were not supposed to work in combat regions or even behind the enemy lines, some of them had to break this rule because the nature and the severity of the battle demanded them to do so. For instance, studies of Mangerich and Monahan 6 illustrate a case of a woman known as Lieutenant Agnes together with other women who were Voluntary Army Nurse Corps. Since they used to take care of combat soldiers, they used to risk their lives especially while transporting the wounded soldiers to hospitals. Apart from that, further studies illustrate flying wounded soldiers was a great risk because there was always a possibility of a plane crash or even crash landing on the enemy’s territory.

Qualified Successes

As much as working in the military was risky, women managed to continue performing their roles both in the combat and in other positions. Were it not for their services, many men who were soldiers by then would have continued to die even due to injuries that could have been attended to. In addition, their work in factories was very significant since it was through their efforts that some materials and equipments used during war were manufactured.

Their legacy

Some women left a legacy due to their contribution and also due to their great success during the six years of war. For example, a woman by the name Flikke Julia was popular because she was the leading female during the era of the Second World War. She was working under the Army Nurse Corps as the chief commander. Due to her, contribution which was of great help during the world war she, managed to leave a lasting legacy7.

Women’s Strength

The participation of women during the World War II displayed differed characteristics of women. To begin with, studies record that by the end of the war, women had gotten a chance to work in all positions that initially belonged to men. Although initially women were constrained in some few professionals like the clerical job, the war allowed them to work in factories, industries and also had a chance to join different military groups. Their participation in such activities displayed woman’s strength because in most cases, it was not only the unmarried and the windowed that used to work, but also women who had families.

Loyalty is such an important virtue especially during war. It is only loyalty that influenced women to offer their services voluntarily in hospital’s and in other places where war was taking place. Studies indicate that services of women were of high quality. Most importantly, intelligence was an important quality which was portrayed by women who were involved during the Second World War.

Due to their intelligence while working in different fields like nursing, they were able to fight and break the stereotype that had persisted for a long time. Although every American was committed, women displayed more confidence especially after agreeing to participate in duties that were initially for men. In addition, even though their husbands and boyfriends were involved in the battle, they never lost hope but kept on hoping that the war would come to and end and be reunited again with their families8.

Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service (WAVE).

Women Accepted for Voluntary Emergency Service was established in the year 1942. It was mainly formed under the Navy military group. It basically operated in United States but was allowed to operate in Alaska and Hawaii towards the end of year 1944. Women working under this group used to perform all types of duties that were necessary to facilitate smooth operations during war. Although other military groups like the Marines used to discriminate against women of different origin, WAVES admitted even black women but in small numbers. They were always supposed to be prepared to perform any duty at any given time. The activities were dependent on the department one was working in since some used to have clerical duties, others worked in control towers while there were some who were involved in the supply operations 9.

Conclusion

World War I was a special war since it accorded a chance for women to work in the military as well as in other positions. Although the condition was caused by great need of military personnel, it was vital in the lives of women since it helped to eliminate the stereotype of women gender roles. Working under different military groups, women whose abilities to learn and adopt were of high quality helped them to make significant contributions during the war. Their contribution does not require further emphasis as it is clear that without their support, the situation would have been worse. In addition, since they contributed politically, socially and economically, United States was able to recover from the effects of the war.

Bibliography

Dalton, Curt. Keeping the Secret: The Waves & NCR. 1997. Web.

Feltus, Pamela. Women in the Military in World War II. Web.

Mangerich, Agnes Jensen, and Evelyn M. Monahan. Albanian Escape: The True Story of U.S. Army Nurses Behind Enemy Lines. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 2006.

Opdycke, Sandra. The Routledge historical atlas of women in America. London : Routledge, 2000.

Yellin, Emily. Our Mothers’ War: American Women at Home and at the Front During World War II. New York : Simon & Schuster, 2005.

Footnotes

  1. Sandra Opdycke. The Routledge historical atlas of women in America. London : Routledge, 2000 pp. 98.
  2. Sandra Opdycke. The Routledge historical atlas of women in America. London : Routledge, 2000 PP.96.
  3. Ibid PP.98
  4. Emily, Yellin. Our Mothers’ War: American Women at Home and at the Front During World War II. New York : Simon & Schuster, 2005 pp. 78.
  5. Emily, Yellin. Our Mothers’ War: American Women at Home and at the Front During World War II. New York : Simon & Schuster, 2005 pp.82.
  6. Jensen, Mangerich Agnes and Monahan. Evelyn M. Albanian Escape: The True Story of U.S. Army Nurses Behind Enemy Lines. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 2006 pp. 80.
  7. Jensen, Mangerich Agnes and Monahan. Evelyn M. Albanian Escape: The True Story of U.S. Army Nurses Behind Enemy Lines. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 2006 pp.68.
  8. Eltus, Pamela. Women in the Military in World War II. Web.
  9. Curt, Dalton,. Keeping the Secret: The Waves & NCR. 1997. Web.