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Women were America’s Secret Weapon in WWII

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Looking back at the history of the United States, it’s obvious that WWII was filled with historical firsts. It’s interesting to note that the role of women drastically changed in WWII. In fact, people even called women “America’s Secret Weapon”. While people typically think of Rosie the Riveter when they think of women’s role in WWII, women did not just fill the jobs that men left behind. Women played a vital role in WWII as they joined the Nurse Corps and the Armed Services.

women in WWII

Nurse Corps

The Nurse Corps played an integral role in the United States Military in the war. According to the National Women’s History Museum, The Army Nurse Corps was established in 1901 and the Navy Nurse Corps was established in 1908. When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor in 1941, the Nurse Corps rushed to aid the wounded. At that time, there were only 8,000 nurses. By the end of the war, there were 59,000 army nurses and 11,000 navy nurses.

Nurse Corps

The US Army Center of Military History explains that “Within the ‘chain of evacuation’ established by the Army Medical Department during the war, nurses served under fire in field hospitals and evacuation hospitals, on hospital trains and hospital ships, and as flight nurses on medical transport planes”. Most of these women worked incredibly close to the front lines.  Additionally, it is because of their service that the US mortality rate wasn’t higher. Furthermore, “More than 2,000 nurses trained in a six-month course designed to teach them how to administer inhalation anesthesia, blood and blood derivatives, and oxygen therapy as well as how to recognize, prevent, and treat shock”.

Armed Services

The Women’s History Museum explains that following the Pearl Harbor attack, Congress authorized women to serve in the military for the duration of the emergency, plus six months. The museum states that “women were initially barred from supervisory positions, jobs requiring physical strength, or work in conditions ‘improper for women.'” However, as the war raged on, the women slowly started working in conditions that were once “improper”. More than 400,000 women served in WWII. 432 of them died and 88 were prisoners of war. By the end of the war, women served in every occupation except direct combat.

us-army-female-soldiers

However, as the war raged on, the women slowly started working in conditions that were once “improper”. More than 400,000 women served in WWII. 432 of them died and 88 were prisoners of war. By the end of the war, women served in every occupation except direct combat. The army tried to recruit 1.5 million women to serve in the armed forces, but they fell short. The military needed women to fill positions that men used to have in the military in order to send as many men into direct combat as possible.

Women also served as military aviators. According to the National Women’s History Museum, “In 1942 under the leadership of Nancy Harkness Love, the Women’s Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron (WAFS) flew aircraft from where they were manufactured to bases where they were needed. To qualify, these women had to have had extensive flight experience. Members of WAFS were civilian employees who were hired under 3-month contracts and were assigned to no military unit”.

16 July 2009    From the left, Dorothy Dodd Eppstein, Hellen Skjersaa Hansen, Doris Burmester Nathan and Elizabeth Chadwick Dressler, walk in front of a B-25 plane, as they were Air Force engineering test pilots for the B-25 during World War II.     Shawano Cleary / Special to the Gazette

Women’s efforts in WWII helped the US succeed. They showed their capabilities off to the entire world. Many brave women served in the military, proving themselves to be “America’s Secret Weapon”.