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Woman to Women: Women in the military in World War II

Posted: Tuesday, Feb 5th, 2013

Recently I found a 1944 newspaper article highlighting my Mom and three of her siblings who served in the Armed Forces In World War II. My mom and her younger brother joined the Navy. Her older brother was in the Air Force and her younger sister a Marine.

Today women have a more active role in serving including combat. I was interested, though, in WWII and my research turned up interesting information. In WWII, more than 350,000 women served in the U.S. Armed Forces. The women’s services selected only the best of women volunteers with proven aptitude, skills and experience who wanted to contribute to the war effort.

They had their own branches including Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps, the Women Air force Service Pilots, and the Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service. Women in the Marines were SPARS. They worked as typists, clerks, and mail sorters. Women were essential in maintaining the bureaucratic mechanisms that was necessary in total warfare. Filling these office jobs freed more men to fight.

For each female WASP pilot, a male pilot was freed for combat service and duties. The women flew over 60 million miles in every type of military aircraft. The WASPs were finally granted veteran status in 1977, and given the Congressional Gold Medal in 2009. What took so long? Each had a pilot’s license and were trained to fly “the Army way” by the U.S. Army Air Forces at Avenger Field in Sweetwater, Texas. More than 25,000 women applied for the WASP, and 1,074 earned their wings and became the first women to fly American military aircraft.

On June 22, 1944, President Roosevelt signed the “Servicemen’s Readjustment Act,” the “G.I. Bill of Rights.” This popular legislation included educational benefits, low-interest home and business loans, employment assistance and unemployment benefits for returning veterans. It had a huge impact on the lives of millions of veterans and set in motion programs that helped our war ravaged economy.

College administrators predicted a million veterans would attend college but 2 million flocked to colleges and universities across the country. More than 19.5% of 332,178 eligible women veterans elected to attend college as compared to 15% of 15 million eligible male veterans.

The Women in Military Service for America Memorial in Washington DC was dedicated October 18, 1997, and serves as a gateway to Arlington National Cemetery. The memorial showcases the roles women played in America’s military history up to the present. It is impressive how women have contributed.

For the complete article see the 11-23-2012 issue.

Click here to purchase an electronic version of the 11-23-2012 paper.

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