In World War II, women played a vital role – one that took them outside the home and put them not only in the workforce, but in the factories. Some women from the WWII era took standard clerical positions, while others actually joined the military. Below is a brief look at some of the areas in which women’s vital role contributed to the WWII efforts.
Army WACS – In 1942, the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC) was founded by the US Army. In 1943, it changed over to the Women’s Army Corps (WAC). At that time, it was formally recognized as part of the US Army. During WWII, more than 150,000 women would serve throughout the European and Pacific theaters.
A female, all African-American battalion worked in both England and France - making them the first female, black battalion to serve overseas. The WAC also recruited Asian-Pacific-American women and sent them to school to be properly trained as military translators. Chinese-American women were also recruited to serve in a number of different jobs, which included aerial photo interpretation, air traffic control and weather forecasting.
Women In the Factories – Women began working in the factory during WWII to meet in the increasing demands of the military. In some cases, they even assisted in designing some of the aircraft. They operated every type of machinery within the factory, from a simpler rivet gun to a more complex hydraulic press. By the end of 1943, over 470,000 women were working in the factories.
Military Nurses – US Navy nurses served throughout the war. Some remained stateside, while others found themselves serving overseas on hospital ships and also as flight nurses. On two different occasions, Navy nurses were captured and held as prisoners of war. The first incident involved five nurses taken prisoner by the Japanese while on the island of Guam. They were held for five months. The second group of eleven were captured while serving in the Philippines and held for 37 months.
WAVES – The US Navy also had a Women’s Reserve group known as Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service (or) WAVES. These women were used to fill a variety of jobs including administrative positions and positions dealing with communications, intelligence, medicine and supplies.
Marine Corps Women’s Reserve – Founded in 1943, this group is credited with the first commissioned female officer of the Marine Corps - Captain Anne Lentz. In 1945, the first female Marine detachment was sent to serve in Hawaii. Other members of the detachment remained stateside assisting in a variety of different positions.
Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) – This group started in 1943. These women flew missions stateside when male pilots were unavailable. They were the first females to fly US military aircraft.
Clerical Positions in the Coast Guard – The US Coast Guard began hiring women in 1941 to fill various secretarial and clerical positions. Their women’s reserve – known as SPARS – was founded just a year later in 1942. SPARS epitomized the common marine motto “Semper Paratus” or always ready.
After the war, most women were sent back to their household duties. These women had stepped up though when it counted. Not only did these women step up and into these vital roles during World War II, they performed their duties quite well, and sometimes even better than their male counterparts.