Women In Combat: Women In The World War II
By 1943, a couple of years into World War ll, the war recruiting departments were having a hard time finding enough men to send off to war. That began a movement to recruit women into the military. They were going to be allowed to take over some of the jobs that were currently being done by men. They were not going to be allowed to carry weapons and fight on the frontlines though.
To qualify for military servicewomen needed to be between the ages of 17- 43 and needed to weigh between 105 and 200 pounds. They needed to be between 5 and 6 feet tall and healthy. Women needed to go through a boot camp just like the men did. There were also intelligence tests they needed to take. Once they qualified and made it through all of this there were a lot of different kinds of jobs the women could do. Some of these jobs were military cooks, orderlies, drivers, postal workers, and later in the war they became radar operators and anti-aircraft members. A larger portion of the women was in the nursing corps which actually had some history in previous wars.
In May 1942 the WAAC (Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps) was created and a woman by the name of Oveta Culp Hobby was the leader of this organization. In the beginning, Congress had hoped to recruit about 25,000 women into this organization. This number was quickly filled and was then increased to 150,000 and then eventually the limits were no longer worried about. The different branches of the military had women’s groups with titles like WAC (Women’s Army Corps), WAVES (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service), WASP’s (Women’s Airforce Service Pilots) and SPARS (Women in the Coast Guard). It is estimated that women in the different military services numbered: Army at 140,000, Navy had 100,000, Marines had 23,000, Coast Guard had 13,000, Air Force had 1,000 and Army and Navy Nurse Corps had 74,000.
At first military women faced many problems both getting into and while they were in the service. Following basic training, they were expected to continue dressing and looking like women. They were to continue wearing makeup, using nail polish and keeping their hair as women did. They were also dressed in uniforms that kept them looking like women. At first military women were not given a rank or any benefits while being in the service and they got paid only about half of what the men got paid. If a woman got married or became pregnant, they were immediately sent home. Many men were resentful of women being allowed into the military and did not treat the women very well.
Even though we had already fought for equal and civil rights and passed the amendment giving women the right to vote there was still much racism and segregation going on during World War ll. So, while women were being treated differently than the men, African American women were being treated differently than even the white women. African American women were kept apart from the white women in sleeping quarters, where they ate and where they socialized. Though they were finally put together when they were at the specialized training schools. White women were paid better than black. Some of the black women that wanted to join got turned down because the military wanted more white women. There was a famous army battalion made up of all and only African American women called 6888 (Six Triple Eight) and they had an important role in getting military mail everywhere it needed to be.
As the war ended and everyone started coming home, women were mostly told they were no longer needed in the military. They were told to go back to being a housewife and mother. In the end, a total of 432 women had been killed in the war and 82 had been taken, prisoner. Most of the women’s service groups were eliminated by 1947.
In 1970 women were finally able to have command positions in the military and men and women were training together. Women were finally given official military status in 1977 and were eligible for veteran’s benefits. In 1978 the Women’s Army Corps was eliminated and the women were moved into the specific branch of the military that they served. Women were finally allowed to be in combat zones starting in 1994. It wasn’t until 2010 that many military women were honored for their part in World War ll with a Congressional Gold Medal. Women have slowly made progress when it comes to the military and now, in 2020, women mostly have all the same rights as men do in the military.
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