World War II was not just a war fought by the military factions of each country. The moment that the declaration of war rang through the United States, the entire nation invested itself in the conflict overseas. While, for the U.S. at least, it was very much a war fought primarily by men, that doesn’t mean the women were any less patriotic and supportive. Quite the contrary, in fact. They may not have taken up arms after the attack on Pearl Harbor thrust the country into war, but their role was as pivotal as any, providing vital support to the servicemen stationed in Europe and the Pacific.
Women in Uniform
Unlike the opposing Axis powers, the Americans and their allies were not averse to giving women a place in the war. Hitler may have looked down on the US for doing so, but without them who knows how the course of history may have changed. While it’s true women weren’t equipped with an M1 Garand and thrown on the front lines, upwards of 350,000 donned uniforms for the Army, Navy, and Marines to provide support for the troops in the midst of battle.
According to General Eisenhower, the role of women in World War II was vital to victory. Some took clerical and office jobs to allow the men of those positions the chance to fight while others became more hands-on. From mechanics to laboratory techs, radio operators to test pilots, American women quickly stifled the stereotype of a weaker sex by taking the mantle without hesitation.
On the battlefield, American troops were supported by the Army Nurse Corps, who risked life and limb to provide aid for injured troops. These brave women were close enough to the enemy to have sustained at least 16 deaths and the capture of 68, who were held in POW camps in the Philippines.
On Home Soil
For women who wanted to assist in the war effort but couldn’t or didn’t want to leave the country, there was plenty to be taken care of on home soil. Over 16 million Americans served in World War II, meaning that a lot of industries back in the States were desperate to replace employees and workers who joined the war effort overseas.
As the number of men still in the country dwindled, women stepped up and took over jobs that were once considered “men’s work.” Manufacturing of military weapons and vehicles quickly became the job of the American female, the proverbial “Rosie the Riveter” who became an unlikely war icon both at home and overseas.
The fight for the safety of the world was a joint effort not just fought and won by men, but also by the hundreds of thousands of women who took up the mantle after Japan attacked American soil.
After the War
With the war over, the size of the military was greatly reduced and the men who once defended the world’s freedom were to return to their daily jobs. Unfortunately, this also pushed women back into their former roles, though their involvement in World War II would not be forgotten.