Guest Post – Women of World War II by GPCox

By: gpcox:  http://pacificparatrooper.wordpress.com

I want to apologize to gpcox because there are five pictures in this post and for some reason, they will not transfer when I post this article. I’ve tried it several ways and they just won’t come through.

As WWII unfolded around the globe, women were also affected.  Some found themselves pressed into jobs and duties they would never have previously considered.  Hitler derided Americans as degenerate for putting the women to work, but nearly 350,000 American females alone served in uniform voluntarily.  A transformation of half the population, never seen before, that began evolving in the early ‘40’s and continues today.

For the WASPs, 1,830 female pilots volunteered for Avenger Field outside Sweetwater, Texas alone and it was the only co-ed air base in the U.S.  These women would ferry aircraft coming off the assembly lines from the factories to the base.  They acted as test pilots; assessing the performance of the planes.  The WASPs were flight instructors and would shuttle officers around to the posts where they were needed.  For artillery practice, they would tow the target.  During their service, 38 of these brave women died.

A wonderful story was given to me by my longtime friend, Carol Schlaepfer, about Pearl Brummett Judd, a WASP pilot she met in California.  Pearl was a test pilot flying the Stearman, PT-17; North American AT-6; Vultee BT-13; Cessna UC-78 and AT-17.  In an interview, she said, “The B-29 was a little touchy.  The engines caught on fire.”  Pearl Judd and her fellow WASP sisters (or their survivors) finally received a Congressional Gold Medal for their services in March 2010.  25,000 women in all applied for the WASPs; in Pearl’s class of 114 women, only 49 graduated.  The symbol for the WASPS, shown below, uses the image of Pearl Judd.  They did not receive veteran status until 1977 and did not have the right to have a flag on their coffin until 2000.

WACs, (Women’s Army Corps), the nurses were on active duty around the world.  But, the WAVES (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service of the Navy); the SPARS (U.S. Coast Guard Women’s Reserve) and Women’s Marines were prohibited by law from serving outside the U. S.  At Cherry Point Marine Air Station in North Carolina, 80% of the control tower operations were done by the female Marines.  Nearly all the SPARS and WAVES officers were college graduates and worked in finance, chemical warfare or aerological engineering.  Some were assigned to install radar on the warships.

WWII enabled women to be involved in top-secret operations for the first time.  These women dealt with LORAN stations, night-fighter training and watched the screens for unusual “blips.”  They took in messages from the British “Enigma” intelligence about German activity.  The OSS hired women as agents, as we discussed on my post at:                                                                   http://pacificparatrooper.wordpress.com/2013/07/08/allied-spies-saboteurs/

The first WACS to arrive in the Pacific were sent to Australia, 2 ½ years after Pearl Harbor, in May 1944.  In Port Moresby, New Guinea they served within barbed wire compounds (any dates with the men had be pre-approved)  As the forces moved from island to island, the WACS followed after the area was secured from the enemy.  Yet, despite these precautions, 68 service women were captured as POWs in the Philippines and 565 WACS in the Pacific Theater alone won combat decorations for bravery under fire and meritous service.  Nurses were in Normandy on D-Day+4.  In the Army Nurse Corps, 16 were killed as a result of enemy fire.  A Red Cross woman was also killed during an attack on the 95th Evacuation Hospital.  Also in the ETO, when their plane was forced to crash land behind enemy lines, Lt. Agnes Mangerich and 13 other nurses, male technicians and the pilot marched for 62 days before reaching safety.

A fascinating story of WAVE, Margaret Hain, can be found at fellow blogger, Don Moore’s site:

http://donmooreswartails.com/2013/08/23/margaret-hain/

American women did more than join the military…..

Alice Newcomer graduated George Washington University in 1943 and immediately began working in the Lend-Lease Program.  The 400-500 people employed there easily dealt with billions of dollars in war materiel, but when it came to how much should be shipped in civilian supplies, she said no one quite knew where to draw the line.  Hilda O’Brien, fresh out of Columbia Univ. Graduate School, started her career in the Justice Dept.  Kay Halle, a radio broadcaster, worked for the OSS in Morale Operations and became known as Mata Halle.  (Many of these operations still remain secret.)  Sally Knox was an editor for what was a part of the Army Air Force.  She was in Detroit and then Wright Field near Dayton, Ohio. (Which later became Patterson Air Force Base)  She helped to prepare military publications.

Coralee Redmond of Tacoma, Washington had a husband, 9 children and several brothers who worked for the war effort or served in the military.  She and one daughter worked in the shipyards while her other daughter went to work for Boeing in Seattle.  [No one could doubt her contributions.]  On 29 April 1943, the National Labor Board issued a report to give equal pay for women working in war industries.  To see the actual report, a fellow blogger has posted it:

http://todayinlaborhistory.wordpress.com/2013/04/29/april-29-1943-2/

In Canada, besides having their own Canadian Women’s Army Corps, the women showed their national pride, not only by entering the masculine sphere of work to release the men to serve in the military, but by using their domestic talents in volunteer work.  The War Services Fund was supported in this way.  Their civic and community pride provided various forms of aid to the war effort.

In New Zealand, the women of WWII were also doing their part.  The Women’s War Service Auxiliary worked in the Transport Division, firefighting, canteen work, camouflage netting, ambulance work and even had an orchard and gardening section.  Their WAAF (Women’s Aux Air Force) had cipher officers, pilots, mechanics and meteorologists.  Noeline and Daphne Petrie, after joining the WAAF, were stationed at Woodbourne and Fiji.  And, we cannot forget the nurses.  Our fellow blogger, Gallivanta at: http://silkandthreads.wordpress.com gave me the link for this information and for books that are available: http://christchurchcitylibraries.com/heritage/warandconflicts/worldwar2/servicewomen/

Australian women as early as 1939 were trained in jobs to free the men to enlist.  The Women’s Emergency Signaling Corps were based in Sydney.  The Woman’s Flying Club were not pilots, but trained to be mechanics and the Women’s Transport Corps passed rigorous driving tests for truck driving and ambulances.

In Britain there was a definite industrial segregation of men and women in industry, but as the war continued to rage, the barriers lessened out of necessity.  They began transporting coal on the inland waterways, joining the Fire Service and Auxiliary Police Corps.  They began to be “drafted” into the Women’s Royal Naval Service (“WRENS”), Auxiliary Air Force and Air Transport.  The women of Britain played a vital role in all phases of the war including the French underground, Special Operations and anti-aircraft units.

Finland had the organization, Lotta Svard, where the women voluntarily took part in auxiliary work of the armed forces to help the men fighting on the front.  At home, they were nurses and air raid signalers.  The Lotta Svard was one of the largest voluntary groups of WWII; although they never fired guns which was a rule of their group.

The Soviet Union utilized women pretty much from the start of the war and they were NOT auxiliary.  Approximately 800,000 served in front line units.  They were part of the antiaircraft units as well, firing the guns and acting as snipers.  Klavdiya Kalugina was their youngest female sniper starting her military service at age 17.

An interesting story about Irena Sendler in war-torn Warsaw, go to fellow blogger’s page at:

http://abigaleblood.wordpress.com/2013/08/02/a-triumph-and-tragedy-for-womens-history/

Judy and I would appreciate hearing any and all stories you have.  Let’s hear from every country out there!!

Resources: University of Fraser Valley; ww2 database; “Greatest Generation” by Tom Brokaw; “Americans Remember the Home Front” by Roy Hoopes; ctch.binghampton.edu; Wikipedia; publicworks.qld.go; Australia.gov.

Tomorrow I’ll be posting letters written in 1942. The year is coming to an end.  Lad is still unsure when he will be getting to California because he will be stopping on the way at the Wolverine Plant in Flint, Michigan for further training in Diesel engines. Dan is in Red Lion, Pennsylvania continuing his training and Ced is still in Alaska,

Judy Guion

 

25 thoughts on “Guest Post – Women of World War II by GPCox

    • jaggh53163 says:

      Cy – Thank you for the re-Blog. I love it when someone like you cares enough about the information GPCox and I share regarding American family life in the 1940’s to share our posts with their followers. Much appreciated.

  1. Lavinia Ross says:

    Thank you for honoring these women.

    • jaggh53163 says:

      Lavinia – You are quite welcome. All the women who worked and served during the war should have been recognized much sooner than they have been. I believe GP joins me when I say that I am honored to be a very small part in recognizing their contributions.

  2. Val says:

    I’m always torn between being grateful that women helped in this way, and wishing that they hadn’t have needed to. It’s one of those equal-rights issues that, sometimes, I wish hadn’t been so equal. That said, I feel the same way about men doing the same service.

    I wish I could have seen the photos apart from the one I saw one on GPCox’s own post.

    Apropos the missing photos and overlapping text (which I’ve seen before on your blog, most often via these guest posts), there are a few things that you can do that might avoid the problems you’re having. I think it’s either that you’re trying to post photos that are too wide for the size of your blog’s main content area, which is very narrow, or the way the text has been formatted, or something to do with wordpress settings. So, three ideas:

    Go to the old dashboard (put /wp-admin at the end of your blog’s home page address, and you’ll get there). In the side panel click on Settings – Writing – and then check the second option for Formatting (‘WordPress should correct invalidly nested XHTML automatically’) and then the ‘Save Changes’ button.

    Resize any photos to the size of your theme’s main panel before putting them in the post.

    Make sure the content is not copied and pasted directly from a Word document. You can copy it into notepad or similar and remove the formatting first.

    • jaggh53163 says:

      Thank you, Liz. I have changed the Settings – writing for my blog. Thank you for the suggestion. I then went back to the original post sent to me by GPCox five years ago and tried a new post. The pictures still did not come through but I will post it to see if the formatting is different and we don’t have text running off to the side. Thank you for the suggestions.

  3. My mom was an aircraft engine tester at Willow run assembly in Detroit. It was a job and she enjoyed helping out.

  4. Onisha Ellis says:

    My mom had 8 sisters and most had husbands in the military during WWII, different branches. My mom repaired guns at Fort Bragg and I am sure her sisters all helped support the war in some way. In a lifetime of stories, I never heard one indicate their contribution to the war effort was greater than another, male of female. I miss that unity in today’s world.

    • jaggh53163 says:

      Onisha – I miss the unity and “all for one, one for all” attitude that was so prevalent during this conflict. Thank you for adding another piece to the story of strong women who helped win the war.

  5. Thank you for this fascinating information about women in WW2. My mother, born in August 1939, was too young to be involved in any way in the war but I remember my father’s older sisters telling me about their roles as ambulance driver’s and working on the anti-aircraft guns in Birmingham, England, during air raids in World War Two. One of the sister’s met and married an Australian soldier who was rescued from Germany, after his plane was shot down, and recuperated in a hospital in Birmingham.

  6. GP Cox says:

    Reblogged this on Pacific Paratrooper and commented:
    We must never forget the women who played their parts to win this war.

  7. GP Cox says:

    Thank you for reposting this article, Judy.

  8. I had no idea that women in the military in WWII were in such dangerous occupations, nor that they were given such short shrift for their sacrifice. Definitely a wrong that cried out to be righted.

  9. Couldn’t read the lines crossing the blue band on the right

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