During March, Women’s History Month celebrates the struggles and achievements of American women throughout our history. This month we honor the women who served in World War II in the Armed Forces and those that provided support on the home front. General Dwight D. Eisenhower, then Commander of U.S. Forces in Europe, declared, “They (women) have met every test and task assigned to them … their contributions in efficiency, skill, spirit, and determination are immeasurable.”
The Department of Defense is commemorating the 75th anniversary of World War II with various events including honoring women who served in the defense of our nation. Between 1940 and 1945, the female percentage of the U.S. workforce increased from 27 percent to nearly 37 percent. By 1945 nearly one out of every four married women worked outside the home. The aviation industry saw the greatest increase in female workers. By 1943, 310,000 women worked in the aircraft industry, representing 65 percent of the industry’s total workforce.
Nearly 350,000 American women served in uniform, both at home and abroad. They volunteered for the newly formed Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps (later renamed the Women’s Army Corps), the Navy Women’s Reserve, the Marine Corps Women’s Reserve, the Coast Guard Women’s Reserve (SPARS), the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASPs), the Army Nurse Corps, and the Navy Nurse Corps.
One of the lesser-known roles women assisted in the war was provided by the Women’s Airforce Service Pilots (WASPs) who were the first women to fly American military aircraft. They ferried planes from factories to bases, transported cargo, and trained male pilots how to strafe targets. They accumulated more than 60 million miles in flight distances. More than 1,000 WASPs served, and 38 of them lost their lives during the war. The WASPs were considered civil service employees and did not have official military status. They were granted no military honors or benefits. It wasn’t until 1977 that the WASPs received full military status. On March 10, 2010, at a ceremony at the U.S. Capitol, the WASPs received the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest honor Congress can award civilians.
This month, Military Outreach for Service (MOS) pays tribute to the women who served and worked during World War II. They not only forever changed the course of world history but also redefined the U.S. military. Please join MOS in celebrating these pioneering women who irreversibly changed women’s roles in American culture and society.