Notable Accomplishments of Women in Military Service
Although women have served as true volunteers in a variety of supporting roles during every armed conflict of the United States beginning with the American Revolution, some disguised themselves as male soldiers in order to contribute more directly.
During the Civil and Spanish-American wars, the most significant contributions made by women were in the fields of health care and medicine. These contributions led to the creation of the Army Nurse Corps in 1901 and the Navy Nurse Corps in 1908.
Harriet Tubman, born in Dorchester County, Maryland in 1849, is the first woman to serve with the Union Army as a nurse, spy, and scout during the Civil War.
During WWI the following numbers of women served ni the various military departments: 21,480 Army nurses; 1,476 Navy nurses; 11,880 Navy enlisted women - Yeoman (F); 305 Marine women; and 2 Coast Guard. The Army also sent 233 bilingual telephone operators and 50 stenographers to France - all civilians.
Following the attack on Pearly Harbor on December 7, 1941, Congress authorized the following components: Women's Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC), May 1942 (served with the army but not considered a part of the Army); Navy Waves and Woman Marines, July 1942; Coast Guard SPARs, November 1942; and WAAC reestablished to the Women's Army Corps, July 1943.
Military women during WWII performed duties across the United States and overseas as nurses, postal clerks, intelligence analysts, communication specialists, truck drivers, cooks, linguists, and much more. Of special note were a group of contract women pilots known as WASPs who ferried all types of aircraft across the United States relieving male pilots for combat overseas.
Eighty-three women were held as prisoners of war in the Pacific Theater during WWII; 78 were held for nearly three years.
The efforts of the women who served in WWII changed not only the place of women in the military services, but expanded the roles and opportunities for women in the civilian labor force as well.
120,000 Women served during the Korean Conflict with some 1,000 serving in theater and more than 500 Army nurses with "boots on the ground" in Korea.
197,500 women, all volunteers, served during the Vietnam War; some 7,500 were stationed in Vietnam, most of whom were nurses.
The first women generals were appointed on June 11, 1970. In 1980 the first women graduated from the United States Service Academies.
In 2013 the Secretary of Defense officially authorized women to serve in combat roles.