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American women played a significant role in the World War II. If previously military jobs were a reserve of the men, the increasing intensity of war and the need to protect American boundaries necessitated involving women in this sphere. Consequently, women occupied strategic positions in the military: during the war, women assumed roles in building warships, aircrafts, weapons and military vehicles. Furthermore, women provided logistic support and worked at munitions plants. Jasmine Amber, a survivor of the World War II and a retired female soldier, explains that women had to learn military ways to provide support to their male counterparts. Due to this, women enlisted in nursing courses and served on the war fronts treating and taking care of the injured military men.
Over 400,000 women served in the military during the entire period of the war. Out of the total number of the women soldiers, approximately 400 women lost their lives to the enemy fire. Amber, however, categorically states that women could not serve in the combat, as it would paint a sad picture of the nation in the eyes of its people. However, women assumed full military responsibilities after the legislation of the Women's Armed Services Integration Act in 1948.
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At home, U.S women had numerous responsibilities. They enrolled in non-military organizations such as Red Cross to rescue, care for the sick and provide support to the soldiers at war. The situation in the country, as Amber vividly described it, required a full participation of women. Thus, women also aided the war by working in agricultural sector tending plants. Agricultural sector was the major source of food, as importing products at that time were impossible. Moreover, girls volunteered to sell war bombs, as well as planting and canning production. They also donated blood to soldiers who needed a blood transfusion after sustaining injuries in the war front.
Women also were responsible for salvaging the needed material goods and sending care packages to the soldiers in the war front. As Amber states, the skills that women acquired in their day-to-day chores were assisting them in learning new competences towards the war effort. For instance, women managed to learn the art of riveting quickly because they were used to sewing and, according to Amber, riveting resembled sewing. This skill was very useful, as at the time, men were on the war front and could not engage in the activity.
The art of riveting gave women crucial information about the aviation industry. Amber explains that, while women had been mostly engaged in the most conventional female jobs such as painting, during the war they got an opportunity to be more adventurous. Thus, women participated in running of massive hydraulic presses that cut metal plates and metal rods, while others enlisted in learning operating cranes for moving large and heavy aircraft parts from one end of the factory to the other. Moreover, women became aircraft inspectors and flew planes to inspect their airworthiness before flying them to the war zones. In fact, women proved particularly better in the traditional jobs of men during the war.
In the Military
Amber explains that women also served in the military: they played a vital role in nursing the injured men. Nurses could not go to the war front; instead, they stayed behind in the military camps. Therefore, both in the States and overseas, they served as flight and ship nurses. Notably, nurses were mainly African-American and Asian-American women and served as nurses during the entire period of the war. Other than serving in the military as nurses, women served clerical and secretarial positions, overseeing the proper functioning of all systems. As clerks, women ensured that the army did not run into shortages of any kind.
According to Amber, since there was the need for reporting to the officials about the progress of war, women assumed the roles of photographers to provide facts about the ongoing events in the front. Besides, the photographers had the responsibility of taking pictures of the enemy landscapes: the photos accorded them a tactical advantage over their enemies. Moreover, women served as cooks and pharmacists. As cooks, the women oversaw the preparation of foods in time and in right quantity to feed all the military men and the captives taken by the American soldiers.
Due to the changes of climatic conditions, numerous snakebites and mosquito bites, the soldiers often needed medication. Thus, Amber states, that the women serving as pharmacists had the responsibility of administering medicine to the ill soldiers. Women were also instrumental in coding commands from the military chief and decoding the intricate messages to pass them to the soldiers. As a lesson from the World War 1, using language that was easy for the enemy to decode was dangerous if such information fell into the wrong hands. Amber highlights that women were able to learn foreign languages quickly and were, therefore, useful in translating the enemy language.
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Women involvement in the U.S armed forces during the World War II was a significant turning point in the course of war and the manner it was handled by the army. As Amber explained, the idea of putting women in the military faced initial resistance because it could depict a weak military. Women, however, proved to be a valuable source of high-quality personnel to meet the labor requirements of the war. She concludes by stating that admitting women to the military was a breakthrough, as it empowered women to participate in carrying the mission of the whole nation.
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