Jewish Women in the U.S. Military
Women have unofficially served in the American Army
since the birth of the United States. Today, women are involved in all aspects of the military,
from nursing to combat:
In the Revolutionary and Civil Wars, women often fought
disguised as men. During World War I, women were finally accepted by
the Navy, the Marines, and the Coast Guard. The Army, however, only
admitted women to serve in the Nurses Corps. Several thousand women
also served as drivers, secretaries, clerks, and telephone operators
during World War I, but they worked under civilian contracts, and were
not officially in the Army.
When World War II broke out, women were deperately
needed by the Army to fill important administrative jobs in order to
release men for combat. All branches of the armed forces conducted massive
publicity campaigns urging womne to volunteer and "Free a Man to
Fight." In addition, the Army and Navy Nurses Corps heavily recruited
civilian nurses to meet their own expanding needs.
In all of America's wars, nurses have worked near the
front lines of battle. Under frequent enemy fire in field hospitals,
evacuation hospitals, hospital trains, hospital ships and medical transport
planes, military nurses in wartime are faced with daily situations of
Military nurses are involved in a broad range of activities.
They are expected to adopt innovative solutions to a broad range of
medical problems with limited support, to move and set up field and
evacuation hospitals amidst enemy fire, and to teach and supervise new
trainees and medical personnel to save lives under dire circumstances.
The work of the following women encompasses the many
tasks assumed by military nurses throughout the last 150 years:
In May 1941, a bill was introduced in Congress to
create the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps. The bill languished for several
months until the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor [December 7, 1941]
signaled the need for a dramatic mobilization effort. On May 14, 1942,
The Women's Army Auxiliary Corps was officially established.
From the outset, the WAAC was beset with problems:
Not officially part of the Army, WAAC's did the same jobs as soldiers
but did not receive the same pay, rank, legal protections, injury benefits,
or other military entitlements. While women were anxious to serve their
country, these inequities severely inhibited the Army's ability to recruit.
By the spring of 1943, many WAAC training facilities were sitting idle.
In July1943, President Franklin Roosevelt signed into
law the establishment of the Women's Army Corps with full military status.
In the ensuing months, thousands of American women - Jew and Gentile
alike - answered the call to serve. By the war's end, the glowing record
of achievement and dedicated contributions toward victory on behalf
of America's women motivated President Harry Truman to establish the
WACS as a permanent part of the United States Army and Reserve.
Twelve Jewish American women were included among the
first graduating class of WAAC officers at Fort Des Moines, Iowa on
Augus 29, 1942. Other women active in these corps include:
The history of women serving in the United States
Navy began in the Civil War when nuns of the Roman Catholic religious
orders came aboard hospital ships to assist the wounded. While the first
trained nurses served in the Navy during the Spanish-American War, it
was not until 1908 that the Navy Nurse Corps was officially established
and produced over 12,000 women who served during World War I. The Navy
"WAVES" or Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service
force was officially established on July 30, 1942. The WAVES were created
to initiate a rapid buildup of Navy personnel at the outset of WWII
to address an acute shortage of manpower. With the establishment of
a women's reserve force, Congress hoped to enlist a total of 10,000
women and 1,000 officers to aid in the war effort.
Women in the Navy have included:
Of all the branches of the armed forces, the Air Force
has been, from the beginning, the most receptive toward recruiting women.
In World War II, the Army Air Force recruited an astounding
40 percent of all women in the armed forces! Under the AAF, women were
assigned to highly responsible positions including jobs as weather observers
and forecasters, cryptographers, radio operators and repairmen, sheet
metal workers, parachute riggers, link trainer instructors, bombsight
maintenance specialists, aerial photograph analysts and control tower
operators. WACS in the AAF were also assigned flying duties.
In today's Air Force, women regularly pilot bomber
planes and are permitted to engage in strategic air strikes.
In 1984, Reconstructionist Rabbi Bonnie Koppell became
the first woman officially endorsed as a chaplain in the United States
military while she was serving in the Army reserves. It was not until 1992,
however, that the late Rabbi Chana Timoner was appointed the first full
time active duty female chaplain in the United States military. Rabbi Sarah Schechter is the first, and currently only, female rabbi chaplain serving in the Air Force.
Women's Archives; Jewish