Editor's note: This is the first of two parts.
Initials and acronyms:
A.E. - American Entertainment
A.N.C. - Army Nurse Corps
S.P.A.R. - Semper Patatus - "Always Ready," Coast Guard
W.A.C. - Women Army Corps, military enlisted, usually six-year enlistment with four active duty and two reserve duty
W.A.A.C. - Women's Army Auxiliary Corps, non-military
W.A.S.P.S. - Women Airforce Service Pilots Squadron, military enlisted, moved planes from one hanger to another or to known airbases within the country. These jobs freed male pilots to fly in combat.
W.A.V.E.S. - Women Accepted for Voluntary Emergency Service, Navy. Here a woman could serve her country in a non-hospital duty station, filling such roles as clerks, operators, office workers, etc. This was a military job for which women enlisted for terms and were discharged upon completion of those terms.
N.N.C. - Navy Nurse Corps this was a medical job for which women were stationed as nurses at naval hospitals and on ships. This was something women enlisted for. Registered nurses would enlist into ranks of officer.
W.I.V.E.S. - Women Insure Victory, Equality and Security, non-military. Rosie the Riveter was the cultural icon representing these American women who went to work in munitions and other factories during WWII to replace the males who went to war.
W.M. - Women Marines, enlisted, usually with a six-year enlistment, four active duty and two reserve duty
W.A.F.S. - Women Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron, unit used to transport aircraft to free male pilots for combat missions, merged with the W.F.T.D. in 1943
W.F.T.D. - Women Flying Training Detachment, another non-military unit used for relocating aircraft, freeing men for combat flying
U.S.O. - United Service Organization, non-military, coordinates entertainment and care packages for soldiers to bring them hope and comfort, also visiting overseas and in VA hospitals.
Homefront Women - Women who stayed home and collected items such as rubber, aluminum, newspapers, nylon and anything else that could help the war effort.
American Red Cross - Non-military women who served with the Red Cross were responsible for making contact with soldiers when they were allowed to enter Prisoner of War camps, made contact with these soldiers' families back home, helped organize USO shows and delivered coffee and donuts to the men in the front lines.
Gold and Blue Star Mothers
The Gold Star Mothers were formed shortly after WWI to give support to other mothers whose children had been killed in war. A banner was placed in a window in the front of each mother's home. The banner was white with a red border and a gold star in the center for each child lost. One of the most well-known tragedies concerning a Gold Star Mother is the story of Mable Sullivan, who lost all five of her sons when the USS Juneau was sunk off the Solomon Islands. There was another mother during the Civil War who lost eight sons in battle, 60 years before the formation of the Gold Star Mothers.
The Blue Star Mothers were formed in March 1942. The group was designed to help other mothers who had sons or daughters serving actively in the military. A banner was placed in the front window of these women's homes as well. This banner also has a red border, but with blue stars in the center representing children in the service.
Women and the War Effort
Rosie the Riveter is an American icon. During World War II, the country was forced into war and it needed its women to help with the war effort. Women from all over the country dropped their dishcloths and makeup brushes, hung their dresses in their closets and put on blue jeans and steel-toed boots. They stuffed their long hair under ball caps or tied it up in scarves to keep it out of moving machinery and cutting torches. They learned fast and well, building new airplanes and machine guns and staffing munitions factories. Their small, deft hands worked quickly to set fire pins and piece together the intricate components of war.
Not only did the American women show their emotional and physical strength at this time in our country's history, but they also showed their love and loyalty to the returning veterans when those men returned home. Many women willingly gave up great paying jobs which had given them new senses of purpose and freedom, all so that these veterans could return to work one they got back home.
The First Women Who Served
The American woman did more than her fair share when called upon to serve her country, whether that was at home or overseas. Starting back when the United States was in its infancy, women served their country as cooks, nurses, spies and even couriers, carrying valuable military documents and information between General George Washington and his junior generals in the field. Many times, these women traveled alone and unprotected, left to depend on their own wits and resources. Some disguised themselves as men so they could fight in combat.
Yet it took two centuries before the United States recognized their qualifications and allowed women to serve in combat roles.
New rules for females have been doled out every time commanders get into situations in which the need for female assistance becomes evident. One of the first cases of this was during the Spanish-American War, when the spread of disease and its threat was so great that a Women's Army Nurse Corps was needed.
The first women in this nursing unit weren't even given uniforms or granted a rank that would earn them respect. They were hired and given weekly pay. Until their medical skills were needed, the nurses would work as cooks, launderers or barracks cleaners.
Next week: Part two.