Women in the Military
By: Vicente Calderon – Founder
For many years I thought that only Anglo men had fought in this country’s wars. As I stumbled through high school, the history that was taught seldom mentioned Latinos, women, or other minorities as having served in the United States Military. A good example of this was Tom Brokaw’s book, “The Greatest Generation.” Brokaw took very little notice is of the contributions women and other minorities in the military during WWII made.
Women served in the military since the revolutionary war as nurses, clerical staff, mechanics, and recently as helicopter, cargo and fighter pilots around the world. These assignments have brought them into combat in Afghanistan, Iraq and other combat zones and have placed them in harm’s way alongside their male counterparts.
Deborah Simpson disguised herself as a male and fought alongside the revolutionary soldiers in combat for years being wounded twice. Mary Edwards Walker served in the American Civil War as a surgeon’s assistant, was captured and became a prisoner of war. Edwards-Walker is the only woman to have earned the nations highest award, The Congressional Medal of Honor.
In 1901 the Army established the Women’s Nurse Corps and officially became part of the United States Armed Forces. During WWI approximately 30,000 women enlisted in the military of which 400 died.
In WWII over 400,000 women served in the military and suffered many wounded and killed. The battle for the Philippine Islands in 1942 resulted in the surrender of all U.S. as well as Philippine troops to the Japanese. Thousands of American and Filipino Troops were taken prisoners and thousands killed by the Japanese Army during the infamous “Death March of Bataan.” Even though American Women were subjected to the artillery and infantry attacks while they rendered medical aid to the hundreds of wounded American and Filipino Troops, not much has been written on the contributions military women, nurses, doctors and others that were also captured upon the fall of Bataan and Corregidor in the Philippines. These women, all volunteers, served with army medical units and suffered over 500 killed during the war.
Women also played a great part during WWII by leaving their homes and taking jobs, held traditionally by men, such as welders, carpenters, electricians and many of the other labor trades. These women were affectionately nick-named “Rosie the Riveter” and contributed greatly to the war effort. Their efforts released many thousands of males allowing them to enter the armed forces.
The North Koreans attacked South Korea and the United States once again found itself involved in the middle of a war when the Chinese crossed the 38th parallel and threw their armies against the American and South Korean Forces. At that time, the United States called to active duty women who had served in the Second World War, as well as other women to serve in Korea. Women serving as battle field nurses suffered 16 dead in the line of duty.
Later, in the Vietnam War, 265,000 women volunteered to serve, of these, 10,000 served in combat zones which resulted in 16 deaths and many more wounded as a result of enemy fire.
In 1976 Congress opened the Military Academies to women, the Coast Guard opened their academy to women in 1975 being the first to do so. As a result, women served as combat helicopter pilots and military police in the invasions of Granada and Panama. Later 40,000 women served in the Iraqi War from 1990 to 1992, this reflected 7% of American Combat Forces. These women served as support units for manned missile sites. As a result of their involvement to the war effort, thirteen were killed, many wounded and two became prisoners of war but later released. In 2008, General Ann E. Dunwoody became the first women to earn the promotion to Four Star General.
March being Women’s Month, please take time out to thank women for their service in all of our country’s wars and other armed conflicts, they have earned it. Today women continue to serve in combat zones in Afghanistan, Iraq and other middle eastern countries where there is conflict.
The National Latino Peace Officers salutes the many women in law enforcement, military, fire, corrections and many of the other First Responders, who have reached high positions in their chosen vocations and to the many that don the uniform daily and respond to their responsibilities alongside their male counterparts. God Bless them all.