World War II
After the bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941, America joined the Allies and immediately faced a two front war against the military powers of Germany and Italy in Europe and Japan in the Pacific. Just as women went to the factories to replace men going off to war, it was believed that women could “Free a Man to Fight” if they were allowed to serve in the Army. The Women’s Army Corps was established as an official branch of the Army for the duration of the conflict plus six months. Women worked in more than 150 jobs and were assigned all over the world. Ultimately 210,000 women accepted the challenges put forth by a nation in need.
Recruiting the Best
An aggressive publicity campaign to encourage women to support the war effort was begun early in the war. These publicity campaigns featured now famous images such as Rosie the Riveter and the Women Ordinance Workers. For the Army, recruiting posters illustrated the ideal image of a woman in uniform—patriotic yet still feminine.
Not everything that Army women needed or wanted was issued. They found themselves stationed all over the world, sometimes in austere conditions without the right clothing and without the comforts of home. One example is this wedding gown, made in 1945 from an Army parachute, worn by Cpl. Majorie Short for her marriage to Sgt. Carter Ammon in the Philippines. The other is a bathing suit made from a khaki uniform and shoestrings, crafted by Anahid Kurkjian a WAC stationed in Papau New Guinea in 1944.
From Internment Camp to the Women’s Army Corps
Beginning in 1943, the War Department recruited Japanese American women as linguists for work in cryptology and communications. Many came from Hawaii or directly from internment camps run by the War Relocation Authority. This photograph shows Nisei (Japanese-American) Women’s Army Corps members beginning their journey to Tokyo in 1946. While there, they were discharged from the Army and continued to serve in a civilian capacity.