"A Defense Weapon Known to Be of Value": Servicewomen of the Korean War Era

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Fewer than five years after World War II, the United States found itself once again confronted by a war for which it was unprepared. Once again a downsized military establishment rushed to call up, draft, and recruit the needed manpower. And once again when it came up short, the services asked American women to leave their homes, jobs, and families to serve their country.

This book chronicles the crucial work of servicewomen in the Korean War, and other uniformed women who ...

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Overview

Fewer than five years after World War II, the United States found itself once again confronted by a war for which it was unprepared. Once again a downsized military establishment rushed to call up, draft, and recruit the needed manpower. And once again when it came up short, the services asked American women to leave their homes, jobs, and families to serve their country.

This book chronicles the crucial work of servicewomen in the Korean War, and other uniformed women who helped support that war and the burgeoning Cold War in places as far flung as the Pacific atoll of Kwajalein, bases in still-occupied post-war Germany and Japan, and lonely, isolated outposts such as Great Falls, Montana. The few short years between 1945 and 1953 saw pivotal changes in women's status in the U.S. Armed Forces. In a series of controversial and sometimes bitter legislative contests, women went from being almost a historical footnote in the immediate postwar period—a source of labor and skills the nation's military took for granted—to winning a permanent place in each branch of the armed services.

Largely based on the rich archives housed at the Women In Military Service For America Memorial Foundation, this volume records the actions of women who served in the armed forces, as well as those in the Red Cross, the USO, and other nongovernmental organizations that sent women overseas in support of U.S. military personnel. Topics include the efforts of the Department of Defense to increase the number of female recruits for the Korean War and the difficulty of retaining them in an era that valued homemakers and devalued career women; the cost to the military of the female talent drain just when the military needed them most; and a close look at Army, Navy and Air Force nurses, as well as those in the innovative M.A.S.H. units, who all performed magnificently under dangerous and harsh conditions.

The book's conclusion assesses the failure of the military to fully incorporate women during these years as a result of its own paternalistic mindset (shared by society at large) coupled with the failure of wartime recruiting efforts and the low retention rate for servicewomen. The authors argue that the number of servicewomen remained far below authorized levels throughout this period, and the continued small size of the women's components resulted in their inability to accomplish their mission. According to the authors, this hurt the credibility of the women's services and haunted them for years, reinforcing the rock-solid belief of many that the military was for men, and women did not belong there.

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What People Are Saying

Brig. Gen. Connie L. Slewitzke
"Extensively researched, this book provides compelling insight from a feminist viewpoint that addresses discriminatory legislation and regulations that prevented women from realizing their fullest potential and integration into the military. The individual stories woven into the text add interest and complement the historical content. The chapter on the nurses is particularly powerful. Their service of caring, courage and dedication under the most hazardous and austere conditions are the hallmarks of the noble profession of military nurse."
Brig. Gen. Connie L. Slewitzke, U.S. Army, Retired
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781584654728
  • Publisher: University Press of New England
  • Publication date: 5/6/2005
  • Pages: 336
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

LINDA WITT is the senior fellow with Women In Military Service For America Memorial Foundation, Inc. DR. JUDITH BELLAFAIRE is the foundation's chief historian. BRITTA GRANRUD is the foundation's curator of collections. MARY JO BINKER is an assistant editor with the Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project at George Washington University.

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Table of Contents

Women's Place — and the Servicewoman's Place — in Post World-War II America Servicewomen's Integration: "Prayerful Assumption" versus "Prevailing Ambivalence"
Recruiting and Retaining "America's Finest Women"
Fitting Servicewomen In: Finding "Proper Employment for Sisters and Gilfriends"
A "Woman's Imperative"? — Military Necessity Erodes Old Barriers
"Needed in Cadre" — Providing Support Around the World The Nurses in Korea — Under Fire and on the Move Recurring Issues Relating to Military Women
"The Old Dividing Line"
Notes Index

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