More than 16 million American men and women served in the US Armed Forces during World War II, and another 3.5 million worked as federal civilian employees during the war. These men and women are your parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, or siblings. Many have shared their stories, but many others have not, and few details from their time in service are known.
Off these 16 million more than 150,000 women served in the WAC during the war, with thousands sent to the European and Pacific theaters. None saw combat, but their brave service would lead to greater acceptance of the idea of women into the military.
American women also took to the skies during World War II, as the U.S. Army Air Forces (predecessor of the Air Force) began training women to fly military aircraft in order to free male pilots for combat duty. In the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) program, women flew B-26 and B-29 bombers and other heavy planes between factories and military bases around the country; tested new and repaired planes; and towed targets for gunners in the air and on the ground to practice shooting, using live ammunition.
By December 1944, when Congress mandated the closure of the elite program (more than 25,000 women applied during the war, but only 1,100 would end up serving), 38 WASP pilots had lost their lives due to plane crashes or other accidents in the line of duty.