A Look Back At Women’s History In The U.S. Military

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It is important to recognize the contributions women have made to all facets of our nation’s history. In that vein, it is not generally known that women have fought for this country from the beginning. This video offers a short, but informative introduction to that history.

Women did participate in the Revolutionary War, but not generally in uniform. Some acted as spies, and there are some records of a handful of women who disguised themselves as men and fought alongside their brothers-in-arms. This was true for the Civil War as well. In fact, I have written before about a woman, Mary Edwards Walker, who was the U.S. Army’s first female surgeon, and who was, and remains, the only woman to have been awarded the Medal of Honor.

She wore it proudly every day for the rest of her life.

Source: Wikimedia Commons
Marie Marvingt was the first female pilot to fly during a wartime; she was never in combat (1912).


It would not be until the last two years of WWI that women would be officially allowed to sign up for service in our military. Some 33,000 women did so.

Source: Wikimedia Commons
U.S. Navy’s women submariners meet President Obama, 2012.


In WWII, 400,000 signed up and served mostly as nurses and other positions in the rear. Some in the U.S. Army Air Force became WACs, test piloted, and flew bombers and fighter planes across the country to embarkation points where they would be delivered to the European or the Pacific theaters. Some even trained the males who would eventually fly those planes in combat.

Source: Wikimedia Commons
Four American F-15 Eagle pilots from the 3d Wing walk to their jets at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson.


Women were made officially eligible for G-I benefits in 1946. As you will see they were first allowed into the various military academies in 1976. But it would not be until 1993 that they would be allowed to serve on combat ships and to fly fighter jets in combat.

Source: DoDLive
Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, talks with and takes questions from U.S. Soldiers of the 173rd Airborne Brigade at the Estonian 1st Brigade Headquarters in Tapa, Estonia, Sept. 15, 2015.


In 2013, Secretary Leon Panetta made the announcement that all positions in the military would be opened up to women by 2016. And, Secretary Ash Carter reaffirmed that women would be permitted to apply for combat positions. This opened up some 220,000 positions to women.

Source: Wikimedia Commons
Two members of a US Marine Corps Female Engagement Team patrolling a town in Afghanistan during 2010.

In the post 9/11 wars, women have indeed been in the field, in the air, and at sea in combat roles. They have served alongside their male counterparts with distinction, courage and skill. They have been awarded medals for their courage under fire and have become an integral part of all the parts and elements of the military’s multi-faceted missions.

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The Veterans Site sends its thanks and its respect to all the women who have served in the past and to all those who are serving today. We honor the many contributions women have made in every aspect of the modern military. Thank you for your dedication and willing commitment to serve the nation in this way.

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Dan Doyle is a husband, father, grandfather, Vietnam veteran, and retired professor of Humanities at Seattle University. He taught 13 years at the high school level and 22 years at the university level. He spends his time now babysitting his granddaughter. He is a poet and a blogger as well. Dan holds an AA degree in English Literature, a BA in Comparative Literature, and an MA in Theology, and writes regularly for The Veterans Site Blog.
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