What were the contributions and impact of North Carolina women during World War II?
Approximately 350,000 women from across the United States served in the military during World War II. They worked in medicine, office jobs, and aviation. This level of participation was new, although women had served as nurses, cooks, and housekeepers since the American Revolution. Over 7,000 women in World War II trained in North Carolina. The U.S. encouraged all women to join and support the war effort. Once they enlisted, these women also experienced gender and racial discrimination. Many people did not support women joining the military, especially in the early days of the war.
The contributions of women in North Carolina were consistent with women from the rest of the United States. In 1942, the U.S. military created auxiliary branches for women called WAC, WAVES, and WASP. First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt was a strong supporter of women joining the military. She helped win approval of the creation of WAC and WAVES. Within auxiliaries, women served as mechanics, postal workers, and managers of communications and warning systems. More than 25,000 women applied to be WASPs, but less than 2,000 were accepted into the program. These women served at three military bases in North Carolina: the Asheville Weather Wing Headquarters, Camp Davis Army Airfield, and Camp Lejeune, near Jacksonville, North Carolina.
The women of WAC, WASP, and WAVES did not receive equal pay and fair treatment even as they worked alongside male soldiers. Each auxiliary was segregated and performed specific jobs. For example, the 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion was an all-black unit that distributed mail overseas. At Camp Davis, women transported targets for anti-aircraft training and delivered planes to other military bases in the United States. At the Asheville Weather Wing headquarters, women were allowed to train as pilots due to a shortage. WASPs completed flying jobs, manufactured and assembled planes, and delivered supplies. At Camp Lejeune, WAVES performed office jobs like typing and other clerical work and trained to operate communication systems like radios. Some became pilots as well.
More than ever before, World War II took North Carolina women out of the home and placed them at the center of the war effort. Women contributed to the war by rationing, working in factories, and joining the military. This allowed the United States to put more money into the war, maintain consistent supply lines for soldiers overseas, and train women to serve full time in the military.
By the end of World War II, women were serving in every United States military branch and assigned to camps throughout the world. In total, over six million women took wartime jobs in factories, three million volunteered with the Red Cross, and over 200,000 served in the military. North Carolina women contributed significant resources and labor to the Allied powers in World War II, all while paving the way for women to one day integrate into the military with equal pay and full benefits for their service.
Auxiliary: additional; supplementary
WAC: Women’s Army Corps
WAVES: Women Accepted for Voluntary Emergency Service
WASP: Women Airforce Service Pilots
Segregated: separated by race or ethnicity
Anti-aircraft training: air defense training; how to respond to attack from the air
Clerical: type of work done in an office
Rationing: using less of a resource, such as food, to make it last longer
Imagine you are alive during World War II and select one of the roles listed below and write from that perspective. You will use a RAFT format for this writing assignment, so each role has a specific audience, format, and topic to go with it.
For example, if you select the role of a Newspaper Reporter:
You will write an article to readers in North Carolina about the Pearl Harbor attack.
- Typed in Times New Roman style; font size 12; double spaced (except for propaganda poster)
- Minimum length of two paragraphs (except for propaganda poster)
- Can be completed in a Google Document
- Minimum of five glossary words from the case study must be used and highlighted
- Propaganda poster must fit on one full page and have color
- Audio recording for PSA minimum of 30 seconds and maximum of 1 minute
- Standard rules of spelling, grammar, punctuation, capitalization, and typing apply
- Must be proofread by someone else
Role #1: Local Newspaper Reporter
Audience: Readers in North Carolina
Topic: The attack on Pearl Harbor just happened, and the nation is stunned. Men are mobilizing for war and there are rumors about women being offered jobs in the military. You are to report on why women are needed to serve in the military, what types of jobs will be available, and what the qualifications to join are. Don’t forget to create a name for your newspaper and have a headline on your topic.
Role #2: Propagandist
Topic: You have been hired to convince women to join the factory workforce at home to help with the war effort.
Role #3: Member of WASP
Audience: Your family
Topic: You signed up and have been accepted into the training program, WASP. You are honored to be serving your country, but the work is difficult and women are not really welcomed by the male soldiers. Write a letter home, sharing your experience so far. Give details about your daily routine.
Role #4: Radio personality
Audience: United Nations
Format: Public Service Announcement
Topic: You will do a voice recording, encouraging the community to do their part on the home front. Remind everyone to recycle, keep rationing, create victory gardens, and do all they can to support America’s soldiers at war. Include a typed transcript of your PSA.
Role #5: Architect
Audience: North Carolinians
Format: Historical Marker
Topic: You have been tasked with honoring the women of North Carolina who served during World War II (WASP, WAVES, WAC). You must design a historical marker that celebrates the contributions of these women. Include brief information about the group, what they did, and where in North Carolina the marker will be placed (county/city). Search the following terms to see examples of NC historical markers:
- Fort Bragg Historical Marker
- Blue Star Memorial Marker
- Women Marines Historical Marker