American Elephants

World War II: When Women Built the Armaments by The Elephant's Child

1943 war work

Here’sa great collection of images from the Library of Congress portraying women war workers at work. (click to enlarge)

I reject the captions absolutely, which must have been written by a recent high school graduate who didn’t pay much attention in history class, or else learned history from Howard Zinn’s reprehensible communist People’s History of the United States. Sigh.

World War II was total war. All healthy men of military age had been drafted, and the factories needed workers. Women built airplanes and ships, turned out all sorts of needed equipment, delivered planes from factory to airfield,  became test pilots, and in some cases taught the aviators how to fly the planes. “Gender politics” is a current leftist invention. Try to ignore the captions, they make me gag, but the pictures are great.

In spite of the German invasion of Poland and Czechoslovakia,  the fall of France, and obvious approach of war, America was desperately unready when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. In 1933 the army of the United States was 137,000 men, equipped with World War I leftovers. When Germany invaded France we reinstituted the draft, and by December 7, 1941 the army had reached 1,640,000. When Hitler made the mistake of declaring War on America just after Pearl Harbor, and America entered World War II, the army eventually expanded to 8,300,000 officers and men. About 5,000,000 served overseas.

President Roosevelt gave a radio address on May 26, 1940 in one of his ingenious Fireside Chats, and people coast-to-coast tuned in their radios, and at the same time the British Army in Europe was fighting for its life while evacuating to a beach called Dunkirk. FDR spoke about the eyewitness stories of devastation from Hitler’s rapid invasion, urged Americans to give to the Red Cross, and went further:

There are some among us who closed their eyes…honestly and sincerely thinking that the many hundreds of miles of salt water made the American Hemisphere so remote…

And then he changed the course of his presidency, and called upon American industry to stand with him in the breach:

Yes, we are calling upon the resources, the efficiency, and the ingenuity of American manufacturers of war material of all kinds—airplane and tanks and guns and ships and all the hundreds of products that go into this material.

The government of the United States itself manufacturers few of the implements of war. Private industry will continue to be the source of most of this material; and private industry will have to be speeded up to produce it at the rate and efficiency called for by the needs of the times.

Not only was the president courting the “malefactors of wealth” as he usually called them, he was offering to help, to give them financial incentives to produce war material.

Women did lots of unexpected things during World War II. A WASP Among Eagles, by Ann Carl is the story of a woman military test pilot. The Forgotten Pilots by Lettice Curtis is the story of the British Air Transport Auxiliary (ATA), the British precursor to the American WASPs. The latter book is rare, and expensive at Amazon. You might try interlibrary loan. Both books are worth your time.


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