The backbone of the War Effort
Because they don't get nearly enough credit and attention on sites like this, I am adding this page on Women of World War II.
My aim, as always, is not to be comprehensive. Nobody can do that with a group as large as women. Instead, I aim to give a flavor of women's involvement, one way or another, with the war effort.
The role of women in wartime is underestimated. They provide all the essential support services that keep the men fighting. Without female support, no war effort is going to survive for long, much less prevail. Women truly are the backbone of any successful wartime effort.
The opinions of women are not monolithic, and neither are their experiences. They are not all pacifist, or tender, or brutal, or anything. The experience of World War II proves for all time that women are aligned with the men of their culture, they just do different things. Not more or less important things - just different things. And, on occasion, the same things.
Okay, enough chatter, let's have a go.
|"Ginni" (Pinterest/Leisa Shannon Art Studio).|
|Who likes short-shorts?|
I have no information on this young lady whatsoever. She is wearing an SS officer's uniform, but obviously, she was borrowing it from someone, perhaps her boyfriend or brother or, well, someone. Elsewhere on the Internet, she is identified as a "young girl," but she looks older than that to me. Whatever. Who, what, or when is unknown, but she represents the women who enthusiastically supported the SS and other extreme organizations. As a bonus, she apparently inspired a raft of Hollywood B-movies in the 1970s.
|Unidentified Japanese girl.|
I include this shot just to honor all the lovely women who inspired plane nose art during the war. I have no idea who the happy lady was or what kind of plane that is. This was taken at the boneyard, and her days were numbered. But, she lives on here.
|Simone Segouin (nom de guerre Nicole Minet) with her MP 40 submachine gun, 23 Aug 1944|
The bottom shot is a US Red Cross recruiting poster. I don't know who the ladies pictured were modeled upon, but they certainly seem friendly. Hospital ships were everywhere during the war, clearly marked, but sometimes they were fired upon - hopefully by mistake.
|Jane Kendeigh (US Marine Corps photo).|
|Sergeant Evdokia Motina.|
|Warsaw, Poland, April 19, 1943.|
The Holocaust affected so many lives and ended many as well. Jews, Catholic Poles, dissenters, and others were rounded up, sent to camps, and usually liquidated. The mistreatment of women, of course, extended far beyond just those who lost their lives at places like Ravensbruck. This is one area where women and men went through identical experiences. If you want more on this vast topic, you can visit my page here.
|WASP pilot Elizabeth Gardner.|
|US War Correspondents.|
These women were the first female correspondents sent over after the invasion of Normandy. They were not wallflowers, and they did good work. They took some classic photographs of ruined French cities and went as close to the front lines as the authorities would allow. Several - or all - of them chafed at the restrictions placed upon them and wanted to do just what the male correspondents did. Some suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome (PTSD) long after the war was over.
One also can imagine the effect these ladies had on the boys at the front when they came to visit.
|Polish partisan girl.|
|Florence “Woo Woo” DiTullio Joyce, aka “Winnie the Welder.”|
Above, a Polish nurse captured during the German invasion of Poland in 1939.
|Sigrid Schultz at a party with Joseph Goebbels and William Dodd.|
Sigrid was able to handle herself in polite society and most importantly spoke German fluently, so she had access to top government men throughout the pre-war period because they were fascinated by Americans. She wrote under the pseudonym "John Dickson" because people like Joseph Goebbels would not have appreciated her acting as a spy for the US public. Disguising her despatches to hide her identity, she provided early evidence of unsavory German war practices (most significantly the persecution of Jews) that later would become notorious.
After several incidents which read as though they are lifted from a spy novel, having literally risked her life for a long period of time, Sigrid returned to the US in March 1941 when she developed typhus. She only returned to Europe with the D-Day landing forces. Sigrid Schultz then provided valuable reports from the death camps and Nuremberg trials. She passed away in 1980 after writing several books about her experiences.
|Soviet trooper, Berlin, 1945.|
|French collaborator girl.|
|An SOE agent, Philip Worrall, OBE, on assignment in the Greek mountains. With him are two of his contacts in the field.|
Of course, many women were at home, raising the kids and dealing with ration books, little variety at the store, aging cars they didn't know how to maintain, and massive inconveniences. If their husbands in the military sent home their pay, a soldier's salary didn't go far. There was little news about their men amidst a seemingly endless war.
Another BDM girl with a very modern look to her. You could easily picture her in a prep school in the '60s or '70s. Heck, she wouldn't look too out of place now without the BDM regalia.
Filmmaker Captain Oren William Haglund was in Pilsen with advancing US troops - who advanced no further - in May 1945 when he drove up the highway a few miles and shot a couple of minutes of a film featuring a female German refugee. That precise stretch of road has been identified, btw, there are many people interested in her case. She has become known to students of the war as the "Lost German Girl." Nobody knows who she was for sure, but there is an unproven claim that she was a BDM girl who volunteered to become a Luftwaffe Helferin after her boyfriend was drafted and was assigned to Prague. According to this source, her name was Lara Bauer from Austria. Caught up in the "Czech Hell" of the last days of the war, she was savagely beaten just before Haglund found her (saving her life). According to an anonymous account, Haglund saved her from being gang-raped in a barn when he stopped to ask directions, then took her along with him. Haglund then filmed the famous clip (the stills above were taken from it) which eventually made it into the final episode of "The World at War." If the anonymous source is correct, she made it back to Munich (Haglund's reel shows her leaving on a truck) and lived a long life. According to this story, Lara was born in 1921 in Kollerbach, Austria, became a GI bride, moved to the US, and worked as a flight attendant for Pan-Am airlines during the 60s/70s/80s. Haglund and the girl never met again, though her family apparently visited his grave in California. Lost German Girl (LGG) has come to symbolize the horrors of the end of the war for many.