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The Role of Women in WWII

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Introduction

The Second World War involved the mobilization of the entire global population, including women, who played a variety of roles in different countries. American women contributed hard labor to the war industries, building weapons, aircraft, ships, and vehicles. They were engaged in the work in factories, on farms, and at plants, entering the areas that had been previously occupied by men. A great number of women in the Soviet Union served in the armed forces. Many of them stood together with men to liberate their countries from enemies. Admittedly, many women worked as nurses on the battlefields, treating wounded soldiers. No matter in what field they were occupied, their help was rather valuable. This paper explores the role of women in WWII and their contribution to the victory over Nazi Germany.

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The Eastern Front

Many women served on the Eastern Front in the Red Army, resisting the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union. Reid (2015) reported that one million Soviet women took part in the battles, 28 thousand participated in the partisan movement, and this mass participation of women in warfare is historically unique. The historians have wondered for many years why Soviet women, seemingly willingly, fought to defend their motherland in spite of the fact that the country was suffering from extreme Stalinist repressions (Markwick & Cardona, 2012). The participation of women in the war was mainly the result of the communist beliefs and Soviet propaganda. However, the fact is that many of them gave their lives for the liberation of the Soviet Union from the German aggression – genocidal warfare with unprecedented ferocity. The overwhelming majority of Soviet women remained loyal to their country even after many military failures. Many findings show that women’s desire to sacrifice their lives to defeat the fascist invaders can be explained by their superhuman identification with Soviet state and Motherland (Markwick & Cardona, 2012).

Communist political propaganda and education shaped the mentality o Soviet women who volunteered to participate in the war. The presence of women in the Red Army was realized everywhere: from barracks to front lines. Women worked in the clubs and libraries where they encouraged soldiers to pursue cultural activities. Furthermore, Soviet military wives used to support their husbands at war and often stayed close to them. Markwick and Cardona (2012) reported that Soviet officers’ wives undertook paramilitary training such as shooting, parachuting, first aid and so on. The majority of women remained at home working at plants, usually long hours, to help the country with producing military equipment. Many plants were moved to the Asian part of the Soviet Union that was not invaded by fascists, and women moved there with their children and relatives. They lived in very miserable conditions, lacking food and clothes for themselves and their children. As the Soviet Union lost millions of its people in WWII, majorities of women lost their husbands and sons in that war.

American Women in WWII

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Before WWII, the role of American women had been determined by their children and husbands. After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, many women showed their commitment to their country and did not only send their husbands, brothers, and sons to the war but also gave their energy to support them. Women began to work in the war industries, helping to produce weapons and military equipment. The research asserts that Hitler criticized the U.S. government for sending their women to work at plants while the role of German women was to stay at home and be good mothers and wives ready to produce more children for the Third Reich (Reid, 2015). When men went overseas to fight against fascists, women substituted them in different industries and at home. They learned how to become housekeepers who could manage different household activities like fixing a car or a fence.

Many findings reveal that about 350,000 American women served in the Army, both at home and abroad. Most of them volunteered for the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps, the Women Airforce Service Pilots, the Marine Corps Women&rsquuo;s Reserve, the Navy Nurse Corps, the Army Nurses Corps, the Navy Women’s Reserve, and the Coast Guard Women’s Reserve (Reid, 2015). General Eisenhower wrote that he could not win the war without the women’s contribution because they helped on the farm, at the plant or in uniform (Reid, 2015). American women in uniform took clerical and office jobs, drove trucks, served as radio operators, test-flew new planes, analyzed photographers, and even served on front lines. The role of nurses was rather significant as they provided health care to the American soldiers in the Pacific Theater.

German Women in WWII

Hitler viewed German women as mothers and wives who were supposed to take care of their children and husbands, producing as many babies as possible. However, a wartime economy demanded more workers because men, who traditionally occupied the majority of jobs in different industries, went to the front. Therefore, German women took their place in different industries. Thus, they worked as tramcar conductors, crewing searchlights in the anti-aircraft defenses, and signals operators in the armed forces. German women were never put in the position of serving on the front line, unlike Soviet women who became tank drivers, fighter pilots, or snipers. Due to the belief that the women’s place was supposed to be at home, initially they were not involved in any work. However, later it became obvious that Germany needed more workers, and women were allowed to occupy administrative or clerical positions that were considered suitable for them (Reid, 2015). Under regulations of that period, women who held those positions were considered to be civil servants attached to the German Army.

In December 1941, the government issued new laws introducing compulsory military service for females between eighteen and forty (Thurman & ‎Giacomazzi, 2014). However, women did not have a legal status of soldiers, and they could not be involved in warfare. Nevertheless, the German army trained over five hundred thousand women as radio operators, flight recorders, file-card keepers, and wire tappers.

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