When the flag waving stopped and Johnny came marching home, G.I. Jane was out in left field without a ball game, and millions of civilian women were literally kicked out of jobs and sent back to the kitchen. The war was over and there was no place for women in the military in the minds and hearts of many. The buzz word was demobilization and out- processing moved faster than a chow hall line on steak night.

Fortunately a few visionaries had better sense than to let loose of all of the woman power that had rallied around the flag and served in the war. However in typical government fashion politics prevailed and for three years the question of women as an integral part of the military went from S.N.A.F.U. to F.U.B.A.R. Two old time G.I. expressions that mean respectively: Situation Normal All Fouled Up and Fouled Up Beyond All Recognition.

As the political football of women in, or not in , the peacetime military,
was tossed from the sidelines to the goal posts and back, many womens advocates
emerged. Among others, present day servicewomen owe a lot to Eleanor Roosevelt.

Poetic irony digression: When Eleanor Roosevelt taught at the Todhunter School
years ago, one of her mottos, posted on the wall , was "Be All That You Can Be!"

Continued analysis of the reasons for the boondoggle over women in the military would take volumes and there are some excellent references out there about the struggle. One of the not so well published issues was the fact that men did not want to ever have to take orders from women and if women became senior NCOs and Officers, heaven forbid, this could happen.

EisenhowerGeneral Eisenhower finally helped clear the falderal away by strongly recommending that women become a part of the U.S. military. He was backed by several other senior officers who had worked with women during WWII and had nothing but praise for their efforts. On the 12th of June, then President Harry Truman signed on the dotted line, putting Public Law 625, The Women's Armed Services Act of 1948 in to effect. A law that today would be laughed out of town, it was so full of loopholes and strange parameters. But it opened the door for dedicated women to serve their country in peace time. One thing it did not do, that is often misinterpreted, is create separate women's branches, corps or forces. The only unit to retain that distinction was the WAC. The rest of the women in the other branches of service were, for all intents, but not every purpose, fully integrated. Or so the law implied. It just didn't happen that way.

Two years later, in June of 1950, as the overall numbers for women in the military dropped to a post war low, the North Korean Communists crossed the 38th parallel, starting what is now remembered as The Forgotten War. Over fifty thousand American lives were lost over a country we had never heard of before, in a conflict termed a "limited war". President Truman ordered troops into South Korea and within a few days the Army Nurse Corps was also there. To many of you the word MASH means a long running hit television program from the '70s. To the hundreds of women who served in Korea, at the real Mobile Army Surgical Hospitals, it was no party.

When General MacArthur landed at Inchon, Army Nurse Corps officers also came ashore on the very same day of invasion. The 13 Army nurses of the 1st MASH and those of the 4th Field Hospital made the landing and by the end of 1950 over two hundred Army Nurse Corps officers were in Korea.

Triage Nursing in Korea

During the Korean era over 120, 000 women were on active duty. In addition to the nurses actually in Korea, many women served at support units nearby, in Japan and other far eastern countries. Yet in researching women in war, and surfing the Internet for more information, it appears that the women who served during this campaign have become as forgotten as the war itself. Many of the web pages highlighting the Korean Conflict fail to mention them.

MASH Group in Korea - note 3 women.

We know they were there.

There is a memorial to the veterans of Korean service. For more about it visit:
Korea Memorial

A very well done site about the Korean era is: 13th Bomb Squadron Association

To paraphrase Winston Churchill and others -
In time of danger and not before
Women were added to the corps
With the danger over and all well righted
War is forgotten and the women slighted.

By this point in time, the 1950's, almost a million women had worn the uniform of the United States Armed Forces. They had been prisoners of war; they had been wounded; they flew planes, planned strategies, nursed the casualties, and died for this country.

To the hundreds of women who flew air evacuation, caring for the wounded during every bumpy air mile, it was no luxury flight.

Air Evac Flight

One of the women who served was Captain Lillian Kinkela Keil, a member of the Air Force Nurse Corps and one of the most decorated woman in the U.S. military. Captain Kinkela flew over 200 air evacuation missions during WWII as well as 25 trans- Atlantic crossings. She went back to civilian flying with United Airlines after the war, but when the Korean conflict errupted she donned her uniform once more and flew several hundred more missions as a flight nurse in Korea.
Captain Kinkela-Keil was the inspiration for the 1953 movie "Flight Nurse" and served as technical advisor to the film. Her decorations include the European Theater of Operations with Four Battle Stars; The Air Medal with Three Oak Leaf Clusters; The Presidential Unit Citation with One Oak Leaf Cluster; The Korean Service Medal with Seven Battle Stars; The American Campaign Medal; The United Defense Medal; and Presidential Citation, Republic of Korea. Captain Kinkela has been honored several times in her home town of Covina Hills, California. Captain Kinkela Keil died in June 2005 at the age of 88.

More about Women in War:Women in Vietnam

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Unless otherwise noted contents © 1996 to date by Captain Barbara A. Wilson, USAF (Ret)