tv American Artifacts The Womens Memorial CSPAN May 27, 2019 12:15pm-12:52pm EDT
what he did applied only to people in rebellion against the united states. >> join the interactive conversation with your calls, tweets, and facebook questions watch in depth live with thomas sowell live sunday at noon eastern on book tv. each week american history tv's american artifacts visits museums and historic places. next, in the first of a two-part program, we visit the women's memorial near arlington national cemetery to learn about women who served in the u.s. military from the revolutionary war through world war ii. this is about 40 minutes. >> i'm dee mcwilliams, president
of the women's memorial foundation. i'm a retired major general from the army, and we're at the women's memorial in arlington cemetery. it's the only major memorial that's dedicated to women who serve their country. we have over 3 million women who have worn the uniform of the united states. this memorial was dedicated in 1997. over 40,000 people lined memorial avenue from the bridge to the memorial. women from world war i through the current times in 1997. the memorial is on 4.2 acres of park service land. behind me, you can see the headstones of arlington national cemetery, and that surrounds the park service land. the memorial is composed of the education center, a court of
valor, a terrace that has glass tablets with quotations about women and by women. there's a pool where we have ceremonies on especially memorial day for women who have fallen. there's a line going from the lincoln memorial. you can see it as it comes up memorial drive with stones as it goes up to the fountain and through the memorial. there are black tiles which you'll see inside. that connects the lincoln memorial with the arlington house. it signifies a reunification of the north and the south, something that was pointed out when the bridge was dedicated. approximately 33,000 square feet of education center and exhibits. again, it is a memorial to all those who are serving now, who
have served, and really those into the future. >> i am a retired army lieutenant colonel, served proudly for 25 years in the united states army. i left active duty on a friday and came to work here on monday. i would recommend people don't do that. anyway, if you had been here 22 years ago, you would be underground, under dirt. the original facade here at the memorial which forms one side of the memorial walls was dedicated in 1932 by herbert hoover. it was part of that memorial bridge product that obviously built memorial bridge, memorial drive, and this ceremonial gateway to arlington national cemetery. so 1932, three years into the
depression, what happens? the memorial just sits here. and you can see it was never finished. the niches are free of sculptures. the plaza was bare, and it just sat here for some 65 years. and i always like to say it was just waiting for us to come along and bring this incredible memorial to women's service to the nation. so in essence, this is the place where the nation says thanks to the 3 million women who have served. the memorial itself is operated and maintained by the women in military service for america memorial foundation. we are a not-for-profit organization that relies on the donations of corporate and individual. it always pains me to say that of the money that has been
raised to build and maintain this memorial, 74% is from the very women itself that the memorial honors. so let me take you on a tour of this extraordinary place. the memorial is set up so that it chronicles the history of women's service. so beginning with the american revolution up to today. so we'll kind of go on that journey together starting with the american revolution. one woman we love to point out is a woman named debra sampson. she disguised herself as a man. because not only did women serve with the military as laundresses and cooks, following the troops, some of them actually disguised themselves as men because they just wanted to serve.
and debra sampson is an incredible story. she joined one of the massachusetts regiments, and she was wounded twice, served in the battle of york time. when she was wounded, she treated her own wounds so she wouldn't be found. and she got sick. i don't know if it was the flu or whatever and was examined by a doctor who discovered she was a woman and was discharged. but the key thing is that they did just discharge her from the military. she got a pension, probably the first woman in history to get a pension. and in fact, when debra passed away, her husband petitioned the government for espousal benefits, which, in fact, he got. regrettably, he was dead by the time they granted it to him. but it's quite a story. she served as robert shirtliff.
another incredible character is dr. mary walker. dr. mary walker was a surgeon trained in new york. the army's crying for surgeons, you know, to come to help and take care of the sick and wounded during the civil war. so she comes and presents herself, but they don't want her. why do you think? because she's a woman. she persisted, though. in fact, she volunteered her services for some time. finally through her persistence, she was -- they did hire her as a contract surgeon. she served in tennessee. she was taken prisoner by the confederate forces, held for four months down in richmond, and was released and in excha e exchange, a prisoner exchange with some confederate forces. she was quite proud. she was exchanged for a lieutenant colonel.
when she served, she was equivalent to a lieutenant or captain. but remember, she was contract. she was not in the military itself. she was awarded the congressional medal of honor by the president for her services. in fact, several years later, the army determined that there were over 900 people who received the congressional medal of honor that really didn't meet the criteria for award of the medal. and it is our nation's highest award for valor. and besides that, she was not in the military. so anyway, they wrote to all those people and said, you know, send them back. and we like to say we don't know what the 899 others did, but we know mary walker refused to send her medal of honor back. during the bicentennial, president carter reinstituted in full fledge the medal of honor
to dr. mary walker. the important thing about that is she's the only woman in the history of this nation to receive the medal of honor. now, we also credit her for pants for women. she was quite a character, apparently. spent a lot of time up on capitol hill in her pants and top hat and cane, which is on loan for us from a collector in california. but mary walker, she was a trailblazer, absolutely. so we move down the gallery, we move down this journey of women's service to the nation to our next image panel, which speaks to women's service from the early years of 1900 through to world war ii. what's important about this panel is that it presents the first women who did so well in
their service during the spanish-american war, the nurses, because the army was crying for nurses. the d.a.r. helped -- daughters of american revolution helped them find qualified women. so they served during the spanish-american war and did so well that the army determined that it was -- that they should create a corps of nurses so they wouldn't have to bring these people in. so in 1901, february of 1901, the army nurse corps was established. in 1908, the navy did the same thing, creating the navy nurse corps. they were just given the title of nurse. no rank. because we understand the male members of congress didn't want them ordering men around. but finally in 1920, primarily for pay purposes, legislation
was passed that gave them relative rank. it was like from lieutenant to major. but again, they couldn't be ordering these men around. so what's critical about that is that they were in place where actually the first -- for the first time, women were actually in the military. so we have world war i looming. the secretary of navy, a guy named josephus daniels, was so concerned about being able to man the force because we were sending so many troops overseas, the fleet was growing, so they knew they had to find another source of manpower. they didn't want to go to civil service because it took too long. so he turned to his staff and said, so can women serve? as an aside, we understand his wife encouraged him to do that.
at any rate, he was really ahead of his time. and initially, they looked at the legislation that brought people into the navy, and it did specify male. but the people they could bring into the reserve, naval reserve, it just said citizens. so he quickly jumped on that and brought women into the navy. 1917 was the first. a young woman, she was a clerk, named loretta walsh, in pennsylvania raised her right hand, took her oath, and became the very first woman ever in history to enlist in the military. the marine corps didn't bring women in until about a year later in 1918, just a few months before the war was over. but nevertheless, they brought women in. the coast guard, because they
become part of the navy during time of war, they had a handful of women come in. the army wouldn't have anything to do with it. didn't want to bring women in at all except for the nurses. so -- and they were crying for people. particularly, one of the things he really needed was telephone operators to operate these new systems. it so happened that the only people, or at least the initial people trained to be telephone operators were women. they contracted some i think 233 women to be telephone operators. they were trained by at&t. some of them were right up here at ft. meade. they served in france, england, and germany. they were promised veterans benefits. never got them until 1977. but they call them the hello
girls. another pivotal point, i would say, with world war i. you know, of course women were crying to have the vote, to have full citizenship. one of the arguments against having -- giving them the vote was the fact they didn't fulfill the duties of a citizen. i.e., they didn't serve in the military. but those women who served during world war i in the military and certainly the nurses were used as sort of the example that, indeed, women are serving, performing their full citizen requirements. so it was actually the service of military women in world war i that was sort of the tipping point to give women the vote in the passage of the 19th amendment. this is helene coxhead. helene was a woman who served during world war i. she came by when we were first formed, wanted to make sure we
weren't a scam. and she was so wedded to this memorial. her family, when helene passed away, gave us her world war i victory medal. when she visited, bless herhearther heart, she opened her purse and showed us her dog tag, which she said she had carried with her since world war i everywhere. so quickly, just to kind of set the stage for world war ii, when world war i was done, they sent them all home. world war ii comes or is looming. we go through the same thing. i don't know if we want these women in the military. but the army did step out at the encouragement of edith north rogers, a congresswoman from massachusetts, and created the women's army auxiliary corps in early 1942. but they were contract. i don't even know if they knew
that. they all went to ft. des moines. they were trained there. some of them were deployed to england. some served even in north africa in this waac. and they weren't really covered by geneva convention. again, because they were contract women. and they were part of that group in 1977 that fought to get benefits too. the other services didn't do that. later in 1942, the navy established the w.a.v.e.s., women accepted for voluntary emergency service. the marine corps later that year, as well as the coast guard. they call themselves s.p.a.r. it was about a year later, 1943, when the army transitioned from the waac, the women's army auxiliary corps, which is contract, to the women's army
corps. the wacs served in every theater of the war, including overseas. the other women in the other services were all stateside except for the nurses. wacs, army, and navy nurses. one of the pictures i love to point out here is the -- eleanor roosevelt was a great advocate of women serving in the military. so these are the women in the four components who stepped up to be the leaders of the -- of each of the women's components. i think about them -- you know, they came on board. there was no -- there were no uniforms specific to military women. there was no training base. what do you do with them? how do you sign them? what do we do? but these women made it possible for women to serve and contribute in ways that had never been done before.
we have to be forever grateful for their service and their commitment to women serving and certainly to the nation. >> the women's army corps is an integral part of the army in the united states and its soldiers in every sense of the world perform a full military part in this war. there are hundreds of important military jobs that women can perform as effectively as men. in fact, we find that they can do some of these jobs much better than the men. >> and we move to one more of the image panels which brings us to today. world war ii ends, and generals marshall and eisenhower found that women's service was so valuable to the nation's defense that they sort of partnered with congresswoman edith north rodgers again, from massachusetts, and congresswoman
margaret chase smith from maine in putting forward legislation that gave women a permanent place in the military so we didn't have to start all over again with what uniforms, where are these people going to serve. but we'd have a core of qualified women. and that was called the women's armed services integration act, which was passed in 1948. women could only be 2% of the force. they could not achieve a grade higher than lieutenant colonel or commander in the navy. you can see women just wanted to serve. also some critical points in that legislation is that women wouldn't serve on combat ships. women couldn't serve on combat aircraft. and there are other pieces in the legislation that dealt with pregnancy, marriage, benefits, all kinds of things that prohibited women's service to an extent, but nevertheless it was a foot in the door for us to
serve on a permanent basis. so in 1967, that provision of the law that prohibited women from serving above the grade of lieutenant colonel or commander, that was rescinded. we had our first women general officers promoted to one star in 1970. and they were anna may hayes, the first woman in history to be a general officer, a nurse, rightfully so. shortly thereafter, elizabeth hoisington became a general officer. so you can see here how that has progressed over time as those provisions of the law were challenged and fell away.
as we come closer to today's military, we have an astronaut, wendy lawrence. wendy's dad was an admiral. during vietnam, he was a pilot, taken prisoner of war, and he had been training to be an astronaut as well, but obviously the war turned that around. so she followed in his footsteps. i think that's such a wonderful story of women's service. now they are looking to follow in their dad's footsteps, so to speak. and wendy has done that. this is leann hester. she served in iraq, was awarded the silver star for valor, the first woman in history to be awarded the silver star for valor. so you can see that from the early years to today, the transition on women's service. so we move from the images that lead us on the journey from american revolution to today to
the specific exhibits that relate to the wars. one of the things we wanted to do at dedication was to make sure that we were able to have the world war ii women be able to see themselves. so we wanted to finish their permanent exhibits because we weren't sure that they would be able to come back to see their memorial. so the next three exhibits we visit are dedicated to the women of world war ii. 400,000 women served during world war ii. 400,000 women. and there's a picture over here that i love to show. and it's these women with their gloves and hats. they came from every area of the united states. there's one woman who's my favorite story. she came from ft. kent, maine. her name was mattie.
she went to england. she also went to north africa still as a waac. the boat she was on was torpedoed. in the end, toward the end of the war, she became part of the personal staff of general eisenhower. so this is this young woman from ft. kent, maine. she's just kind of indicative of the women who served during that time. and it's wonderful to hear the stories of, you know, the families that come in or they've had a teacher or whomever who served during world war ii. you know, those women changed america. they came home from the war. they had the g.i. bill. for the first time, they could go to college on their own or get some training on their own. and they did, and they became our teachers. they were business leaders. they were involved in their communities in different ways
because of the things that they had learned in the military. they were parachute riggers, link trainers with they taught men to fly. they served in various places here in washington, d.c. many of them served in intelligence areas or were part of the team that broke the japanese code. >> x-ray technicians, inspectors of army meat, teachers schooling our soldiers. wacs are classification experts, assignment interviewers. >> so this is a man's war, is it? wacs are at work on every sort of motor vehicle, doing every sort of transport job, testing walky talkies. those are just a few of the jobs they do. there are 239 more. >> one of the things that's always interesting when you see -- when you meet women in the military and determine that
they talk about their uniforms. in world war i, i they issued everything from their hose to their underwear to their daily uniforms. it's funny when they talk about how they trained. some of them didn't have initially the proper things to do calisthenics, for example. so we have some examples of some of the things they were issued, their bed clothes, their hose, certainly their hats and shoes. and you know, with the military, everything is -- the procedures are laid out for you. so we have all kinds of little manuals on how to put your uniform together. there are customs and courtesies of each of the services. our next world war ii exhibit speaks to the women who served overseas. they are the army and navy
nurses as well as the wacs. we had some 81 women who were taken prisoner of war by the japanese, held in the philippines for almost three years. in the medical field, primarily all nurses. one of the pieces that we have that speaks to that is this clothes pin. what they've told us in their stories and oral histories with us is they were kind of on their own to gather their own food, to jerry rig different items that they would need to use on a daily basis. and this one happens to be a clothes pin they whittled and donated to us that kind of illustrates what some of the things they had to do. the interesting thing with these nurses is that every one of them came home.
while they were in captivity, they continued to nurse. they nurse their fellow prisoners, military as well as some of the civilians that were taken prisoner of war. one of the last ladies, she lived in new jersey. passed away just a few years ago. and talked about -- we were fortunate to meet her and to be able to learn some of the things she did and what she had to do to live as a prisoner. when she came home, of course she had lifelong issues with teeth and dental issues because of the malnourishment. she talked about how she hoarded food because she went three years without it. the stories of these folks are just incredible.
we had women, obviously, who served in europe in the european theater. some of them, they were in the administrative side of the house. they reviewed correspondence from the soldiers that were being sent home. i guess this was the world war ii version of redacting. they just cut pieces out and sent them home. there's a storied unit called the 6888. it's a unit of all black women who were sent initially to england and then into france that were responsible for the mail. as i understand it, there were literally warehouses full of mail that had not been delivered to soldiers. so this specific unit was the only all-woman, black unit to be deployed. that was their mission, to get the mail off to the soldiers. and they say they did it.
they say every piece of mail got to a soldier. they're just an incredible -- we had a number of women that lived here in the area. in fact, there was just a monument that was erected and dedicated about a month ago out in kansas city at the airport there that was dedicated to the women of the 6888. and that was quite a thing, you know, because the service was -- it was segregated at the time. one of my favorite pieces is -- are these boots. they're called mosquito boots. it was over time until they finally got uniforms that were appropriate for women to wear under the conditions in which they were serving. so these boots, when the women first went into north africa, you know, and were dealing with mosquitos and malaria and all
kinds of different diseases, and here they are in skirts. so these boots, these wonderful boots were fashioned to cover their legs. as i said, they were called mosquito boots, so that they were protected from these -- the ravishes of these diseases. certainly the women of world war ii, they went places that american women had never gone, and they did things that american women had never done before. they drove trucks. we have wonderful stories of women who had never driven before, and they went into the marine corps. they're giving these utility uniforms, and so that's what they wore in maintenance and things of that sort. that's an army uniform. she's a sergeant. so this would have been her dress uniform, so to speak.
or not a formal uniform, but what she would have worn when, you know, on parade or whatever. in some cases, perhaps if she was a clerk or whatever, she would have worn this uniform. in this final panel, the final panel of the world war ii women is the women who served on the home front. their story is really quite amazing as well. i think probably there are so many of us who can tell stories of women we've met, our mothers or grandmothers who had some part of the war effort. everybody served in some way. so here we speak to the women air force service pilots, 174 of them who flew 60 million miles back and forth across the united states ferrying aircraft from the repair facilities, from the
manufacturers to the ports, to different units. 38 of them died in the line of duty. they were contract. there are stories of some who -- of those 38 who passed away who because they were contract, the government did not send their bodies home. so the women among themselves raised money to send their bodies home. so they were really the first women in the military or with the military who flew aircraft. so here we are in world war ii. women flying aircraft. after the war is over and the women's services integration act, it prohibited women flying combat aircraft, but the service took that to the next level and said no aircraft. so it wasn't until the '70s until women started flying again in the military. >> as they go up to receive their wings from the top woman pilot of them all, the founder
of the wasps, each w.a.s.p., like other women in other services, has achieved no little thing. she's gone into a man's world because the men needed her, gone through a tough ordeal as just a girl and come out a girl pilot with the u.s. army air force. no time to waste. everywhere they're badly needed for ferrying duty so the men trained in training can go off to fight while w.a.s.p.s help get their shipped started on the road overseas. >> you'll see lots of them who if you see some of them with their pictures and things of that sort, they have fifi. this is their symbol of women air force service pilots. that was another incredible program. short lived, regrettably. when the war ended in europe and all of those pilots came home,
they disbanded the program. and they were another part of this effort in 1977 with legislation that went forward to give them veterans benefits. the women air force service pilots were part of that legislation as well. finally. another really incredible group of people were the cadet nurses. 124,000 women were trained, three years of training as nurses. there was a concern that we would -- because we were on a battle of two fronts, nurses were critically needed. so they, in 1943, established the cadet nurse corps for this training of military nurses. so when their training was done, they were supposed to go in the military or, you know, stay with the public health service and go
to a reservation or whatever. many of them, by the time their training was done, the war had ended but nevertheless, ended. nevertheless this group of women kind of standardized nursing for america. and they're still an active group. it seems like annually there is legislation that goes before the hill asking to give them veterans benefits. they've never been given veterans benefits. it was an amazing thing for america. and certainly for medicine here in america. another group of people were the civil air patrol. we had a number of women who served with the civil air patrol and flew. and then we all know about those women who were -- rolled bandages with the red cross. who worked with the red cross. women who served with the uso. we recognized them as well, they stepped forward to be part of
the national effort in world war ii. >> this was the first of a two-part look at the women's memorial. in part two, we'll pick up the story where we left off. by learning about women's service during the korean war. you can view this and all other american history tv programs at c-span.org/history. each week, american history tv's american artifacts visits museums and historic places. next in the second of the two-part program, we visit the women's memorial near arlington national cemetery to learn more about women who served in the u.s. military from the korean war to the war on terror.