5 Unsung Female War Heroes

5 Unsung

Female War Heroes

It’s not often you hear tales of female war heroes. And why? Because women were only allowed into combat in very recent history. The first female U.S participants in war (officially) was in the last years of World War I when 33,000 women were commissioned as nurses and support staff for the male soldiers. In 1948 there came into effect the Women’s Armed Services Integration Act of 1948, that excluded women from any and all combat positions in wars henceforth. The act has been lifted to varying degrees in 1993 and 2001, to let women engage in combat through some areas of the military. In 2013 it was completely lifted to allow female participation in all aspects of the U.S military including the Navy and the Marines.

Below are five women who defied the stigmas attached to women in warzones and pursued their military careers nonetheless, ranging across the world from Italy in World War II, to Vietnam, Afghanistan, and all the way back to the American Civil War. We salute you, ladies.

Sarah Edmonds Courtesy of National Archives
Sarah Emma Edmonds

A master of disguise, Sarah Emma Edmonds was best known for serving as a man – Franklin Flint Thompson – in the Union Army during the American Civil War. She was one of the few females to have served in the Civil War, where she discovered that life was easier when dressed as a man. She participated in several battles, including the Second Battles of Manassas and Antietam.

She also allegedly served as a Union spy in the Confederate army; one of her purported aliases was a black man named Cuff, for which she disguised herself using wigs and silver nitrate to dye her skin. Despite her guises, she was still recognized for her contributions – she was awarded an honorable discharge from the military and admittance to the Grand Army of the Republic as its only female member.

Lt. Mary Roberts Wilson
Mary Roberts Wilson. Courtesy of Flashback Dallas

A war nurse at Anzio in Italy during the allied invasion of Germany in 1944, Wilson was named “The Angel of Anzio” during one of the most difficult sieges of the second World War in Italy. She was the first American woman to be awarded the Silver Star for courage under fire during World War II. During one particularly bad raid, she was asked should she and 50 other of her nurses evacuate, to which she responded no, and continued to work amidst the chaos of flying shrapnel from long-range artillery shells aimed right at her tent. Wilson passed away in 2001.

Grace Murray Hopper
Grace Hopper Courtesy of Obama White House

Also known as “Amazing Grace,” Grace Murray Hopper left an indelible legacy in the U.S. naval history. She was the third programmer of Mark I, the world’s first large-scale computer, and founded the COBOL programming language, which set the foundation for many of the software code approaches of today. Hopper joined the Naval Reserves in 1943 during World War II, where she tackled the Bureau of Ordinance Computation Project, where she made great strides and contributions for the Navy and computer scientists alike. As a tribute, a destroyer was named after her, as well as the supercomputer Cray XE6 “Hopper.” Distinguished and inspirational, Hopper will not soon be forgotten.

Capt. Jennifer M. Moreno

Having arrived in Afghanistan to nurse, she volunteered to serve in a cultural support unit, which typically had one woman in order for them to communicate with Afghan women. In October of 2015, Moreno was on patrol at a raid on a Taliban bomb-making compound. After a suicide bomber detonated an explosive vest, Moreno ran to the aid of one of her fellow soldiers. In the process, she stepped on a land mine. Moreno was on her first deployment to Iraq when she was killed in combat. She was posthumously promoted to the rank of captain and awarded the Bronze Star Medal, Meritorious Service Medal, Purple Heart, Afghanistan Campaign Medal and NATO Medal and Combat Action Badge.

Capt. Jennifer Moreno. Courtesy of U.S Special Operations Command
Army Specialist Five Karen Irene Offutt

Offutt was serving in Vietnam when a shanti caught fire across the street from her. Barefoot and without regard for her own life, she ran into the burning entrapment to save the Vietnamese people, both young and old, caught inside. Having rescued both adults and children, she was to be awarded the Soldiers Medal for her brave efforts, only to be told women could not receive such an accolade. She was instead awarded a certificate. It’s said that she wasn’t phased by the blatant disregard for her gender, and in 2001 – over 30 years after the incident, she was finally awarded the Soldiers Medal by a representative of Congressman Mike Bilirakis. Offutt is still alive today, but we felt she deserved a mention amongst these incredible women who’ve since passed away.

Amy Corcoran

Head of Content at SWAAY: Amy is an Irish writer, avid foodie and feminist with an insatiable appetite for novels and empowering women's writing. She has enjoyed calling Dublin, Paris and now New York her home.

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