Lesson Plan: Overview

WACS, WAVES, & SPARS: 
Women during World War II

Grade Level: High School

Image from PowerPoint

Academic Standards

Standard USHC 8:The Student will demonstrate an understanding of the impact of World War II on United States’ foreign and domestic policies.

Indicator USHC 8.3  Summarize the impact of World War II and war mobilization on the home front, including war bond drives, rationing, the role of women and minorities in the workforce, and racial and ethnic tensions such as those caused by the internment of Japanese Americans .

 
Social Studies Literacy Elements

L. Interpret calendars, time lines, maps, charts, tables, graphs, flow charts, diagrams, photographs, paintings, cartoons, architectural drawings, documents, letters, censuses, and other artifacts.

O. Consider multiple perspectives of documents and stories.

Essential Questions:

What roles did women play in the armed forces during World War II? 

What recruiting efforts motivated women to serve their country in this manner?

Historical Background Notes

They numbered little more than a thousand.  And until the war they had been doing mostly what women of their era were expected to do.  They were wives, mothers, waitresses, secretaries, librarians, dancers, socialites, and college students.  And like their male counterparts, they had come of age during the Great Depression when jobs of almost any kind were few and very hard to get.  But it was the early 1940’s, the height of the Second World War, and women wanted to get involved in the struggle.  Women were volunteering for military service.  They served in the Women’s Auxiliary Corps (WACS).  They found jobs in the women’s naval reserve as Women Accepted for Voluntary Emergency Service (WAVES).  Women volunteered in an experimental army air corps program (WASPS) to see if women could serve as pilots for the military, to release male pilots for combat.  Women were about to serve their country with the same courage, endurance and devotion to duty as their male counterparts in World War II.

Patriotic women who wanted to serve their country in 1941 by establishing a women’s auxiliary to the United States Army found friends in Congresswoman Edith Nourse Rogers and First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt.  Congresswoman Rogers introduced a bill to establish a Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps for service with the Army of the United States.  With the backing of Mrs. Roosevelt and General George C. Marshall (not to mention an incident which occurred at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii), the bill passed.

Military nurses were already serving at Pearl Harbor when the December 7 attack occurred.  These women worked under tremendous pressure in the aftermath of the Japanese attack.  The Japanese attack left 2,403 Americans dead. (Yellin, 185)  There were 119 military nurses serving at three military medical facilities in Hawaii that morning. (185)  These women faced an overwhelming number of wounded personnel suffering from burns and shock.  The Chief Nurse at Hickam Field, 1st Lt. Annie G. Fox, was the first of many Army nurses to receive a Purple Heart and the Bronze Star.  The efforts of military nurses in Hawaii struck a chord with legislators in Washington.  Finally on May 15, 1942, the bill to “Establish a Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps” (WACS) became law (Litoff and Smith, 29).

The Navy got its act together with a little persuasion from Eleanor Roosevelt, and began authorizing a Women’s Naval Reserve (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service or WAVES) and the Marine Corps Women’s reserve.  The Coast Guard followed soon after, creating the SPARS.  Women in the military had become a reality. 

Women in the army corps served both at home and overseas in a variety of jobs.  Some of these assignments were quite dangerous and earned women the respect of their fellow soldiers as well as military awards.  In one particular Italian campaign six Army nurses were killed by German bombing.  Four other army nurses were awarded Silver Stars for extraordinary courage under fire.  In all, more than 200 Army Nurses lost their lives during World War II. (Hoyt, 2) 

Women served throughout the Pacific Theater in the same courageous manner as their European Theater counterparts.  Seventy-seven Army and Navy nurses were captured by the Japanese as prisoners of war. (Yellin, 187).  Many were captured when Corregidor fell in 1942.  The Navy printed a poster featuring the nurses on Corregidor in a Japanese POW camp in order to appeal to defense workers to increase work production.

Countless women served in all branches of the service stateside and relieved or replaced men for combat duty overseas.  Women performed admirably in every conceivable job.  Realizing the importance of the function women were serving to the war effort, the women’s auxiliary corps began an active recruitment campaign to entice more women to join the effort.  Recruitment posters began to spring up on local drugstore windows enticing more young ladies to join in the military.  Truly women were making a difference.

   
  Primary Sources
  “Cpl. Mary E. Mason’s (Spartanburg, SC) Women’s Auxiliary Corps class photo.”Photograph.  As reproduced in Anita Price Davis and James M. Walker, Images of America:  Spartanburg County in World War II, page 110. Charleston, S.C: Arcadia Publishing, 2004.
  “Seaman 1st Class Geraldine Marie Houk” Photograph.  As reproduced in Anita PriceDavis and James M. Walker, Images of America: Spartanburg County in World War II, page 75. Charleston, S.C: Arcadia Publishing, 2004.
  “Virginia ‘Gin’ Owens from Drayton, South Carolina.” Photograph.  As reproduced inAnita Price Davis and James M. Walker, Images of America: Spartanburg County in World War II, page 110. Charleston, S.C: Arcadia Publishing, 2004.
  “Bring Him Home Sooner…Join the WAVES.” Poster. Department of the Navy. United States Naval Historical Center.  Available at http://www.history.navy.mil, Viewed 01 October, 2006.
  “Enlist in the WAVES.” Poster. Department of the Navy. United States Naval Historical Center.  Available at www.history.navy.mil , Viewed 01 October, 2006.
  “Have You Got What it Takes to Fill an Important Job Like This?” Poster. Department of the Navy. United States Naval Historical Center.  Available at http://www.history.navy.mil, Viewed 01 October, 2006.
  “On the Same Team” Poster. Department of the Navy. United States Naval Historical Center.  Available at http://www.history.navy.mil, Viewed 01 October, 2006.
  “PhM3c Winifred Perosky X-Rays Marine.” Photograph. U.S. Naval Historical Center.  Washington Navy Yard, Washington D.C.  Official Navy Photograph, now in the collection of the National Archives.  Photograph taken 1945.
  “That Was the Day I Joined the Waves.” Poster. Department of the Navy. United States Naval Historical Center.  Available at http://www.history.navy.mil, Viewed 01 October, 2006.
  “There’s a Man-Size Job For You in the Navy.” Poster. Department of the Navy. United States Naval Historical Center.  Available at http://www.history.navy.mil, Viewed 01 October, 2006.
  “WAVES Aerographer’s Mates at Work.”  Photograph. U.S. Navy Historical Center.Washington Navy Yard, Washington D.C.  Official Navy Photograph, now in the Collection of the National Archives.  Photograph taken 1944.
  “WAVE Aircraft Mechanic Turns Over the Propeller of a SNJ.” Photograph.  U.S. Naval Historical Center.  Washington Navy Yard, Washington D.C.  Official Navy Photograph, now in the collection of the National Archives.  Photograph taken 1943.
  “WAVE Aviation Machinist’s Mates working on a SNJ Training Plane.”  Photograph.U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the Collection of the National Archives. Photograph taken 1943.
  “WAVE Aviation Metalsmith at Work, NAS Jacksonville, Florida.”  Photograph.  U.S. Naval Historical Center.  Washington Navy Yard, Washington D.C.  Official Navy Photograph, now in the Collection of the National Archives.  Photograph Taken 1943.
  “WAVES Learn Aircraft Engine Mechanics during WWII.” Photograph. U.S. Naval Historical Center.  Washington Navy Yard, Washington D.C.  Official Navy Photograph, now in the collection of the National Archives.  Photograph taken 1943.
  “WAVES Learn How to Tie Down Cargo in Aircraft.” Photograph. U.S. Naval Historical Center.  Washington Navy Yard, Washington D.C.  Official Navy Photograph, now in the collection of the National Archives.  Photograph taken 1945.
  “WAVE Officer Passenger Assists Ship’s Navigator.” Photograph.  U.S. Naval Historical Center.  Washington Navy Yard, Washington D.C.  Official Navy Photograph,now in the collection of the National Archives.  Photograph taken 1945.
  “WAVES Parachute Riggers Folding Parachute For Packing.” Photograph. U.S. Naval Historical Center.  Washington Navy Yard, Washington D.C.  Official Navy Photograph, now in the collection of the National Archives.  Photograph taken 1943.
  “WAVES Parachute Riggers Packing a Parachute.” Photograph. U.S. Naval Historical Center.  Washington Navy Yard, Washington D.C.  Official Navy Photograph, now in the collection of the National Archives.  Photograph taken 1943.
  “WAVES Qualified as Instructors on 50 Cal.”  Photograph.  U.S Naval Historical Center. Washington Navy Yard, Washington D.C.  Official Navy Photograph, now in the Collection of the National Archives.  Photograph taken 1944.
  “Wish I Could Join Too!” Poster. Department of the Navy. United States Naval Historical Center.  Available at http://www.history.navy.mil, Viewed 01 October,2006.
  “Women 20 to 30 Earn a Navy Rating.” Poster. Department of the Navy. United States Naval Historical Center.  Available at http://www.history.navy.mil, Viewed 01 October, 2006.
  “Yn1c Marjorie Adams Delivers Classified Mail.” Photograph. U.S. Naval Historical Center.  Washington Navy Yard, Washington D.C.  Official Navy Photograph, now in the Collection of the National Archives.  Photograph taken 1945.
  “WAVES  Choir at NAS Beaufort, SC, at time of Japan’s Surrender.”  Photograph. U.S.Naval Historical Center.  Washington Navy Yard, Washington D.C.  Official Navy Photograph, now in the collection of the National Archives.  Photograph taken 1945.
  “WAVES Working in the Control Tower at NAS Charleston, SC, 1945.”  Photograph.U.S. Naval Historical Center.  Washington Navy Yard, Washington D.C.  Official Navy Photograph, now in the collection of the National Archives.  Photograph taken 1945.
   
  Secondary Sources
  Blassingame, Wyatt.  Combat Nurses of World War II.  New York:  Random House, 1967.
  Hoyt, Olga Gruhgit.  They Also Served:  American Women in World War II.  New York: Carol Publishing Group, 1995.
 

Litoff, Judy Barrett and David C. Smith.  We’re in This War, Too:  World War II Letters From American Women in Uniform.  New York:  Oxford University Press, Inc, 1994.                                 

  Merryman, Molly.  Clipped Wings:  The Rise and Fall of the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASPS) of World War II.  New York:  New York University Press, 1998.
  Norman, Elizabeth.  We Band of Angels:  The Untold Story of American Nurses Trapped On Bataan by the Japanese.  New York:  Random House, 1999.
  Yellin, Emily.  Our Mother’s War:  American Women at Home and at the Front During World War II.  New York:  Free Press, 2004.
   
  Tools
  Photos of primary source photographs and posters (on powerpoint)
  LCD Projector
  Graphic organizer handouts for analyzing photos and posters
  Markers and paper for the recruitment brochures.

Materials

No materials needed for this lesson plan.

Lesson Plans

1.Day One:  Conduct a class discussion on the historical background information.  Ensure that students consider what factors might have made it difficult for women to serve their country in this type of patriotic manner.  They should consider what obstacles women might have had to overcome in order to join military service.  Query students as to what types of jobs women might have held during the war.
 
2.Divide the class into small groups depending on the size of your class and the number of photographs and posters.  Give each group a photograph, poster, and copies of the analysis worksheets for each.  Give the groups time to complete the worksheets for their material.
 
3. Day Two:  Show the power point and conduct a guided discussion about what types of jobs women held during the conflict.  As each slide comes up, students who filled in their analysis worksheet from that photograph the day before should provide information they discussed for the class at large.  Discuss all questions as they are presented by the students.  Students should evaluate the effects these jobs might have had on the war effort.
 
4.Students will write a short analytical essay on the role that women played in the war effort.
 
5.Day Three:  Discuss with the students what types of hardships these women faced as members of the military during this era.  Students should evaluate what might have motivated women to volunteer for military service – a traditionally male dominated area.
 
6. Show the recruitment posters from the power point.  Students who have previously viewed each poster should share their observations based upon their analysis worksheet.
 
7.Students will create a recruitment poster/brochure designed to bring women of today into a traditionally male dominated job field using the same type of persuasive techniques found in the recruitment posters.

Teacher Reflections

I was thrilled to learn that I was going to attend the Teaching American History in South Carolina program.  At first, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect but it sounded like an interesting opportunity and one heck of a good deal.  The program was more than I could have ever hoped for.  I am so glad that I participated.  Professionally, I feel that I benefited a great deal from this experience.  Not only did I have an opportunity to increase my content knowledge of United States history from Reconstruction to present day, but I also learned valuable new teaching methods and garnered wonderful new resources to enrich my classroom instruction. What a great deal!

As a high school teacher who struggles with how to get an entire American history course from Colonization through to present day taught within the time constraints imposed by a traditional school schedule, I must admit that I didn’t utilize many primary sources in my curriculum.  I wanted to, but wasn’t sure how to go about it.  This class was invaluable to me in that regard.  The master teacher, Michael Kreft, was a gold mine of ideas and insights as to how to search out and actually use this material in a class.  I couldn’t have been more excited to get out there and start using this material with my students.  To my astonishment the kids in class responded so well to this material that I started to wonder why I had been negligent before.

My students this year really love analyzing photos, especially photos of significance to the Charleston area.  Before now adding pictures to a lesson was just a nice window dressing.  Now I have discovered that pictures can BE the lesson.  It is very rewarding to hear students look through a stack of photographs and talk excitedly among themselves as they discover things in the background of a shot that are historically accurate.  At times it might get a bit noisy in my classroom, but it is very rewarding to listen to and know that they are engaged with the lesson at hand.

Paul did a wonderful job of teaching a huge amount of American history in a relatively short amount of time.  He was engaging and I enjoyed the content instruction.  However, as an American history teacher myself, I can’t honestly say that this was of the greatest benefit to me personally.  Yet, the camaraderie and interaction between Paul and the other members of my group was very pleasant and I wouldn’t change the experience one bit.

As mentioned above, the master teacher sessions were of the greatest value to me.  Michael Kreft did an awesome job as he presented ways to use resources to enrich our teaching.  The methods he discussed had me excited and longing for school to get back in session so that I could start taking advantage of my new ideas.  Of special significance to me were the CAPS acronym for choosing primary sources and the RAD acronym for using them in class.  Armed with this new knowledge, I felt confident in seeking out primary sources and putting them to use.  He really lit a fire for me.  One that I am certain my students this year as well as my future students will be able to benefit from.  Mr. Kreft’s suggestions for ways to use primary sources as a springboard for learning are definitely the most valuable thing I took away from the program.

I was thrilled with each cultural institution that we attended.  As a military spouse, I have moved many times during the course of my career.  We have only been in South Carolina for two years and I wasn’t fully aware of all of the resources out there for me.  Personally, I greatly enjoyed the opportunity to do some sightseeing at these institutions.  Being able to use them in a professional capacity is an incredible bonus.  Each institute showed me that I have valuable information and help available to me as I seek to better my attempts to teach kids here in South Carolina.  Both Bambi at Patriot’s Point and Stephanie Thomas at the Charleston Museum were especially helpful in pointing me toward resources for locating primary sources.  I can’t thank them enough for giving me their time and expertise.

While visiting with Ms Thomas at the Charleston Museum, I learned about a special World War II exhibit that they were going to offer for educational groups.  She allowed me a preview of the exhibit and was gracious enough to allow me to take several digital photos of the exhibit.  I worked these photos into a unit that I was developing on World War II.  When I presented the lesson to the first group of students, I was astonished to discover how well they responded.  What particularly engaged this group were the photos of two telegrams.  The first telegram was to a soldier overseas telling him of the birth of his daughter.  The second telegram was to his wife announcing his death four months later.  Students were deeply touched that this man had never met his daughter.  These two telegrams sparked a discussion among the group that lasted through two class periods as students debated the personal cost of the war.  I was surprised at how insightful my students were and how willing they were to talk at great length about this issue and the connections they made to the struggle today in Iraq.  Students who rarely speak in class wanted to get involved in this discussion. 

Based on my successful experience with the first group, I went home and rewrote the lesson for the next few classes to focus on the ideas the kids had given me.  I also included a cross-curricular component to the lesson when I discovered a wonderful poem written by a South Carolina woman who had lost her son in WWII.  I got the same wonderfully engaged results from other groups.  I think that this lesson served to humanize the World War II era for these kids.  No longer was it simply a bunch of facts in a book that they had to remember for a test, but it had become a struggle of real human beings that they could relate to and sympathize with.  I only wish that I had included in the subsequent lesson the connections to the war in Iraq that those first discerning students came up with.  I will next time.

In conclusion, I can only reiterate that this has been a wonderfully rewarding experience.  I received a great deal of incredibly valuable insight, encouragement, and motivation from everyone involved in this program.  I can’t thank you all enough for helping me down the road toward becoming a truly effective educator.

Student Assessments

Teacher used attached rubric.

Credit

Lara Johnson
Fort Dorchester High