The five major wars in which American women served after World War II can be split into two pairs. Korea and Vietnam were conflicts fought in Asian countries divided by the politics of the Cold War. The Persian Gulf War and the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq were fought in the Middle East and grew out of tensions over aggression in that region and, in the latter instance, the terrorist attacks of 9/11. For women, the first two wars signaled few advances in their roles in military service, but in the three recent wars, the areas of women’s participation expanded immensely, with potentially more dire consequences.
Women of Five Wars: Korea & Vietnam Many of the women who served in these wars--nurses in hospitals and on hospital ships--saw the results of combat and exposure to unforgiving climates reflected in their patients. While there were other roles for women, the pop culture images of how women served in these wars--the nurses of MASH and China Beach--isn’t far from the truth.
Women of Five Wars: Persian Gulf, Iraq & Afghanistan In the fifteen years between the end of the Vietnam War and the start of Operation Desert Shield, the armed forces of the U.S. opened up many specialties to women. With greater responsibilities have come increased risk of injury and the after-effects of armed engagements with an elusive and persistent enemy.