Women in the Air Force and Coast Guard

This photograph shows Lieutenant Virginia N. Justy looking at documents at a table in the United States 8th Air Force headquarters operations room, possibly outside London, England during World War II.
Source: Library of Congress. Frissell, Toni, photographer. Lt. Virginia N. Justy, 502 1/2 South Ogden St., Los Angeles, Calif., in front of Airdrome status map in ops. room. England, 1945. [January] Photograph. https://www.loc.gov/item/2017646161/.

Continuing our focus on women in the armed forces, this post will delve into women in the Air Force and Coast Guard.

Air Force—Much like the Women’s Auxiliary Corps (WAC) for the Army during World War II, the Women’s Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) provided essential support to the United States’ war effort. Women pilots who had been trained by WASP flew 80 percent of all ferrying missions, delivering over 12,000 aircraft. Stationed at air bases across the U.S. during the war, they proved their worth time and time again.

Coast Guard women honor World War heroes of U.S. Coast Guard. The members of the United States Coast Guard who gave their lives during the World War were signally honored in Washington today by the League of Coast Guard Women when they journeyed to Arlington National Cemetery to place a wreath on the Coast Guard Memorial. Mrs I.W. Buckalow, of Sault Ste Marie, Michigan, is shown placing the wreath Delegates from the various units of the League of Coast Guard Women in all parts of the country are also shown in the photograph.
Source: Library of Congress. Harris & Ewing, photographer. United States United States, 1928. November 9. Photograph. https://www.loc.gov/item/2016889083/.

Coast Guard—
A few women served in the Naval Coastal Defense Reserve during World War I, but World War II saw a much larger group of women join them. Formed around the same time as the other auxiliaries during World War II, the Coast Guard Women’s Reserve welcomed a total of 11,868 enlisted women and 978 female officers throughout the course of the war, paving the way for women in the Coast Guard up through today.


Cole, Jean Hascall and Wendy Cole, (1992). Women Pilots of World War II. University of Utah Press. 

Tilley, John A., (1992). A History of Women in the Coast Guard.

Women in the Navy and Marines

Female Navy Yeomen stand in review during World War I. Source: Library of Congress. Navy Girls on Review. , None. [Between 1917 and 1915] Photograph. https://www.loc.gov/item/96501196/.

As part of the Broomfield Veterans Memorial Museum’s “miniseries” about women in the armed forces, this post will dive into women in the Navy (who certainly made WAVEs) as well as female Marines.

Navy—Women took on roles in the Navy beyond nurse starting in World War I. The first female inductee in the U.S. Navy was Loretta Perfectus Walsh in 1917. Beyond the yeoman role, women also served as draftsmen, pharmacists, torpedo assemblers, photographers, telegraph operators and chemists. After the war, these women were released from active duty.

During World War II, women were again brought into service in the Navy, this time as a separate auxiliary called Women Appointed for Voluntary Emergency Service, or WAVES. Serving with distinction around the world, the WAVES broke barriers for the women who continue to serve the country in the Navy.


This photograph shows women called the “Marinettes” who performed clerical work usually done by male Marines starting in 1918 during World War I. Source: Library of Congress, Bain News Service, Publisher. Enlisting “Marinettes”. , ca. 1915. [Between and Ca. 1920] Photograph. https://www.loc.gov/item/2014707651/.

World War I saw the Marines recruit women into the Marine Corps reserve, as depicted in the picture above. By the end of the war, 305 women had served, most of whom went to France to fill administrative roles.

During World War II, over 20,000 women served in the Marines. It is estimated that one third to a one half of the positions on Marine bases during the later part of the war were filled by women. One such of these was Irene Brophy, whose photograph is below and also on display at the BVMM in the Women in World War II exhibit.

Sergeant Irene Brophy served at the Marine Corps base in San Diego in the Motor Transport Company as a tune-up specialist and truck driver. Photo in Veterans Museum collection, 2010.8.

As with the other branches of the military, despite obstacles and difficulties, women served in the Marines in a variety of capacities in all subsequent American conflicts. Take a moment today to appreciate these pioneering women.

Sources: Lacy, Linda (2004). We are Marines!: World War I to the Present. Tar Heel Chapter, NC-1, Women Marines Association.

Hall, Mary-Beth (1 September 2014). Crossed Currents: Navy Women in a Century of Change. Potomac Books, Inc.

The WAC in World War II and Female Spies in World War I

Women have served the United States in all of its wars—from Molly Pitcher during the American Revolution to Mary Owens who dressed as a man to fight in the Civil War to female spies in World War I—but only recently have been granted mostly equal treatment in the armed forces. One of the groups that paved the way for the current status of women in the military was the WAC. As we’ll learn in future posts, service women from other branches of the military also played a large role in shifting the perception of women in the armed forces.

This photo from the Broomfield Veterans Memorial Museum archives is of Audrey Renstetter and was taken at Fort Lawton in Seattle, Washington in April 1944 and given to fellow WAC member Sylvia Amato.
Photo album donated by Paul Strange and in permanent collection at BVMM, 2008.9.3.

Formed in May 1942, the Women’s Auxiliary Army Corps (later changed to Women’s Army Corps), was a direct way for women to engage in the effort to defeat the Axis powers. Ultimately, over 140,000 women served in the WAC during World War II. Stenographers, arms maintenance, switchboard operators, mechanics, and drivers were some of the many Army support roles women took on. Serving both stateside and overseas, these individuals proved to be both capable and effective. General Douglas MacArthur referred to the women in the WAC as “my best soldiers” as the WAC became an essential part of the war effort.

While the WAC did not lead directly to the break-throughs for women that some had expected, some of the current success of women in the armed forces can be traced to this pioneering group.

This photo from the Broomfield Veterans Memorial Museum archives shows Sylvia Amato in a truck at the Daytona Beach WAC training base in Florida circa 1943. Photo album donated by Paul Strange and in permanent collection at BVMM, 2008.9.3.

As of 2014, women comprised a full 14 percent of the active duty Army and continue to break barriers. For further reading about women in the Army, visit the website here.

Keep an eye on our website for posts about women in the other branches of the armed forces in the coming weeks.

You can also watch Colleen Sawyer’s excellent presentation on female spies in World War I at our Virtual Coffee & Conversation linked here and below.

Colleen Sawyer speaks about female spies during World War I at her April 4, 2019 Coffee & Conversation at BVMM.


Morden, Bettie J. (2000). The Women’s Army Corps, 1945-1978. United States Army Center of Military History.

Treadwell, Mattie E. (1954). The Women’s Army Corps. United States Army in World War II (1991 ed.).

The Pacific Theater in WW II

Royal Schmidt talks about his experiences growing up in Colorado and his service in the Pacific during World War II.

On the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II, we continue to share our Virtual Coffee & Conversations with you. Below and here you will learn more from Royal Schmidt, who fought in Charlie Company of the 160th Battalion in the 40th Infantry Division during action on Guadalcanal and New Britain.

American soldiers land on Kiska in the Aleutian islands during World War II. Source:
Kiska Landing
Alaska Kiska Island, 1943. Photograph. https://www.loc.gov/item/89715097/.

Background: The war in the Pacific stretched from the Aleutian islands in the northeast (see image above) to New Guinea and Indonesia in the south west. From fierce fighting on remote jungle islands like Guadalcanal (see image below) to operations near the freezing Arctic Circle, the war in the Pacific was fought in the air, at sea, and on islands both large and small.

Take a moment today to reflect on the heroism, death, and service of the men and women who fought in World War II in the Pacific. Be sure to watch the Coffee & Conversation with your loved ones as you do.

This sketch from Guadalcanal shows two soldiers in a foxhole at night. Source: Brodie, Howard, Artist. Nightime on “Bloody Knoll” or “Chi. Heights” – 2 to a fox hole
Guadalcanal Solomon Islands, None. [Between 1942 and 1943] Photograph. https://www.loc.gov/item/2004661738/.

The London Blitz

The Broomfield Veterans Memorial Museum continues to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II, this time with a photo retrospective of the London Blitz.


Near the beginning of World War II, Hitler set his sights on subduing Great Britain through a series of intensive bombing raids. Between September 1940 and May 1941, it is estimated that 45,000 short tons of bombs were dropped on Britain by the Nazi Luftwaffe. Intending both to damage Britain’s wartime industrial infrastructure and its citizen’s morale, the Blitz did not ultimately succeed in breaking Great Britain.

While certainly devastating and psychologically destructive (to say nothing about the lives lost and homes shattered) the Blitz didn’t achieve Hitler’s primary objective. The Royal Air Force (RAF) and ground-based anti-aircraft guns held their own, and the citizens—despite some turmoil and often severe hardship—remained unbowed. From sending women and children to the countryside, to sheltering at night in London Underground tunnels, the citizens of Great Britain adapted to life under air raids during the nine months of the Blitz.

By spring of 1941, Hitler had shifted his attention to invading the Soviet Union with Operation Barbarossa, and the Blitz ended. As you scroll through the pictures below, reflect on how you might have responded during this time. Use historical empathy to put yourself in the shoes of the people of the past and to imagine what life might have been like 75 years ago….

World War II in the Philippines

On the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II, the Veterans Museum has created the Virtual Coffee & Conversation series to maintain our connection to these momentous events. In this installment, learn more about the Battles of Bataan and Corregidor and the Bataan Death March from Tracy Perry. On May 25, 2019, Perry shared the story of his uncle’s capture in the Philippines in 1941 and his eventual death in a Japanese POW camp.

The images above show (from left to right) a wounded Filipino soldier being assisted during the fall of Bataan, the Japanese bombing of Bataan, and paratroopers landing on Corregidor in 1945.

About World War II in the Philippines: A mere ten hours after Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor, the Empire of Japan attacked American bases in the Philippines. Then, over the course of the next four months, the Japanese invaded the Philippine mainland and eventually subdued the combined American and Filipino forces in the Battle of Bataan, forcing them to surrender on April 9, 1942. A month later the last defense at the island of Corregidor fell to Japanese troops. In the aftermath of the battles, American and Filipino soldiers endured the Bataan Death March or POW “hellships,” which housed American soldiers and sailors in terrible conditions.

Watch this Coffee & Conversation from May 25, 2019 here or below from Tracy Perry, who spoke about his uncle’s World War II experience on the submarine tender USS Canopus, his capture in the Philippines, and then his subsequent death in a Japanese POW camp.

Tracy Perry explains his uncle’s service in the Pacific theater during World War II

Sources for images is the Library of Congress Image Archives:

One of our Filipino boys, injured in the fighting on Bataan, being brought back to a first aid station by his comrades. Longoskawayan Point, West Coast. Republic of the Philippines Republic of the Philippines, 1943. Mar. Photograph. https://www.loc.gov/item/2017697146/.

General view showing houses burning as the result of Japanese bombing raid in Bataan, the Philippine Islands. Bataan Bataan. Republic of the Philippines, 1943. Mar. Photograph. https://www.loc.gov/item/2017697149/.

Paratroopers, supported by ground forces, landing on Corregidor in the combined assault launched on. Photograph. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, <www.loc.gov/item/2005684101/>.

75 years later—V-E Day

This year marks 75 years since the end of World War II. The Broomfield Veterans Memorial Museum continues to commemorate the end of the war by re-posting videos from past Coffee & Conversations that relate to this momentous event.

ABOUT V-E DAY: V-E Day (short for Victory in Europe) saw Nazi Germany unconditionally surrender to Allied Forces in Berlin on May 8, 1945. The surrender triggered celebrations in Allied countries across the world. Despite this huge victory, the ongoing war against Japan had not been won yet, and it would be nearly three months before the war was finally over.

William R. Wilson right and brother Cpl. Jack Wilson left standing by a German 88 mm gun at Verdun, France on VE Day
Photograph. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, <www.loc.gov/item/2007683599/>.

Below and here you will find an embedded video of Brad Beeler’s account of his experiences in Germany in 1944 and 1945 with the 102nd Infantry Division. Beeler was awarded a Bronze Star medal for his heroism in action in Germany. He was discharged in 1945 and moved to Colorado in 1948 with his wife.

Brad Beeler talks about his experiences in Germany in 1944 and 1945 during World War II at a Coffee & Conversation at the Veterans Museum on August 22, 2015.

Timeless Love Letters

Letters of World War II: A Love Story. Colleen Sawyer, October 22, 2016.

The social isolation spurred by COVID-19 has prompted many to employ the long-lost art of letter writing. Hand-written letters possess a thrill upon receipt that an email or a text cannot match. The act of opening the envelope and then holding the paper or card that your friend, relative, or lover recently touched has a visceral power and attraction.

For the men and women deployed in the military, letters have long been a vital connection to the home-front and a welcome respite from the drudgery and horror of war. In the Coffee & Conversation linked above and below from October 22, 2016, Colleen Sawyer describes the spirited love letters exchanged between her mother and father. Between the years of 1942 and 1945, her father, George Sawyer, and her mother, Jane Remer, exchanged many, many letters with each other and their discourse blossomed into love. Sawyer was deployed in North Africa and Italy during World War II, and it was clear through these letter that his relationship “on paper” with Remer was the beating heart of his persistence in the face of difficulty and boredom.

Learn more about this fascinating story and perhaps be motivated to write letters to your loved ones by watching the video linked here or above.

This charcoal drawing depicts an American soldier writing a letter home during the Great War (World War I).
Source: Benda, Wladyslaw T. , Artist. Soldier Writing Letter
. Photograph. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, <www.loc.gov/item/2010715107/>.

The 157th Infantry: Colorado’s Forgotten Regiment

This map from the Library of Congress shows the movements of the 45th Infantry Division in Rhineland in 1944 and 1945 near the end of the war. The 157th Regiment was part of this division.

On the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II, the Broomfield Veterans Memorial Museum invites you to immerse yourself in the lives and heroism of the men and women who fought for our country.

Our first Virtual Coffee & Conversation spotlights Colorado’s 157th Infantry Regiment.


With its advent during the earliest days of the Colorado Territory, the 157th’s predecessors battled the Confederates during the battle of Glorieta Pass in New Mexico, fought in the Philippines during the Spanish-American War, and saw action in France during World War I. 

World War II, however, would be the regiment’s defining moment. Through 511 hard days of combat in the European theater, the “Thunderbirds” made four assault landings and was credited with saving the Salerno and Anzio beachheads. 

Did you know that over 3,000 Native Americans fought as part of this Division? Or that the 157th was instrumental in the liberation of the horrific Dachau concentration camp?

Learn more about this fascinating history by checking out Flint Whitlock’s Coffee & Conversation presentation from May 12, 2018 at the video below or here.

To go even deeper, you can purchase Flint Whitlock’s book about the 45th Infantry Division, The Rock of Anzio, here.

Campaigns of the 45th Infantry Division Image Source: Allied Forces. Army Group, 12Th. Engineer Section, and 1St. Headquarters United States Army. Army Group. , HQ Twelfth Army Group situation map. [England?: Twelfth Army Group, 1944] Map. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, <www.loc.gov/item/2004630253/>.

The Museum is now closed to the public.

November 20, 2020: Due to the increased COVID rates in the City and County of Broomfield, the Veterans Museum is now closed to the public. Our final 2020 Coffee & Conversation with Tim Hutchinson has been cancelled. We are still available to answer questions via phone or email at 303-460-6801 or broomfieldveterans@gmail.com. You can also follow us on Facebook for more content about our Colorado Veterans.