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An Important Moment for Military Women

The Women's Armed Services Integration Act of 1948 established a permanent place for women in the military. Air Force women contributed to the war effort both in Korea and in support roles elsewhere in the Far East.

Before the Korean War, women serving in the U.S. armed forces did vital wartime work, but then went back to domestic life in peacetime. Based on the value of women's World War II contributions, the Army asked in 1946 that women be made a permanent part of the military. The resulting legislation, signed by President Harry S. Truman on June 12, 1948, made the change for all branches, including the new U.S. Air Force. Women, while made permanent, were initially limited to 2 percent of the total force.

In USAF operations in the Far East, the only women permitted to serve in the Korean battle zone were medical air evacuation nurses of the USAF Nurse Corps. In the process of saving countless UN personnel, three USAF flight nurses lost their lives in Korea, and two received the Distinguished Flying Cross (one posthumously).

Women in the Air Force (WAF) personnel carried out numerous support roles at rear-echelon bases in Japan, including air traffic control, weather observation, radar operation, and photo interpretation. In June 1953 the number of WAFs serving in Japan peaked at about 600. By the end of the Korean War, the total WAF strength worldwide reached 12,800 officers and enlisted women.

Click here to return to the Aeromedical Evacuation Overview.