Women in the Korean War Era

“It would be tragic if, in another emergency, a new generation had to start from scratch; had to duplicate effort; make the same mistakes. … It would be foolhardy to wait for another war to find out how and where women could best be used for national defense. To write ‘finis’ to women contributions … would be turning back time.”

 COL Mary Hallaren
Director, Women’s Army

In 1950, fewer than five years after World War II had ended, the United States found itself once again confronted by a war for which it was unprepared. As before, a downsized military establishment rushed to call up, draft and recruit manpower, but recruitment numbers fell short of military requirements. And just as in previous wars, the services turned again to American women to meet personnel needs, asking them to leave their homes, jobs and families to serve their country.

The following highlights from the Women’s Memorial Foundation Collection focus on women’s service during the Korean War Era (1950-1953). They complement the June 2005 publication of A Defense Weapon Known to Be of Value: Servicewomen of the Korean War Era, co-authored by staff of the Women’s Memorial Foundation and published by the University Press of New England.

Margaret (Zane) Fleming
Army Nurse Corps. 1941-45 and 1950-53

Margaret (Zane) Fleming and 12 other Army nurses with the 1st MASH (Mobile Army Surgical Hospital) landed on the beach at Inchon, Korea, on Sept. 15, 1950. Because mobile and evacuation hospitals followed the troops and extremely fluid battle lines, Army nurses often found themselves closer to the front than anticipated. As the 1st MASH moved from Inchon to Pusan with the 7th Infantry Division, they came under attack in the early morning of Oct. 9, 1950. During the battle, the nurses retreated to a roadside ditch. “The whole sky was lit up by gunfire and burning vehicles,” reported Chief Nurse MAJ Eunice Coleman. “About sun up we got out of the ditch and started treating the wounded. All that day we worked on the roadside operating and treating for shock. We lost eight men and a number of supply vehicles.” After the ambush, the nurses began calling themselves “The Lucky Thirteen.”

Collection includes scrapbook with newspaper and magazine clippings (including several articles about 1st MASH nurses in Korea), and photographs compiled by Fleming during her Army Nurse Corps service in World War II and the Korean War and typed report on nursing aspects in Korea by Fleming. Gift of Frances Zane, 1997.

Jeanne (Hamby) Gang
American Red Cross, Dec. 1941-Aug. 1945
Army Special Services, Korean War

Jeanne (Hamby) Gang, a Piedmont, CA, native wanted to join the Navy Women’s Reserve (WAVES) during World War II, but was told that she was “too near-sighted.” Instead, she joined the American Red Cross but was considered “too young” for overseas assignment, so she served as a recreational and social staff aide in Army and Navy hospitals in her home state. When the Korean War broke out, she volunteered for the Army Special Services and was sent to Germany for two years, where her first assignment was at the 7th Army Headquarters’ Pyramid Service Club. Gang then helped open the service club at Wharton Barracks in Heilbronn.

Collection includes Stuttgart Post News, Jan. 6, 1951; Spotlight: The Official Magazine of Eucom Special Activities, July 4, 1952; Spotlight: The Official Magazine of Eucom Special Activities, July 18, 1952; copy, interior of Variety Show Program, Dec. 28, 1950; copy, “Korean Truce Is Negotiated,” Ashland Daily Tidings, July 27, 1953; and seven photographs, including photograph of Army Special Services workers serving coffee to American GIs at the Pyramid Service Club on the Czech Border. Gift of Jeanne (Hamby) Gang, 1997.

Catherine (Owen) Horne
Women’s Medical Specialist Corps/Army Medical Specialist Corps (Physical Therapist), Aug. 1948-Feb. 1961

During the Korean War, the Army Women’s Medical Specialist Corps assigned most women (physical therapists and dietitians) stateside, but small numbers received assignment to station hospitals in Europe and Japan.
In Dec. 1950, the first brutal winter of the war in Korea, the Army established a special cold injury center affiliated with Osaka Army Hospital in Japan and treated more than 4,000 soldiers. The winter program resumed in 1951. Physical therapist Catherine (Owen) Horne, of California, treated frostbite cases and United Nations troops. Horne remembered that she and other physical therapists treated as many as 225 patients a day.

Collection includes photographs of Catherine (Owen) Horne and other physical therapists and dietitians stationed in Japan; small recruiting poster “Careers That Count/Women’s Medical Specialist Corps/United States Army”; 5 letters written by Catherine (Owen) Horne to her family while Horne was stationed in Japan in 1951; photocopy of General Orders No. 14, Feb. 14,1955, regarding Meritorious Unit Commendation for the 382nd General Hospital for support of combat and post-war operations in Korea, March 17, 1951–July 27, 1955; Roster of 382nd Hospital Personnel According to Home State; 382nd General Hospital, Osaka, Japan, newsletters, Feb. 1951–July 1951; unit book “Ishi” published by the military personnel of the US Army Hospital, 8164 AU (Army Unit), Kyoto, Japan, 1952; and US Forces Far East and Japan Logistical Command shoulder patches. Gift of Catherine (Owen) Horne, 1999.

Dorothy L. Matz
Navy Women’s Reserve (WAVES), Oct. 1943-June 1946
US Navy, December 1948-August 1966

Opportunities for overseas service expanded for Navy women during the Korean War. During World War II, the only “overseas” billets to which Navy women could be assigned were then territories Hawaii and Alaska. After the war, however, those opportunities were withdrawn and Navy women’s overseas assignments were limited to a small number of bases in Europe with available housing for women. As the need for women’s service overseas increased during the Korean War, the Navy found acceptable quarters. Navy women were then assigned to Alaska, Hawaii, France, and to bases in Italy, England and the Philippines.

In 1951, Dorothy L. Matz was one of five Navy women selected to serve on
GEN Dwight D. Eisenhower’s Advanced Planning Group staff, at Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE) Headquarters in Paris, France. In 1963, she became the first enlisted Navy woman assigned to Australia.

Collection includes newspaper clippings about the assignment of Navy women to SHAPE Headquarters in Paris, France, circa 1951. Gift of Dorothy L. Matz, 1998.

Betty (Sutton) White
US Marine Corps, 1950-52

Recruiting women had been a constant challenge for the military during World War II. Mobilizing women to meet the demand for personnel became even more difficult during the Korean War. To attract women recruits, the Department of Defense (DoD) launched a nationwide recruiting campaign including newspaper stories and media events glamorizing the image of women in the military. Betty (Sutton) White of Pennsylvania was one of the first group of women from all service branches to recruit for Women Officer Procurement. She served with Headquarters Marine Corps Northeastern Recruiting, out of the recruiting office in Boston, MA.

Collection includes “MCAS, Cherry Point” booklet with a page on Women Marines; The News and Observer, Raleigh, NC, April 8, 1951, news clipping with pictorial on Women Marines at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, NC; The Bangor Daily News, Bangor, ME, April 11, 1952, news clipping regarding Woman Marine Lt Patricia A. Maas, visiting a college on recruiting trip; service documents; photograph of Women Marines participating in radio interview; and collector’s card from “Fighting Marines” series featuring Betty (Sutton) White. Gift of Betty (Sutton) White, 1997.