A Wasp Among Eagles
A terrific personal memoir, Ann Carl was a pilot in the Women Airforce Service Pilots during the war. After graduating from training she was based at Wright-Patterson Army Air Field and became one of the few people, and the only woman, to fly the Bell YP-59A, the first American jet. I had a chance to meet Ann, and her humble demeanor is obvious throughout the book, despite her great flying abilities.
We Band of Angels
While the important and tragic story of the men captured on Bataan in the Philippines inspired Americans to fight during the war and to remember the horror of it in the decades since, this book tell the story of the American nurses who were captured alongside them. In a riveting account, Elizabeth Norman, an RN herself, makes certain the harrowing experience of these women POWs is not forgotten.
In 1942 it was still unclear who would win the war, but it wasn’t looking good for the Allies as Germany dominated the continent. Winston Churchill’s Special Operations Executive (SEO) needed all the help it could get sabotaging the German efforts and turned to women. Utilizing diaries, declassified documents, and oral histories, Sarah Rose tells the story of three of the thirty-nine women who spent the war years ambushing the Nazis and helping lay the ground-work for the D-Day invasion.
A Woman of No Importance
In another story of Great Britain’s Special Operations Executive (SEO), Sonia Purnell focuses her attention one woman in particular, American Virginia Hall. Talented in language skills, Hall was in Europe with various American Embassies before the war began. Despite losing her leg in an accident, she was determined to serve, and once the war began, to help. Purnell tells the inspiring story of her work to undermine the Germans and their determination to stop her.
The Unwomanly Face of War
Ukranian-born Svetlana Alexievich won the Nobel Prize in Literature for this important work. Oral histories can reveal so much about the past on a very personal level, including not just facts but emotions, motivations, and reflections. Alexievich spent years interviewing hundred of Soviet women who served and survived during World War II. Newly translated into English, her work reveals a deeper understanding of the work and sacrifices of Soviet women during the war.
While perhaps less glamorous than stories of daring and intrigue, Julie Summers shares the important work of British women on the home-front during World War II. Members of the Women’s Institute organized women to help run canteens, advised the government on evacuees, and made over 12 million pounds of jam and preserves from produce grown in home gardens to help ease food shortages. Summers stories of ordinary women making an extraordinary difference were the inspiration for the PBS Masterpiece Theater series of the same name.
The Women with Silver Wings
Katherine Sharp Landdeck
As a historian of the 20th century I am always on the look-out for books that help me understand the world better. As I worked on my own book about the Women Airforce Service Pilots of World War II, I wanted to understand more about what other women did during the war in part to help put the work of my women pilots into context of their own times. There are so many amazing stories of World War II—most often about men. These books tell about some inspiring women who did their part during World War II.
Featured image: Photo by Science in HD on Unsplash