We’re in This War, Too

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

In the early 1980’s, Judy Barrett Litoff and David C. Smith launched a nationwide search for letters written by American women during World War II. Their search yielded more than 30,000 letters from more than 1,500 women. Among the letters was correspondence from women who left home and courageously entered the newly created world of women in uniform. Once in uniform there was virtually nothing, short of actual combat, women could not do; and what they did, they wrote about. From nurse to mechanic, from stores keeper to Red Cross “clubmobilers”, enlisted women, junior grade officers, and volunteers corresponded about their training, their work, their relationships, their jobs, their joys, and their sorrows.

Letters documenting the approaching war and bombing of Pearl Harbor open the book. Basic training and assignments to military bases in the United States follow. Women were in England to support preparations for the Allied invasion of Europe and on the Continent within days after the first troops landed. They were in Southeast Asia, India, China, the Philippines, and eventually Japan. They cared for Dachau survivors, rescued American prisoners of war, supported the living, and buried the dead. Finally, when the war was over, they came home to a far different America than the one they had left.

The participation of women in World War II has never been fully documented. Letters collected by the authors describe the roles and responsibilities, tribulations and triumphs of uniformed women from a unique and very personal perspective. By arranging the letters both chronologically and thematically using only brief historical and biographical commentaries to clarify the context in which the letters were written, the authors have succeeded wonderfully in honoring women who served their country in war and, through this selfless service, changed forever the place of women in society.