Women served on both sides of World War II, in official military roles that came closer to combat than ever before. The Soviet Union, in particular, mobilized its women: Upward of 800,000 would enlist in the Red Army during the war, with more than half of these serving in front-line units. British forces included many women alongside men in vital anti-aircraft units. And Nazi Germany followed suit later in the conflict, when its flagging fortunes required the nation’s full mobilization.
Of the four major powers in the conflict, only the United States resisted sending any women into combat. Still, thousands of American women did join the military in various capacities during World War II, upending generations of traditional gender roles and longstanding assumptions about female capability and courage.