Photographs of the Unsung Heroes of World War II

American women in World War II became involved in many tasks outside of the domestic sphere that they rarely had before. The global conflict and the urgency of mobilizing the entire population made the expansion of the role of women inevitable and crucial.

Women worked in the war industries building ships, aircrafts, vehicles, and weaponry, and munitions. Women also worked in factories, farms, drove trucks, provided logistic support for soldiers, and entered professional fields that before had been ubiquitously male-dominated. Women also enlisted as nurses and served on the front lines.

The Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) were civilians who flew stateside missions to transport planes. These women were the first to fly American military aircrafts. There were over 1,000 trained WASP pilots who flew from 126 bases in the United States and carried 50% of the combat aircrafts during the war. 38 of these brave women died in service.

Women were also very important in intelligence gathering and espionage. 4,500 women worked in the Office of Strategic Services with positions of clerks, operational agents, code-breakers, and undercover agents. Elizabeth Thorp Pack most notably helped acquire the first enigma machine from Polish intelligence and secured Italian and Vichy French codebooks.

On the home front, 19 million American women filled out the labor force with factory jobs, transportation jobs, agricultural jobs, and office work. Women also volunteered by planting victory gardens, canning produce, selling war bonds, donating blood, and sending care packages.

“Bernice Daunora, 31, a member of a steel mill’s “top gang” who must wear a “one-hour, lightweight breathing apparatus” as protection against gas escaping from blast furnaces, Gary, Ind. 1943. Margaret Bourke-White- The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images
Transfer car operator Mae Harris, 23, signals to a crane-man above to return the empty, hot metal ladle bucket to the transfer car (L) after it was emptied of its load of molten iron which was poured into an open-hearth furnace at a steel mill. Margaret Bourke-White- The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images
In the foundry of the Carnegie-Illinois Steel Co., these women are at work as core-makers. A total of 18 women employed here on two shifts. The core-maker’s functions are like those of a sculptor, and the implements used are trowels, spatulas, and mallets. Castings being made in this picture are for use not only at Carnegie-Illinois but at other plants. Margaret Bourke-White- The LIFE Picture Collection/ Getty Images
On aircraft carrier deck women work as welders and scrapers. Girls alongside this steel prefabricated deck section who are without headgear and masks operate tools which scrape loose surface imperfections in preparation for welding. The welder in the foreground has her name, ‘Jackie,’ written on her helmet, a popular style among women welders. Margaret Bourke-White- The LIFE Picture Collection/ Getty Images
Ann Zarik, 22, is a flame burner in Armor Plate Division. Margaret Bourke-White- The LIFE Picture Collection/ Getty Images
Audra Mae Hulse, 20, is flame cutter at the American Bridge Co. in Gary. She has five relatives in the plant. Margaret Bourke-White- The LIFE Picture Collection/ Getty Images
Beveling armor plate for tanks at Gary Works, these women operate powerful acetylene torches. Margaret Bourke-White—The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images
Blanche Jenkins, 39, is a welder at Carnegie-Illinois, buys a $50 war bond each month. She has two children. Margaret Bourke-White- The LIFE Picture Collection/ Getty Images
Stamping machine in rail mill at Gary is operated by Mrs. Florence Romanowski (right). She mechanically brands identifications into red-hot rails. Her husband is in the Army. Margaret Bourke-White- The Life Picture Collection/Getty
Dolores Macias, 26, of Mexican descent, has a son. She has been a member of the top gang for five months. Margaret Bourke-White- The LIFE Picture Collection/ Getty Images
Flame cutting of a slab is done by a four-torch machine controlled and operated by one woman. Alice Jo Barker (above) has a husband and a son who also work in war industries. Margaret Bourke-White- The LIFE Picture Collection/ Getty Images
Katherine Mrzljak, 34, is a Blast furnace cleaner. She is Croatian, has two children. Husband also works in a mill. Margaret Bourke-White- The LIFE Picture Collection/ Getty Images
Lorraine Gallinger, 20, is a metallurgical observer. She is from North Dakota. Margaret Bourke-White- The LIFE Picture Collection/ Getty Images
Lugrash Larry, 32, a laborer in Blast Furnace Department, has four children. Husband works in the Billet Mill. Margaret Bourke-White0 The LIFE Picture Collection/ Getty Images
Pan Man’ at Gary Works is Mrs. Rosalie Ivy. She is mixing a special mud used to seal the casting hole through which molten iron flows from a blast furnace. Margaret Bourke-White- The LIFE Picture Collection/ Getty Images
Scarfing is the operation which removes surface defects from slabs to condition them for rolling. Woman (center) marks out defects with chalk for a man (right) who is doing the scarfing. Margaret Bourke-White- The LIFE Picture Collection/ Getty Image
Theresa Arana, 21, takes down temperature recordings at draw furnaces, Gary, Ind., 1943. Margaret Bourke-White—The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images
Victoria Brotko, 22, is a blacksmith’s helper. She took her twin brother’s job when he joined the Marines Margaret Bourke-White-The LIFE Picture Collection/ Getty Images
Women employees at Tubular Alloy Steel Corp. in Gary, Ind. predominate at pep meeting, 1943. Margaret Bourke-White—The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Image
Women laborers clear tracks of spilled materials, Gary, Ind. 1943. Margaret Bourke-White—The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Image
Women wearing gas masks clean a blast furnace top at a Gary, Ind. steel mill, 1943. Margaret Bourke-White—The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Image
Women welders, Gary, Ind., 1943. Margaret Bourke-White—The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images
Female metallurgical observer uses an optical pyrometer in determining the temperature of the molten steel in the open hearth. Margaret Bourke-White- The LIFE Picture Collection/ Getty Images
LIFE magazine cover, August 9, 1943. Margaret Bourke-White—The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images