Nurses of a field hospital who arrived in France via England and Egypt after three years service. August 12, 1944. (Department of Veteran Affairs)
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Some notable dates in the history of female soldiers, from World War I to the current announcement on women in combat:
World War I (1917-18)
21,480 Army nurses serve in stateside and overseas military hospitals. More than 400 die in the line of duty, most from the Spanish flu. Army Signal Corps recruits 230 telephone operators, the "Hello Girls," for duty overseas.
The Army Reorganization Act grants military nurses the status of officers but not full rights and privileges.
World War II (1941-45)
More than 60,000 Army nurses serve. Sixty-seven are captured in the Philippines and held as prisoners of war for 2˝ years.
• The Women's Army Corps is established.
• First Lt. Annie Fox is the first woman to receive the Purple Heart for combat during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.
• In 1943, 1st Lt. Cordelia E. Cook, serving with the Army Nurse Corps in Italy, is the first woman to receive the Bronze Star.
The Army-Navy Nurse Act of 1947 makes the Army Nurse Corps and Women's Medical Specialist Corps part of the Regular Army with permanent commissioned officer status for Army and Navy nurses.
The Women's Armed Services Integration Act of 1948 grants women permanent status in the regular and Reserve forces.
Korean War (1950-1953)
Female reservists from World War II are involuntarily recalled to active duty. More than 500 Army nurses serve in the combat zone.
Army Sgt. Maj. Carolyn James and Master Chief Yeoman Anne Dervartanian become the first women to reach the top enlisted rank.
Vietnam War (1965-1975)
More than 7,000 women serve in Southeast Asia, the majority of them nurses. First Lt. Sharon Lane is the only woman to die from enemy fire in Vietnam. Seven other women die in the line of duty.
Ceilings on the number of women who can serve and the ranks they can achieve are repealed.
Elizabeth Hoisington and Anna May Hays are the first women promoted to brigadier general.
ROTC opens to Army and Navy women.
The Supreme Court rules unconstitutional inequities in benefits for the dependents of military women. Until then, military women with dependents were not authorized housing nor were their dependents eligible for the benefits and privileges given to dependents of male military members.
Army 1st Lt. Sally Murphy becomes the first female military helicopter pilot.
Women are admitted to the service academies.
Men and women attend the same basic training units at Fort McClellan, Ala., and Fort Jackson, S.C.
The Women's Army Corps is disestablished and its members are integrated into the Regular Army. Mary Elizabeth Clarke, the last WAC director and first female soldier promoted to two-star general, becomes the first woman to command a major military installation (Fort McClellan).
Approximately 200 Army and Air Force women are among the forces deployed to Grenada on Operation Urgent Fury.
About 770 women deploy to Panama in Operation Just Cause. Two women command Army companies in the operation and three female Army pilots are nominated for Air Medals. Two receive the Air Medal with "V" device for a combat mission.
Persian Gulf War (1990-91)
Some 40,000 American military women are deployed during operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm. Two Army women are taken prisoner by the Iraqis.
The defense secretary opens combat aviation to female aviators.
• The Army names Staff Sgt. Jill Henderson as Drill Sergeant of the Year, the first time a woman receives that honor in the competition's 24-year history.
Command Sgt. Maj. Michele Jones is the first woman to become top enlisted adviser in any of the military components when she is sworn in as the command sergeant major of the Army Reserve.
Sgt. Leigh Ann Hester is awarded the Silver Star for combat action in Iraq, the first woman to receive the medal since World War II.
Army Pfc. Monica Brown becomes the first female in Afghanistan to receive the Silver Star.
Army Gen. Ann Dunwoody becomes the first female four-star.
The Army opens some combat-related jobs to women in the active and reserve components. Women get the opportunity to serve in field artillery and mechanical maintenance military occupational specialties. Women will serve at battalion level in nine brigade combat teams.
• The Army's top officer announces the Army is considering opening infantry and armor specialties, and even Ranger School, to women.