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c. 1942

The many uniforms worn by women in World War II

Auxiliary roles in uniform.

Outside the United States, hundreds of thousands of women undertook combat roles during the Second World War. But America said no — the government believed the population simply wouldn’t accept it.

Herbert Gehr/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images

This meant that it was auxiliary roles that were undertaken by around 400,000 women in the states — auxiliary roles in uniform. Women worked as truck drivers, as mechanics, as electricians, as pilots — and as administrators.

Herbert Gehr/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images

About 4,500 women served as spies for the United States intelligence agency (aka Office of Strategic Services), including as undercover agents. And 19 million women took over working roles left unoccupied by men fighting overseas.

Herbert Gehr/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images

Only 543 American women were killed in the war — 16 by enemy fire.

Herbert Gehr/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images

This set of photographs, taken by Herbert Gehr for LIFE magazine, shows some of the many uniforms worn by women in World War II.

Herbert Gehr/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images
Herbert Gehr/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images
Herbert Gehr/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images
Herbert Gehr/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images
Herbert Gehr/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images
Herbert Gehr/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images

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