World War II was, indeed, an event that changed the modern world in many ways. Besides directly impacting the lives of many millions of people killed in that war, it also changed the civilian world in which we live—for better or worse; there are legitimate arguments on both sides. Here, in the United States, that war, and the desire (and necessity) to put down an evil regime, led men to take up arms and go into battle.
And, it also greatly and permanently changed the role of women in our society.
Prior to World War II, women in the United States were mostly relegated to working in the home or on the farm … at least that was the role of most “decent” women. The war changed all of that.
While men were boarding planes and ships and heading off to places far away, the industry in this country that made materials to support the war was lacking enough men to produce the necessary supplies to fill the great need. In response, women entered the factories and mills, performing what had previously been jobs filled only by men. Those women, like the men who had gone off to war, did whatever was required to get the job done.
COMMEMORATIVE 1911 PISTOL
What got me thinking about this subject was a new custom 1911 pistol produced by Auto Ordnance. Named “Victory Girls,” the pistol is produced to honor the women who stepped up and filled the jobs necessary to support our men who were fighting the war. This commemorative pistol was first shown to me at the 2018 SHOT show by Jodi DePorter, the lady who conceived this project. She is the director of marketing for the Kahr Firearms Group.
The pistol has a distressed Cerakote finish and is deeply laser engraved with images of a classic pinup girl on one side and an updated “Rosie the Riveter” on the other. Both sides of the slide are engraved with the United States Army Air Corps (USAAC) roundel. The slide and frame feature engraved “rivets” to simulate the look of World War II fighter planes. It looks very classy. The brown plastic grip panels are marked “U.S.” and are checkered in the classic double-diamond pattern. The “Victory Girls” pistol is built on an Auto Ordnance 1911 G.I. model and features a 5-inch barrel and low-profile sights.
WOMEN STEP UP TO THE PLATE
This Auto Ordnance pistol brought back some fond memories for me—not memories of World War II, however. I know I look really old, but I wasn’t born until 1959. The memories are of family members telling of things that happened at home during that time. My dad was just a little boy during that war, but he had nine older sisters. While their husbands were off to war, they went to work, filling jobs that needed filling.
I particularly remember his oldest sister, Myretta, telling of her leaving Tennessee to go to work in Alton, Illinois, at the Olin Ammunition factory. Many jobs at the factory were filled by women, because there were not enough men left in the workforce to run the machines and assemble the ammunition needed to fight the war.
She told me of the day the women banded together and staged a walkout in protest of the fact that Olin paid the men 10 cents more per hour than it paid the women. She was young and scared but went along. She stood with the other women, who didn’t return to their jobs after lunch. The walkout was successful, and the next day, the women got their pay raise and returned to work—making the same money as the men in the factory.
All around the nation during that time, women were making clothing, ammunition, weapons, planes and ships that were needed to fuel the war effort. The amount of material and ordnance produced by our nation during that war amazes me to this day. Workers were producing fighter planes and ships at a rate that could not be matched today … because they had to. The Germans and Japanese were sinking ships and shooting down planes faster than they could be produced. However, American workers, many of them women, were working long hours to make sure our fighting men had the necessary weapons and equipment to fight the war and return home as quickly and safely as possible.
KEEPING THE MEMORIES ALIVE
As mentioned above, my dad had nine older sisters. At the end of the war, when their husbands returned home, the family had a big celebration, as did the rest of the nation.
Our family killed a hog and had a huge barbecue to welcome the men home. We still do this every Memorial Day. I have two large cookers, the biggest of which will hold a whole hog, along with several chickens. The smaller cooker will hold several pork shoulders and dozens of ears of corn and other such things.
Celebrations such as this serve as reminders that the people of our nation, both women and men, have always stepped up to do whatever is necessary to keep us free—no matter how hard it might be.
Jeff Quinn is a full-time writer/reviewer on Gunblast.com, an online gun magazine started in 2000. He has also written for the Gun Digest Annual and enjoys living life in the woods of Tennessee, where he raises Longhorn cattle … and his grandkids.