An official website of the United States Government 
Here's how you know

Official websites use .gov

.gov website belongs to an official government organization in the United States.

Secure .gov websites use HTTPS

A lock ( lock ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .gov website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

Remarks by Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III at a Celebration of the 75th Anniversary of the Women's Armed Services Integration Act


Well, good morning. Let's hear it again for our outstanding Deputy Secretary. 


Kath, it truly is an honor to serve alongside you. We appreciate everything that you continue to do for this Department.

Shaye, I have to admit, I was surprised to see you wearing glasses. I don't feel so bad now.


See, there's this Superwoman rumor floating around. And I couldn't figure out if those were Clark Kent-type glasses.


And Admiral Joyner, if I took a vote right now, I think everybody in the room would say, "We don't want to hear the Secretary; we want to hear more war stories." 


Pretty good war stories. I couldn't figure out whether or not the person that you were trying to protect—the people that you were trying to protect—were me and the Chairman, because we did get blown up one night, but I think the times don't match. That's quite a story. 

And thanks to all of you for being who you are, and for what you do for our military. 

Let me also thank Congresswoman Mace for being here, and also senior leaders at the Department of Defense who have joined us today.

And again, a solid word of thanks to Major Haver and Vice Admiral Joyner for what they have done to blaze new trails for women service members. 

And so today, we celebrate 75 years since President Truman signed the Women's Armed Services Integration Act.

Of course, as Mike said earlier, women have always stepped up to defend our country.  

In our Revolutionary War, women operated behind enemy lines as spies. 

In the Civil War, some 3,000 women served as nurses for the Union Army.  

During World War I, women were translators and accountants, and they operated switchboards.

And by World War II, women were driving trucks and rigging parachutes.

And they were serving in the Marine Corps, like Norma Rambow, whom you just met.

Women began cracking code as cryptographers, like Marion Marques, whom you also met earlier. 

And they paved the way for more women who are joining us today, like Corrine Robinson, who served in the Navy, and for Hilary Rosado, who also served as an imagery analyst for the Army.

Let's thank all of these great Americans for their service once again.


And I have it on good accord that you are going to reach the ripe age of—the young age of—100 in September, Ms. Rambow. Do I have that correct?

[Laughter and applause]

God bless you.

Now, after World War II, our top military leaders finally endorsed making American women full and permanent members of the Armed Forces. 

But getting that through Congress wasn't easy. At one hearing, the Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee questioned why women should serve in our military on the same basis as men.  

The first witness to respond was General Dwight D. Eisenhower. And he said, simply, "We need them."

We need them. 

The United States military needs women. 

Our military is the best fighting force in human history. And to keep it that way, we need the best warfighters in every domain of potential conflict. 

And the only way to make that happen is by drawing on the talents of all of our people, and not just men—who happen to represent less than half of the U.S. population. 

And in return, we must create a military where American women can contribute the full range of their skills and strength, and where they can take advantage of all that a career in the U.S. military has to offer—like being a part of something bigger than oneself, defending the values of freedom and democracy, making a difference, and growing as experts and as leaders.

We owe it to American women to get rid of bias, and to wipe out the cancer of harassment and sexual assault in our ranks. 

We owe it to them to make a military career compatible with raising a family—for both mothers and fathers. 

And we owe it to them to break every barrier in the way of their service.

This is a priority for the Department of Defense. And I'm so proud to have you all as teammates to get it done. 

You know, back in 1948, one of the main supporters of the women's integration legislation was Colonel Mary Hallaren. 

And I love telling the story of what happened when she enlisted. 

You see, Colonel Hallaren was just five feet tall. And the recruiter asked her what the Army could do with someone so short. And she replied: "You don't have to be six feet tall to have a brain that works."


She became a Colonel and the Director of the Women's Army Corps. 

Now, as women service members waited for Congress to act, many got frustrated and considered leaving the military. But Colonel Hallaren encouraged them to stay on. 

In an open letter, she reminded them of the hurdles that women had already achieved—already cleared. They had already proven their value in wartime and in peacetime. 

And she said, "Those who bet against you lost."

Ladies and gentlemen, 75 years ago, American women won again. 

And America won yet again. 

We've now had three women lead combatant commands, including General Richardson at SOUTHCOM and General Van Ovost at TRANSCOM. And we've had distinguished women four-star officers in the Army, the Navy, the Air Force, and the Coast Guard.

Command Sergeant Major Veronica Knapp recently served as the senior enlisted leader of the 101st Airborne Division. And three years ago, JoAnne Bass became the first woman to serve as Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force.

Women's service has made our military stronger. And that's worth celebrating today. And it is yet another spur to drive us all to make even more progress as we go forward together. 

So let's renew our resolve to make our military even stronger, more capable, and more just for all of the brave patriots who raise their hands to serve our great country.

And I am truly honored to be here with all of you. And I am proud of what our women contribute to this great country.

May God bless you. And may God continue to bless the United States of America. Thank you.