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December 5, 2023

Vintage Photographs of Women Testing Weapons During World War II at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland

Maryland’s Aberdeen Proving Ground opened in 1917 and today is the military’s oldest weapons-testing facility in the United States. It’s a big operation. At its peak in World War II, Aberdeen had housing for more than 27,000, and today it still employs more then 12,000 people.

Through its first decades APG was a man’s world. But that changed during World War II. The soldiers who once worked the testing grounds but had been deployed overseas were at first replaced by male civilians. Then as the draft hit hard, the civilians began to disappear and in their place came thousands of women.

These women come from everywhere. Many have husbands in the Army. Others have husbands who also work at Aberdeen. They wear bright-colored slacks, and their “firing fronts” are a rippling blend of pink. blue and orange, mixed with white and black powder from the guns. They serve on crews of all weapons up to the 90-mm A.A.’s. [anti-aircraft guns]. They handle highly technical instruments. They drive trucks, act as bicycle messengers, swab and clean vehicles. A few of them have even been tested as tank drivers, but that work, with its physical bruises, is still a little too tough for them.

(Photos by Myron Davis and Bernard Hoffman, via Life Picture Collection/Shutterstock)


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