Community, Diversity, Sustainability and other Overused Words

Hello Girls of World War I Should Get Congressional Medal

55 historians sign letter to congress regarding the female US Army Signal Corps

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Well-known American historians Dr. Elizabeth Cobbs of San Diego State University and Dr. David Kennedy of Stanford University have submitted a letter to Congress, cosigned by 55 academic and independent historians, calling for passage of legislation in the 118th Congress to award a Congressional Gold Medal to the Hello Girls, America's First Women Soldiers.

The Doughboy Foundation

he U.S. Army Signal Corps telephone operators (known as the "Hello Girls") staffing the American Expeditionary Forces Headquarters switchboard at Elysee Palace in Paris, France during World War I.

The letter, attached to this release here, urges the Senators and House Members to cosponsor S.815 and HR 1572, respectively, and to pass the legislation as soon as Memorial Day 2024 if possible.

The legislation was officially recommended to Congress by the United States World War I

Centennial Commission, and is endorsed by the American Legion, the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), the Military Women's Memorial in Arlington National Cemetery, and other military and women's organizations. Similar legislation was introduced in the 116th and 117th Congresses. Descendants of the Hello Girls also support the award.

Cobbs, author of the bestselling book The Hello Girls, America's First Women Soldiers, initiated the historians' letter of support for the Congressional Gold Medal, in keeping with her ongoing efforts to tell the neglected story of the WWI combat operators. "When I signed copies of my book at the Military Women's Memorial at Arlington, and saw a long line of female readers with unusually erect posture, I realized that most were veterans or service members, and not one knew where her story had started because it had never been told. That moved me."

The Hello Girls of the U.S. Army were the first American women soldiers to actively participate in combat operations. 223 deployed to France, where they served on the front lines during World War I. Acting as bilingual Signal Corps Telephone Operators, they played a key role in the American combat effort, connecting over 26 million calls between and among American and French forces. After the Armistice in 1918, the Hello Girls remained in France to assist during the Treaty of Versailles negotiations that officially ended the war. Over 30 Hello Girls received individual commendations, and two died while in Army service.

But when the Hello Girls returned to America after the war, despite serving under commissioned officers, wearing uniforms, rank insignia, and dog tags, swearing the Army Oath, and being subject to court-martial, the Hello Girls were told they had served as "civilian contractors" instead of soldiers. They were ignored for decades and forgotten by history. For almost 60 years, the surviving unit members petitioned Congress and the Army for the same veterans recognition afforded to their male colleagues. Finally, in 1977, Congress passed a law paving the way for the Hello Girls, and the Army's Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASPs) of World War II, to be recognized as full veterans of the US Armed Forces.

The Hello Girls in WWI were pioneers in the use of electronic voice communications to manage combat operations at a time when the Army was transitioning from reliance on Morse code, whistles, flags, trumpets, and pigeons to get the message through. Their ability to pass rapid tactical information calmly and seamlessly between two allied armies that spoke different languages was a fundamental breakthrough, and helped bring the fighting to an end in the Allies' favor as much as a year earlier than it might have taken without them, according to General Pershing. All modern American military operations and tactical communications in the century since WWI have their roots with the Hello Girls, whose bravery, talents, skills, and dedication to duty set the standard to which all men and women in American military service should aspire.

David M. Kennedy, Donald J. McLachlan Professor of History Emeritus at Stanford University, and author of Over Here: The First World War and American Society, says the Congressional Gold Medal recognition is well-earned and timely. "Now is the time to remedy a lamentable lapse in our national memory. These women also served. They served honorably, well, and consequentially. They richly deserve this recognition."

The World War I Centennial Commission asks Americans everywhere to contact their Senators and Representative, and encourage lawmakers become cosponsors of S.815 and HR 1572, and award the Congressional Gold Medal to the Hello Girls this session. The Commission has provided a convenient online toolkit at making it simple to send emails to both of your Senators and to your Representative in just a few minutes.

The Doughboy Foundation

General John J. Pershing, Commander of the American Expeditionary Forces in Europe during World War I, inspects a unit of the U.S. Army Signal Corps telephone operators (known as the "Hello Girls") in Paris.

"Heroism in the past gives courage to the living -- which is the best reason for honoring our very first women to wear the uniform of the United States Army in combat operations," said Cobbs. "They were all so young -- some younger than eighteen – and the better I got to know them, the more convinced I became that their story must be heard, and their service honored."

To learn more about the legislation to award a Congressional Gold Medal to the Hello Girls, America's First Women Soldiers, visit

About the U.S. WWI Centennial Commission:

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Reader Comments(1)

microcosme writes:

What a bunch of cheapskates to treat these women so shabbily.