During World War II, 350,000 women served in the U.S. Armed Forces.
During the Battle of Normandy in 1944, a select few of these women served in various support roles in Europe during the Allied invasion in France known as D-Day.
The images of D-Day, part of the liberation of Nazi occupied Europe, is something most people hear about. Helen Ferrer, a Boca Raton resident, was a part of it.
She says two months after entering the military in March 1944, she was assigned to the wine cellar of a French chateau that was converted into a switchboard.
As a switch board operator, Ferrer says she provided communication to Allied troops on the front lines during the Battle of Normandy.
“All sorts of calls between different officers and different levels – logistics, communications all different branches of the service,” said Ferrer.
Ferrer is one of a very small group of women who served in communications, nursing, intelligence, administration and supply roles in Europe during WWII. She says many of these women went unrecognized and were also unaware of how much of their role played on the war front.
”We had none of that,” said Ferrer. “You got up. You went to your job and you came home. And that was it.”
The White House estimates approximately 10,000 Allied forces were killed, wounded or missing in action on D-Day. Ferrer says she thinks about the fallen a lot.
“Those are the real heroes. Those guys that didn’t come back,” she said.
Ferrer wouldn’t return home until the end of 1945. During that time, she got married and inspired a new generation of women in uniform in the region.
“When I see these pictures and I think about the women of yesteryear – I think these women don’t realize how much they’ve taught us by just being who they are,” said Lisa Browne-Banic, a former officer in the Florida National Guard.
“It is a changing world, and you have to change with the world,” Ferrer added.