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Experiencing War (Companion to the New Book -- Forever a Soldier): Stories from the Veterans History Project

Wartime calls on many to serve, but not all of them have been considered equal in status. For women and minorities, especially African Americans, a national emergency is an opportunity for advancement and for changing the culture of the military. World War II was a turning point in that struggle; it gave women their first real chance to serve in uniform, and it reminded everyone that fighting a war for freedom was meaningless without racially integrated armed forces to win that fight.

Image of Darlene Iskra
Darlene M. Iskra training in a Mark 5
diving suit


When Darlene Iskra enlisted in the Navy in 1979, her ambitions were modest; she was 27, coming off a divorce, her life in need of a jump start. She unwittingly caught a wave of change in that service, becoming one of the first women to graduate from dive school. Her talent for supervision and her tenacity won her a loyal following in the higher echelons of the Navy, and in December 1990, she became the first woman to take command of a U.S. Navy ship, aptly named the Opportune. Though her ship was on stand-by duty during the Persian Gulf War, Iskra's name was already secure in Naval history.

Go to Darlene M. Iskra's StoryLearn more about Darlene M. Iskra
Jump DownJump to other stories featured in Chapter Four

"Don't treat me any differently; I am the commanding officer and that's it." (Video Interview, 34:55)

Image of Norman S. Ikari

"The first thing I think about is I better not move. They might finish me off."

Norman S. Ikari's story

Image of Yeiichi Kelly Kuwayama

"I think each time I went out in no man's land was an event."

Yeiichi Kelly Kuwayama's story

Image of Augustus Prince

"I think the most important thing I learned [in the Navy] is that I'm as good as anybody."

Augustus Prince's story

Image of Bertran Wallace

"There were still people who had hidden agendas because of the color of my skin..."

Bertran Wallace's story

  Home >> Chapter Four: GROUNDBREAKERS
  The Library of Congress
  October 13, 2005
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