Fort Lee Virginia, first stop on our WAC Field Trip. Pook, my good friend from Knoxville, creative computer graphics photographer and artist extraordinaire has agreed to join me in this exploration as my official photographer. Our goal is to visit as many museum/archives as possible in one week to further my research on the WWII Signal Intelligence WACS of the Pacific.
We’ve boarded the jeeps and are ready to take you along on our trip through WWII WAC history.
Our first day was spent at the US Army Women’s Museum at Fort Lee VA. Amanda Vtipil, the Education Curator provided a most informative guided tour. Dr. Francoise Bonnell Director of the Museum led us into the archives. She pulled amazing WWII photographs taken of WACS in North Africa and Dutch New Guinea by photographer Captain Charlotte T. McGraw. Captain McGraw produced over 70,000 images during WWII with 5,000 located in the archives.
A photograph of a WAC shining shoes grabbed my heart for it had reminded me of a story I had read from the memoir of Vivian Purata, a WAC who had served with my mother at Fort Dix and then in Holandia, New Guinea. The WAC complement was called to a meeting by their Company Captain to tell them of a tragic accident of a WAC killed in a jeep accident. Vivian was ordered to shine the WAC’s shoes before the burial.
I shared the story with Dr. Bonnell. She immediately responded, “I have the flag that was draped over her casket.”
It’s hanging in the museum. Silk and strings from a parachute were used to make the flag. The Pallas Athena was dyed green with Atabrine, the preventative the soldiers took to ward off malaria.
View the Museum yourself at www.awm.lee.army.mil
Barbara Nicodemus Daughter of a SigInt WAC