“Women who stepped up were measured as citizens of the nation, not as women… This was a people’s war and everyone was in it.” – Oveta Culp Hobby (as quoted on the World War II memorial in Washington, D.C.)
World War II was the first time in American history that women were allowed to enlist in the military. Even today, these groundbreaking women remain on the sidelines of WWII history and many of their stories have been forgotten. Few of these women faced enemy fire or had the opportunity to serve overseas, but they were heroic nevertheless. When it was not expected of them, they left their homes and their families to serve their country. They served as essential behind-the-scenes members of the military, serving as officers, recruiters, clerks, storekeepers, control tower operators, nurses, pharmacists, and more. Women could enlist in special reserve units of the military starting in 1942, including the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC, dropping the “Auxiliary” in 1943 to become WAC), United States Naval Reserve WAVES (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service), Marine Corps Women’s Reserve, Coast Guard SPARS, and Air Force WASPS (Women Airforce Service Pilots). The Army Nurse Corps (ANC) was established in 1901 and the Navy Nurse Corps in 1908, but these women were not considered part of the Army or Navy until later, when they were given retroactive veteran status. The approximately 350,000 women nationwide who enlisted in these reserves “released a man to fight” overseas. Whether they enlisted out of patriotic duty, sense of adventure, or another reason, they became an essential part of the military. Continue reading “Hidden Heroes of WWII: an honor roll for DeKalb County women (Part I)”→
I recently had the opportunity to record the story of my grandmother in WWII for a storytelling class. It tells the story of how my Nana, Mildred Kaiser, joined the WAVES and served in the Navy during WWII. It follows the timeline of that part of her life. Click here or click the video below to view the digital story!
Thank you to Prof. Kate McDowell and my UIUC Storytelling classmates who inspired me to share this story in a new way! I had previously written about her time in the WAVES in a three-part series.
Personal interviews with Mildred (Kaiser) Drake by EvaAnne Weil and Emily (Drake) Weil, 1998-2015.
Photos from private collection, Mildred (Kaiser) Drake’s WAVES photo album, 1944-1946.
My grandmother (Nana), Millie Kaiser, joined the Navy WAVES in April of 1944. As mentioned earlier in the series, she was stationed at Saufley Field in Pensacola, Florida. While much of her time was spent at work, most of her fondest memories were spending time with her friends during their off-hours. Continue reading “Nana was a WWII veteran (Part III)”→
For Women’s History Month, this is Part II of a series dedicated to my grandmother’s WWII military service. Click here to read Part I.
My Nana, Millie Kaiser, joined the Navy WAVES in 1944 when she was 21 years old, in the middle of WWII. She joined the WAVES because she felt it was the right thing to do for her country. After Basic Training in New York, she had a few days leave at home, and then she was stationed in Pensacola, Florida. Millie had never been that far away from home before. For her, it was an exciting new adventure. Continue reading “Nana was a WWII veteran (part II)”→
When I was in elementary school, my teacher asked us to interview a veteran as part of a Veteran’s Day project. While asking my grandpa and uncles if they were veterans, I was surprised to discover that my sweet, pie-baking Nana was the World War II hero of our family. She has recently passed away, and so I’d like to share her story in honor of Women’s History Month. Continue reading “Nana was a WWII veteran”→