First, Black WWII Marines Receive Honors

On June 27, 2012, the Montford Point Marines (the first, black WWII marines) were awarded the Congressional Gold Medal in a ceremony at the U.S. Visitors Center.

 

Gunnery Sgt. Mack Haynes Sr Montford Point Marine

 Some 20,000 African American Marines received training at Montford Point between 1942 and 1949.   More than 400 of them, mostly in their 80’s and 90’s today got their due.

 

 Read more at:  The Detroit Free Press

http://www.freep.com/article/20120627/NEWS01/120627024/Montford-Pointe-Marines-honored-today

First Waves of Freedom

350,000 women served in the military during World War II, of these 150,000 were members of the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps (WAACS) led by the service’s first director, Oveta Culp Hobby.

African American WAACS at Ft. DesMoines

The eligibility requirements were straightforward:  each woman must be a U.S. citizen, 21-45 years of age with no dependents, at least 5 ft. tall and weighing a minimum of 100 pounds.

The service of these women was a critical element of the U.S. war effort.   They took on jobs in the military that would free service men to be on the front lines.  Primarily they worked in clerical jobs, in medical units, in the motor pool, as radio operators, in military post offices and as  cryptographers.

The WAACS were the first of these services to allow Black service women (1942).   Forty black women who entered the first WAAC officer candidate class were placed in a separate platoon; most had attended college.

But the transition of women in the military 70 years ago was not easy or smooth.    By early 1943, the number of women joining the WAACS dropped dramatically due to a backlash of public opinion against women in the armed forces.  84% of letters received by the families of male soldiers were critical of WAACS.

Still, America’s World War II service women played an important role in the war.   Some women served in combat zones, were held as prisoners of war in the Philippines, conducted undercover operations, and sacrificed their lives.

For more information about women in the U. S. military during World War II  check out the National Women’s History Museum “Partners in Winning the War” web page at:

http://www.nwhm.org/online-exhibits/partners/exhibitentrance.html

And the archive at the University of North Carolina-Greensboro The Betty H. Carver Women Veterans Historical Project at:

http://library.uncg.edu/dp/wv/conflict/?c=2

An excellent bibliography on the WWII service of black women in the military “We Served America Too” is available at:

http://www.howard.edu/library/moorland-spingarn/WWII.HTM

STATISTICS

    • 150,000 WAACs served during WWII; 6,520 African American WAACS
    • 35,000 women applied for WAACS officer’s training school
    • The first WAAC training center was at Ft. Desmoines training began in 1942..
    • Successful service of WAACS led to a permanent corps in 1948 with the Women’s Armed Services Integration Act; but not until the 1970s were women fully assimilated into the army
    • 100,000 women were members of the Navy’s WAVES (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency)
    • The Airforce also had a contingent of women service members called Women Airforce Service Pilots or WASPs.

Cheryl Head’s first novel, Home Front, is the story of two, black World War II soldiers (one a WAAC) serving in a segregated Army base near Tucson, Arizona.    It is a love story.



 

 

America’s Black Farmer: World War 2

I came across an intriguing, short film Henry Browne Farmer dramatizing the life of a Black, American farm family in the early years of WWII, one of the themes in my novel, Long Way Home:  A World War II Novel.

Canada Lee, Narrator Henry Browne Farmer

Canada Lee, Narrator      Henry Browne Farmer

Black stage and screen actor, Canada Lee narrates this film which, even at 10:42, drags.  The filmmaker is a bit of an auteur (note his overly fond use of the schmaltzy soundtrack and the too-long, panoramic shots) but the landscape of 1942 life in Macon, Georgia rings true. Continue reading

Book Summary

I’ve been writing Homefront for several years.   At its essence, it is a story of discovery of self.  Set in the middle years of World War II, Homefront introduces two main characters: 20-year-old, Georgette Lillian Newton from rural North Carolina and a member of the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps, and LeRoy Dowdell, an 18-year-old Army enlistee from a small town in Georgia.   We follow these two, young southerners as their dreams and ambitions propel them to join the Army where they meet and fall in love.   Along the way, the reader also meets Private First Class, Pit Turner and his nemesis Staff Sergeant, Robert Moses.  The four cope with the tensions and indignities of a segregated army experience on a base near Tucson, Arizona and, ultimately, find truth and acceptance in their separate acts of courage.

WAACS at Ft. Huachuca in Arizona

More to come…