Nebraskans on the Front Lines
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Women Join the Military

WWII Women Aviators
Women’s Airforce Service Pilots group. Second from left is Grace Elizabeth Clements of Elmwood, Nebraska, who provided courier service for Col. Paul Tibbets and his crew as they trained in Wendover, Utah, to drop the A-bomb.
Courtesy Nebraska State Historical Society, Betty Clements Collection, RG3441AM

The idea of women in uniform was a new phenomenon during World War II. Approximately 1,800 Nebraska women joined the special military organizations established for women.

WACs exercising at Ft. Crook
WACs (Women’s Army Corps) Recruits Exercising at Ft. Crook in Omaha, Nebraska.
Courtesy Nebraska State Historical Society, RG 3715-1-25
Recruiting Poster for the WAVES
Recruiting Poster for the WAVES (Women’s branch of the Navy). Women were encouraged to enlist in the service to release men for combat duty.
Courtesy Library of Congress, 513689

A multitude of female military units were created, each with acronyms that were remarkably similar:

  • WASPs, the Women’s Airforce Service Pilots.
  • WAFS, the Army Air Corps’ Women’s Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron.
  • WAACs, the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps.
  • WACs, the Women’s Army Corps.
  • WAVES, the women’s branch of the Navy.
  • SPARS, the U.S. Coast Guard Reserve for Women.

The American Women’s Voluntary Services (AWVS) was also organized in Nebraska in 1941. While it was not a military organization, its members earned the right to wear a uniform following one hundred hours of service. They help to sell war bonds, made care packages for soldiers, and worked in salvage drives and many other patriotic activities.

Excerpt from Frances Overholser’s letter home
Frances Overholser’s Letter Home November 1943
Courtesy Nebraska State Historical Society, RG2353.AM Collection
"At present we are fighting an ugly rumor about the WACs and we all feel terrible about it. As you know, the WACs have been doing a wonderful job. We have released, I can’t tell you how many Divisions of fighting men, but it is beginning to get into Hitler’s hair.

"It all started with an order for 40 baby cribs from Ft. Des Moines. They were for officers’ wives, of course, but Ft. Des Moines happens to be one of the largest WAC centers in the country and Hitler’s agents jumped at the chance.
‘Smear the WACs! Ruin their reputation. They are there only for the convenience of the soldiers, and all that stuff. Break their morale. Frighten their parents. Do everything in your power to stop recruiting. The WACs must be discredited.’
"Those orders came straight from Berlin, and at present they are succeeding. (Maybe.)"
     — Frances Overholser, Lincoln, Women’s Army Corps
          from a letter written home from Prien, Germany Nov. 2, 1943
 American Women's Voluntary Services (AWVS) at a Parade in Nebraska
Members of the American Women’s Voluntary Services (AWVS) at a Parade in Nebraska
Courtesy Nebraska State Historical Society, RG 2855-29-8
"They were advertising that they wanted women in the WAAC and they were telling the advantages and so forth. I had always wanted to travel, and I knew that I was never going to make enough money to do that at what I was doing, or what I would . . . eventually do if the [Martin Bomber] plant closed. I applied to the navy, and when I took the physical, of all things, they told me I didn’t have enough teeth! I thought, ‘Well, I wasn’t going to fight with my teeth, or I wasn’t going to type with them, or anything else,’ but that’s what they told me . . .. Then I applied to The WAAC and took the test and the physical, and Sworn in on the 19th of January 1943 at Omaha."
     — Annabelle Peshek, Omaha, Women’s Army Auxliary Corps
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