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Telling the stories of female veterans who served during WWII

June 25, 2012

Texas Women in World War II by Cindy Weigand (2003) [D736 .W45 2003].

Nurses in front of the School of Aviation Medicine at Fort Sam Houston, 1944, Women’s Overseas Service League, 1910-2008, MS 22, University of Texas at San Antonio Libraries Special Collections.

During World War II, San Antonio emerged as an important military training hub. The city and county were home to numerous military facilities including Kelly Field, Randolph Field, Brooks Field, and Fort Sam Houston. These centers prepared armed forces personnel for deployment to the European and Pacific theaters and Fort Sam Houston served as a key mobilization point. Local historian, Eldon Cagle, Jr. asserted that over the course of the war years, “as many as one million soldiers passed through the post.”[i] Women were counted among this number as the Army’s first Women’s Auxiliary Army Corps (WAC) arrived in San Antonio in 1942 and by the end of the war, Fort Sam Houston was home to four WAC companies, “including one of Black Wacs.”[ii]

In Texas Women in World War II, Cindy Weigand highlights the important roles that women played during World War II. Her interviews with female veterans now residing in Texas, give voice to the experiences of women serving their country at home and abroad. Through personal recollections, instances of bravery, perseverance, camaraderie, and heartbreak bring to light the often untold stories of women who chose the path of military service during a time of global strife and conflict. The veterans interviewed by Weigand served in many capacities while in the military. Some chose nursing, others served in the Coast Guard, and some took to the skies, piloting aircraft.

Dorothy A. Lucas served with Women Air force Service Pilots (WASP). While her duties training pilots at U.S. airbases kept her on safe ground, Lucas stated that she “would have gone into combat if I’d been ordered to.”[iii] Not all female military personnel remained insulated from the rigors of life close to the front. Army nurse, H.R. Brantley serving in the Philippines during the war spent three years interned in a Japanese prison camp after the island fell in 1942.[iv] Ruth Hamilton Prengle saw firsthand the effects of combat on soldiers. Working in a plastic surgery ward in Bristol, England, Ruth recalls treating burns and broken limbs, piecing together the fractured bodies of those returning from life in the war zone.[v]

The women in Weigand’s Texas Women, offer glimpses into extraordinary experiences that bound them together as a community whose shared past often defined how they approached life. For all, the war years and their military service left an indelible mark on their lives. They shared moments of excitement

Mary Gates and fellow recruits at Bowman Field in Louisville, KY, 1944, Women’s Overseas Service League, 1910-2008, MS 22, University of Texas at San Antonio Libraries Special Collections.

and exploration—first entering the service and leaving home—to moments of extreme mental and physical strain—facing the realities and atrocities of war. Americans are familiar with the exploits of men sent off to fight on the shores of France, Germany, and the Philippines during World War II. Less well-known are the stories of women in the military who filled vital roles that supported the efforts of men fighting in the trenches. Weigand bridges this gap and honors the contributions of women who signed up, sacrificed, and served.


[i] Eldon Cagle, Jr, Fort Sam Houston:  The Story of Fort Sam Houston, Texas (San Antonio:  Maverick Publishing Company, 2003), 85.
[ii] Pocket Guide to Historic Fort Sam Houston (San Antonio:  Fort Sam Houston Museum, 2004), 45.
[iii] Cindy Weigand, Texas Women in World War II (Lanham:   Republic of Texas Press, 2003), 218.
[iv] Ibid, 112-113.
[v] Ibid, 51-52.

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