An Iowa Veteran's Experience in the Women's Army Corps (WAC) During World War II

Created during World War II, the Women's Army Corps (WAC) was the women's branch of the United States Army. 150,000 American women served in the WAC during the war. For many, the WAC challenged perceptions of the traditional role of women in the workplace and in the military.


Transcript

For some, joining the service was a chance to relocate. Thelma Kardon, formerly Sherman, was a 21-year-old native of Chelsea, Massachusetts, who joined the women's army auxiliary corps in November of 1942. 

“The training was fantastic. It put me on my shoulders, told me what to do. I took everything in, what they had. You didn't get your -- like a corporal sergeant; you had to earn it. And they tested you on that every month in order to get more money. And I was getting $78 a month.”  Kardon trained at the WAC base located at Fort Des Moines and earned the rank of technical sergeant. The training facility was the first of its kind for women in the United States. Because women were not allowed to be involved in combat, the WACs  took stateside and foreign headquarters jobs that allowed men to fight the battles. Kardon spent the duration of her service in Des Moines as a military policewoman. 

I was so proud to be there. The parade grounds at Fort Des Moines were just beautiful, everything. From the barracks on the Drake University campus, Kardon would patrol the city of Des Moines with one other WAC, armed with nothing more than a flashlight and limited training in hand-to-hand combat.


Excerpt from "Iowa's WWII Stories," Iowa PBS, 2006