Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Bossier City Woman Finds Her Place in WWII

WWII U.S. Government Poster between 1942 and 1944: Wikimedia Public Domain

During World War II, women played a vital role in the civilian and military workforce doing work that was typically considered man’s work. As the war required more and more men to serve in combat, the United States called on women to join the military to fill the rear-line jobs which would free men for combat. The need was so great that Louisiana Governor, Sam Jones, on February 27, 1943, proclaimed the month of March as WAAC recruiting month in Louisiana. Governor Jones called on all citizens for “sincere participation in, and whole-hearted support of, this vitally important effort.”

Approximately 350,000 women in the United States served in uniform signing-up for either the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC, later renamed the Women’s Army Corps, (WAC)), the Navy Women’s Reserve (WAVES), the Marine Corps Women’s Reserve, the Coast Guard Women’s Reserves (SPARS), the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASPS), the Army Nurse Corps, or the Navy Nurse Corps.

Women were able to not only fill office and clerical jobs, but they also drove trucks, repaired airplanes, worked as laboratory technicians, automotive equipment engineers, rigged parachutes, served as radio operators and mechanics, tower control operators, analyzed photographs, flew military aircraft across the country, test-flew newly repaired planes, and even trained anti-aircraft artillery gunners by acting as flying targets.

Mary Sue Coleman Bailey
It was not unusual for women in the Army Nurse Corps to serve near the front-lines. Some women were injured while others lost their lives as a result of direct enemy fire. Bossier City resident, Mary Sue Coleman Bailey served near the front-lines and is one of the many women that were injured during the war.

After three years of training to be a nurse, Mary graduated from Highland Sanitarium in 1940. She is one of many Bossier Parish women who answered the call to serve our country during World War II by joining the Army Nurse Corps in 1940. Until 1946 Mary served as First Lieutenant and was among the first group of Army nurses to leave the United States during the war.

From 1942 to 1943 Mary’s first overseas assignment was in Iceland. Then, she went to England just before going to France in 1944 where she landed on Omaha Beach. She was stationed at a field hospital where she served as chief nurse of her platoon near the front lines in Froville, France. She also served near Sinsheim, Germany where she suffered a broken leg while on duty. During Mary’s time in the Army Nurse Corps, she participated in two invasions. At the time of her discharge from service, Mary was stationed at Barksdale Field.

Other Bossier Parish women, to name a few, who expressed their patriotism during World War II by volunteering their services to various branches of the United States military were:

Phyllis Marilyn Strayhan Farris, WAVES; Catherine McLaughlin Brock, WAC as a Senior Master Sergeant; Margaret Broadwell Sobczak, WAAC, WAC,, and WAF after the war; Wilda K. Tucker Wilder, WAAC; Anita Elinor Barker, WAAC; and Mary Caldwell Fenet, WAC where she suffered a disability related to her service during the war and awarded a war Veteran’s pension.

Visit the Bossier Parish Libraries History Center at 2206 Beckett St., Bossier City to learn more about Bossier Parish history during the Second World War or any other time.

By: Amy Robertson

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