20 year-old Dorothy Olds wrote this letter to her parents in Norwich soon after enlisting in the Women’s Army Corp (WAC). She had just arrived by train at Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia, for basic training. She wrote several more letters to her parents while en route. Dorothy boarded the train in White River Junction. After adding a few more local girls in Quechee and Rutland, the train traveled south to Georgia, stopping at many stations to take on new recruits–eventually there would be 8 cars filled with 300 young women.
She wrote that after the days of train travel they “were the dirtiest bunch of travelers you ever saw.” She was anxious to change out of her ‘smokey clothes’ and to wash the cinders out of her hair. Train travel was a bit rougher in the 1940s!
The Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps was established to fill positions that were being performed by male soldiers so they could be freed to go to the front lines. Those first jobs were for clerks, bakers, drivers and medical personnel. Job categories were expanded on as the war continued and more WACs enlisted. The mission of the six-week training was to transform a civilian woman into a “physically fit, psychologically well-adjusted, well-disciplined soldier who was informed of the duties, responsibilities, and privileges of women in the army.
Dorothy wrote home almost every day during basic training and, luckily for us, she saved her letters, dog tags, uniform, and basic training materials for the future. Stay tuned for more next week!
Thanks to NHS volunteer Nancy Morley for her research and writing.