ODN Item of the Week: Letter from Virginia Shewalter to Roberta Shewalter

A letter from Virginia Shewalter to her sister Roberta, dated February 28, 1945

Thanks to the work of the West Chester Historical Society and MidPointe Library, a large and thorough collection of World War II era letters have been made available online. Virginia Shewalter, native of Dayton, served in the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps and then the Women’s Army Corps between 1942 and 1945. She spent time in training in Iowa and passed through Massachusetts on her way to being stationed in both the United Kingdom and France, eventually becoming a Captain.

WAC members served as switchboard operators, mechanics, bakers, and more. They also maintained weapons they weren’t even allowed to use! Members of WAAC/WAC were the first women to serve in the Army in roles other than nursing. Both Generals MacArthur and Eisenhower were fans of the program, and at one point there were 150,000 WACs. The program was disbanded in 1978, as the female units were integrated into the male units. However, women were still officially barred from combat roles until the ban was lifted in 2013.

After her time in Europe, Virginia worked at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base and the Cincinnati Veterans Administration Hospital, and then taught English at Lakota High School until she retired in 1965.

Virginia Shewalter sent over 200 letters to her family during her time in the service, all of which you can see online at DPLA. She told them about social activities and some work related ones, and tried to keep up with their letters to her, sometimes sending them gifts and photos from wherever she was stationed.

Thanks to grants provided by the W. E. Smith Family Charitable Trust and the Community Foundation of West Chester/Liberty, these letters have also been transcribed, and you can see subject categories and more info at the MidPointe Digital Archives site.