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Support for the WWII Online Exhibit is provided in part through a grant from the Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission and The Century Fund.

 

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WW II War Front - Women in War  

Women not only did volunteer work, collected scrap, and bought war bonds, they also joined the armed forces. The Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps, later called the Women’s Army Corps, formed in 1941. Similar units formed in the Navy (WAVES) and the Coast Guard (SPARS). Initially these women did clerical work or drove military vehicles, but eventually they also worked in weather observation and prediction, in communications as cryptographers and radio operators, in repair and maintenance, and in many other positions. Most of these women were assigned in the United States, but others served world-wide in all theatres of the war. Gloria Mitchell of Bethlehem joined the WAVES in 1943 and was trained to pack parachutes used in training. She remembered “I loved working with the parachutes. You signed your name to the card on the pack. And if it gets jumped, whoever jumps it, they’d send you flowers or candy….You learned to pack a parachute with no tools, whatever you had, shoelaces, bobby pins, twigs, whatever…. And you better pack a chute right. That was somebody’s life.”

     


Evangeline Coeyman


Anna Mae V. McCabe (Hays)

 

Military nurses were in short supply, with the Army and Navy needing 3,000 nurses per month.  Among these nurses were Evangeline Coeyman and Anna Mae V. McCabe Hays, both of the Lehigh Valley.  Lt. Coeyman’s transport ship reached the English Channel on D-Day.  She later took part in the Battle of the Bulge and served the wounded in England, France, and the Rhineland.  Near the end of the war, Lt. Coeyman experienced the horror of Hitler when she entered Mauthausen, the main Nazi concentration camp in Austria. 

Upon graduation from the Allentown Hospital School of Nursing, Anna Mae V. McCabe Hays saw the need for military nurses during WWII.  She joined the Army Nurse Corps and began active duty early in 1942.  In January, 1943, she traveled with her unit to Ledo in India, where she served for two and a half years.
 
Remaining in the Army Nurse Corps after WWII, Hays served in various assignments, including a tour of duty with the 4th Field Hospital in Inchon, Korea during the Korean War.  She also pursued her education, receiving first a Bachelor’s Degree and later a Master of Science in Nursing.  In 1956, during her assignment at Walter Reed General Hospital, Hays served as a private duty nurse for President Eisenhower.  From 1967 to 1971, during the height of the Vietnam War, Hays served as the thirteenth Chief of the Army Nurse Corps.  She retired on August 31, 1971.

     
General Anna Mae V. McCabe Hays made history on June 11, 1970, when she became the first woman in American history to be promoted to brigadier general in the U.S. military service.  In her remarks at her promotion she said that the general’s stars "reflect[ed] the dedicated, selfless, and often heroic efforts of Army nurses throughout the world since 1901 in time of peace and war."