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“And All Her Bearing Gracious” (2 of 2)

Written by Jeff Drake
8 · 17 · 22

Well, I called Part 1 of my mother’s saga, And All Her Bearing Gracious, “a beginning,” and sadly, this looks like Part 2 will be the end. Why? For the simple reason that I believe I have gathered all the information I possibly can about my mother’s war years. I only had a couple of doors left to open on her mystery and they have now been closed. Why? Well, read on…

I am very familiar with how to obtain military records for dead relatives. Previous requests to get any and all military records pertaining to my mother resulted in the infamous response so many others get i.e., her records “…were lost in the St. Louis fire.” I forget when the fire happened, but it burned up many thousands of military records, and my mother’s were buried in some burning file cabinet. Sad, but apparently true.

I’m persistent, though, as one has to be if they are serious about doing genealogy. So, I figured, “Hey, she was a WAC (Women’s Army Corp.). There must be some sites online dealing with WACs as a historical entity!” Yep, sure enough, I found a good one. First, I searched Facebook for a group focused on WACs and because there is a group for damn near everything, I found one! So, I messaged them and was immediately told to contact the US Army Women’s Museum as they will sometimes help with research. Nice. Progress!

I then wrote an email to the US Army Women’s Museum and included a brief bio of my mother, together with whatever military-related information I had been able to collect for her over the years. This amounted to some dates and places, for example the flight she took from the US to Japan, the ship she returned from Guam on, etc. It’s very cool how much information is available if you know where to look! Of course, I also included an appeal for help.

There is a term of endearment that most hobby genealogists will recognize – “search angel.” This is what we call those wonderful people who have access to various types of data, for whatever reason, and volunteer their time, free of charge, to do look-ups for folks like me who are hunting down dead relatives. I was very fortunate to get a response from just such an individual, together with a number of documents she was able to unearth. She was painfully aware herself of the St. Louis fire, as many of her ancestral records went up in flames, too. But, she had access to newspaper records that I do not!

Newspapers are the genealogist’s friends! Back in the day, way before we were born, local newspapers would print stories about their citizens, especially if they were in the military. For example, so-and-so is in such-and-such a battle, or deployed to this-or-that country, promoted, wounded, killed, whatever. Thus, old newspapers can be a very valuable source of data for a hobby genealogist. I no longer subscribe to that kind of service, so I either have to pay for someone to search for this kind of data, or look for a search angel. In this case, I was lucky enough to get one.

While you don’t always get the information you want from a search angel, if you are fortunate, you may get what you need. In my case, what I received from her was information that confirmed just about every kitchen table tale I remember regarding my mother’s military deployments and a piece of information that was new to me.

I remember being told that my mother graduated from some kind of school where she excelled in the skills so many smart, young women, were more or less compelled to learn: typing and shorthand. For some reason, it was stuck in my mind that she went to school in Washington DC, although how she ended up in Washington, was never explained to me, or if it was, I’ve since forgotten. My memory said she went to a business school, but given the time period, I thought it was probably a secretarial school of some kind.

1941 Mpls Business College

The first newspaper clipping my search angel sent me was an article from the Chippewa Herald. As you can see from the graphic, it states that my mother actually attended the Minneapolis Business College. Who knew? It also shows that she got herself a job as a stenographer with Monkey Wards in St. Paul. This is all news to me! Does the Minneapolis Business College still exist? No, it does not. They closed their doors in 2019. I wanted to see if they would have any copies of her admission forms, grades, etc. This door is now officially closed. But, it shows that she was in fact, a stenographer!

 

She also sent me two snipped articles, again from the Chippewa Herald. Both point to the fact that my mother lived in Washington DC in 1942. So, not a bad jump for her, to go from Montgomery Wards in St. Paul to our nation’s capital. And quite a promotion, too. She was secretary to the Chief Counsel for the Chemical Warfare Division of the War Department! Wow! I had no idea.

Another article confirms that my mother left her job in Washington DC to become a WAC in 1943.

And another Chippewa Herald article confirms that in 1948 my mother was working as a court reporter for the US Army in Japan.

I already had a document that shows when my mother arrived back in the USA after leaving Guam, which at least means that the story about her serving in Guam was true. As to what happened to her in Guam, that I will never know.

There comes a time when, as a hobby genealogist, you have to let go and begin to make peace with the knowledge that there are some family mysteries that will go unsolved. I’m ready to do that with my mother’s intrigue. I have done everything I can at this point.

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Author

Jeff Drake

Retired IT consultant, world-traveler, hobby photographer, and philosopher.
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