"TO SERVE MY COUNTRY, TO SERVE MY RACE: The Story of the Only African-American WACs Stationed Overseas During World War II" by Brenda L. Moore

"TO SERVE MY COUNTRY, TO SERVE MY RACE: The Story of the Only African-American WACs Stationed Overseas During World War II"

By
Email this review

KIRKUS REVIEW

In an original contribution to the extensive WW II literature, Moore (Sociology/SUNY, Buffalo) has compiled oral histories of African-American women who served in the Women's Army Corps (WAC) 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion. Although racism and sexism were rampant in the military as in civilian life, powerful allies like Mary McLeod Bethune, Eleanor Roosevelt, and the NAACP helped to persuade President Roosevelt to remove one barrier after another that prevented black women from participating in the war effort. As a result, many African-American women volunteered, bravely facing their lot as members of a segregated army because of patriotism, activism, and the desire to better themselves. Moore presents the stories of some of these women, members of the only battalion to be stationed overseas during the war. Despite gripes that all soldiers share, the accounts claim that morale was high. Moore's subjects seemed to enjoy the humor of 850 women in a barracks--especially when all of them needed to have their hair done at the same time by the few beauticians in their ranks. They also tell of the hospitality they found among the British and French families they encountered--in sharp contrast to the racial discrimination of Americans. Moore shows that these women faced sex discrimination, as well, and repeated slanders against their reputations as either ""companions"" to black soldiers or butch lesbians. Still, the women's reports about the army are mainly positive. For most of these WACs, military training gave them the tools of upward mobility: discipline, education (through the GI bill), maturity, a work ethic, job training, experience, pride, and confidence. Although perhaps of more interest to students of sociology than to the general reader, Moore's study warmly tells a success story about a little-known aspect of WW II.

Pub Date: Jan. 15th, 1996
Page count: 296pp
Publisher: New York Univ.