Women in the Armed Services

WAC motor pool driver, Dow Air Field, Bangor, 1945

On July 8, 1948, the acronym “WAF” came into being when the nation’s first female recruits were accepted into the United States Air Force. But these “Women in the Air Force” were simply following on the heels of the WACs–members of the Women’s Army Corps, created during World War II (originally as the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps).

Primarily through contributing partner Bangor Public Library, MHS’s online museum, Maine Memory Network, features an array of World War II era images of WACs, WAFs, and WAVEs (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Services). Most of these are of recruits stationed at Dow Air Force Base, the predecessor of the Bangor International Airport.

A WAC mechanic at Dow Field, circa 1944.

In Rosie the Riveter style, many of the women at Dow, as at other bases during World War II, worked as mechanics and drivers. Others served as post office clerks or dining hall staff. But a number of the Dow Field images on Maine Memory depict off-hours life as well. Images of beauty parlor appointments, variety shows, and visits to the chapel remind us that daily life went on as usual even during a world war.

First Lieutenant Grace Manning gets a manicure at the WAC beauty shop in 1945.

Spend some time looking at the variety of Dow images on Maine Memory. You will find they are not only informative and evocative, but charming. For additional information on life at the base, head directly to the Bangor Room at the Bangor Public Library.

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