Skip to comments.Katherine Gavin Served During WWII On The Homefront
Posted on 11/10/2012 9:12:20 PM PST by girlangler
By Etta Pettijohn
Life just happened to us, Katherine Gavin recalled this week as she sat beside another World War II veteran at the New Mexico Veterans Hospital in T-or-C. The petite 91-year-old wore the uniform for this country when there were fewer than 1,000 women who did so for the United States Air Force. Although she eventually managed to travel the world, her armed forces duty took place on the homefront, where she served as a WASP control tower operator at Weir-Cook (known later as Stout) Air Field in Indianapolis, Ind., the ninth in the nation to be certified to manage the largest transport planes in operation. She subsequently served in the same capacity at Bolling Field in Washington D.C. A dazzling beauty, she volunteered for service after her husband was sent overseas with the U.S. Army. I wasnt about to sit home knitting, she said. She and the other women at the airfield spent their spare time visiting the injured soldiers being sent home from the European and Pacific fronts. Weir-Cook was a midway-refueling stop between military hospitals across the U.S. Gavins eyes twinkle with mischief as she tells about how she supplied soldiers with cartons of cigarettes. Thats what they wanted, said Gavin, who has never smoked. I hate to say I probably provided many nails for their coffins. In those days, Americans showed their gratitude for those who gave all by writing, visiting, and helping any way they could. My supervisor in the Air Force told us we were taking the place of three men, Gavin recalled.
American women during WWII werent permitted to participate in combat, but that didnt stop 140,000 Army, 100,000 Navy, 23,000 Marine, 13,000 Coast Guard, 1,000 Air Force, and 74,000 Army and Navy Nurse Corps members from doing their part in a war that was fought valiantlyboth at home and abroad. Women have always served in U.S. military conflicts, but not in an official capacity until World War II. Since most of the men of working age were overseas, women were needed to step foward and serve. Those who didnt join the military worked in Naval shipyards and various military and civilian defense contractors. The branches of military where women served in were called: Women's Army Auxiliary Corps (later the Womens Army Corps or WAC), Women Air Force Service Pilots (WASP), the Women Accepted for Volunteer Military Services (WAVES) as well as the Marines and a branch of the Coast Guard (SPARS). Their service was essential, allowing men to head to the front. While the men were overseas, women filled clerical and other similar jobs, but some served close to the front in the Army and Navy medical corps.
An undoubtedly adventurous and outgoing person, Gavin made it a point to not sit home knitting when the war ended. She ended a long career of serving others in Santa Fe, where she worked as an actress and teacher at Santa Fe Community College. In between her childhood in Albany N.Y., (she sang in the high school chorus and played clarinet) and her time in Santa Fe, Gavin worked as a long-distance operator for New York Bell Telephone. She lived in Austria from 1947-1950, and attended Columbia University in North Carolina. She graduated from the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill in 1955, then moved to Norway, where she sang in the Norsk Opera Selskap Chorus. Gavin later attended graduate school at UNC, majoring in drama, with a minor in radio, television and motion pictures. In 1962 she joined a touring production with the USO, the Association of University Theatres and the Department of Defense. She also worked in the film industry and taught music in Canada, before joining the Peace Corps and teaching English and French in Chad. She also taught these languages in Japan, with the American Language Institute for a while. She can speak one sentence in Arabic. I am going to the market, she said in perfect Arabic. I didnt plan it this way, she said of her travels and adventure, But I loved every minute of it.
Katherine Gavin Served During WWII On The Homefront
The Air Force wasn’t created until after WWII. Woman’s Army Service Pilots were in support of the US Army Air Corps or US Army Air Force.
Accept my snapply salute for sharing this wonderful story. The female Coastie nickname SPARs, the acronym of Semper Paratus Always Ready. Semper Paratus the USCG motto, Latin for Always Ready.
Thank you. It reads a lot better with paragraphs. I’l try again.
Is there some way to edit something AFTER it’s posted?
Thanks for clearing that up. Now if I could just post it with paragraphs.
I really enjoyed interviewing three WWII vets in two days, as they are leaving us fast.
Many women worked for the war cause during WWII either at home or abroad as civilians or in the military.
Like you say, “they are leaving us fast” as are all out WWII veterans.
May God Bless them all!
There's no edit feature here at FR. You can repost the story with paragraphs as a reply and address it to “All” if you'd like.
Wow. What a gal!
A great Veteran's Day piece. Nice work!
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