This year is Illinois’ Bicentennial celebration and we have had the privilege and honor to be a part of Illinois Humanities Road Scholar Speaker’s Bureau Bicentennial edition.    We’ve met so many interesting people– as we traveled throughout the state– who served our country whether in WWII or subsequent times.    We met some people who talked about their mothers being Rosie the Riveter, fathers and mothers serving in WWII all over the world.   One woman talked about a friend who was a WAC and was in the same WAC recruiting movie as my mother.   Her mother used to go the movie theater every day to see her daughter in the movie.
I also learned so much about the WACs stationed in Illinois.  WACs during WWII served in most states in various capacities at the army bases. They were assigned to replace soldiers for overseas duty based on the need of army camp/post.  Most were placed in clerical jobs.   However, some performed nontraditional jobs such as radio operators, electricians, and air-traffic controllers.
University of Illinois was a major military school during both WWI and WWII.   In 1943, they were the first university to establish a WATC program–Women’s Auxiliary Training Corps— which set an example for other universities to follow. The WATC prepared female students for the WAAC/WAC just as the ROTC prepared male students for the Army.
The first contingency of WACS was assigned to Camp Ellis in Fulton County in January 1944.  Camp Ellis was a United States World War II Army Service Forces Unit Training Center and prisoner-of-war camp. Since the WACs were experienced in the Army routine, they started working in their new jobs within a day of arriving.  In fact, two of the WACs because of their skills as telephone operators, were assigned as the telephone operators for the famous Roosevelt-Churchill Conference at Quebec, Canada in September 1944.
In April 1945 a unit of African American WACs who were medical technicians was assigned to Gardiner Hospital in Chicago.