First Day at Fort Oglethorpe

Fort Oglethorpe WAC barracks
Old postcard with a picture of the Fort Oglethorpe WAC barracks

What did Aunt Marian do and think during her first day of basic training at Fort Oglethorpe in Georgia?

Unfortunately I don ‘t have any letters or journals that record her thoughts, but here’s what another WAC named Aileen Kilgore Henderson wrote about her  train trip to Chattanooga, Tennessee which is just across the state line from Fort Oglethorpe—and her first day or so there.

. . . arriving in Chattanooga about seven last night. Ate an elegant supper in the train diner—ham again, thick and tender! We recruits had a U.S. check for ours, but the WAC private chaperoning us had to pay for hers. But the guy in charge of the diner refused—he said her dinner was on the Railroad.

So here I am at Fort Oglethorpe. . . . Half an hour from now recruits assigned to Beds#11 through #20 are ordered to scrub, dust, polish, shine windows, and otherwise clean up the Orderly Room.

Any minute we’re expecting the fire drill whistle to blow. Last night’s drill unsettled us quite a bit. Another unsettling thing was the steady stream of new girls arriving in the night, stomping through the dark to find their beds.

I got this diary entry out of a book called Stateside Soldier: Life in the Women’s Army Corps 1944-1945 that was published in 2001 by the University of South Carolina press. The book contained the diary of Aileen Kilgore Henderson, who was in the WACs during World War II.

29 thoughts on “First Day at Fort Oglethorpe”

    1. The woman who wrote the diary that I quoted wasn’t in the same group at Fort Oglethorpe as Aunt Marian. Based on the information in that woman’s book, it looked like she was there 6 months or a year before Aunt Marian.

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    1. Based on what I’ve read I think that most were younger than Aunt Marina. The largest number of recruits were in their early 20s, but I was surprised how many were in their 30s. Some were divorced, others the widows of soldiers killed in the war. There also were some women who were the wives of soldiers who were overseas. There even were a few mothers of soldiers who joined the WACs.

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    1. Wow, what an amazing find! Thank you so much for sharing link. It’s amazing how they did such vigorous physical activities while wearing skirts. This link reminds me of a photo I saw of WACs navigating an obstacle course in skirts. I may have to look for it for a future post.

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  1. Add me to the list of loving this blog!! I am going to check out that book, I love reading about the homefront and our WAC’s since so little is known about both. History is often focused on the solider which is right since they are there on the front lines, but there is much to learn and many stories to be told from the women in the military and the families back home.

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    1. Yeah! I’m glad you like it. I was really hoping you would. The role of women in the military has changed a lot over the years,Sometimes it almost seems like historians don’t quite know what to do with the story of the WACs.

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  2. I think it’s interesting how this blog is pushing you in new directions than the one based on Helena’s diary. Helena forced you to work pretty hard some days, when she didn’t write, but her diary was always there, in the background. This time, you have much more of a blank slate, it seems. So far you’re doing great!

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    1. It wonderful to hear that you like it. I’m having a lot of fun with this new blog. Sometimes it’s challenging, but I really enjoy trying to figure out how to tell a story without the structure provided by the diary.

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