Showing posts with label WAAC. Show all posts
Showing posts with label WAAC. Show all posts

Monday, March 19, 2018

Letters Home from My Aunt, the WAAC

My mother's twin sister, Dorothy H. Schwartz (1919-2001), joined the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps on September 11, 1942. Her top-notch steno and typing skills earned her a spot in a cracker-jack admin company that supported Bomber Command. She became Sgt. Schwartz, honed her leadership skills, and won a Bronze Star in 1945.
Sgt. Schwartz

But Auntie Dorothy (as we always called her) never expected to be away from home for nearly three years. As World War II wore on, she felt pangs of separation from her parents, siblings, aunts/uncles, and many first cousins in the Farkas Family Tree.

Transcribing the wartime letters Dorothy wrote to the tree while in the service (see a sample V-Mail above), I learned that she loved her time stationed near London. She wrote home often about the historic places, beautiful landscape, and opportunities to meet people from other nations.

In fact, her January, 1944 letter written to her sister (living in the Bronx apartment building shown at left) states that celebrating the new year in England was a high point!

Yet Dorothy was acutely aware of what she was missing each month when the Farkas Family Tree gathered for its regular meetings and enjoyed holiday meals together.

Her letters mention being homesick a couple of times. Although family members apparently wrote optimistic letters about the war ending soon, Dorothy's answers indicate her realism, saying she didn't expect a quick end (no specifics, the censors were reading along).

Dorothy also made it clear that she felt remarkably "at home" in London, with its big-city atmosphere, subways, and theater--all familiar from her civilian life as an apartment-dweller in New York City.

This citified "Old Homestead" post is #13 of the 2018 #52Ancestors challenge by Amy Johnson Crow.

NOTE: Most of Dorothy's letters were handwritten, but those written at the end of 1943 and during 1944 were microfilmed and shrunk into the V-Mail format. To transcribe, I first had to photograph them and blow them on my screen, then print the enlargements so I could read them as I typed. Totally worth it! More soon on my plans for a Farkas Family Tree World War II letters booklet.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Genealogy, Free or Fee: Ask an Archivist!






































In a recent entry, I told how I discovered that a letter written by my Aunt Dorothy H. Schwartz (1919-2001) was included in With Love, Jane, a compilation of correspondence from WWII servicewomen edited by Alma Lutz.

As shown in the table of contents at right, Sgt. Schwartz's letter was on p. 104, one of more than a dozen contributed by "Indispensable WACS."

My aunt's letter began with the salutation: "Dear ____" and had a vague date ("1943").

Who, I wondered, was my Auntie writing to? And when did she actually write the letter that wound up being printed?

I did an online search to find out more about Alma Lutz, and learned that her literary notes and other papers were in the archives of her alma mater, Vassar.

You know what I did next, right? I picked up the phone and called the archives, leaving word about my request for more information about the author's contact with my aunt.

An hour later, I had a return call from the archives! They were delighted to do a quick search for materials from my aunt. And an hour after that, I received an email from the archivist, attaching the pdfs of two V-mail letters from my aunt to Alma Lutz. (Thank you, wonderful archivist! No lengthy wait, no fee.)

You can see the second of the letters to Alma Lutz at top, in which my aunt claims not to remember who she was writing to, not even the approximate date of that letter.

As the archivist said in his email to me: "So, while I can't solve the mystery of 'Dear Blank,' I hope that I can at least provide a little context for its inclusion in the final volume."

The V-mails did indeed give me more background about my aunt and her wartime activities. Now you know why I suggest that researchers go ahead and "ask an archivist."

NOTE: For more "Free or Fee" tips for genealogy, please see my special page here.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Veteran's Day: The Farkas Family Tree in War Time

Sgt. Dorothy Schwartz
World War II touched my Farkas family in many ways. This post is my 2016 salute to the Farkas Family Tree's veterans.

In 1942, Farkas relatives were deeply involved in the war effort. Mom's cousin George Farkas volunteered for the Army Air Corps and was training in Louisiana. Soon-to-be cousin-in-law Abe Ezrati joined the Army.

In 1943, my aunt Dorothy Schwartz (twin sister of my Mom, Daisy Schwartz), enlisted as a WAAC and served until 1945. You can read about her harrowing trip across the Atlantic here. Dorothy and Daisy's older brother Fred left for Camp Dix at the end of 1943, a year in which their cousin Bob Farkas enlisted in the Army and another Farkas in-law, Harry Pitler, was stationed at Camp Grant.

Every member of the Farkas Family Tree was involved in the war effort, from a Rosie the Riveter job (Frieda Farkas) to selling war bonds (my grandma Minnie Farkas Schwartz).

Daisy Schwartz wrote the Farkas Family Tree's historian's report for 1943, which says, in part:
Quiet has never reigned so completely over the meetings as it does now when the monthly letters from our brothers and sister in the armed forces are read aloud. But we laugh in all the right spots! . . .
For the coming year, the earnest hope of all is that 1944 will find the Axis vanquished and our boys home. All that is unrelated to the war effort must be sublimated to the present struggle to which some in our group have pledged their lives. The rest of us pledge our aid. The Allies will be victorious--God is on our side!

The 1945 historian's report contained a final report on members in the armed forces, including discharge dates, promotions, and reunions with loved ones. Every one of the Farkas Family Tree's service members returned home safely, and the family happily honored these veterans year after year.

 --

Note: The Farkas Family Tree consisted of descendants of journey-takers Moritz Farkas (1857-1936) and Lena Kunstler Farkas (1865-1938), who left Hungary to settle in New York City. Members of the Tree were my Mom's mother, great-aunts and great-uncles. As the young people of Mom's generation turned 16, they were "inducted" as members of the Farkas Family Tree.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Amanuensis Monday: My Family in WWII, for Veteran's Day

Moritz Farkas and his wife, Lena Kunstler Farkas, had 18 grandchildren. When WWII started, some of Moritz and Lena's grandchildren were of age to serve in the military. My Uncle Fred and Auntie Dorothy (at left) served, along with their first cousins Harry, George, and Robert and cousin-in-law Abe.

For Veteran's Day, I looked back at what the records of the Farkas Family Tree had to say about our relatives in WWII. This family association, formed in 1933 and active for 31 years, was a key element in keeping up the morale of our service members and supporting the parents, siblings, and children who missed them and worried about them. Often the relatives in the service would write one long letter to "the tree" and have it read at the monthly meetings. And tree members would write to relatives in the service to pass along family news and keep up their spirits.

Luckily for me, the tree secretary took minutes at every meeting and prepared a yearend summary of who did what every year in a historian's report, mixing real news with a hefty dose of humor to dispel the worry.

Excerpts from Farkas Family Tree historian's reports from the WWII years:
  • From December, 1942: "George, who volunteered for the Army Air Corps early in the year, began his training in April. He is now studying at the Bombardier-Navigator School in Louisiana and, according to his letters is making an intensive survey of the southern accent. For excellence in the art of peeling potatoes, he was promoted to the rank of corporal...Abe is now enjoying a vacation at an exclusive hotel in Florida, managed by US Army. Not to be outdone by the boys, Dorothy decided to become a WAAC. She writes that life in the Army is simply thrilling and that she is having many interesting (?) new experiences."
  • From December, 1943: "Uncle Sam decided he needed Fred more than we do, sent him 'Greetings,' and carried him off...This was not the only change which Uncle Sam caused to be made. Earlier in the year, Harry had been inducted...The war has brought a myriad of changes in our lives. Due to gas and tire shortages, we no longer go on our annual picnics and outings...Those are the events of the past year. For the coming year, the earnest hope of all is that 1944 will find the Axis vanquished and our boys home."
  • From December, 1944: "Fred was in basic training at Camp Shelby, Dorothy studied at Oxford, Harry trained at Lawson General Hospital to become an X-Ray technician...George served in Africa and Italy...Dorothy received the Europe-Middle East-Africa Theatre ribbon with combat star...Abe arrived in New Guinea...Robert went overseas with the 78th Division to England, France, and Germany...Fred became an MP and later went to the Separation Classification School at Ft. Dix." 
  • From December, 1945: "Dorothy was discharged on August 31st, having moved with the 9th Air Force from France to Belgium, returning home with the Bronze Star and 6 battle stars...Harry was stationed at Camp Upton, also Tacoma, Ft. Jackson, S.C., and France...Abe crossed the waters to New Guinea, described by him in vivid colors. When he was moved to Manila, he became a s/sgt... Fred was in Camp Shelby, Camp Blanding, and was promoted to s/sgt... Bob was in England and France, where he had a tough life liberating champagne and women. His last stop was Germany, returning with 3 battle stars."