This is a blog about music, photography, history, and culture.
These are photographs from my collection that tell a story about lost time and forgotten music.

Mike Brubaker
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A WAAC Band from 1943

22 July 2010

This postcard photo is a good example of tangential research. That's when you are looking for one thing and find another. The band here is obviously another "ladies band" but it is unique in that it represents the first time that women became a part of the American military. The Women's Army Auxiliary Corps was formed in May 1942 and this postcard is from Jan 1943. You can't have an army without a band, so there must have been a lot of hustle to get these ladies into step. Note the overcoats.

The WAAC (which had the "Auxiliary" removed in 1943) were initially based at Ft. Des Moines, Iowa. And I believe the parade ground where this photo was taken is the same field where Jesse Orr Romig and the 11th US Cavalry Band practiced their drills in 1904. See: 11th US Cavalry Band What a strange coincidence to find two different bands from different times on the same grass!

The war efforts at recruitment were very successful and according to the Ft. Des Moines museum website, 72,000 women passed  basic training here, including the first black female officers and enlisted women. Ft. Des Moines History

There is no extra identification on this card, other than the official printed material. But note the government description at the lower left. The date seems clear but did they really do a print run of 15 million? Maybe it was part of a series. Here is a different series that I found at the Minnesota Historical Society. The band is at image number 4. WAAC Postcards from Ft. Des Moines

One of the first women's army band leaders was Joan A. Lamb and I found this great blog while searching the internet for WAAC & band. Ladies in Brass, Joan A. Lamb

During the war, the Pentagon commissioned 5 Army bands composed of women, and that is not counting those women's units of the Navy, Marine Reserve and Coast Guard. Find more history on all that here. Women's Military Bands

The changes to our culture that resulted from the global conflict of World War Two are countless. It's difficult today to imagine a musical world that was so unequal in regard to race and gender, though that was the way of the world only 70 years ago. But the inclusion of women into the military and especially the band program in 1943, clearly started an unexpected revolution in music performance and education that is outside the usual post-war history. You don't have to look very far on a concert stage or a parade field to see the results.

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