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February 16, 2013

Local war service organizations began in February 1943

It seemed as though everywhere you turned in the early months of 1943, you encountered military-related organizations with acronyms, locally and across the nation. There were the WAACs, the U.N. and the USO, for example. 

We’ve heard plenty about lifting the ban on women in combat in recent weeks in the news. In February 1943, women were being encouraged to join in supporting roles in World War II to defeat the enemies of the Axis Powers.

About 50 women from the Oneonta area attended a Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps rally on Tuesday evening, Feb. 16, at the Oneonta Municipal Building, then the city hall, at 242 Main St. 

“Each of you has the power to help raise an Army of 150,000, an army the size of the British Eighth army which swept through Libya,” Lt. Betty J. Wells told the women in attendance, encouraging them to enroll.

“Every woman in the WAAC is really doing two jobs,” she said. “She not only is releasing a man for combat duty, but also is taking his place behind the lines and doing vital and exciting work.” Wells had spoken the night before at a WAAC Rally in Sidney, while Cooperstown was on the schedule for the next evening.

The positions in the WAAC, Lt. Wells explained, were highly specialized. Three training centers had been set up in Iowa, Georgia and Florida. The recruits were sent to school there to study under expert teachers. Recruits would not only help win the war, but also have a skill useful in peacetime.

After the rally, 10 applicants had enrolled for induction in Albany. Wells had a temporary headquarters for recruiting at the New York State Electric and Gas offices, then found at 142 Main St.

Also during February, it was reported from Cooperstown, “Mr. and Mrs. Stephen C. Clark announced Thursday,” Feb. 11, “that the large stone house with its spacious grounds on the Fenimore farm will be opened in the spring as a club for men of the armed forces. It will be known as the ‘United Nations Service club,’ and will afford a place of rest and recreation for the men in the services.” The stone house referred to is today’s Fenimore Art Museum.

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