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Military - WWII] WAC. Mitchell, Matilda.

African American WAAC Photo Album.

Photograph(s)

[Military - WAAC] Mitchell, Matilda E. Photographs, Correspondence, and Ephemera. Des Moines,
Iowa: 1942-1945.
57 black and white or sepia toned photographs (including several that are hand colored) measuring
between 3.5" x 2" to 13" x 11" with some captions; in a later binder with two postcards, nine letters, and
related ephemera.
An archive of photographs and ephemera compiled by Matilda Mitchell, sometimes referred to here as
Tillie, an African-American woman serving with the 12th company, 3rd regiment WAAC during World
War II. Matilda trained at the Fort Des Moines Provisional Army Officer Training School in Iowa.
Throughout the album are photos of women training, the majority of them African-American, posing in
the barracks, some in their underwear, scenes of training, in uniforms, and marching. There are a few
large photos of the group, including one at an introduction dinner for new recruits. Many of the photos are
portraits of Matilda and her fellow recruits. Also in the album are WAAC guides, programs from
entertainments, and a greeting from the White House upon her signing up.
There are also six letters to Matilda while she was stationed with the WAACs. The letters she received
came from family and friends, and one that appears to be from a soldier, possibly a love interest, referred
to here as "Junior." He writes, "Maybe I will be sent back to Germany I don't know what is waiting for
me. Perhaps I come to America and see you again. If I am back in Germany I will write you sometimes a
letter because you were every time very kind to me I will never forget that. Dear Tillie please give me a
picture of you so I can always remember you that is what I want." She was eventually stationed at Camp
Atterbury, Indiana at the Military hospital following her basic training in 1944 and two programs from a
Christmas dinner from the year are present here.
The base at Fort Des Moines was originally created as a school for African-American soldiers during the
First World War but was transformed into a WAAC (Women's Auxiliary Army Corps) training facility in
1942 (in 1943 the service received official military status and it's title was shorten to WAC). At first only
white women were permitted to train but political backlash caused the Army to change its policy and
admit African-Americans, but they were housed and trained separately. The women took classes here,
learning what was expected of them as officers, as well as continuing their basic training. The goal of the
WAC, according to the handbook was to prepare women to take over for men. "Your Job: To Replace
Men. Be Ready To Take Over."
An extensive collection of ephemera pertaining to an African-American woman's service time during
World War II. WAC photo albums are relatively uncommon; this is the first we've seen from an African-
American WAC.

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