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Tuesday
May282013

Book Review: Mollie's War: The Letters of a World War II WAC in Europe

Mollie’s War: The Letters of a World War II WAC in Europe. Mollie Weinstein Schaffer and Cyndee Schaffer. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers, 2010, 273 pgs.

Reviewed by Kristina Winters 


Mollie’s War, by Mollie Weinstein Schaffer and Cyndee Schaffer, is an illustrative collection of letters that bear witness to one woman’s recruitment and overseas deployment throughout her time in the Women’s Army Corps (WAC) during World War II.  The book, taking place from 1943 to 1945, is based on Mollie’s communication between family and friends during her enlistment, which allows the reader to travel with Mollie from basic training, all the way to events following the reorganization of Europe after VE Day. Mollie’s orders carry her throughout London, Paris, and Frankfurt at the height of the Second World War, revealing the peril and hardship faced both by enlisted personnel and their loved ones back home. She cultivates viable relationships throughout the story, lending to the enduring human element that persists in times of warfare.

This book highlights the less examined perspective of the Second World War by accenting the day-to-day experiences of enlisted women, focusing on their valuable contribution to the war effort.  Although the number of enlisted women has inevitably increased in modern times, the inclusion of women in zones of warfare is still a matter of debate to this day. Similarly, experiences like that of Mollie came amid a time of fierce opposition to women in uniform, often leading to fear that a surplus of women in the military would challenge the personal notions of femininity, brand them as easier targets to become POWs, and would lead to more men being driven from safe jobs to combat zones due to women’s inability to fight on the front lines. However, the Women’s Army Corps was often praised by military personnel for their contributions, with leaders such as Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower emphasizing women’s immense competence, ability, and fortitude in times of war.

Many books that focus on the women’s effort during World War II highlight the shifting paradigm of authority on the home front, with women taking highly skilled positions in fields previously male-dominated, and proving to be more than capable of managing a wide variety of tasks and challenges. Later focal points are indicative of the difficult adjustment women faced with changing culture, and how expectations and gender roles quickly transformed with the ending war and men’s re-integration into both the workforce and society. Mollie’s War provides an exclusive perspective of the war abroad, often relating tales of misconstrued notions on the part of family and friends back home, attributable to the need to maintain secrecy on the part of deployed enlisted personnel abroad. We are challenged to review our notions of the woman soldier as we read Mollie’s lasting exasperation with the global perception of women’s roles in the military, and as we sympathize with her frustration at the end of her deployment.

Mollie’s War presents an essential, first-hand perspective of one enlisted woman’s life during World War II, and I found it to be an enjoyable and informative journey highlighting women’s underscored contribution to efforts of war and peace. Developing historical context for both the genesis and development of discourse on that topic is prime motivation to read this book.

 

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