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Friday, January 01, 2016


Greetings and Salutations to All my Kith and Kin and All the Ships in Outer Space:

Please enjoy reading this newspaper report about my stepmother, ALMA CAPPS MALLERNEE, who, currently at the age of ninety-seven (97) years old, continues to reside in the assisted living facility at Heritage Place in Fayetteville, North Carolina ! ! !


By Chick Jacobs

Staff writer for the FAYETTEVILLE OBSERVER newspaper in Fayetteville, North Carolina
Evelyn Long holds a photo taken when she served in the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps during World War II.
Alma Mallernee looks over discharge papers from when she served in the Women's Army Corps during World War II.

She was No. 104.

She was one of the first women to hustle down to the local Army recruiting center and sign up to serve.

Was Alma Capps Mallernee really that big a patriot? Mallernee, now a bright-eyed 93, laughs at the notion.

"A patriot? No! For me, it was a chance to get out of Rockfish. I jumped at it!"

Mallernee and her friend Evelyn Sutton Long were among the first of what became more than 150,000 women in the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps.

"People remember the WACs (Women's Army Corps)," said Long, a native of Mount Olive. "But the WAAC is sort of forgotten."

A lot of that time is forgotten, even by those who served. But from mid-1942 until July 4, 1944, tens of thousands of women served in the Armed Forces, in effect freeing manpower for the fight overseas.

"I'm not sure the guys were all that happy to be 'freed up,' " Mallernee said, laughing. "We were taking some jobs that would never see any shooting. But remember, back then, that it was unthinkable for a woman to be in the Army at all."

For Mallernee, then Alma Capps, it was all an adventure. Raised in Rockfish, she wanted to see more of the world.

She ended up seeing Des Moines, Iowa, and Orlando, Fla. - with a month-long stay behind barbed wire at Camp Polk in the swamps of Louisiana.

"I'm glad I was young for that kind of thing," she said. "We finished our training in Des Moines, but they didn't have anywhere to put us. So they had what must have been a prison-of-war camp ready, and they housed us there."

There the women were introduced to rigors of Army life: inspections, lights out, rising at reveille and a lot of hurrying up to wait. Any weekend pass limited travel to 100 miles - not that there was anything to see in that radius.

"I think that was a rude awakening to a lot of the women," Mallernee said. "We figured they would train us and then we'd go home and do what we were already doing. A month behind barbed wire taught us differently."

Eventually, she was reassigned to "scope duty" in Florida - watching boards that traced flights of every plane coming into the country. The Aircraft Warning Service was the first active duty area to use trained WAAC recruits, eventually handling 27 companies of women along the East Coast.

"We never did see an enemy plane, but no one knew what could have happened," she said.

Long ended up in Florida as well, working with the corps finance office.

"It was like a civilian job, except we were required to wear our uniform at all times," she said. "We had to get special permission to change into civilian clothes. One of the girls in my group was getting married and it took a lot of paperwork for her to get to wear a wedding dress."

The first year of the WAACs was a time of transition, both for the women and the Armed Forces. While some branches, particularly the fledgling Army Air Corps, were eager to find jobs for WAACs, the idea of women in slacks, much less in military service, was troubling to many.

"We'd have been happy to wear civvies," Mallernee said. "But rules were rules."

A year later, when the WAAC became the Women's Army Corps, pay and benefits improved. So did the chances of serving overseas, and nearly a quarter of the women in the WAAC opted to leave.

Neither Long nor Mallernee left Florida during the war, however. And as the war came to an end, they both returned to North Carolina.

"I might have considered the service as a career, but really nobody talked to me about it," Long said. "I think they were trying to figure out what to do with everyone when the war ended."

Long became a civilian employee at Fort Bragg, where she met a soldier from Ohio named Gene. They married in 1951.

Mallernee came home to take care of ailing relatives. But she couldn't stay put. She earned a college degree at UNC-Greensboro, eventually meeting her husband, William.

"We married in 1962," she said. "I like to say I married a whole family, down to kids and grandkids, all at once."

Both have been widowed for several years, and each year a few more of their fellow WAAC veterans move on. "I have no idea how many are left," Long said. "Not too many I'm sure."

For the most part, the memories are entrusted to photos, medals and a few women who were eager to see the world.

"Would I do it again?" Mallernee mused. "Sure. I never saw a Nazi, but I met a lot of great people from all over the country."

The medals in the display case on the left are
ALMA CAPPS MALLERNEE's military awards.



Visited a few years ago with a woman who went to the S Pacific and stationed on an island en route to our retaking the Philippines. When the air raid sirens sounded they had to leave their work site or tent and get into sandbagged trenches. Pretty heady stuff for an 18 -- 20 year old girls, then or now. She told me that instead of wearing their steel helmets they sat on them -- as the ditches usually had several inches of muddy water in them.

Cathy Palmer

I am a stepdaughter of Alma Capps Mallernee, and I had no idea of her military background. I knew she was associated with the military, but I did not know any details. Thank you for printing this article.

I would like to make a correction, however. Alma married my dad in 1980, shortly after I married, not in 1962 as stated in the article.

Thank you.

John Robert Mallernee, Esquire
Ashley Valley Shadows
Vernal, Utah  84078


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