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WWII’s behind-the-scenes women

  • World War II veteran Sirkka Holm, 98, of Francestown likes to talk about her service because the women fighting behind the scenes during World War II are often forgotten, she says. Staff photo by Meghan Pierce

  • World War II veteran Sirkka Holm, 98, of Francestown likes to talk about her service because the women fighting behind the scenes during World War II are often forgotten, she says. Staff photo by Meghan Pierce—

  • World War II veteran Sirkka Holm, 98, of Francestown likes to talk about her service because the women fighting behind the scenes during World War II are often forgotten, she says. Staff photo by Meghan Pierce—

  • World War II veteran Sirkka Holm, 98, of Francestown likes to talk about her service because the women fighting behind the scenes during World War II are often forgotten, she says. Staff photo by Meghan Pierce—

  • World War II veteran Sirkka Holm, 98, of Francestown likes to talk about her service because the women fighting behind the scenes during World War II are often forgotten, she says. Staff photo by Meghan Pierce—

  • World War II veteran Sirkka Holm, 98, of Francestown likes to talk about her service because the women fighting behind the scenes during World War II are often forgotten, she says. Staff photo by Meghan Pierce—

  • World War II veteran Sirkka Holm, 98, of Francestown likes to talk about her service because the women fighting behind the scenes during World War II are often forgotten, she says. Staff photo by Meghan Pierce—

  • World War II veteran Sirkka Holm, 98, of Francestown likes to talk about her service because the women fighting behind the scenes during World War II are often forgotten, she says. Staff photo by Meghan Pierce—

  • World War II veteran Sirkka Holm, 98, of Francestown likes to talk about her service because the women fighting behind the scenes during World War II are often forgotten, she says. Staff photo by Meghan Pierce—

  • World War II veteran Sirkka Holm, 98, of Francestown likes to talk about her service because the women fighting behind the scenes during World War II are often forgotten, she says. Staff photo by Meghan Pierce—

  • World War II veteran Sirkka Holm, 98, of Francestown likes to talk about her service because the women fighting behind the scenes during World War II are often forgotten, she says. Staff photo by Meghan Pierce—



Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Wednesday, November 07, 2018 11:8PM

She may not have stormed the beaches of Normandy on D-Day, but 98-year-old Sirkka Holm of Francestown and her fellow WACs – Women’s Army Corps members – played a vital role in the success of the invasion that turned the tide of the war.

“We worked very hard in London and then one day we had no work at all to do so we knew that it was going to be soon – D-Day – and it happened that Tuesday,” Holm said.“We knew they were going to land somewhere, we figured, in Northern France, but we didn’t know where. But we knew the number of troops involved from the supplies that were listed. … We had to type them by number, all the requisitions.”

She and others members of the Women’s Army Corps worked for the Army Signal Corps to fulfill Army supply orders for anything to do with communication on the battlefield, from walkie-talkies, radios, wires and telephone poles. Communication was a vital part of the Allies eventual victory, she said.

“We were exhausted because we were working so hard, for very long. And we had to be perfect in our requisitions, because the numbers had to be perfect,” Holm said. “We did everything we could to make sure they got those supplies exactly as they came in. … And that’s one reason we won the war, I’ll tell you right now – the supplies, the American Army was well-equipped with supplies. At least where we could help them. If they were cut off from the rest of the Army, it was bad, it was horrible, like (the Battle of) the Bulge.”

D-Day, which took place on June 6, 1944, was the turning point of the war, but there were heavy losses.

“They had a lot of GIs that died that day on Omaha Beach,” Holm said. “We had the force of the Germans, all the cannon fire that came in from the hills, and the GIs had a long beach to cross from the water, and the Germans had put obstacles in the water so the GIs had trouble getting there. It was murder, really thousands died … just on D-Day.”

Not long after the D-Day invasion of Normandy, Holm and the WACs arrived on the beaches. Though minesweepers were on the beach, the beach Holms was on had not been swept, she said. “When we got to Normandy … they forget to use those minesweepers so we said, ‘Oh that’s great,’ but luckily we didn’t get any explosions where we were.”

In France, she and other WACs had a narrow escape from the German front when their driver got lost in the dark. Then they roughed it in a remote Army camp in the French country-side, before being scatted into the woods when their continuing work supplying the troops still fighting made them a target of German air troops.

When the U. S. troops took Paris back from the Germans, Holm and her fellow WACs were moved to the war-torn city. Again their driver got lost and only found their way when they came across members of the French Underground who pointed them in the right direction.

“It was very nice to see them and they finally put us on the road to Paris,” she said.

Living in an unheated hotel room in Paris, Holm developed pneumonia and pleurisy and had to spend many weeks in bed recovering. Despite her illness, Holms enjoyed being stationed in Paris and took advantage of what post-occupation Paris had to offer, including the opera and music concerts.

Both London and Paris had been devastated by the war and it was shocking, she said.

“Getting into London at the train station it was just, I got out on the street and looked around and all the bombed out buildings, it just made me – the war really hit me for the first time. All these shattered buildings. It was sad. And people were on rations for food and clothing,” Holm said. “They really suffered a lot, the British did, and so did the Russians, it was awful.”

Holm was 23 and living in her hometown of Baltimore, Maryland, when she joined the Women’s Army Corps in 1943.

“I was very optimistic in those days. I thought, ‘We’ve got to stop Hitler and fascism.’ I felt very deeply about this and my parents agreed with me so I decided to join the WACs,” she said. “At that time Hitler had taken all of European countries, including Norway, and England was the only one fighting for its life besides Russia. … It was really looking bad. If they got England that would mean we were next so I joined.”

Holm said many people don’t know women served in World War II and how much they contributed to victory.

The WACs were the only servicewomen to be sent overseas, a duty Holm had volunteered for. She and other WACs went to boot camp and were trained for their jobs before being shipped out, she said.

“It wasn’t very glamorous, but we survived quite nicely,” she said. “I joined because I thought maybe I could make the war shorter, do what I can.”

Meghan Pierce is digital audience editor at the Ledger-Transcript. You can reach her at mpierce@ledgertranscript.com.