WORKING WARRIORS:

Military Life Beyond Combat

Lowell Messerschmidt and Lewis Harned pose near the ambulance they drove for the American Field Service (AFS). The AFS was a volunteer force of 2,196 Americans that carried over 700,000 casualties during World War II. Harned went on to serve as a surgeon during the Korean War and Operation Desert Storm. Lewis Harned Collection Wisconsin Veterans Museum

Lowell Messerschmidt and Lewis Harned pose near the ambulance they drove for the American Field Service (AFS). The AFS was a volunteer force of 2,196 Americans that carried over 700,000 casualties during World War II. Harned went on to serve as a surgeon during the Korean War and Operation Desert Storm. Lewis Harned Collection
Wisconsin Veterans Museum

A traveling exhibition produced by the Wisconsin Veteran’s Museum and funded, in part, by the WHC with support from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

TourSchedule(part of the WHC’s calendar of events)

Civilians might imagine military life unfolds like an action film, but what is everyday life really like? It might surprise you to learn that most military members work in jobs not so different from your own. For every fighter pilot, there are thousands of supply clerks, administrative assistants, mechanics, and doctors who serve the United States. Today about 75% of military work is considered non-combat. These jobs are so vital that the military would stop functioning without these service men and women.

“People have a perception that if you were in World War II, you were in battle. It takes about eight or ten people behind the lines to support one person in the frontlines.”

-Thomas Diener, of Milwaukee, served in WWII as part of the Ground Crew in the Army Air Corps, Oral History Interview, Wisconsin Veterans Museum

The Wisconsin Humanities Council is honored to include this Wisconsin Veterans Museum exhibit as part of our Working Lives Project.


The Working Warriors Gallery  (click photo to enlarge view)

1-Tailoring

Waging a war against ill-fitting fatigues, Renato “Bart” Bartoli works on an alteration as L.D. Buck admires his freshly tailored shirt. While tailoring might seem frivolous, alterations added comfort and functionality to mass produced uniforms.

Roberta Wells Collection
Wisconsin Veterans Museum

 


Women’s Army Corps (WAC)

Women’s Army Corps (WAC) members did not allow military service to crimp their style. Most installations included rudimentary beauty and barber shops as the military maintained strict grooming standards for women and men. Here, WAC member Isabelle Lennick works in the beauty salon at Fort McCoy.

Dorothy Dannies Alexander Collection
Wisconsin Veterans Museum

 


3-WACphoto

Serving as a woman during World War II was not all glamour. Here, members of the Marine Corps Women’s Reserve pose for a publicity shot which was used to encourage other women to join.  These women however, served as air traffic controllers, administrators, telephone operators, and cryptologists so the men who previously worked in those positions could move to the front lines. 

“Nobody paid any attention to us. We were just ordinary people working with a general and we did, you know, and nobody paid any attention to the fact that we’d been cryptographers. Nobody.”
Juanita Goold Wilke, of Baraboo, served in the Women’s Army Corps during World War II
Oral History Interview with Juanita Goold Wilke, Wisconsin Veterans Museum 

Roberta Wells Collection
Wisconsin Veterans Museum


4-PhotoEnlarger
Cropping before Photoshop, Charlotte Beres works in the dark room at Fort McCoy. The Signal Corps managed communication systems and documented military missions through photography and videography.

Dorothy Dannies Alexander Collection
Wisconsin Veterans Museum

 


5-dentist
Before World War I, general surgeons performed almost all dental treatments. A large number of Milwaukeeans served at Base Hospital 22, outside of Bordeaux, France, where this dentist and his office staff are shown.

Base Hospital 22 Collection
Wisconsin Veterans Museum

 


7-tire
With a rubber shortage and strict rationing in place, Helen Brey and James Farrell work here to repair rather than replace tires. During World War II, women were trained in a variety of non-traditional occupations which opened up new career opportunities.

Dorothy Dannies Alexander Collection
Wisconsin Veterans Museum

 


8-propeller
Mobilizing for World War II took a massive amount of manpower. 808,471 aircraft engines were accepted for use and had to be maintained. Mechanics not only fixed mechanical issues, they also flew in combat assaults.

Roberta Wells Collection
Wisconsin Veterans Museum

 


9-trolley
In his civilian life, Roy Merwin Sr. drove a trolley. Therefore, when he served in a trolley in Naha, Japan, Merwin felt right at home. The military often placed members in occupations which utilized their prior experience.

Roberta Wells Collection
Wisconsin Veterans Museum

 


10-mp
Preserving law and order at home and overseas, military police gather intelligence, secure military installations, and sometimes guard prisoners of war. These World War II military police members oversee a checkpoint in the Philippines.

Clem Haag Collection
Wisconsin Veterans Museum

 


11-amunition
During World War I, recent inventions such as planes and tanks saw little action. These soldiers show off a supply of high-powered trench artillery ammunition. Dozens of hands, from ordering and production to storage and transportation, made sure these bombs arrived on the frontlines.

Mortimer Lawrence Collection
Wisconsin Veterans Museum

 


12-office
While not the most glamorous line of duty, office personnel perform many important tasks, including cutting paychecks, courting recruits, and disciplining troops. Managing personnel in the military is a highly complex job. Here, non-commissioned officers review paperwork. 

Rebecca Wells Collection
Wisconsin Veterans Museum

 


13-eating
Bravery comes in many forms, including voluntarily taking the first bite. Military food can be notoriously bad, but a freshly prepared meal is good for morale. Here, Marines in Okinawa line up for a diner meal far from home.

Roberta Wells Collection
Wisconsin Veterans Museum

 


The Wisconsin Veterans Museum would like to encourage veterans to keep their stories alive through recording oral histories and donating photographs and artifacts. For more information visit: http://www.wisvetsmuseum.com/

 WI Veteran's Museum logo