Veterans’ Voices: Jackie Voelkl was a member of WACS

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Bill Thomas

Jackie Voelkl was a member of WACS

More than 150,000 American women served in the Women’s Army Corps (WAC) during World War II.  Members of the WACS were the first women, other than nurses, to serve within the ranks of the United States Army.

Both the Army and the American public realized that women could supply the additional resources so desperately needed in the military and industrial sectors.

By the end of the war their contributions were widely heralded.

To tell a big part of her long life, Jackie Voelkl, now 90, was one of the pioneers of women in military service.

Jackie’s Youth:

My birth took place in Dinuba, California, on July 28th, 1921. I was named Orlene Mae Skaggs, named after my dad’s name, Orvel.  Dad was a World War I Veteran.  With my mother, Alma, we moved to Oakland, California when I was four, and the next year, we moved to Albany.

When I was 10, my mother sent me to live with my grandparents in Reedly. After a few more moves, I graduated from high school in 1938, in Portland, Oregon.  I attended Portland Business College for two years.

I married Earl Elmer in 1939.   He moved to Alaska when war was declared in 1941 for a high-paying job with the Army.  I joined him in April, 1942, and went to work at the Civil Aeronautics Administration.

In June, 1942, when the Japs bombed Dutch Harbor, the Army evacuated all wives by steamer to Seattle, and then I lived with my Aunt Daisy for a few months.

Military

When I returned to Portland, I heard about the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps that had started in December, 1942.  Being eligible at 21, I was sworn in.  I was ordered to Des Moines, Iowa, for basic training, and then sent to Arkansas to attend Army Administration School.   Shortly thereafter, I attended (NCO) Non-Commission Officers Training School.  Upon completion of the course, I was appointed “Acting First Sergeant.”  A few months later I became First Sergeant.  Also, during my time in Alabama I was appointed the first woman Sgt Major of Cadets at an Advanced Single Engine School.

Then I volunteered to go overseas.  From New York we sailed across the North Atlantic Ocean to England where I was assigned as secretary to the Base Commander of Service and Supply.  During the D-Day operations, many other WACS and I worked in SHAEF, the Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force.

While the “Battle of the Bulge” raged on and no planes could aid the troops there due to the heavy fog, I returned to London to await assignment in France.  The fog lifted in December and we flew to Paris. From there seven WACS and I commandeered taxis to General Eisenhower’s headquarters in Versailles.

I was assigned as secretary to General McClure who was Chief of Psychological Warfare Division with offices on Champs Elysees where I worked until the end of the war on May 8, 1945.  After celebrations with thousands of G.I.s  and French people, I believed I would be going home to America.

Instead, our organization’s name was changed to “Information Control Division.” We moved to Germany to take over all the radio stations and newspapers in Germany.  We set up offices in Belgium, Holland, Denmark, and Norway,

One of our jobs was to publish thousands of brochures showing the horrors of the concentration camps operated by the Germans, and photos of their scrawny captives.  These brochures were dropped from planes for the German populace to see.

In October 1945, I received orders to return home and be discharged.  With  10,000 other soldiers, we sailed on the Queen Mary.  We received a great welcome in New York.

Civilian life

At home, I found my final divorce papers.  I was free of Earl.

In December, 1945, I traveled by train to Dayton, Ohio, and on Christmas Even, Jim Voelkl proposed.  We were married on February 16, 1946.  Our daughter Carol was born in December, 1947, and our son, Jim, Jr. was born in December, 1952.

Jim and I sold ads for the Ohio AMVET newspaper.  We eventually began publishing it, and many other veterans’ newspapers in Ohio.

We moved to my home state of California where we published several veterans’ newspapers such as the “California AMVET”, “The VFW Newspaper” and convention books for other veterans’ publications.

Many years later, our son, Jim Voelkl, Jr. took over our publishing business when Jim Sr. passed away in 1984..  Our son publishes “The California Leaguer” and does other online publishing such as the “9-1-1 Magazine”

I have many pictures of my life in the WACs .

If you have any questions you may call me at 714 702 9395 .

Veteran life

As a member of several veterans’ organizations, and former publisher of numerous veterans’ publications, I urge all veterans to join one or more of the veterans’ organizations for the camaraderie of Post and Auxiliary members, also to learn of the benefits of membership.

We not only served in the military but contribute much to our communities.

Author Bill Thomas of Rossmoor is a Veteran of World War II,

and Past Commander of VFW Post 4048,

and American Legion Post 857.

Contact Bill at vvbthomasvets@gmail.com

Veterans meetings

The Seal Beach American Legion Post 857, and the S.B.Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 4048 meetingds are held in Building 6 of the Naval Weapons Station on Seal Beach Blvd, (south of Westminster Blvd.). They both have a “Social Hour” starting at 6 p.m. Their “Regular” meetings start at 7 p.m.

The American Legion meets on the third Tuesday.

The Veterans of Foreign Wars meet on the fourth Tuesday.

A gate pass is required. For more information, Contact Bill Thomas at (562) 431-7795 or

e-mail vvbthomasvets@gmail.com.

Veterans’ Voices: Jackie Voelkl was a member of WACS