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Call of Duty

A Montana Girl in World War II

154 pages / 5.50 x 8.50 inches / 14 halftones

World War II

  Hardcover / 9780807123430 / April 1999

“Women have always been involved in war, but when war songs were sung or history books were written, women disappeared from the record. They have not always gone quietly into oblivion. Yet even when they strove to preserve their own military history, women’s narratives were ignored. . . . Books like Grace Porter Miller’s Call of Duty give us reason to hope that this will not happen to the women who served in World War II.”—Linda Grant De Pauw, from the foreword

During World War II, over twelve million American men served their country in combat and behind the lines. Although their numbers are fewer, and none were drafted, 300,000 American women also felt a call of duty to do what they could to rid the world of the Nazi threat. As veterans age, many are recording their experiences for posterity. In this evocative memoir, we have the rare record of a woman soldier.

Montana-born Grace Porter had been teaching school in Iowa for over three years when, in 1942, she turned twenty-one and became eligible for service in the U.S. armed forces. Being patriotic and adventurous, she volunteered to join the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps, later the Women’s Army Corps (WAC).

When the opportunity arose during the blitz and buzz-bomb days, Porter volunteered to go overseas and was assigned to forces in England. Stationed in London, she served as a cryptographic technician during the campaigns of Normandy, Northern France, Rhineland, Central Europe, and Air Offensive Europe. Soon after the battle of the Bulge began, she was sent to Belgium, where she continued to work in cryptographics near—and once, accidently, behind—the front lines of combat.

Being in the WAC during WWII afforded Porter many thrilling experiences. She encountered fascinating people, traveled throughout the U.S. and Europe, and participated in a dramatic chapter of history. But the price she paid to serve her country was high. Like other military women, she endured prejudice, chauvinism, and harassment; witnessed the ceaseless suffering of European refugees; observed the wrenching sights of mass graves and the Dachau concentration camp; and withstood the constant threat of danger.

Despite their outstanding qualifications and record of service, the “girls” during World War II continued to be treated like “second-class soldiers” after the war. Now, one of their number urges us to recognize the sacrifices and contributions these unsung heroes made for our country. Call of Duty offers insight into one of the pivotal events of the twentieth century and should inspire other women to preserve and celebrate their own military history. 

After the war, Grace Porter Miller taught Navajo children in New Mexico, worked as an extension agent on the Fort Belknap reservation in northern Montana, and served as an editor for the Havre Daily News. A widow, she lives in Prescott, Arizona, near several of her children.

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