Pauline “Pat” Gorman served with Allied Forces Headquarters in Algiers, North Africa and Caserta, Italy during World War II.
AFHQ planned and directed ground, air, and naval operations, and military government activities in the North African and Mediterranean theaters of operations.
Gorman was sworn into the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps on Dec. 30, 1942 at Grand Central Plaza, Manhattan. At the time, she was employed by the Staten Island Edison Company and was a member of the company’s bowling league.
The U.S. Army established the 2nd WAAC training center at Daytona Beach, Fla. (the first was in Fort Des Moines, Iowa), where Gorman trained with the 11th Company, 4th Regiment in early 1943.
When the WAACs boarded a ship out of New York on Oct. 28, 1943 for the trip overseas, they were under strict orders not to talk to the men. And the men weren’t allowed to fraternize with the WAACs.
But the women were billeted in the same area as the male officers and they all did their stretching and exercises at the same time.
Gorman said the men and women stood next to each other and talked out of the side of their mouths in a very low voice so they wouldn’t get caught.
She met up with one of the guys she talked with about six months later and they had a dinner of C-rations — individual, canned, pre-cooked rations issued to land forces when fresh food was unavailable.
Gorman, who returned to the states on Aug. 14, 1945 — the day the war ended — followed the battle throughout her nearly two years abroad.
Theaters of operation were divided into the combat zone, where the fighting took place, and the communications zone — the area required for administration of the theater. As the armies advanced, both these zones would shift forward to new geographic areas of control.
As a member of the 6715 Women’s Army Corps Communication Company (Overhead), she worked as a general clerk, teletype operator, and message center editing clerk.
“It was the lady’s duty to do the paperwork and the men went out to war,” said Gorman, who also trained in glider planes. “I’m very proud I served.”
At the time she arrived in North Africa, the Mediterranean Theater of Operations was under the command of Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower.
Gorman, who advanced to the rank of Technician 4th Grade (Sergeant), instructed and supervised message center clerks in their duties, including the installation of a message center in the field.
She also operated a hectograph machine, a printing process which involved the transfer of an original, prepared with special inks, to a pan of gelatin or a gelatin pad pulled tight on a metal frame.
Hectography, which required limited technology — and left few traces behind — could be used in clandestine operations. According to historical accounts, prisoners of war at Stalag Luft III (scene of the “Great Escape”), used an improvised hectograph to produce documents for the planned escape.
Gorman and the other WACs were issued sidearms — without ammunition — a gesture that the women were going to be taken very close to the fighting.
Gorman’s discharge papers credit her with participation in the Rome-Arno campaign in Italy (Jan. 22, 1944 to Sept. 9, 1944).
She received the WAAC Service Medal, European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Ribbon — with one Bronze Battle Star — a Good Conduct Ribbon, and three Overseas Bars.
After the war, Gorman did some modeling for Capital Airlines and years later, tangoed her way to a ballroom dance title.