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Happy Independence Day!

Watch some fireworks and turn on the barbeques, but let’s also celebrate by highlighting Virginia women veterans of World War II, helping protect our country from threats to our independence.

World War II provided many more opportunities for women to serve in all branches of service in different military occupations. The number of American women serving totaled more than 350,000, compared to the 20,000 that served in World War I. While women did serve in the military directly alongside men, they served in units made for specifically for women, including the Women’s Army Corps (WAC), Navy Women’s Reserve (WAVES), Marine Corps Women’s Reserve, Coast Guard Women’s Reserve (SPARS), Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASPS), Army Nurses Corps, and Navy Nurse Corps.

The leadership and contributions of women in the military slowly helped to change the perceptions of women’s roles and led to more opportunities in the workforce after the war.

Della Hayden Raney

Raney was born and raised in Suffolk, Virginia, and attended Virginia State University. She enlisted in the Army Nurse Corps on April 25, 1941.

She was the first African American woman to be accepted and serve in the Army Nurse Corps, first African American women to become Chief Nurse, and first African American nurse to reach the ranks of First Lieutenant and Major in World War II. She served on several Army bases, including the Tuskegee Army Airfield Station Hospital. The Della H. Raney Nursing Scholarship was created in 2012 by the National Black Nurses Association and the Tuskegee Airmen Foundation to provide financial assistance to nursing students. She is buried at Arlington National Cemetery under her married name, Della Hayden Raney Jackson.

Courtesy of The National Museum of African American History and Culture

Nan Sue Porter

Courtesy of Virginia World War II History Commission

Porter lived in Richmond, Virginia, with her parents, attended Roosevelt High School and worked at Thalhimers Department Store.

She enlisted in the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps at the U.S. Army Recruiting Station in Richmond on August 5, 1942, and was called to active duty on August 15, 1942. She served in both Algeria and Italy and died of polio on August 6, 1944, at age 24 while serving in Naples, Italy. In 1946, she became the first woman from the Woman’s Army Auxiliary Corps to be buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

An American Legion Post in Florida was named Nan Sue Porter Post No. 156 in 1950, and was composed entirely of women nurses who served in the Armed Services. An iron lung, a type of respirator used in polio treatment, was gifted to the Medical College of Virginia as a memorial to Nan Sue Porter. Her parents Mr. and Mrs. B. Myrick Porter asked that friends donate money to a fund set up in her name to help polio victims. Her name can be found on the Virginia War Memorial under World War II – Richmond City.

Beatrice Vivian Ball

Ball lived in Arlington, Virginia. Prior to military service, she worked in the Women’s Bureau of Metropolitan Police Department and the U.S. Park Police Service of the Department of the Interior.

She enlisted in the Navy on December 16, 1942, and later transferred to the Coast Guard in their first Coast Guard Women’s Reserve (SPARS) unit.

She was the first SPAR to be assigned intelligence work, serving as an Assistant Intelligence Officer at the Coast Guard Headquarters and eventually obtaining the rank of Commander.

She is a descendant of Mary Ball and is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

Courtesy of Virginia World War II History Commission

Eva Virginia Ageon

Courtesy of the Virginia World War II History Commission

Ageon was born and lived in Buchanan, Virginia.

She enlisted in the Army Nurse Corps on January 4, 1941. She trained to be a nurse at Jefferson Hospital in Roanoke, Virginia. Ageon served in several hospitals on the homefront, including Walter Reed Hospital in Baltimore, Fort Benning in Georgia, and Fort Dix in New Jersey. She also served at Fort Gulick in Panama, where she subsequently died in-service and was buried. The U.S. Army built an athletic stadium in the Panama Canal Zone and dedicated it to Ageon in 1943. It was built by the enlisted personnel of the medical detachment in their free time to honor her.

Her name can be found on the Virginia War Memorial under World War II – Botetourt County.

The Virginia World War II War Dead Questionnaires Collection is a new collection that is available for transcription on From The Page. The three-page questionnaire records personal and military data including birth date and place, date of birth of children, education, date and place of enlistment, branch of service, military honors, circumstances of death, and more.

Additionally, the Library of Virginia received a NEH grant to digitize our 250,000 WWII veteran separation notices. The U.S. Marine Corps and the U.S. Army Separation Notices are also available for transcription.

The information gathered from the transcriptions of both collections will provide insight to the military and civilian lives of veterans. You can help contribute to highlighting and finding stories similar to the women veterans above.

Lauren Caravati

Digital Collections Specialist for WWII Separation Notices

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