World War II WAC Mollie Weinstein Schaffer takes readers from Michigan to California and on to England, France and Germany.
But the book is not a travelogue. Told through the letters she had written home and received from relatives and other correspondents, it is about the challenges of a young woman in medical intelligence who grapples with military restrictions, war conditions and what it is like to be one of a few females among, well, an army of men.
In an effort not to give out information that might worry her parents or alert the enemy as to military positions and intentions or be stopped by military censors who read the mail, she dwells on romantic relationships, friendships, requests for sweets and toiletries and living conditions. But she also tries to be upbeat.
In a November 2, 1944 letter to her sister Rebecca “Beck” Winston from Paris, Mollie writes: “Regarding the weather here -it’s no military secret that it is very cold and rains quite a bit. Almost like the weather we have in Detroit. However, we don’t have any heat here which makes it rather uncomfortable. I believe I also told you that we have hot water only one day a week. But other than that Paris is grand.”
The picture that emerges is of a young, spirited, intelligent woman who has numerous choices to make that include abiding by her Jewish upbringing amidst the turmoil of a beleaguered England, France right after the Allied invasion and Germany after VE Day.
It is also a picture of WWII WACs. That these women were very important to the war effort though often ignored in tales of WWII, is well explained in an introduction by Leisa D. Meyer, associate history professor at William and Mary College.
Mollie Schaffer (nee Weinstein) now lives near daughter Cyndee Schaffer, a Northbrook writer who compiled the letters. Cyndee Schaffer added the text that introduces each chapter and some of the correspondence.
Mollie’s War, McFarland & Company, Inc., Jefferson, North Carolina, 2010, $35 can also be purchased from Amazon.com