Posted by Maureen Taylor on May 25, 2017 in Guest Bloggers

How many people does it take to solve a picture mystery? The answer in this case is the right one.

I’m willing to bet that these images documented an important period in a woman’s life. She took these candid pictures of her friends and colleagues in uniform. They sat in her collection unidentified until she died. She didn’t need to write their names on the back. She knew who they were.  Her descendants didn’t and so her precious photos were discarded.

That’s how a photo mystery begins.

For the last year I’ve been trying to fit the pieces back together to reveal the story of these tiny snapshots.  Research, experts, and social media all played a role.

More than twenty thousand people have seen these pictures and many commented. Yet, after months of chasing down leads and doing exhaustive research I still didn’t have a location. An email to a person at a military base museum ended up in the hands in Robert Kane, Air University director of history. He immediately recognized the building in one of the pictures. He sent me photographic proof that the women posed at Maxwell Air Force Base, Montgomery, Alabama.

He also identified the women’s uniforms. Dr. Kane added: “From the picture, I suspect that the two were WACs (Women Army Corps) as the U.S. Army Air Forces (AAF) didn’t have a separate “unit” or organization for women assigned to AAF installations during World War II. The AAF had WACs assigned to these installations. Since [in one of photos] two women are near a vehicle, I suspect that they were drivers for senior officers on Maxwell Field.

No detail is too small. The leaf bearing trees in the pictures suggest the pictures were taken in late December or early January. Dr. Kate provided a time frame of winter 1944-45.

Another expert provided information on the car. According to Pete Docken at the San Diego Auto Museum the car in one of these pictures is either a 1938 or 1939 Ford. There was no new car manufacturing after 1942 for the duration of the war.

All this information narrows down the search:

Women who served as drivers at Maxwell AFB in early winter 1944-45. 

There is still one nagging blank.  Their names.

This is where you come in.  Reach out to your contacts. Take a good look at their faces.

Someone out there has to know at least one of these women. It’s World War II not the Civil War. There are likely children, nieces/nephews or grandchildren of these women still alive.

 

These women served in the U.S. military during World War II.  They were members of the greatest generation.  After the war they likely resumed their lives outside of the armed forces.  Perhaps they never talked about their service, but maybe they did.  These pictures might trigger a memory for someone that heard their tales.

It’s taken a lot of time to piece together the details and yet their identities and their stories are still unknown.  I’m hoping the network of Ancestry blog readers will recognize one of these women.  It seems a shame to let their story of serving in the military go untold.  There is friendship and patriotism in these images.

One person can turn this mystery into a solved case. Will it be you? A single name might reveal new avenues to explore and the identity of the other women.  Perhaps some of the women stayed in touch after their service.  My father remained friends with several of the men he served with; it’s possible these women did too.

The power of social media is strong.  Even if you don’t recognize any of these women, take a minute to share this on your social media accounts, print it out and take it to your local VFW post or to an elderly housing community.  These women came together for a purpose.  In the seventy plus years since they smiled for the camera, they could have moved anywhere in the world.

Let’s see what we can do together.  It’s the ultimate challenge. Let’s try to remember these women with their story.

Maureen Taylor

Maureen Taylor, maureentaylor.com . is The Photo Detective for solving photo mysteries and finding family history in your pictures. You can find her on Facebook.

16 Comments

  1. Jenny Little

    I find photo detective work fascinating. As a “newby” family researcher a while back I was able to identify a previously unknown child in my late husbands Tree. No-one contacted knew of his existance or who he belonged to…. but I solved the mystery. I was really chuffed & other new found family connections were astonished that I had discovered more about their ancestors than they had ever known. Very rewarding. I think I will need help with some of my own old photos though.

  2. Patricia Tracy

    Were these the women that flew new replacement airplane to the pacific war. Due to the shortage of men.

  3. Annie

    My aunt, Marion (Sometimes spelled Miriam) Love was in the nurses corps in the US Army at sometime during the war. One person in the first photo looks a little like her. She is not in the 2nd photo. I have no idea where she was stationed, but she was from Meridian, Mississippi, and that is not far from Montgomery. I have her “peacoat.” I may give it to the WWII Museum in New Orleans…

  4. Kirsten volmer

    These women are WWII Army Nurses. The time period is post Battan. The HBT Nurse uniforms were issued to the ANC (Army Nurse Corp) were issued as uniforms since the nurses “white” uniforms were inappropriate for work in field hospitals.
    You may be able to see but on the left collar of the HBT shirt has the tank of Lieutenant, with the placement of their “butter bars” (gold rank insignia). On the right collar would be the cadusce.
    Unfortunately their uniforms don’t have any visible unit patches on them, so I can only assume they are still in basic training, as u it’s weren’t assign until you passed basic training.
    I hope this information helps. If you desire more information, Google Wii reenactors and as a if there is an ANC unit near you.
    If you have her ssn info, and copies of her birth and death certificate, you can request copies of her military records which may help you figure out where she was stationed and trained. This will then help with possible finding who these women are. Good luck

  5. Robin Valdez

    It could be Pauleen Hunt Pauleen deceased now she was my gramma Or maybe Sherry Carol . Now goes by Carol Varella if this helps I would love to know. Thank you so much

  6. Thank you! I am busy following your leads. So far military experts have eliminated the possibility of them being nurses but it’s worth another check. Can’t wait to see where all this info leads.

  7. Tom

    I actually see my moms/ mycousin in the first photo. TOP ROW THIRD FROM LEFT.
    I think these ladies are transport pilots her name is Clare married name Vodin is need to find her maiden name

  8. baljinder kumar

    I have sweet family but I can’t cere my child and my wife because I am poor no good job and home my family

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