ClaraFerguson
Clara Ferguson

'I was where everything was happening.'

BY LAUREN FITZPATRICK

Clara Ferguson was one of the first women sent to Europe as part of the Women's Army Corps.

Morale was her mission.

Ferguson - who then was Clara Anderson, or "Andy" - had enlisted in the WACs from a War Department job at the Pentagon. It was 1943. She was 31.

First she was in London, then Paris, then Frankfurt as the Allies pushed eastward against the Germans.

"The buzz bombs were going over, and they needed WACs," Ferguson, 98, remembered about her start in England. "They didn't have any. I was with the first contingent. And the Air Force needed people, because they were out in the hinterland, and very shortly we had 10,000 WACs."

The WACs filled personnel jobs to free up men needed on battlefields. They did mostly office work, but also drove jeeps. Most of them lived like the troops - sparsely, and in bunkers.

In Ferguson's case, she was the executive secretary to the head of the WACs in Europe. She threw herself into the kinds of entertainment set up to boost troop morale.

One night in Paris during the Battle of the Bulge, Ferguson was part of a big musical revue produced by a couple of Chicago guys at a prominent theater.

She borrowed gowns from nurses so the girls would have costumes. She had to appear on stage, too.

"I couldn't dance, I couldn't do anything, so they had me be the little cigarette girl," she said.

When dances were sponsored, Ferguson donned her gray uniform dress and went. She wrote columns in Stars and Stripes and for other military publications, all in the interest of morale.

Her office near Gen. Dwight Eisenhower's meant she was privy to all kinds of secret information before it went public.

"It was fast and furious. And I got into everything."