Polk County

Joyce Stephens Smith


A WAAC Describes Air Raids in Africa

Auxiliary Joyce Stephens Smith, Des Moines WAAC in North Africa, is seeing the war first hand and she describes it vividly in a letter dated Mar. 16 to her mother, Mrs. G.J. Stephens, 681 Nineteenth st.

"I remember one night, standing out in the windswept darkness, watching an air raid," she wrote.

"It was like the Fourth of July going nuts -- lights, noise, earth shaking roar and clatter of shrapnel, tracer steaks in the starlit sky, long fingers of searchlights, the throbbing hum of many motors, the hair raising scream of the air alert, the grand, cruelly beautiful finale as a flamer caught by flak, streaked across the horizon to its death.

Too High

"Many times the plane are too high or too distant to be heard -- but they are always greeted by a sheet of steel."

In a philosophic passage, the WAAC continues: "If this war teaches us nothing else, it will have taught Americans to appreciate American and the heritage that is ours of good living, good schooling and good
breeding --and I trust and hope and pray it will teach us that old, old lesson: That this blood being spilled on the foreign soil is not given in vain.

"If it is the price to be paid for a better world, no one will complain.


"...Last night, from his lips, I heard the story of an American hero, thrice decorated, whose strange adventure was in the news all over the states even before I left. He told it so calmly, so matter-of-factly, that the chills ran up and down my spine. He's a blond Texan who needed a listening ear, and I loaned him mine.

"I've met heroes aplenty -- not all decorated, not all newsworthy, but in their own humble capacity full of courage beyond belief."

Auxiliary Smith was in the first company of WAACs to go to North Africa. She received her military training at Fort Des Moines and Daytona Beach, Fla. Before enlisting in the WAAC she was employed in the vital statistics department of the statehouse.

Source: Des Moines Tribune, April 1, 1943 (photo included)

In Africa

Two Iowa women, Sergt. Joyce Stephens Smith, Des Moines, and Corp. Miriam Stehlik Drahos, Cedar Rapids, were included in the first group of WACs sent to North Africa a year ago.

Sergeant Smith, whose father was a Spanish-American war veteran, is a message decoder in North Africa. She has two brothers and a sister in various branches of the service.

Source: Des Moines Tribune, Dec. 5, 1943 (photo included)