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Scott's World;NEWLN:Women soldiers come to TV

By VERNON SCOTT, UPI Hollywood Reporter

HOLLYWOOD -- Every branch of the armed forces has had its day in the sun since images first flickered on the screen.

The Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, Coast Guard and even the Merchant Marines have had their praises sung over and over again in movies and on TV.

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Not overlooking 'Private Benjamin,' there have been few first-rate movie dramas or TV shows based on the women who served in the former Women's Auxiliary Army Corp (WAAC) or on women sailors and marines. There hasn't even been a major novel based on their lives in the service.

Until now.

Author Jeanne Westin has written a noteworthy book titled 'Love and Glory,' a fictionalized account of the WAAC during World War II which will become a CBS miniseries next season.

The story deals with four women from diverse backgrounds who enlist for various reasons to serve their country shortly after formation of the WAAC under the command of Col. Oveta Culp Hobby.

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Most of the story involves the first 440 recruits who in 1942 were sent to Ft. Des Moines. They had to make good quickly to prove the WAAC was a viable means to free male soldiers for combat.

Westin knows whereof she writes. She served in the Women's Army Corps (from which the 'Auxiliary' was dropped) during the Korean War as a member of a troop-training cadre. Indeed, she became the WAC version of a drill instructor.

According to author Westin, such a book and such a miniseries are long overdue.

'Today 10 percent of Army personnel are women,' she said, 'but they get very little recognition because they've been phased into the regular Army.

'Right now there are 90,000 women in the Army, the most since 1945.

It took Westin three years and exhaustive research to write her lengthy novel. She thinks women soldiers lost a special esprit and pride in the service when the WAC was discontinued and female soldiers were absorbed into the regular Army.

'My novel is based on fact but with fictitious characters. It also includes some of my own experiences and attitudes in basic training and the struggle for women to prove they were good enough to become soldiers.'

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In addition to writing a rousing novel of courage, selflessness and romance, Westin hopes she has dispelled some of the common, and frequently lurid, misconceptions about American servicewomen.

'The first thing to remember is that women do not lose their femininity and daintiness just because they've joined the Army,' she said. 'When we're slogging through mud or drilling on the field, we're still women doing those things.

'For some reason men like to believe there is a lot of lesbianism among women in the service. I never saw a single incident of that during my six-year hitch (1951-57).

'Then there were the horror stories about babies being delivered in the latrines and left to die. Also untrue.

'Another common misconception was the generally accepted nonsense among males that most women in the service were hookers or extraordinarily promiscuous.

'Stories abounded about cat-fights and jealousies because we all wore the same uniforms and vied for the attention of the male soliers, or that we became playthings for officers.

'All of those ideas were entirely false,' said Westin. 'Sure there were romances, just as there are when you put any group of men and women together. It's human nature, but no different than in civilian life.

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'For a while Army intelligence investigated all the stories. The rumors were so injurious to WAC morale that it was suspected they had been started by the enemy.

'I lived in a barracks for six years and I never saw one fight. What I did see was a lot of pride and competition between the various WAC companies to be the best. There was a great deal of support and mutual respect among the women.

'During World War II the women who enlisted for $50 a month were like any cross-section in America. Some were shipped far from home and a lot of them were in danger. But most were patriots and carried a spark of adventure. They wanted to be in the center of the action.'

Westin believes that 'young women today would be well advised to investigate the possibility of a career in the service. There are more opportunities for women in the Army today than there are in civilian life.'

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