Retired Sgt. 1st Class Doris Buecher, U.S. Army W.A.C.

   Part of Doris Buecher’s heart lies in her hometown. She has lived in Bedford surrounded by family and friends for more than 80 years. Another part of her heart lies with the United States military. Retired Sgt. 1st Class Doris Buecher proudly served in the U.S. Army Women’s Army Corps (W.A.C.) during the Korean War. W.A.C. was the name of the all-women’s branch of the U.S. Army, which was in existence from 1942 until 1978.

Duty Called
   Buecher enlisted as a private on October 9, 1951, and immediately began six weeks of W.A.C. basic training at Fort Lee in Virginia. Later, she completed six additional weeks of advanced training there.
   “When I told my mother I wanted to enlist, she worried that I’d come back [to Bedford] smoking cigarettes and drinking alcohol,” Buecher admitted that she never adopted those vices, even some 70 years later.
   “I’ll never forget the first day we arrived for basic training. The weather was so hot, and we arrived in our Sunday-best clothing. The platoon sergeant said that we were going to have a G.I. party. We were so excited! She gave us water pails and mops [for cleaning]. That was our G.I. party!” Buecher laughed.
In Training
   Back then, the military specialties available for women were limited. “We either completed medical training or cooking school or training for office administration. Because I could type, I was given an M.O.S. (military occupational specialty) in administration,” Buecher explained. 
    She soon was reassigned to training, which meant collecting and updating instructional materials and managing the logistics needed to provide basic training to other W.A.C. personnel.
   “One day, suddenly, we were told to move the whole command’s W.A.C. training center to Anniston, Alabama. They didn’t tell us why, of course. All of the training equipment needed to be packed. We moved the whole command by troop (military) train.”
   In Anniston, Buecher performed similar training duties.     
   After that post, Buecher was transferred to Fort McPherson's 3rd Army headquarters in Atlanta, GA.
   “We were present at everyimportant event happening in Atlanta. Whatever the governor or general wanted us to do, we did it,” Buecher recalled. “Whenever a dignitary visited the general, they bused us to that event. They bused us here, there, and everywhere. We marched in parades and belonged to the honor guard. On holidays, we jumped on military buses in uniform and marched down Peachtree Street. Boy, oh, boy! Whenever the band played southern songs, such as ‘Dixie Land,’ the crowds went nuts!”
   At Ft. McPherson, Buecher had a new job in cadre conducting training programs.Her unit managed everything needed to maintain the buildings and the records they stored.
   “Every morning, the first thing I had to do was type the morning report. Oh, boy, it had to be just perfect. I couldn’t make any mistakes or erase anything. I couldn’t be late walking the report to the general at headquarters.”

High Alert 
   Buecher later was assigned to duty in Orléans, France, approximately 110 kilometers south of Paris. The United States’s involvement in World War II ended in 1945. Continuing tensions brewing in Europe necessitated that the Orléans base consist of a group of five separate buildings set some distances apart from each other. If there were an enemy attack, artillery fire couldn’tdamage all of the buildings or injure all personnel atonce.Base personnel took military buses to each location, such as the P.X. (military retail store), hospital, or work.
   For security reasons, Buecher underwent more survival training in France than she’d had in the United States. Some mornings, Buecher’s unit was ordered to wear fatigues, carry their belongings in backpacks, and hike long distances to set up tents. Sometimes, they trained wearing gas masks. Survival training lasted for several days at a time and took place at least annually.
   In Orléans, her job was in ordnance for the 7th Army, which meant that her unit ordered supplies to stock the American depots in parts of France and West Germany. These depots were the first lines of defense in case any conflicts erupted between East and West.

Kick The Cans
   Buecher recalled a less-than-palatable ritual that began during basic training and continued throughout her service. After World War II ended, the Army stored a surplus of canned foods that had supplied the frontline soldiers. The Army required the food to be consumed before it would issue K-rations, which were separately boxed meals provided to frontline personnel on short-term bases.
   “For one day each month, we ate the canned food for every meal,” Buecher said. “The mess halls used large hot-water vats to warm up the cans, and we used keys to open the cans. The food tasted just awful, although some people liked them, oddly enough. The only times we had really good meals, regardless of where we were stationed, were on holidays: Christmas, New Year’s, Thanksgiving,” she recalled fondly. “In those days, they gave you the real thing: roast beef, mashed potatoes, shrimp cocktail. Boy, that was good. They went all out.”

   In Orléans, Buecher remembered, “Whenever we’d go to the mess hall, we’d pass a French fellow selling American books and current magazines. However, during conflicts, the Frenchman’s storefront suddenly was gone, and we could only read Stars and Stripes (the U.S. military newspaper). Period. This was so we wouldn’t know what was going on.”    
   On Bastille Day, a French national holiday occurring on July 14, Buecher and the others were confined to their barracks.“You couldn’tleave. The Army didn’t want any international incidents.”
   “I enjoyed living in France because it gave me a chance to see Europe,” Buecher continued. On military leaves, she frequented a favorite Orléans cafe. She also saw famous sights, including the Arc de Triomphe and the Parisian museums, and she attended performances at the Folies Bergère, a notable cabaret hall. In 1958, Buecher attended the Shrine of Lourdes’s 100th anniversary and the World’s Fair in Belgium.    

Duty Called Again
   In 1960, after Orléans, Buecher was stationed at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas, and assigned as a clerk to 5th Army recruiting headquarters to recruit other women to the W.A.C. Secretly, she’d hoped to transfer to Fort Devens in Massachusetts to be closer to home.
   In January 1961, Buecher returned to Bedford after ten years and three months of honorable service. She then secured a job with New England Telephone in Manchester and retired after working there for 20 years. She also served on Bellwether Community Credit Union’s board of directors for many years.
   “I would have stayed in the military longer if my mother hadn’t become ill with cancer. I came home to take care of her,” Buecher explained. She continued her service in the U.S. Army Reserves until she completed 20 years of total service and retired with full benefits.            
   Essentially, what Buecher loved most about serving in the W.A.C. was the idea of being prepared and ready.
   “In France, we hiked for miles with heavy packs on our backs along the local roads. The French people watched us from their doorways, waving and cheering us on. I loved my whole Army experience,”  Buecher recalled fondly. “I would have wanted to [remain in the military and] become a general.”