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Signal Corps Telephone Operator Girls Did It - 1918

On Duty at St. Mihiel. American Telephone Operators on Duty at First Army Headquarters

On Duty at St. Mihiel. American Telephone Operators on Duty at First Army Headquarters, Equipped with Gas Masks and Helmets Ready for Use at a Moments Notice. Official US Army Photograph. Circuits of Victory, 1921. GGA Image ID # 19a106b929

Six American Signal Corps girls made the St. Mihiel advance a perfect success, thus hastening peace, and it was the American YWCA which made it all possible, according to Mary George White, of Baltimore, Md., who arrived from France very recently on an army transport.

“When it came time for the advance, the First Army wanted women operators, to make certain that there would be no slip-up or any delay in transmitting orders between the American and French army headquarters,” said Miss White. “Signal Corps girls are all expert telephone operators and speak French fluently. They translate messages more quickly from French to English than the men operators who had always been used at the front.

“There was no place for the girls to live, but Headquarters asked Miss Julia Russel, of Detroit, YWCA secretary directing housing and recreation work for the Signal Corps girls, if she could find a house for six operators.

“Miss Russel said she could, but the officers were dubious as the district was devastated. In order to prove that she had a house, after she had scoured the front lines for one, she gave a chicken dinner to Headquarters staff and thereupon the girls were permitted to go.

“On the night the advance began die girls worked all night. They controlled the telephones along the entire line. The attack went off perfectly.

There was not one mistake along the whole line. Both American and French generals knew where every unit and every line were all the time, and in the official communiqués the next day, credit was given to these six girls and to Miss Russel who had made it possible for the girls to go.

“Signal Corps girls have been perfectly splendid everywhere in France, and at YWCA Headquarters in Paris that day we were mighty proud that the government had asked us to take care of the housing and recreation of that division of the army, when it was first decided to send over a unit of expert, French-speaking operators.”

"Signal Corps Girls Did It," in War Work Bulletin, New York: Young Women's Christian Associations, No. 49, 22 November 1918.

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