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WAC Who Earned Navigator Wings


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While researching WACS who wore Air Crew Wings, I found this WAC who is reported to have worn Navigator Wings. I am trying to find more information on her awards.


Sergeant Henrietta Williams


This is from the Army Women’s Museum



Sergeant Henrietta Williams was the first WAC in the CBI Theater to receive the Air Medal for meritorious achievement in aerial flight. While serving in China from April 7 to August 18, 1945, Sergeant Williams engaged in more than one hundred training flights. She was considered one of the most proficient Loran navigators in the CBI Theater. Sergeant Williams helped develop the navigational maps for crossing the difficult Himalayan mountains, nicknamed “The Hump”. For her outstanding performance as a communications instructor in the air, Sergeant Williams was also awarded the Legion of Merit.


I can't get this picture of Sgt Williams to show up correctly. I will try to get an administrator to fix it.


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The following is from the CBI Roundup dated June 14, 1945




Though WAC Cpl. Henrietta A. Williams is often up in the air about her work with Lt. Gen. George E. Stratemeyer's AAF Headquarters, there haven't been any complaints.

That's because Cpl. Williams is the only WAC in the India-Burma Theater on flying status. If you will permit the old fishwrapper to indulge in a bit of free and loose whimsy (We feel so damn repressed these days.)

The heroine of this journalistic effort also can claim another distinction: She was the first WAC enlisted woman to set her delicate feminine G.I. tootsies on the soil of China.

This history-making incident occurred in the course of Cpl. Williams' travels as instructoress in the operation of a new type of navigational aid which has proved of great value on the treacherous Hump route over the Himalayas, where rugged terrain and dirty weather have been greater menaces to aircrews than the Japanese.

In a specially-equipped plane operated by the Communications Section, Cpl. Williams (and along about here we're of a good mind to call her Henrietta, military procedure to the contrary notwithstanding) makes frequent tours of the tactical units in the Theater in order to instruct both officers and enlisted men. Henrie -er, ezxcuse Cpl. Williams is an assigned aircrew member and flies an average of approximately 80 hours each month.

When she was an undergraduate at the University of Washington, Cpl. Williams expected to become a clothing designer. But the war made her decide to look for a job as a draftsman. As a result, she drew blueprints and did original drawings of machinery in the Seattle-Tacoma Shipyard for about two years after she won her sheepskin.

The corporal enlisted in the WAC in April, 1944, received her basic training at Fort Des Moines and was assigned as mechanical draftsman to Victorville (Calif.) Army Air Field.

At Victorville, Cpl. Williams (cess to this formality) became interested in special navigational aids. She was shipped overseas as a draftsman and assigned to the Communications Section of Headquarters, AAF in India, when she arrived here early this year. Her first assignment was making special maps of South East Asia to be used for this new type of navigation. Since then, she has flight-checked the maps all the way from the Bay of Bengal to Chungking, accomplishing considerably more than merely decorating the inside of an airplane.

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I found a book that stated Sergeant William was entitled to wear Navigator wings.


This is an excerpt from the book, “The Shanghai Stars and Stripes: Witness to the Transition to Peace”.


Shor often championed those who were abused by the military’s caste system or other inequities that he came across. In one article, he focused on WAC Sergeant Henrietta Williams. Shor recounted the events of an evening at a club in which she was involved. A tall good looking girl, she was seated at a table with her boyfriend when a certain captain came up to the table and pointed to the decorations that she wore. They consisted of the usual campaign ribbons but were joined by the Legion of Merit and the Air Medal with a few oak leaf clusters attached. Above these was a pair of navigator wings all of which were rarely seen on a WAC’s uniform. The captain, who had had a few drinks, had an edge to his voice as he loudly objected to what he saw. His strident attitude greatly embarrassed the WAC and others in the vicinity. He warned her to tell her boyfriend, who had no doubt given them to her, that it was against regulations for enlisted personnel to wear any decorations to which they were not entitled. As to the wings, he wore his because he had earned them and he did not like to see soldiers wearing decorations and insignia that they did not deserve, even if they were women…..An Army Air Force Colonel walked over….Steering the captain to a corner, the colonel informed him that the girl was Sergeant Henrietta Williams. …..The ribbons that she wore were earned the hard way. His outfit was proud of her, the colonel declared, and “she’s a good soldier and a damned good flier”. The upshot Shor concluded was that the captain then went home- after he had apologized to Sergeant Williams.

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