From 1942 until 1978, women who wanted to join the Army served in the Women’s Army Corps. Former Specialist Victoria Landes spent six years as a WAC during the 1960s, training to be a dental assistant at Fort Bragg.
“When I graduated at 18, I really didn’t have any significant plans,” said Landes. “Going to college really wasn’t going to be an option.”
For Landes, joining the Army was “an answer to unspoken prayers.” It offered an escape from family problems, training in a marketable skill, a safe place to grow into adulthood, and “a stepping stone into the future with the G.I Bill.”
Fort Bragg wasn’t her first choice of permanent duty station, she recalled, but she came to enjoy the area. She learned to drive in Fayetteville and visited the coast to dip her toes in the ocean for the first time. Landes joined Angels in Army Green, a vocal group that performed folk songs, once singing with the USO.
While at Fort Bragg, she came to realize she was lesbian. At that time, being gay could get soldiers discharged.
“You had to be on your guard, and you might wonder if someone you met was gay, but it was a risky thing to be careless with that information,” she remembered.
Despite that uncertainty, Landes remembers her years of service with pride.
“My time at Fort Bragg was a really positive experience for me,” said Landes. “It was a major turning point in my life. I look back on that very fondly.”
Ft. Bragg Stories is a collaboration between the Fayetteville Observer and WUNC's American Homefront Project to commemorate a century of history at Fort Bragg through personal narratives. You can hear other stories in the series here.