Fascinating tribute book honoring women veterans of World War II

It started as a simple photographic assignment for a UC San Diego Extension course in 2003. Peg Trout, a USS Midway Museum volunteer, was looking for a meaningful project for her ‘Family Portraits’ class.

Irma Black, storekeeper, U.S. Navy

“I asked the instructor if I could use my great aunt’s World War II Army picture to center the project around,” said Peg, an Ohio native who has more than 2,300 Midway volunteer hours. “He approved it and I headed to the Veterans Retirement Home in Chula Vista to meet, interview and photograph nine other World War II women veterans.”

Peg received an A for the project. She then put it away.

The project sat in a pile for years before she decided to pull it out to show another instructor at the university.

“Before I even had it completely displayed, she told me not to stop and that I needed to write a book,” said Peg, a Navy veteran who worked in aviation maintenance in the early 1970s. “Her words lit a fire inside of me and I knew then and there I would make that happen.”

After some research, Peg soon discovered that there were very few books or articles on women veterans. This instilled an even greater drive in her to fill that void.

“I started interviewing and photographing at other veteran retirement homes” said Peg, who taught middle school for 26 years after leaving the Navy. “One woman would lead me to another, and then another. I was interviewing in other states, private homes, restaurants or wherever they felt most comfortable.

 “Spending as long as they allowed, I was amazed and humbled by their words of patriotism, duty, sacrifice and pride. It was truly my honor to hold the pen and push the shutter.”

Bessie Summers, corporal, U.S. Marine Corps
Ruth Gulan, nurse, U.S. Army

Working on weekends, during the summer and on holiday breaks, Peg spent four years methodically gathering interviews, photos and other materials for the book. By 2007, six of the women she had already interviewed had passed away. She knew it was time to stop the interviewing process and get the book printed.

“I wanted to lay the book in each of their hands while I still could,” said Peg.

Unable to find a publisher, Peg was not to be deterred. She decided to self-publish. Once the book was printed, she went back to those she interviewed to give them a copy. 

“I was able to personally give books to 43 of the 53 women whose stories were finally written down,” said Peg. 

Nearly 15 years after publishing the book, it is still challenging to find much that is written about the unsung women heroes who served during World War II. Peg takes great pride in knowing she has been able to document the experiences of more than 50 women who contributed to victory during the war.

Peg Trout published Sisters In War in 2008.

“This book is important because at least 53 of these women have their histories recorded,” reflected Peg. “It is important to honor them and remind military women of today whose shoulders they stand on.” 

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