WAC’s Colonel Westray Battle Boyce—A Proud North Carolinian
On February 8, 1944, Westray Battle Boyce was promoted to lieutenant colonel and became the first woman to receive the Legion of Merit. Few North Carolina men, and no Tar Heel women, had a more distinguished service record in World War II than Colonel Westray Battle Boyce. In August 1942 she entered training for the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps, which became a part of the Army in September 1943 when the name was changed to the Women’s Army Corps (WACs).
In 1943-44 Major Boyce served on Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower’s staff with command over WACs in North Africa. In 1945, she was appointed director of the WAC. Once the war ended factions within the military split over the WAC’s future but General Eisenhower and Colonel Boyce, who oversaw demobilization, advocated a continued female Army presence. In 1948 the remaining women became a part of the regular Army or Reserves. Colonel Boyce retired in March 1947 due to health reasons.
A petite woman with gray hair, Colonel Boyce had the nickname “Webbie”. She took pride in her Tar Heel ancestry, keeping portraits and photographs of Battle relatives in her office. She is buried in a family plot near Rocky Mount.
Other related resources:
- North Carolina at Home and in Battle in World War II from the N.C. Museum of History
- Timeline of women’s history in North Carolina from the N.C. Museum of History
- Resources related to women’s history from the State Library
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