FORT KNOX, Ky. — In January 1947, a call to join the Women’s Army Corps spread across the United States as the need for female Soldiers continued to grow.
Several women answered the call. Among them was an enthusiastic new recruit: Pvt. Trudy Gettinger.
Based on an April 3, 1953 Division Distaff Diary article published in the Fort Knox newspaper Inside the Turret, Gettinger, attending the 3rd Armored Division Clerical School at Fort Knox at that time, was not your typical American girl.
“In 1942 she was forced into a Nazi labor camp because her father who had been taken at an earlier date was of Jewish desent in the eyes of the Nazis,” states the article.
Gettinger grew up in Karlsruhe, Germany, and according to the Turret article, had attended the University of Heidelburg for three years before the Nazis discovered her and sent her to a forced labor camp. She spent nearly three years suffering at the hands of the Nazis until 1945, when an Allied Force bombing raid set the camp ablaze.
While German soldiers ran to the fires to put them out, Gettinger and an unknown boy took advantage of the chaos to run from the camp. She later told Theresa Romero in the article that they walked for several miles in prison clothes until arriving at a house.
They decided to take their chances at recapture and knock.
“An old women opened the door and we begged her for help,” said Gettinger, in the article. “She gave us a little bit of money and a change of clothing and we left as soon as possible.”
Gettinger made her way back to her family home in Karlsruhe, Baden-Wurttemberg, only to find it destroyed by bombs. Her mother and grandparents were nowhere to be found. She then set out for her grandmother’s summer home in Kappelrodeck, about 38 miles southwest of Karlsruhe.
Once there, Gettinger found her mother alive. According to a 1953 Grand Prairie Daily News article, she hid there until the French occupied the area.
After the war, Gettinger took a job with the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration as a secretary. While working at the Document and Tracing Section there, she learned that her father had died in a Nazi gas chamber.
In 1947, Gettinger took the opportunity to move to the United States, where she soon landed a secretarial job, and then later a job in Reno, Nevada as a hotel cashier. It was in Reno when she heard the radio announcement: “Join the Women’s Army Corps and help yourself and your country.”
Gettinger signed up and soon graduated from Basic Training at Fort Lee, Virginia, before arriving at Fort Knox to attend the clerical school. In an April 30, 1953 article in the Nevada State Journal, she had written a letter to her recruiter, Master Sgt. Patrick Kelly, explaining why she joined.
“This country has done so much for me that I feel, now, I am doing something for my country in return,” wrote Gettinger. “I am very happy and proud to be in the WACs, and I am looking forward to a wonderful life and career.”
On Nov. 6 of that year, Pfc. Trudy Gettinger became a U.S. citizen.
(Editor’s Note: This is the second of a series of articles during Days of Remembrance focusing on the lives of Soldiers and Families affected by the Holocaust.)