Tech4 Carmen Contreras-Bozak
First Hispanic to serve in the U.S. Women's Army Corps
December 31, 1919 |
Cayey, Puerto Rico
|Allegiance||United States Women's Army Auxiliary Corps|
|Years of service||1942-1945|
|Unit||149th WAAC Post Headquarters Company|
|Battles/wars||World War II|
|Awards||European-African Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with 2 Battle Stars|
|Other work||Founder - chapter of WAC Vets
Founder - chapter of the Society
of Military Widows
Tech4 Carmen Contreras-Bozak,[note 1](born December 31, 1919) was the first Hispanic to serve in the U.S. Women's Army Corps where she served as an interpreter and in numerous administrative positions.
Born Carmen Contreras in 1919, she was the oldest of three siblings. She was born and raised in the town of Cayey, Puerto Rico, located in the central mountains of the island, where she attended elementary school.
Her mother, Lila Baudilia Lugo Torres, moved the family to New York City in search of a better way of life. In New York, Contreras attended Julia Richman High School and, upon graduation, worked for the National Youth Administration. After taking and passing a Civil Service test, Contreras worked for the War Department in Washington, D.C. as a payroll clerk.
World War II
The Women's Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC) was established during World War II on May 15, 1942, "for the purpose of making available to the national defense the knowledge, skill, and special training of the women of the nation." During this period, the Army was looking for bilingual Hispanic women to fill assignments in fields such as cryptology, communications and interpretation. In 1942, Contreras joined the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC) and was sent to Fort Lee, Virginia for training. Contreras volunteered to be part of the 149th WAAC Post Headquarters Company the first to go overseas, setting sail from New York Harbor for Europe on January 1943.
The unit arrived in Northern Africa on January 27, 1943 and rendered overseas duties in Algiers, in General Dwight D. Eisenhower’s theatre headquarters. The women who served abroad were not treated like the regular Army servicemen. They did not receive overseas payment nor could they receive government life insurance. These women had no protection if they became ill, wounded or captured. If captured, the women were considered as "auxiliaries" serving with the Army rather than in it, and did not have the same protections under international law as the male soldiers. These were factors which the Army took into consideration when they decided to integrate the Women’s Corps into the regular Army. On July 3, 1943, the WAC bill, which established the Women’s Army Corps as integral part of the Army of the United States, was signed into law (Public Law 78-110) becoming effective on September 1, 1943.
Contreras was promoted to the rank of Tech 4 (Technical Sergeant) which, in today's Army, would equal the rank of Sergeant (E-4). Her responsibilities included the transmission of encoded messages to the battlefield. After returning home, Contreras entered Valley Forge General Hospital on July 1945, for treatment of an eye infection which she had contracted in Algiers. There she met Theodore Bozak, a patient who would become her husband. Carmen Contreras-Bozak and Theodore Bozak had three children, two sons, Brian and Robert, and a daughter, Carmen.
Contreras-Bozak lived for many years in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. There she started a chapter of WAC Vets and in 1998 founded a chapter of the Society of Military Widows. She now resides in Tampa, FL. Approximately 200 Puerto Rican women served in the Women’s Army Corps during World War II.
Awards and decorations
Among Tech4 Carmen Contreras-Bozak's military decorations were the following:
|Army Good Conduct Medal||Women's Army Corps Service Medal|
|American Campaign Medal||European-African Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with two bronze stars||World War II Victory Medal|
- LAS WACS-Participacion de la Mujer Boricua en la Seginda Guerra Mundial; by: Carmen García Rosado; 1ra. Edicion publicada en Octubre de 2006; 2da Edicion revisada 2007; Regitro tro Propiedad Intectual ELA (Government of Puerto Rico) #06-13P-)1A-399; Library of Congress TXY 1-312-685
- Historia militar de Puerto Rico; by Hector Andres Negroni; pub. Sociedad Estatal Quinto Centenario (1992); isbn=84-7844-138-7
- Carmen Lozano Dumler
- Carmen García Rosado
- List of famous Puerto Ricans
- List of Puerto Rican military personnel
- Puerto Rican women in the military
- Puerto Ricans in World War II
- History of women in Puerto Rico
- This name uses Spanish marriage naming customs; the first is the maiden family name "Contreras" and the second or matrimonial family name is "Bozak".
- Kennon, Katie (Spring 2003). "Young woman's life defined by service in Women's Army Corp". Latinos & WWII: Narratives, Volume 4, Number 1,. University of Texas at Austin. Retrieved 2006-07-22.
- Bellafaire, Judith. "The Contributions of Hispanic Servicewomen". Women in Military Service for America. Retrieved 2006-07-22.
- "Did You Know? Quick Facts on Latinos in the Military". Hispanic Heritage Plaza. Hispanic Online. 2002. Archived from the original on 2006-05-05. Retrieved 2006-07-22.
- Xavier Becerra (member of Congress) (March 30, 2006). "Learn about the contributions of American Latinas" (PDF). Archived from the original on 2006-06-28. Retrieved 2006-07-22. Co-Sponsor H.R. 2134.