Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling, Washington, D.C. --
The Women in the Air Force (WAF Band) held its 20th reunion this month in Washington, D.C. Over 20 alumnae of the group travelled at their own expense to attend the reunion and join together to once again form a band to delight audiences and honor veterans.
The ensemble performed two concerts, including a performance at the Kennedy Center Millennium Stage and a special concert for veterans at the Armed Forces Retirement Home in Washington, D.C.
The last time the WAF Band performed as an active unit was in Washington, D.C., for President John F. Kennedy’s Inauguration. This year’s reunion was very poignant as it also marks the final year the group will give a public performance as part of future reunion activities. Therefore, there was no better way for the band to celebrate its storied history than with a dazzling concert in a packed venue named after the president for whom they gave their final performance.
Officially activated in 1951, the group enjoyed a brilliant 10-year run during which they performed across the United States, and even Puerto Rico and Mexico. The band performed half time shows of football games, on television and radio broadcasts, at state fairs and blood drives. Their performances were used in recruiting efforts, boosting troop morale, and inspiring citizens to a heightened sense of patriotism.
The WAF Band was incredibly unique in that not only was it made up entirely of women, but it was also one of the few places where a woman could find work as a professional musician. Clarinetist Corrine J. Bergman remarked, “Members of the WAF Band had opportunities beyond what most of us ever held in our wildest dreams.”
1n 1961, the WAF Band was deactivated. Women would not find a place as musicians in the Air Force until 1972.
Clarinetist Betty R. “Pip” DeVaughn said of her time in the unit, “The WAF Band experience strengthened my love of music and performing. The standards of effort and excellence that we came to expect of ourselves became a habit which has influenced all phases of my life. I am more than grateful to have been part of such a unique and historically significant organization which has given me so much pride and pleasure.”
To learn more about the fascinating story of the WAF Band, please visit www.wafband.org.