In 1942, during the height of World War II, Carmen Contreras-Bozak made history by enlisting in the newly formed Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC), which was later renamed the Women’s Army Corps (WAC). Her enlistment made her the first Hispanic American woman to join the ranks of this revolutionary initiative that allowed women to serve in non-combat positions, thus freeing up male soldiers for combat duties.
Contreras-Bozak’s journey in the military was not without its challenges. As a minority woman in a predominantly male environment, she faced discrimination and prejudice. Moreover, when she entered the service, women were not treated the same as service men and did not have the same protections under international law as male soldiers if captured.
Initially assigned to the Army Air Forces in Wisconsin, Carmen Contreras-Bozak’s exceptional bilingual skills became a valuable asset for the military. She served as an interpreter and translator, assisting in vital communication between English-speaking soldiers and Spanish-speaking locals in South America during the war.
In addition to her work as an interpreter and translator, Contreras-Bozak played a pivotal role in the Allied war effort by handling coded messages between General Dwight D. Eisenhower’s headquarters in Algiers and the battlefield in Tunisia during World War II. Her proficiency in multiple languages and exceptional attention to detail made her an invaluable asset in this critical communication role, even as the headquarters came under fire.
Carmen Contreras-Bozak was awarded the European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal, two Battle Stars, a World War II Victory Medal, an American Campaign Medal, a WAAC Service Medal and the Good Conduct Medal.