WAF BAND        

The United States Air Force Women’s Band (WAF), 1951-1961

Dr. Jeananne Nichols

Assistant Professor of Music and Director of Instrumental Studies

Olivet College, Michigan

The USAF WAF Band traces its ten year history through the 1950’s, a decade of great change in American history.  Following the close of World War II in 1945 and the formation of the US Air Force in 1947, women were recruited into the WAF to fill low skill and clerical jobs for the service.  The USAF command in Washington, DC decided to create the WAF Band to assist in recruiting women for the service and provide music for ceremonies and troop entertainment.   A catalog of tour orders reveals that the band spent 1,045 days on tour on 88 trips, traveling to 34 states and 69 military bases.  They made parade appearances in two presidential inaugurals, were featured on several national television shows, and gave concerts in places such as Carnegie Hall, Rockefeller Center, and the Hollywood Bowl.

At present, my historical data has been drawn from Air Force records, the WAF Band’s archives at HarvardUniversity, and in- depth interviews with former members.  The interviewees have also offered personal records and photographs.

The focus of this study is to present the experiences of the WAF Band members against the backdrop of the organization’s own history and the socio-cultural reality of the 1950’s.  The study is informed by historical and qualitative research methods, as well as gender studies.


(Dr. Nichols received her doctorate in music education from Arizona State Univesity.)