CMSgt Grace A. Peterson: First WAF Chief Master Sergeant

  • Published
  • By Dr. Héctor Manuel Torres-Camacho
  • 439th Airlift Wing

Much has been said about the Westover’s history during WWII, the Berlin Airlift, and the Gulf War, but what about the roles of women within that story?

On 14 May 1942, the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps was established through a law sponsored by Rep. Edith Rogers (1881-1960).  Ms. Grace Ghiazza, then 21, enlisted in New York in October 1942 and attended basic training at Ft. Des Moines, Iowa, in horse stables converted into barracks. 

While working as an instructor in Georgia, the U.S. Women’s Army Corps was established, so she transferred and served her wartime years in Fairbanks, Alaska.  According to historical records, there is a very good possibility that Ghiazza served in or worked closely with the unit that later became the 439th Force Support Squadron.

In 1947, 1st Sgt Ghiazza was transferred to Westover Field.  She became a member of the Women in the Air Force [WAF] corps and served with distinction during the Berlin Airlift (1948-1949).  In 1960, at the U.S. Eastern Transport Air Force in New Jersey, then SMSgt Peterson (Ghiazza) became the first and only WAF Chief Master Sergeant. 

She retired three years later.