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WAAC "One-shot" McGraw was Army's first woman photographer

by Ted Wise

Of the many stories of women serving during World War II, the story of Charolett "One-shot" McGraw is unique.

The Abilene, Texas, native and former Hollywood photographer joined the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps Sept. 1, 1942, as the WAAC's only assigned photographer. Her duties included setting up the first photographic facility in the first WAAC training facility and furnishing all official photographs to the WAAC director for recruiting and publicity.

Other tasks included organizing a photographic section for the training center, ordering equipment and supplies and instructing students.

The WAAC captain volunteered for a special mission to North Africa April 16, 1943. She was assigned as the official WAAC photographer to the North Africa operations theater. During her 48 days in-theater, she took and processed more than 4,600 photographs. She could use the Signal Corps darkroom when not in use to process and print her film.

Most of her shots, made on the run, weren't posed, thus her nickname.

McGraw was sent to the European Theater Nov. 10, 1943, to Dec. 23, 1943, and June 15, 1945, to Sept. 11, 1945. She was assigned in the Southwest Pacific theater and on the China mainland.

Her war photographs helped recruiting campaigns and built good public relations for the Women's Army Corps. Her pictures (73,660 total) were used in many publications, including National Geographic, Life, Colliers, Saturday Evening Post and Time magazines, giving unique insight to the war.

Of McGraw's most famous shots are those of the Yalta meetings with British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, Soviet Premier Joseph Stalin and U.S. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Other well-known photos included European bombings and aftermath destruction, plus women on troop carriers in the Far East and North Africa.

McGraw's ability to get the shot every time impressed Gen. Dwight Eisenhower.

"One-shot" McGraw accomplished difficult tasks in a superior manner. Her story is a tribute to all women in uniform.

Mr. Wise is curator of the U.S. Army Signal Corps Museum, Fort Gordon, Ga., previously serving as exhibits designer for the artillery museum at Fort Sill, Okla. He holds a bachelor's degree in graphic art/art history from Cameron University and a graduate degree in museum studies from University of South Carolina.

Last modified on:
April 04, 2012

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