WACs Injured at Sloane Court? Testimonial of Jean Castles

Myth or Fact?: A plaque installed on Turk’s Row memorializes that members of the Women’s Army Corps (WACs) were killed during the Sloane Court bombing.

The plaque that was placed on Turks Row to commemorate the bombing indicates almost 100 American GIs and WACs were killed at Sloane Court in 1944.  This is incorrect.

Fact: WACs were stationed at Sloane Court.

In a letter to her family back home in Evanston, Ill., Sgt. Jean Castles revealed her billet had been destroyed during the July 3, 1944 blast.  “Unless you have been on the scene of an incident, you can have no conception of it,” she wrote. “It is like living a play where you see all that happens, feel it, and are a part of it, yet you are in a dream.”

The Chicago Tribune printed Sgt. Castles’ account of the “7:40 a.m.” bomb on July 1, 1945.

“All we heard was what we thought was a motorcycle swishing by. … Then hell broke loose.  That is the only way it can be put.  The building not only rocked; it did ground loops.  Dot [her roommate] dashed from the window over to me, as as the concussion had knocked me against the closed door, I picked myself up and we began jamming each other under the bed, thinking the ceiling would collapse.  Plaster fell and the floor boards came up, one at a time, but our room was lucky. …

“We collected all the blankets we could find to cover bodies and parts of bodies.  Alone I carried a big tub of water I wouldn’t be able to lift under normal circumstances.

“I have never seen so much blood in my life — and disconnected arms and legs.  It may be hard to believe, but it is possible to see all that and not get sick.  You don’t have time; that’s all.  Three of us still have nightmares.  Across the street, farther from the hit than we were, 20 civilians were killed by the blast–the concussion that kills without a trace.”

Myth:  WACs were killed in the blast

The Tribune reported that later in the morning during a roll call, all the WACs were alive. As to the men, name after name would be called without answer.

The most vivid part of the morning was roll call for all detachments living around the area. … All the WACs were alive, but many men’s companies were decimated.  Name after name would be called without answer.

An honest guess:  Civilians in Military Garb

London Researcher Pete Wood thinks he solved the mystery of the killed WACs.  Veronica Canepa, who was killed by the blast, was an air raid warden, according to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, and she would have worn a military uniform. This might have started a rumor that WACs were killed, despite that fact that none were.

Source Notes

Learn More