Eleanor Spinola

Eleanor Valentine Spinola (1919-2009)

In 1944 Eleanor Spinola woke to a sound and saw a glowing red light. As she opened a door flames jumped toward her. She alerted her fellow servicewomen and the fifty American and British women rushed outside to safety. She later received the European–African–Middle Eastern campaign medal (EAME), a commendation from Lt. Gen. Mark W. Clark.

Eleanor Valentine Spinola, a daughter of Michael DeFreitas Spinola and Mary Alice Carvalho of Hilo, Hawaii, enlisted in the Women’s Army Corps (WAC) in March 1943, the first WAC from the territory of Hawaii. Eleanor’s letters to her brother Neal Spinola were written from Algeria and Italy between 1943 and 1945.

In 1943, Eleanor was attending San Diego State College. Five of the eight Spinola siblings joined the war effort while sister Beatrice Spinola worked for the American Red Cross in Honolulu. While in Italy Eleanor met Richard L. Lange, then a Sergeant in the Army Air Force. They married in 1945 and raised five children in Honolulu.

Over 150,000 American women served in the WAC during World War II. They had to prove their effectiveness since many military officials and the American public opposed the effort. The women became a critical force for a military fighting two fronts.

The papers of the Spinola family, a Portuguese family, are housed at the Lyman Museum Archives which is open for research by appointment. Learn more at https://lymanmuseum.org/archives/research-collection/.