LEFT: Clomanza Sells.
RIGHT: Virginia Shenowski (phonetic spelling from Clomanza’s memory)
Undated WWII era photo when Clomanza and Virginia were working together in Detroit in war industries.
(Photo processed by Geoff Baker.)
Clomanza (Sells) Shook is Cheryl A. Robinson’s step-grandmother, her maternal grandfather Charles Mitchell’s second wife.
Ninety-four year old Clomanza shared with Cheryl and me the details of her friendship with Virginia Shenowski (phonetic spelling from Clomanza’s memory) in Detroit during WWII.
Clomanza and Virginia met while working in factories producing war related material.
Clomanza described their work including at the U.S. Rubber plant.
She assembled parts for Boeing aircraft.
She trimmed rubber from gears.She built gauges.
She made self sealing fuel tanks.
She described gluing three layers of rubber onto the fuel tanks.
Virginia and her worked together at some of the plants.
I told Clomanza that her work on the self sealing fuel tanks saved the lives of our air crews and gave our aircrews an advantage over our enemies.
When fuel tanks on Japanese aircraft, which were not self sealing, were hit often their planes would burst into flames.
When our self sealing tanks were hit, her work not only prevented our planes from bursting but also prevented loss of fuel allowing our the crews of our damaged planes to safely return to base.
Polish-American Virginia Shenowski went to Europe to volunteer to serve in one of the women’s units in the Polish armed forces in the Allied armies.
Polish women were eligible for all roles including combat but did not serve in combat.
Over 6,000 Polish women served in 45 military occupation including aircraft mechanics and armourers, intelligence, administration, domestic, clerical, medical and other technical services.
In non-combat roles transporting aircraft 257 served as pilots, 55 as navigators, 59 as radio operators and 25 as flight engineers.
Unidentified Polish woman in combat training at Gullane, Scotland
Fair use of still from the short film “Polish Girls in Action” of Polish women in combat training in Scotland.
Virginia and Clomanza corresponded.
Clomanza does not know in what role Virginia served.
Virginia’s letters to Clomanza have been lost.
Clomanza lost touch with Virginia.
This blog post is a tribute to Virginia’s and Clomanza’s lives, honors their service, and keeps their stories from being lost to history.
This is another moment when our families’ lives touched history.
More information on Polish Women in WWII
Minor revision: March 2, 2016