A War of Their Own
On a quiet stretch of Bethany Beach, female artillery crews made some noise — and top-secret history — during World War II
By George W. Contant and Krystin M. Contant Piston
From the June 2016 issue
Even in 2016, the idea of women going into combat remains an uncomfortable one for many Americans. But history tells us that women have participated in wars for centuries — sometimes accidentally, often purposely — and have acquitted themselves well. From Celtic Queen Boudicca battling Nero’s forces in the first century A.D. to Russian and British women fiercely standing up to the Nazi onslaught, an axiom of nature has repeatedly been underscored during wartime: Do not get between a mother bear and her cubs.
The bravery of those female European fighters during World War II was not lost on two high-powered Americans of that era, whose influence would redefine the role of U.S. women in service to their country — and lead to a little-known experiment in warfare training at Bethany Beach in 1943.
One of those two Americans was U.S. Army Chief of Staff Gen. George C. Marshall, who faced a desperate need for men in overseas duty because so many were being siphoned off for support positions stateside and elsewhere. The forward-thinking Marshall saw America’s vast pool of women as part of the answer, but there was pushback: The majority of soldiers, politicians and the public at large were against women in military service, and were absolutely appalled at the idea of them in combat. Nonetheless, after much wrangling with a reluctant Congress, the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps was established in May 1942. Technically, the WAAC did not constitute military service, but Marshall could see that day was coming.
Building Muscles — and a Special Relationship
Rob Haas’s interest in weightlifting and helping others has one young athlete on the right track
“He’s like an Energizer Bunny. He doesn’t stop,” Rob Haas says of the athlete he’s training at The Firm Fitness Center outside Rehoboth Beach. Haas, a Class A certified coach for Special Olympics Delaware with decades of experience in weightlifting, turns his back for a moment to set up the bar at the squat rack. He glances up to see his trainee, Jeremy Eglit, bounding across the gym. There, the young man grabs a good-sized kettlebell and begins working his arms and shoulders. A series of micro-expressions flicker across the trainer’s face. “This is leg day,” he says with the slightest hint of exasperation, because Eglit should be resting his arms on this day.
Yet there’s an underlying glimmer of admiration at his trainee’s apparently limitless energy, mixed with the ever-present concern that Eglit’s impulsiveness might inadvertently cause harm to himself or others at the gym. But he’s doing fine. The moment passes and Haas’s face reflects a steady, gentle patience, his most often required trait in training the 6-foot-5, 280-pound athlete.
Channeling the Stars
‘Female illusionist’ Christopher Peterson gives voice to an array of superstar singers
By Fay Jacobs | Photographs by Murray Archibald
From the May 2016 Issue
This summer, Peterson will launch his 18th season in Rehoboth Beach by premiering an entirely new show titled “Eyecons: The Broads of Broadway.” The part-time Rehoboth resident will bring back all of the fabulous ladies he’s performed for many years, but this time they’ll be seen auditioning for shows they never got to perform. The production has not yet been previewed, but mischief is surely in the wings, as Peterson has matched his ladies with famous shows ill-suited to their particular talents. It should be a hoot.
Along with weekend performances of “Eyecons,” he also will star in the Broadway musical “Priscilla, Queen of the Desert,” with both shows at Clear Space Theatre. In the latter, Peterson will be showing off his considerable acting chops and singing the infectious disco-era music, having his way with ’70s anthems like “I Love the Nightlife” and “I Will Survive” as well as such American Songbook standards as “A Fine Romance.”
Born in New Brunswick, Canada, this musical illusionist first gained notice there at age 12 when he starred in “Oliver!” at his junior high school. A director saw the performance and snapped up young Christopher for a professional production of the show in Halifax, Nova Scotia. From there, he went back to school musicals and, after graduation, began his adventures in the art of drag. “Mostly we lip-synced,” he recalls, “since the places we performed had no microphones.”