Oral History Spotlight: Viola Kaplan

Ruth Ann Hattori

How important is math during wartime? Viola Kaplan's Oral History helps to provide an answer to that question. Ms. Kaplan was a math major at DePaul University when the war began and in 1942, she volunteered to join the Women’s Army Corps (WAC). Because of her background in mathematics, Viola was trained to be a logician and was eventually assigned to a headquarters unit in New Guinea. There, she played an important role by using her math skills to determine how the space inside of troop and supply ships would be loaded for U.S. invasions in the South Pacific. During that time she became ill with malaria and after recovering from it a third time, she was sent home. Kaplan would go on to complete her degree at Rutgers and later became the first woman to direct the finance and administration department at Northwestern University. Listen to Ms. Kaplan as she tells us how math helped win the war and more from our recording of her.

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