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About Chf. Operator Grace Paddock
Grace D. Banker (October 25, 1892 – September 17, 1960) was a telephone operator who served during World War I (1917–1918) as chief operator of mobile for the American Expeditionary Forces (AEF) in the U.S. Army Signal Corps. She led thirty-three women telephone operators known popularly as Hello Girls. They were assigned in New York to travel to France to operate telephone switch boards at the war front in Paris, and at Chaumont, Haute-Marne. They also operated the telephone switch boards at First Army headquarters at Ligny-en-Barrois, about 5 miles (8.0 km) to the south of Saint-Mihiel, and later during the Meuse-Argonne Offensive. After her return to civilian life, Banker and her team members were treated as citizen volunteers and initially not given recognition as members of the military. In 1919, Banker was honoured with the Distinguished Service Medal for her services with the First Army headquarters during the St. Mihiel and Meuse-Argonne Offensives, with a commendation.
During offensive operations at Saint-Mihiel, though artillery bombing was in force, Banker and her team of operators manned the switchboards. When the First Army headquarters moved to Bar-le-Duc in September, Banker and her operators had to work in a place which was damaged extensively. They operated even under heavy bombing by German planes, but no team members were injured. They worked under severe weather conditions without heating, and their barracks leaked, and were later gutted, making conditions even harsher.
Signal Corps Telephone Girls receive decorations. In the back row, first from left is Grace D. Banker Following the Armistice of 11 November 1918, fighting ceased. Banker and her team were then ordered to return to Paris. In Paris, Banker was deputed initially to work at the temporary residence of President Woodrow Wilson. As she did not find this job exciting compared to the work at the war front, she accepted an offer to move to the Army of Occupation at Coblenz, Germany; while there she was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal.