Ruth Coster was born on December 11, 1918 in Bonsal, North Carolina to Jarves and Lula (Thomas) Johnson.  She was one of six children.  She had three brothers: Elwood, Thomas, and Jarves Jr.; and two sisters: Rodney Harrill and Leona Morrison.

She graduated from Mangum High School in Durham County, North Carolina on May 10, 1937.  She worked for a time for her sister and brother-in-law that owned an Esso gas station.  She would later join the WACS (Women’s Army Corp Service) so her parents would have a star in their window, which meant that someone from that family was serving in the military.  Her brothers were working in an essential business with Standard Oil, so they were excused from service.

Ruth joined the WACS in 1943 and was transferred to New Guinea after completing her training.  It was during the training for overseas duty that she met her good friend, Helen Greene Kent.  Helen had trained at the University of Central Arkansas and met Ruth after leaving UCA.  Ruth and Helen were sent to New Guinea.

It was on a flight from New Guinea to Australia that Helen Kent was killed.  On May 13, 1945, a C-47 went down and crashed in the valley of Shangri-La, killing eighteen passengers. There were only three survivors.

Ruth Coster came to UCA in the winter of 2004, and saw the slide show of the WACS who trained at UCA.  Included in this slide show are several excellent photographs of Helen Kent.

Ruth passed away in 2005.

Tracings:  WWII; Shangri-La (Hidden Valley, Dutch New Guinea Plane Crash Survivor- Margaret Hastings); Ruth Coster – WWII WAC Air Force; Coster, Ruth; Ruth Pierce-Coster; Pierce-Coster, Ruth; Sgt. Helen Kent; Kent, Helen; Camp Stoneman, California; New Guinea – WWII


Box 1

File 1- Ruth Coster, 2002 Olympic Torch Bearer

File 2- Interview of Ruth Coster for Women Veteran’s Historical Collection Oral History Project by Eric Elliot, Feb. 4, 2000

File 3- Biography of Ruth Lula Johnson-Pierce-Coster

File 4- “The Journeys of Ruth Coster”

File 5A- Interview of Lula Ruth Coster by Corinna Joy (Ruth’s granddaughter), Feb. 10. 1999

File 5B- Ruth L. Pearce Coster: born December 11, 1918 and died August 8, 2005

File 6- Ruth Coster’s WAC friends and other information

File 7- Camp Stoneman, California by Chuck WullenJohn

File 8- Photograph databases, 1939-1945

1)      Australian War Memorial

2)      Hollandia – WWII

3)      Hollandia – Dutch New Guinea

4)      Jayapura – Hollandia

5)      Philippines – WWII

File 9- Japanese air operations over New Guinea during the 2nd World War (WWII)

File 10- Victory in New Guinea during WWII, 1943-1944

File 11- Maps showing the Pacific during the war (“Pacific Theater”), Dec. 1941-Aug. 1942

File 12- Note from a friend during the war and photos of foreign money (WWII)

File 13- Miscellaneous (pictures of old Japanese tags and a write up on their meanings)

File 14- Emails and pictures regarding Ruth Coster and her friend, Helen Kent, and some details of the crash of May 13, 1945 that killed Helen, 2002

File 15- “A WAC in Shangri-La” Corporal Margaret Hastings in collaboration with Inez Robb by Readers Digest, Nov. 1945

File 16- Ruth Coster’s scanned photographs, emails, and a short journal depicting everyday life in the military

File 17- Videos of Ruth Coster, WWII WAF, by Dona Cruse (Ruth’s daughter), Dec. 27, 2002

File 18- Photographs of Ruth Johnson-Coster’s journey to visit Helen Kent’s memorial grave, and photos of her visit to the University of Central Arkansas where her WWII memorabilia is housed, Feb. 2004

File 19- Ruth Coster, “59 Year’s Later” (2 videos)   Feb. 16, 2004

File 20- Three survivors of the WWII plane crash in Hidden Valley of Shangri-La Hollandia, Netherlands of New Guinea, undated

File 21- Necrology report of the death of Women’s Army Corps members, 1942-1963

File 22- Eugene Hoops – Correspondence & Photos of Hidden Valley of Shangri-La WWII plane crash, May 13, 1943

File 23- Commemoration of the WWII C-47 plane crash of May 13, 1945 in Hidden Valley of Shangri-La Hollandia, Netherlands of New Guinea, May 13, 2005

End of Box 1

End of Collection