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The Betty H. Carter Women Veterans Historical Project

NORMA MARTELL ORAL HISTORY

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BIOABSTRACT

Norma J. Saunders Martell (1917-2003) of Forest Hill, West Virginia, was a cryptographer in the Women’s Army Corps from 1942 to 1945.


BIOGRAPHY

Norma June Saunders Martell was born in Forest Hill, West Virginia, in June 1917 and graduated from high school there in 1936. She attended a National Recovery Administration Job Corps school in 1937, where she was trained as a secretary and sent to work at a rural airport. She also worked at a nearby airport until she secured a similar position at the Congressional Airport in Bethesda, Maryland, in 1940.

Martell enlisted in the Women’s Auxiliary Army Corps (WAAC) in 1942 and completed basic training in Daytona, Florida. She then trained for the service of supply in cryptography with the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) in Missouri. Martell was briefly stationed at Fort Oglethorpe in Georgia before being transferred to Vint Hill, Virginia, where she worked as a cryptographer for the OSS. She met Arthur Martell in August 1944 and the two were married the following month. Martell was discharged in April 1945 when she became pregnant with her first child.

After the war, Martell moved with her husband’s career to Massachusetts and Illinois and the couple raised six children. In 1960, after separation from her husband, she moved to North Carolina. There, she discovered the Quaker religion, was active in political efforts to promote peace, and served on the board of Quaker House, which aids pacifist GIs, for many years. Norma Martell died on 1 May 2003.


CONTENTS AVAILABLE ONLINE:
Item
Oral history interview with Norma Martell, 1999
Item # WV0072.5.001
From the Norma Martell Oral History