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The Betty H. Carter Women Veterans Historical Project

Letter from Catherine Katopes to siblings, 30 January 1944

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Object ID: WV0122.4.020

Description: Discusses taking girls to the base clinic; performing inspections; serving gigs; the barracks "date room"; new tennis and volleyball courts; assigning kitchen patrol; a WAC marriages; male soldiers' opinion of WACs; an altercation with a captain; receiving and sending mail; demotion of a fellow WAC.

Creator: Catherine Katopes

Biographical Info:

Catherine G. Katopes (1912-1979) served in the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps and the Women's Army Corps from 1942 to late 1945.

Collection: Catherine G. Katopes Papers

Rights: It is responsibility of the user to follow the copyright law of the United States (Title 17, U.S. Code). Materials are not to be reproduced in published works without written consent, and any use should credit Jackson Library, The University of North Carolina at Greensboro.

Full Text:

Dear Charlie, Dena and Jimmie, and Johnnie:

Here it is 2:30 of a Sunday afternoon and I have so much to do, and I am a bit tired to start with. Got up at 8:30 this morning, and took a couple of girls over to the Outpatient’s Clinic on Sick Call because I forgot to have the book picked up yesterday and so the quickest way to get them off was to go down with them and enter their names on the sick book and leave them there.

Then I hurried back, made my bed, and Lee dusted the room, and I was in the orderly room at 9:30 ready to go on an inspection tour. The kids have not had inspection since they have been in the barracks and boy it doesn’t take them long to forget all their former G.I. inspections. My gosh you would think a few of them had just come into the Army from the appearance of their bed-making. So we had a Sunday morning inspection, both personal and room inspection. And what an improvement. Except for a few minor things, everything was pretty nice.

It was mostly an inspection to correct the way they arranged things in their closets and to acquaint them with the places that an inspecting officer would look for dust. No gigs were given (Dean, this means a sort of demerit.)

However, after today, they will be gigged and suffer accordingly. I will at least have a source from which to get girls to do some necessary details around here, like washing extra windows and scrubbing and waxing extra floors.

You should see our living room and sun parlor, which we call the Date Room. Why? Because the fellows are permitted to come in there and call for their girls or sit around with them. It leads right off the orderly room. So far we have had very few fellows in. there were a couple of marines and a sailor out there this afternoon for awhile. They looked so cute. I guess the fellows are a bit afraid to come into the barracks as yet because they stray in only one at a time.

In fact, Lt. Salisbury, the Men’s Detachment Commander, was really a bit bashful about looking over the quarters. You should see him. He looks like a little boy grown up. Very nice looking, with blond curly hair. His wife just gave birth to a baby girl the other night, making two children in the family now. He doesn’t look old enough to be married, let along a Commander of a Detachment, but he’s okay.

We have about five sets of maple living room furniture in our Date Room and Sun Parlor on the main floor, and wine colored rugs with a figure in them. There is a piano, which we had to move again. We are getting a combination Victrola and radio. In fact anything we want the General immediately lets us have. In fact, he has gone out of his way to see that we have chairs in our rooms and little rugs. It tickles me to no end. All the kids feel as though they were living in a college dormitory instead of being in the Army.

I now have 106 Wacs and more coming. I guess we will get about 170 of them because we can’t house any more than 180 in these quarters.

And we are having a tennis court and volley ball court built right away right outside our barracks. These quarters are separate from the rest of the hospital. You have to cross the road from our barracks to get into one of the hospital buildings and get into the corridors that lead you anywhere you want to go within the hospital.

My one headache is K.P. This is, assigning the girls to K.P. We have to use the Wacs for K.P. because headquarters says that they have too many Civilian K.P.’s on the post now, and we cant use a Wac for permanent K.P.

So my troubles come from the various sections. You should have heard them yelp the first couple of days. "I don’t want my Wac on K.P. She has to be here every day or else she won’t be effective," etc. etc. So I told them that they would have to get a release from the Adjutant, that he had said we were to use them for K.P. That kind of shuts a lot of people up because major Meyers is not a man one wants to fool around with.

One of our Wacs got married the other night. She is a Staff Sergeant and a mess sergeant, and she married a Staff Sergeant who is also a mess sergeant here on the Post. She met him when she came here on the 22nd of Dec. Another girl who is a mess sergeant is engaged to a cook in one of the mess halls.

The reactions of people here amuse me when they don’t make me mad. It was pretty tough at first to put the few Wacs we had here over. Everyone was a bit skeptical as to what they would do. I guess they expected them to run wild or something. But after a few weeks you could (at least I could) feel the atmosphere change and they began to accept us as they should have when we first came here. After all, we didn’t ask to come here. The General here had been asking for 200 Wacs from away back in June or January.

But now--everyone wants a Wac in their department. One Sergeant called up and asked me to release a girl from K.P. the following morning and I said I couldn’t very well because it wasn’t sufficient notice to give to another department to pull a girl from somewhere else. Then I told him that if she was to work on the morning report over there, she could come over on her break from K.P. (Incidentally K.P. in our mess hall is a lark—it’s almost like playing house, and it really is a vacation for a girl from her job instead of vice versa) They finish work about 8:30-9:30 in the morning until 11:00 AM. So the Sgt. said that another Wac in the office would be willing to take her turn at K.P. and I said Fine, that it would be all right with this office.

So later on in the afternoon, a Captain Quackenbush from that office called up and did he light into me. Boy he was mad and of course, me being just a lowly first sergeant and only enlisted personnel, I couldn’t say much. He said that I wouldn’t cooperate with his office and allow the other girl to take K.P., and he ranted on until I said that his sergeant must have misunderstood me because I had said it was all right with this office. And I said I was sorry etc. and finally he hung up. Boy was I mad. I could feel my blood boiling for a half hour after the end of that conversation.

I mentioned it to the C.O. the following morning and luckily she heard all my end of the conversation when I told the Sergeant it was okay, so we just decided to ignore the Captain. That evidently he didn’t like Wacs, etc.

Well, later on that morning I was called to the phone and it was Captain Quackenbush and he was the gentlest thing imaginable—just like a lamb, and he apologized all over the place for his call last night. He evidently misunderstood his Sergeant over there.

They amuse me. They have a Wac in their office for a couple of days and they all of a sudden become indispensable when I want to put them on K.P.

Dean, I received the stockings from Dey Brothers. Let me know what the charge is will you?

I never did send Constance a birthday gift but I wrote and told Catherine I hadn’t been able to get to a shop. The truth is that I didn’t know one day from the next I have been that busy.

Just received two books of cartoons from Yeye which I would like to look at as soon as I can get to them. Also the Reader Digest which always reminds me of Elena when it arrives.

I have a stack of letters that high to write. Maybe in a few days things will settle down and I will be able to have time to write. I hope so.

I sure am lucky in having Lee for a company clerk because she works plenty hard.

My supply sergeant is okay too but she is going to demand steady hours, etc. and complain when she has to put in some extra time. However, I told her if she didn’t like it, to say so, and we could get someone else as supply sergeant, that she should expect to work late some nights but that as soon as things were stabilized, why she could have that time off during the day.

The other first sergeant I have her is quite happy. She asked me to see what I could do about getting her into Surgery. Seems she was a nurse before she came into the Army or at least had done some nursing. Probably not a registered nurse. And so I said would see about it. And she is now working in surgery until they find out what to do about her rating. I don’t doubt but what they will let her stay if they like her work up there.

We just got a new girl in from N. Carolina. Seems she was a first sergeant out there at a camp, and she was reduced to a buck sergeant. I don’t know what is back of it, and she isn’t telling, and it isn’t on her records, so if she doesn’t want to say, there’s no way of knowing and as a result I am curious about it. She did say that she didn’t want to be a first sergeant. Guess she is one of these people who rather be a private and have fun in the army than to have a job with responsibilities attached to it. I have met a few of them.

The weather here is balmy. It has been that way quite awhile.

Last night Lee and I went for a walk and went over to a small town close by called Normal. Just has one street as a business district—something like Manlius. We had a sundae and looked around in the five and dime and walked back home. It was a good bit of exercise.

Lee wanted me to go to town today but I wanted to get my K.P. roster done and out of the way and besides try and write a few letters. When this place settles down, I imagine I won’t have too much to do.

Must go over and see one of my gals in the hospital. She has a cold. So will end this letter. They have an epidemic of measles down at Oglethorpe. Glad I am here instead.

Love, Cathy