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The Betty H. Carter Women Veterans Historical Project

Letter from Catherine Katopes to Betty, 1943

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Object ID: WV0122.4.008

Description: Katopes relates her discouragement at learning she has washed out of Officer Candidate School, and describes the reasons for it, emphasizing the importance befriending the "right" people. She describes her job in Public Relations at Fort Oglethorpe, advises her friend on how to apply for WAACs, and comments on the lower caliber of applicants being accepted.

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 Betty -

When you read on, you will see why I haven't answered your letter til now.

I didn't finish O.C. School. Was washed out three or four days before graduation. Didn't actually believe it would happen but it did. It's a long story.

In the first place, they decided while we were in school that 50% would count for your academic grades and 50% on leadership. (This leadership consisted of what the officers thought and also what twenty-two of your classmates thought.)

I washed out on the Ratings by the girls. I believe you only have to get two or three low ones and it is enough to get you before the "Murder Board." That is a Board consisting of ten officers and is supposed to be an opportunity to talk yourself into a Commission.

My grades were high - and the officers had no doubts because they would have got me on the "Screening Board" which board is held a couple of weeks before the Final Board.

I had a premonition it would happen because I lived in a small room with three other girls which led into another small room. The rest of the girls lived in a big squad room.

One of the girls in my room took a dislike to me for no apparent reason and I ignored it. Then and there I should have asked for a bed in the big squad room but I didn't. This girl then proceeded to from a clique of a few more girls in my squad. I was with them but not of them and I felt it. This was about three weeks after our class started. It was enough to influence one or two others to probably mark me low.

Had she been friendly, really so, instead of just on the surface, the others would have followed along and I would have sailed thru. At first I thought one girl couldn't do me much harm. Perhaps she did me a favor? Only time will tell.

I felt terribly hurt for about four days. Then it seemed as though it was all something unreal.

A week later we were transported to Fort Oglethorpe, Ga. We are ten miles out of Chattanooga, Tenn., a city I don't like.

On these Ratings, we were warned when entering O.C. School that we were not to study too much but to go around and make friends. That it was important.

However, I made friends with the wrong girls. That is, girls who were not in my squad. After all, I wanted to make friends with the girls that appealed to me and not a few chosen ones because they were to rate me. Imagine going around making friends of people because they are going to rate you. And that is what leadership was partly based on.

I still think it is all a matter of Fate. Had I returned from my furlough one day earlier, I would have gone into the class preceding mine and one of the platoon lieutenants was a girl from Syracuse with whom I had come to Des Moines. I doubt if I would have run into the same situation twice. It makes quite a bit of difference if you have a friend as a Platoon Commander.

They washed out 40 girls from my class for some of the "stupidest" (bad English) reasons. Some of the girls didn't belong in O.C. School and should never have been sent there.

Our class broke the record and it looked so bad that General Faith, our commanding general, came up from Florida to see what was going on. They washed out three girls he had recommended though they sent one back to OC School.

Down here I have been assigned to Public Relations where I am secretary to the Public Relations Officer, a WAAC lieutenant. She is very nice, which means a lot. The office is a miniature newspaper office and is very informal. We do have fun and have some awfully nice people in it. I asked for Cadre work which is acting as a First Sergeant or Supply Sergeant but they needed a secretary when I hit this place and so I was it.

However, things change fast in the Army and so I shall give this assignment a fair workout.

I imagine you could get into the WAACs though you wear glasses. If you apply, be sure and put down all the supervisory work you have done. Say you helped run the cafeteria or rather that you had so many people under you. Perhaps you better not enlarge on that too much as you might get assigned to Bakers and Cooks School. If you come in, apply for O.C. School in your third week of basic, and if they don't accept you the first time, keep applying.

If you ran any type of theatricals or glee clubs, etc, enlarge upon it. You have to do your own bragging. Your hair do not cut. They don't want your hair cut short. The way you wear it is fine. It will be off your collar and quite pretty. They discourage boyish bobs - I guess since our hair is about the only bit of femininity we have left. Besides shaved necklines aren't very pretty.

I do miss pretty clothes now and then but believe it or not, while I was at home on furlough I wore my civies only one morning. Everyone wanted to see me in uniform.

We have all kinds of people in the WAAC now. At first they were all pretty fine. Lately they have evidently lowered the requirements because some of them coming in are just (I can't think of a good description word to call them) I believe they made a mistake to do it but they didn't ask me. There are some who probably never earned $10.00 a month or were able to get a job to earn that much. Perhaps the Army will find a spot for them. They probably had to lower the requirements in order to make their quota.

However, some very interesting girls come in each week too. Plenty of newspaper women; we have some Powers models, plenty of society girls.

Even after that disappointment I received I wouldn't want to get out. It's taken time to organize us and in a few weeks we shall begin to show real results.

We have several girls out in the "field." Companies of WAACs are sent to different men's Posts and take over many jobs. There are from 150 to 170 girls in a company. The Air Fields are requesting companies and I think I would like to be sent out to but so far I have been assigned to training companies.

Can write forever but must stop.

Thanks for your snapshot. It looks just like you and I can almost hear you start talking. Hope this letter gets to you soon - you probably have moved from Pensacola by now. Tell me where Jimmie has been assigned.

My best to you both.

Love, Katie