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The Betty H. Carter Women Veterans Historical Project

Oral history interview with Laura G. Anderton, 1999

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Object ID: WV0026.5.001

Description: Documents Laura G. Anderton’s early life and employment before World War II; her leadership duties in the U.S. Navy WAVES (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service) from 1943 to 1946; and her experiences in academia after World War II.

Summary:

Anderton details concern about the war in Europe in the late 1930s, working as the acting dean at Howard Seminary, and her father’s reaction when she joined the WAVES. Topics related to Anderton’s military experience focus on training and her work with enlisted WAVES. Specific subjects pertaining to Smith College include adjustments to military life, including uniforms and obeying orders; a gas drill; training courses, including ships and aircraft, naval history, personnel, and navy lingo; meeting Katherine Taylor at Smith College; and Mildred McAfee’s speech at her Smith College graduation.

Anderton also discusses her experiences as a WAVES officer as company commander in the WAVES Hospital Corps School at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland. Topics she discusses include assisting with discharges after the war; conducting inspections of men’s barracks; the difficulty of informing WAVES of deaths in their families; her relationships with enlisted WAVES; integration of the WAVES; marching a company over someone’s victory garden; creating her own drill commands; social life in the WAVES, including boating, driving, and dating; learning about the horrors of concentration camps; watching medical operations; seeing wounded men from the overseas theaters arriving at the hospital; socializing with

wounded men; German submarines off the coast of the United States; celebrating VJ Day; and her opinions of President Franklin Roosevelt, Eleanor Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, and Admiral Chester Nimitz.

Anderton also speaks about women in the military. She comments on receiving equal and unequal treatment by men; the public perception of women in the military during World War II; rules and regulations for women in the military; the kind of leaders the WAVES cultivated; the women’s liberation movement; and her opinion of women in combat.

Post-war topics relate to Anderton’s teaching at the Woman’s College of the University of North Carolina, renamed the University of North Carolina at Greensboro in 1963, until her retirement in 1986. She talks about the postwar atmosphere at the the institution; residential colleges; working with Dr. Walter Clinton Jackson; her medical research; and her continued involvement with the university.

Creator: Laura G. Anderton

Biographical Info: Dr. Laura G. Anderton (1918-2011) of Pawtucket, Rhode Island, served in the U.S. Navy WAVES (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service) from July 1943 until July 1946 and was a faculty member of the Department of Biology at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG) from 1948 to 1986.

Collection: Laura G. Anderton 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:

HT:

My name is Hermann Trojanowski and today is January 27, 1999. I'm at the home of Dr. Laura G. Anderton in Greensboro, North Carolina, and I'm here to conduct an oral history interview for the Women Veterans Historical Collection project.

Dr. Anderton, thank you so much for talking with me this morning. Could you tell me something about your background before you entered the military, such as where you were born, where you were raised, what type of work you did before you went into the military?

LA:

I was born in Providence, Rhode Island, in 1918, at the end of World War I, and I was raised in Pawtucket, Rhode Island. I went to Wellesley College [in Wellesley, Massachusetts]. I went through the schools in Pawtucket, went to Wellesley College, graduated in 1940. And in 1940, I really should say 1939, something really happened that was very important in the future military service, but at the time I had no idea that it would be important, and that is: in 1939 the Nazis went into Poland. And later on in that year, that would have been my junior year at Wellesley, Great Britain got into the war, and in addition, France declared war. And then on the day, actually the day that I graduated, the Nazis entered into Paris. It really was rather a dismal kind of atmosphere to be in, because we were so—well, we'd known about it, but we were really surprised that things went that rapidly.

So, that all went along, and the trouble in Europe became increasingly worse, but I went into, the summer after I graduated, I went for further work at a university in New York, Ithaca, Cornell [University], and there I took some chemistry so that I was able to teach, get more courses that I could teach, not just biology, which was my major, but also I could teach chemistry and general science. Right after I graduated, I was employed at Howard Seminary, which was a girls' preparatory school, a college preparatory school, and there I taught biology and general science and was a counselor in a dormitory. During the next year, the dean of the school fell, got a severe concussion when she fell on the ice, and I became acting dean and here I was only in my twenties. And that made a big difference when I went into the service because I went in as an officer, and then I went up very rapidly. I think they saw that and put me much farther ahead than I think I should have been, as far as responsibility was concerned. Let me just ask a question here of what you're interested in.

HT:

Thank you, Dr. Anderton. Which branch of the military did you enter?

LA:

I entered the navy, and that was the only branch I wanted to go into because Rhode Island, my home state, is surrounded by water, and my brother was in the navy, and the navy is just the part of the service to go into if you're a Rhode Islander, for the most part. It's rather interesting that when I went to, I was accepted in the navy, and I went to midshipman school, which is officer's training school, at Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts. On the way going up, my train connected with the train from North Carolina. And so, when I was billeted with other WAVES [Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service—U.S. Navy], I was the only person that wasn't from North Carolina or from the South. There were a few people from the South, other states than North Carolina, and they just referred to me as the “DY” [Damn Yankee], which I didn't understand the meaning of those words.

The training was very interesting. But I guess I was a little taller than some of the people, and they thought I had majored in physical education, so they made me student company commander. And then when I finished the training, I was held on as a company commander in the WAVES Hospital Corps School [in Bethesda, Maryland], where I stayed from 1943, it would have been June, maybe July 1943—I'd have to verify that date—for two years. At the end of that period, I was transferred to the WAVES Hospital Corps School at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, where I became the battalion commander, a battalion commander, of the WAVES Hospital School. I think it was the battalion commander, because there were quite a few companies in that battalion.

During my stay at Bethesda, there were many fascinating experiences that had a profound effect on the direction that my profession went after the war. For example, I saw many operations at the hospital, and I was able to do that because I got to know some nurses and doctors and they invited me to watch the operations. I became very much interested in the medical aspect of the things that were going on in the best of navy medicine at the time, because that was the center for navy medicine.

It was also the place where the realities of war really struck, because one time when we were going, I was marching the troops to the chow hall, we were stopped by ambulances that came—it was something like fifty ambulances—that came both from the European theater and from the Japanese theater. They had men in their battle dress and they were completely—some of them were in very, very bad shape. There were basket cases, for example, where they had lost their arms and legs during explosions and bombs, and they were quickly shunted into the various wards of the hospital. That was very interesting to me, to wonder how they could possibly get along without their arms and legs, for example, where the blood cells are produced. And so that got me off on learning more about that sort of thing.

But the girls in the battalion were very sympathetic. They were people who were to become either medical technologists or hospital corps WAVES that were nurses' assistants in the hospitals throughout the United States. Some of them went to Pearl Harbor, but that at the time was as far out of the United States as they went.

These people were very sensitive to people's needs, and so when we were asked as a battalion to dance with these men who had lost their arms and their legs, or one or the other, we offered to dance with them when they were sort of getting acclimated to the idea of going back into civilian life. So, that had a great effect on us.

My father was drastically opposed to my going into the service, until he found out the WAVES were headed by Mildred McAfee, who was then the president of Wellesley College. And she actually had to take leave from Wellesley College to become the head of the WAVES. Also, a friend in the service came to visit me wearing her uniform, and after she talked with him for a while, he was more amenable. And then, of course, my brother urged me to go into the service.

But it was quite an adjustment at midshipman school, for many reasons. The day that we arrived, we were given clothing. We were told to take off all of our clothes that we had brought with us, pack them into boxes and mail them back home, and we were put right into uniforms. And when we arrived, there were some girls that were wearing simply beautiful Mainbocher suits and carrying golf clubs—they thought they might have time for that. But there were those you could tell the strata they came from, the economic strata. There were some very wealthy girls who were extremely well-dressed, and then there were those who were not as well-dressed. But on the day after we packed all the boxes, everyone was exactly the same. [chuckling] We all were in uniform.

But that next day we had another big adjustment, and one of the adjustments was that you do exactly the way people tell you, the way the officers tell you to do. And if you don't, you get into trouble. I had been given my shots, and when I came out I made the mistake of talking to a girl that I knew in another line. And an officer came up to me and said, “Pipe down and get in line!” And he pointed to the other line. I knew I should have been leaving the sick bay, and instead I had to get in [line]. I kept saying, “But I had my shot, but I had my shot!” And he said, “Pipe down and get in line!” So, I had to get in line, and I had a second shot. I didn't feel really in very good condition the next day, [chuckling] but I didn't dare tell anyone.

So, that was the way things went. You just suddenly became a part of a very rigid kind of thing, where you couldn't laugh. One of the things they did in sick bay was to have a whole sheaf of thermometers, the nurse had a whole sheaf of thermometers. And just the way you take a deck of cards, she'd get us to stand in a circle and do the thermometers as if she was shuffling the thermometers into our mouths. And I got to giggling, and I got into trouble for that with the nurse: “Pipe down! This is not funny! This is very serious!” So we got into the spirit of what military life is sort of like.

And then we really got into the spirit of what we were about to face when they gave us a gas drill. And that is you had to put on a gas mask, and they had mustard gas in this little, it was like a Quonset hut.

[Interview interrupted, tape paused]

LA:

Let's see, we were talking about the gas drill and the mustard gas. We had to walk into it and then put the gas mask on and walk around within the confines of the Quonset hut, and then walk out and take the gas mask off, to get used to how to deal with a gas mask, walking around, putting it on, taking it off. When we got off, it penetrated our clothing so badly and your skin that we just took everything we had on off and tried to wash it. And we couldn't get it out, so we just threw the clothes away. Somehow they were able to salvage the uniforms and do something with them, but the underwear had to be completely gotten rid of.

And that gave us a clue as to how serious it was, and that sometime on these shores there might be an invasion. And people don't realize that. They don't realize, for example, that there were pillboxes all up and down the coast where people were watching for submarines, for airplanes. You can go down to Morehead City and Wrightsville Beach [in North Carolina], and see the remains of old pillboxes that are still there made out of concrete. The same was true all the way up through New England, up to Maine, and in my own home state in Rhode Island.

I think I told in one of the articles that you had about the fact that one of the reasons that I wanted to go into the service was that my dad and I were walking on a beach in Rhode Island and he found a shell and he showed it to me and he said, “Laura, what kind of a shell is this?” And I looked at it, and it wasn't a shell. I majored in zoology, and I know it was a human vertebra, part of a human vertebra. And at that time the submarines were found off the coast of Rhode Island, and they actually were found on a beach in Rhode Island, of which I was very familiar, with explosives. They had gotten off of a U-boat and come ashore. So we were familiar with the fact that many of the ships had been bombed off the coast. So the imminence of war and the idea that perhaps the Germans would be able to come ashore on our shores, was quite different than thinking about a Desert Storm that's over across the ocean.

There were some fun things during the stay in training, in training school, and that was one of the things we went to. A bunch of us from our company went to Boston, [Massachusetts], and because we were in our twenties we were invited by some young men who were in their twenties to go aboard a British frigate. When we were aboard the British frigate we were invited into the officer's mess room, and we went in, and very shortly the door opened and the captain appeared. And he looked immediately at our insignia on our hats and he recognized that it was from the United States. I'm getting ahead of my story, because I was an officer at that time but I was stationed at midshipman school. But what he did, he said, sort of ignoring us, “Gentlemen, turn on the wireless. The King is about to speak.” And the King spoke about the devastation in London and that sort of thing, and it was a very gripping, gripping period because the boys were all glued to it and they were very much interested in his comments. And after that you could see that it was necessary for them to talk with the captain, because they very graciously showed us how to get off of the ship. And I often hope that they didn't get into trouble for inviting us into their wardroom, they called it, their wardroom.

At the end of the three months' training, which was our initial seaman training—I believe it was for one month and then two months for midshipman training—then we graduated and became officers in a very impressive ceremony at a big auditorium at Smith College where Mildred McAfee was the speaker at our graduation exercises. And I can recall one of the things that was so impressive to me. We had been looking at films to get us ready to understand the severity of the war, so we had seen horrible sights taken in war-ravaged parts of Europe. And it was to arouse our anger, as it was for the men in similar training in midshipman school. I can remember Mildred McAfee's talk was rather brief, but she said, “Now just remember, you can hate the sin without hating the sinner.” And that really stuck with us a great deal.

That was the graduation exercises, so let me backtrack and tell you about some of the courses we took. We took ships and aircraft, we took naval history, personnel, and that is so that you could identify people and you understood organizational charts and how one was under the other or one was responsible to the person above them in the organizational charts. And we took ships and aircraft. Let's see, I think I've covered the major courses that we took. There were a couple that were not for the three months. But I can remember how difficult it was to learn about ships and aircraft. That is, we had to learn how much fuel they carried, we had to learn the size of the bulkheads—incidentally, we had a course in which we had to learn navy lingo. And when I went home on leave to see my nephews, who were then ages seven and nine, I said, “Would you like to see my book on navy aircraft?” And they said, “Oh, we don't need that. We have bubble gum cards and we know all the aircraft and we know the speed of the aircraft and what their cruising ranges are.” So I tested them, and they did know, from bubble gum cards. [chuckling] So I got a big kick out of that one.

One of the things that is kind of interesting, I think, in connection with the courses, we had to learn in naval history the quotations from most of the admirals, and of course we had to understand the major wars that we'd gone through and the role the navy played. But I can remember having to learn some of the quotations, such as, “Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!” and other quotes that had cuss words in them. And some of us at that time were a little bit—you know, we thought, “Well, maybe we shouldn't be learning all these things,” that part of the navy lingo.

The course in navy personnel was most interesting because it had to do with how you conducted yourself with other officers, when you saluted and who you saluted, and who got into the elevator first, and who did what. And it was a terribly difficult adjustment for many of us who liked to, and still do—in the service, we just liked to have a man push our chair in. And here we didn't push a man's chair in, but it was a question of who would go first, you know, into a room and that sort of thing. I think that has changed now in the present group of women. If you're an officer that outranks, I think you are treated like a male officer, more like a male officer than we were. But we still wanted to be treated like women.

HT:

Dr. Anderton, when you were stationed at your permanent duty station, were you ever treated unequally with the men who had similar positions to you?

LA:

I'm assuming it was after I left the midshipman school and went to the National Naval Medical Center for the Hospital Corps School.

HT:

Yes.

LA:

I was mainly in there with women, and I could not really say that we were treated any less than the men. In fact, they were very gracious to us, and at night when we had to be at a distant place, the men would make sure that we had escorts in a jeep to the place we had to go. They were very protective of us at the hospital, as they were with the nurses. That was not so at my next station, which was regimental commander at naval barracks,which was located very close to the Lincoln Memorial downtown in Washington, D.C. And there I was in charge, regimental commander in charge, of all of the WAVES that were stationed at various stations, including the large communication unit for all of Washington, D.C. And I was in charge of the women who were in any parades in Washington, D.C., during that time. I think the men treated us very, very well. I didn't feel the competition of the men; instead, I felt their strong arms. At the end of the war I was asked to stay on longer after the war was over, for six months, to discharge the men that were coming back from overseas. And that was one of the things naval barracks did, it got them adjusted to civilian life. It got them out of the navy with all of the physicals and the other things that they had to do, and it got them adjusted to civilian life and gave them the necessary medical help or mental help that they needed at that time.

So, I was asked at naval barracks to take my turn at being officer of the day. And one of the times I remember, a drunken sailor came up to me and shook his fist in my face and he said, “You can give me a leave right now! All you have to do is to sign your name to this paper.” And I turned around, and there was a master-at-arms, a very tall football-looking type master-at-arms in back of me, and I went just the way a twenty-year-old—“Help!” [chuckling] I didn't say “Help!” but I just looked at him and he knew what I meant, and he got out and did the—whatever they call it, getting rid of the fellow in a hurry and talking to him. So I have an idea that the women would now be more trained to handle that sort of thing, but I was not.

And while I was in Washington I had another duty that I had to do. There were some enlisted men that worked at naval barracks, and I was supposed to go with the captain and give an inspection. And that was, you were supposed to look the man up and down, and to see that his nails were clean and that his suit was on properly and his tie was tied right and everything. And I just didn't have the heart to demean the men by having a woman look them up and down, you know, the way their mother might do it. So, I just kind of looked at the men and smiled, and they sort of smiled back. [chuckling] I never was a very good inspection officer because of that. I mean, I thought it was terribly demeaning to look at their nails and everything. If the man wanted to do it, then he could do it, but I just didn't feel as if I should be doing that sort of thing.

HT:

Dr. Anderton, what was the hardest thing you ever had to do physically while you were in the military?

LA:

I think it was the drilling. As a company commander at the midshipman school I had to drill my company, and it required when we passed in review at—every Saturday, the captain, Captain Underwood, who was head of the midshipman school, would have a review and we would have to practice drilling for that, and we would have to also pass in review and do all of the things connected with that kind of thing. And the physical work on that was quite demanding.

I can remember we got to be so good at drilling that we were asked to compete. Our company, Company One, was asked to compete with another company that was supposed to be very good at drilling. There were two methods of drilling. And one woman was a German woman who was head of her company, and she had counted out the number of steps that a person would take, so that they knew exactly the pattern they were going to take. And I took exactly the opposite tack, which was: make them such good marchers that they will take commands, and they will step right out and take it and do it and nobody will make a mistake; and drill them enough so that they'll be perfect at it, which we did. And they didn't make a mistake. And in front of the admiral, who was visiting then, we won the drilling contest. But the drilling contest was very exhausting because it took so much walking and shouting. It was a very difficult thing.

One time when we were in Northampton and we were marching down the street to go from the hotel where that company lived/stayed to the Smith College campus, there were some Japanese people—Japanese-appearing men who started taking pictures, and so I started moving my arms back and forth to blur the vision. Because at that time, I had a company of people who were learning the Japanese language, and we didn't want any of the faces of the people who were learning the Japanese language to be available to anybody. And I had to ask the men for their cameras and their films. And that was kind of a frightening experience because I was in charge of the people and I didn't want any of them to get shot at because they were going to be decoding the Japanese language.

HT:

Were these Japanese POWs [prisoners of war], do you know?

LA:

I don't know. They just looked like Japanese. And we had seen so many pictures of what Japanese looked like, as opposed to Chinese, although the distinction is hard at first. But I think that was one of the things that made me feel that it was an important thing. And my superior officer also was interested and took the film, so it must have been important, I concluded.

HT:

You mentioned that some of your fellow WAVES were learning the Japanese language. Did you learn that as well?

LA:

No, I didn't.

HT:

What was the hardest thing you ever had to do emotionally while you were in the service?

LA:

Emotionally?

HT:

Yes.

LA:

Oh, it was to give death messages to the students, particularly when I was at the National Naval Medical Center in my battalion, and I got to be very close to the girls in the battalion, and I had to deliver death messages for their husbands or their boyfriends.

And one of the girls had extreme pains, abdominal pains, and I thought she was having an attack of appendicitis. So I called the doctor and he said, “Oh, she's perfectly all right. I know, I've seen her.” The doctor was the captain, our captain also, of the corps school, the WAVES Hospital Corps School there, and so he knew about the lady. Well, again I called him, because in the middle of the night the girls came and asked me what could they do, this woman was having terrible abdominal pains. And I thought, “Maybe she does have an appendix that has erupted.” So I called the emergency again and the doctor said, “No, as I told you before, she's upset because her husband is overseas and she hasn't heard from him, and he was reported missing in action, and she's not sure of the missing in action report.”

So, about three days later, I had a telephone call from the Red Cross, and it was that this lady's husband that had been supposedly reported missing in action was in Canada. He had gotten out of a concentration camp, had gone—I don't know how many weeks he'd gone and avoided getting caught in Germany, and he was one of the few people who was able to find his way, and somehow he got into our allies' hands and the Canadians took him out on a ship, and he was then in Canada, calling her from Canada. And the interesting thing was, when I said to her that her husband was on the phone and he was in Canada, she, in all of her pain, writhing, jumped out of the bed and ran to the phone, completely forgot the pain. And when she came out, she seemed to be completely well.

So, I went back to the doctor and I said, “I'm interested in medicine. I don't understand why this—now, was that a figment of her imagination? Was she just putting it on?” He said, “You ought to read this book on psychosomatic medicine.” And he said, “She really had a pain, I believe she really had a pain.” But that shows you the connection between the nervous system and the other parts of the body. It can play havoc with even the digestive system. So that was an interesting experience, but sort of a horrifying experience. But it was so difficult to tell the girls that their husbands had been killed in action. And I was only in my twenties.

HT:

So, you had to tell them personally?

LA:

I had to tell them personally. I was considered the closest one to them, although, you know, I mean, I was the officer over them. And as an officer, I decided that you couldn't be stand-offish. I liked those girls very much, admired them, I respected them. Some of them knew much more about medicine than I did because they had been medical technologists, and I had not as yet gone into my medical part of my training—I mean getting my doctorate in something that could be related to medicine. And these girls, to me, were close friends. So, when I had to show them—when I first went there the barracks was not clean at all, and the other officers prior to that had never done this sort of thing. You're supposed to keep your stripes and your hat on you so that—you know, you're told to let them know we were officers. I took all of that off. I took my coat [off], so I had no insignia on—I looked the way they looked—and rolled up my sleeves, and I even cleaned the johns. I wanted to show them how clean I wanted it to be. And I cleaned the other places that needed to be cleaned up. So, in that way it seemed to me that we became quite close, but always there was just a little bit of a distance that we were told to keep between the personnel. I had to inspect them before they went out on shore leave and make sure they were neat and tidy, and they stood at attention while they were inspected. But a lot of times I'd wink and say, “Have a good time,” or something like that. [chuckling] So very much respected, but I felt very close particularly to them.

HT:

And these were all enlisted personnel?

LA:

They were all enlisted personnel, yes. From the lowest, what they call hospital deuce, HA deuce, hospital apprentice, I guess, would be the term they had in the beginning of their training. Now, after they went through it and got on the job, then they could have been promoted. So they would be a petty officer, and that petty officer would be—you know, they would be an enlisted officer, you might say. But I met many people that I respected tremendously.

But one of the most interesting things that I should mention is that I had the first colored officers, and there in my scrapbook there will be pictures of them. Absolutely brilliant, the two girls that they sent for officer's training, the first two, and I never heard of them sending any more after that. I stayed till the school closed, and so I don't think they had any more that were trained there at Northampton.

But then when I got to Bethesda and the National Naval Medical Center, they had the first four black WAVES that had gone to Hunter College, enlisted WAVES that had gone to Hunter College, that were coming for advanced training. And I met them on the train, and there were only three black ones. I couldn't understand it. So I got a hold of the company commander that was moving them and I said, “I have these three names, where is the fourth?” And she pointed to this girl, and the girl was white. So when I got back, I had been told prior to that by the captain of our unit there at the WAVES Corps School, who was a physician, Captain Brown, and he said, “Now, you've got to be very careful. This is a tricky subject because here these are the first black WAVES to come, and we don't know how they're going to be accepted and what's going to happen.” So, when there were only three, I went to see him and I said, “What are we going to do?” And he said, “Well, I'll tell you what to do. Get the white girl and say, 'With whom would you like to be billeted? Would you like to be billeted with the black girls, or would you like to be billeted with the white girls?'” In other words, how do you want to be treated, black or white? And the girl said, “White.” So there were only three there.

So, the next day the captain met me in the morning and he said, “You know there are photographers who are here to take pictures,” and he said, “and you're in your twenties, and these young men who are going to be taking the photographs are going to try to get all of the WAVES. And you can do anything you want. Take them down to the coffee shop and get them coffee and talk with them, let them dance with some of the girls or something, but don't let them get a picture of the black girl“—Afro-American—”who wants to be considered white.” And the interesting thing is that I was able to keep them occupied so that they never did get a picture of the other girl. So, as far as our station was concerned, they fitted in fine, we had no problems whatsoever, and I don't think we actually would have had problems with the other one. But that shows you the difference in the tenor of the time and in what, in 1999, what our much better relationship with Afro-Americans is in the service and outside of the service.

[End Tape 1, Side A—Begin Tape 1, Side B]

HT:

—any embarrassing moments that you had while you were in the WAVES?

LA:

Yes, I do, and one of them has already been written up, about the victory garden.

HT:

Could you tell us something about that, please?

LA:

Yes. I was a student, it was the first or second day we had arrived, and they wanted to get a student to drill, to take the company to do some drilling on a big field. And when they looked around, I must have been tall and looked as if I might have been a physical education major, but I wasn't. And they said, “Anderton, get out and lead the troops!” And I didn't know how you got them to start walking. So, I went over to a friend of mine who was a physical education major and I said to her, “How do you get them to start?”

And she said, “You say 'Forward, march!'”

So I whispered that, [and] she whispered that to me, so then I shouted as loud as I could, “Forward, march!” And they all started forward. Well, we did fine until we got to the Smith College campus and we started on a pathway that was curved. And so they were taught to walk in a straight line, and up to that point everything had been straight so there was no problem. But when we got to the curve, they continued straight toward the victory garden, and I said, “Stop! Stop!” And of course they didn't stop, they just kept right over the victory garden. They walked over everything, the squash, the tomatoes, the peppers, everything. And finally I went to see my roommate who was the physical education major and I said, “What do you say to get them to stop?”

She said, “Dummy! You say 'Halt. Company, Halt!'”

So I said, “Company, halt!” And they halted. And then all I could remember was, “About face!” So they about-faced, and then I told them, “Forward, march!” And what was not demolished by their first walk over the vegetable garden was completely squashed by the second.

But that was not the worst thing that happened. Because of that, I was in a newspaper article in a newspaper called Suzie Scuttlebutt. Now, scuttlebutt is supposed to be a word that means gossip, and scuttlebutt is also—a scuttlebutt is the water fountain where a lot of the gossip goes around. So, this newspaper Scuttlebutt carried that, and so I got a bad reputation from the drill sergeant as not knowing how to call signals, and yet I still was student company commander.

So, we were going in the spring by this beautiful array of daffodils on the Smith College campus, and just thousands of daffodils were around the border of one of the paths. So, thinking that nobody was around, I said to the troops—I'd learned a lot of the terminology by then for drilling. I said, “Eyes, right! Look at the daffodils.” And they looked at the daffodils, and you could tell they enjoyed it. And I said, “Ready, front!” And the eyes went forward, and then we went on. And very shortly I could hear the steps of somebody coming up in back of me, and it was the drill sergeant. And the drill sergeant said, “What commands did you give?” And I told him. And he said, “Well, that's not a military command.” He said, “I want to tell you, Anderton, you'd better not be calling things of that sort anymore.” So I was really, really on the bad side of the drill sergeant.

But months went on and it went into winter, and we were walking not far from that place where the daffodils were, had been in the spring, and all of a sudden I noticed that all the girls had—their noses were running terribly and they needed to blow their nose. So did I. So I said, “Company, halt!” And, “Parade rest!” Then they got into the position of parade rest. Then I said, “Blow noses, blow!” And then after they had blown their noses, I said, “Attention! Forward, march!” And then I heard the pitter-patter of the feet of the drill sergeant, and he said, “Anderton, what commands did you give?” And I told him. And he said, “I've been telling you not to include that sort of thing.” And I will not tell the rest of the conversation that we had, but it was that I shouldn't do that anymore.

[chuckling]
HT:

Well, that brings up a question I have to ask about your instructors. Were most of the instructors women or men?

LA:

Most of the instructors were women, and they were very well trained. Most of them were college professors. One was a college professor who was a French professor here—not Katherine Taylor [dean of women]—a French and Spanish professor, Virginia Farinholt her name was. She was in the Spanish department here.

HT:

So these ladies were very good instructors, top-notch?

LA:

Yes, most of them college professors, and we really learned. The history professor had been a professor, too.

HT:

And they had been inducted into the WAVES? So they were military as well?

LA:

Yes, they were officers, WAVES officers. And when you would go in, you'd go in with your company and you'd stand at attention until the instructor would say, “Seat your section.” And you would say, “Company One, seats,” and they'd sit down. So it was very formal. The whole thing was very formal.

HT:

So, you marched from chow hall to classroom to barracks, all over the place?

LA:

That's correct. That's right. And a lot of times the barracks at WAVES midshipman school was the hotel and the dormitories in Northampton, the dormitories for Smith College in Northampton.

HT:

Do you ever recall being afraid while you were in the military?

LA:

Yes. [chuckling] I was in Washington, D.C., and I lived with six other WAVES in a big house. We rented a house. And we dated these different fellows, and we would invite them and they'd have dinner, and we had a wonderful time. We enjoyed the other—well, we danced and just had a great time. Also I had a sailboat at that time and we'd go down and enjoy the sailing on the Potomac River. Well, this one time I was sound asleep and my roommate—we had, I think there were something like six rooms, a big house, and my roommate and I were awakened in the middle of the night by the kitchen window being opened. We thought, “There's a burglar. What will we do?” Well, one of the boys had brought his rifle over for us to use in case—if somebody tried to get in and, you know, there was a robber. He was the one who was the civilian and he had brought his rifle over and told my roommate, who had been on the rifle team at the University of St. Louis [Missouri], and she was knowledgeable. So when I heard that, I said, “Well, you're the one who knows how to use the rifle. Why don't you get it and take it downstairs and get rid of the fellow?” She said, “I only know how to shoot in a prone position.” [chuckling] So the rifle wasn't used. But we did sneak downstairs, and there was Court, Courtney. There was Court, and he was sitting in a chair waiting for his girlfriend, who he knew would be coming back at midnight because she was a communicator, and he was just waiting for her to come. You know, perfectly all right. If he'd rung the front doorbell, we—but that was the only time I was frightened.

HT:

That was a rather unusual situation, to say the least. You mentioned the various men, boyfriends, male friends, were they all in the military?

LA:

Yes, except that one fellow. I think my roommate dated the one boy who was not in the military, and he was 4-F, but he was in a position that was very important. I think he was in a position in the navy department, as a civilian in the navy department.

HT:

Can you tell me something about your social life, what you did for fun?

LA:

We had a boat on the Potomac, and frequently we would go down, and after all of the hard things that we had to face, like telling the death messages, it was a lot of fun to get in a roadster. You remember they had a rumble seat in the back in the forties, and two couples of us would go down early Sunday morning, we'd sail all day, have a lunch down there, and—oh, dance and just have a wonderful time, and come back. And I always had to be sure that I came back, because I had to reprimand those who were late. They had to go to captain's mast, and I was in charge of captain's mast. This was now at Bethesda, I'm talking about, or the Washington, D.C., area.

HT:

Do you recall what some of your favorite songs and movies and dances were from that period of time?

LA:

Oh yes. Ned Harrison had some of them. White Cliffs of Doverwas one of them. [chuckling] Mairzy Doats and Dozy Doats,that one that we sang with Ned Harrison when he came to the luncheon. Give me a few minutes and cut and I'll think.

[Tape paused]

HT:

Dr. Anderton, do you recall any more favorite songs or movies from that period of time that stick out in your mind?

LA:

Don't Sit Under the Apple Tree With Anyone Else But Me and I'm Looking Over a Four-Leaf Clover. Right at the moment, I'm drawing a blank on that.

HT:

That's fine, that's fine. A quick question: how long were you in the military? From what periods of time?

LA:

It was almost three years to the day. And it was interesting because we signed up for the duration plus six months. And when the duration began to be two years, and a little over two years, we began to wonder, “Hmm, maybe I shouldn't have signed up.” [chuckling] You began to wonder how long was this all going to be. So I was in—it was almost to the day. I think it was one day less than three years.

HT:

Do you recall which day you entered and which day you were discharged?

LA:

It was in July 1943 to July 1946. I can't remember the exact day in July.

HT:

Did you ever think about making it a career, or was that an option at that time?

LA:

No, I was so anxious to get on with my education, and my father had died and my mother was alone, and I needed to go and make sure that she was all right, take care of her. So, my navy—she became a dependent, and so my—it was important that I get out and do what I had to do at home. But I also went to Brown University [Providence, Rhode Island] to get a master's degree on the GI Bill of Rights.

HT:

I was going to ask you about that. And how long did that take you?

LA:

That took 1946 to 1948, I think it was. Or was it the end of '47? I'll have to check that date, '47 or '48.

HT:

That's fine.

LA:

And when I finished at Brown—I think it was '48, come to think of it. When I finished at Brown University, I was waiting to hear from Wellesley College. They wanted me to be assistant director of admissions at Wellesley, which is what I really wanted, and I didn't hear anything from it. And my WAVES friend in the service, who was Katherine Taylor, Dean of the Woman's College at the University of North Carolina [WC, now The University of North Carolina at Greensboro, UNCG], got on the phone and asked me if I would come, that I could be a counselor and I could teach biology, because I had the training, a master's degree in biology. So she said, “I'm going to stay on the line until you accept.” So, I accepted. And the day after I heard that I was accepted at Wellesley. But I had made a gentleman's agreement to come, and I have never been sorry.

HT:

If we could backtrack just a minute and I'll ask you some more things about Katherine Taylor. When you were in the service, do you think you made a positive contribution to the war effort?

LA:

I always felt that I did. I really did. It was very intense, and I don't know how—I really don't know how I did some of the things that I did. It was very strenuous and very intense. And we all were that way. We put everything we had into it. I mean, it was a spirit that you can't really explain. And we felt—that's part of the camaraderie—we were all in it together. It was so different than the circumstances now. It was as if, if we didn't do our part, then the boys wouldn't be able to do their part. And see, I was training for so much of the time: training people who were going into hospitals, and training the WAVES who were going out to relieve men for duty overseas, and training those people who were going to have a big impact on the medical profession in the navy. So I always felt as if it was an important job, and everybody I met was putting everything they had into it. I don't ever remember anybody who was lax in the navy, I really don't. And the drive that they had, it was as if it was for a cause. We had to get it over with.

And I'll tell you one thing that really got to me. One of the men had come out of a concentration camp. He was an officer and I met him at chow, and we sat at the officers' table in the mess hall. He told me that he had gotten out of a concentration camp, and he said, “Do you know they put the bodies of the Jewish people in these cauldrons and they save the parts of it that they can. They skim off the part they could use for soap.” And it so horrified everybody that was listening to it, the inhumanity of it, the disgusting thing for the Nazis to do, that there was sort of a thing: Let's get rid of this crowd of crazy people! I mean, it was so intense. And I have never felt that intensity of, “Let's get rid of this evil Hitler and all the Nazis and get rid of it.”

HT:

Well, in relation to this, do you recall what the mood or the climate of the country was in general during that period of time?

LA:

I felt as if that was the way they felt. They also felt that way about the Japanese. And of course we saw pictures that were propaganda pictures for us to hate the Japanese. And it's interesting that those hatreds lasted a while. But that's the part that really gets to me. I had no idea. I was raised in a little New England town, in a very religious family, and the idea of anybody hating anybody to the degree that they'd kill them, it was beyond my comprehension. And so, being a part of this and hearing the stories and seeing the boys come back, our age, my age, in their twenties, coming back so broken—down, physically and mentally. I mean, it was such a disgusting thing. And that hatred, it's kind of interesting, gave an impetus to the job we did that I don't see in the present. Nor do I see any kind of a warning that they get, “Let's not go through this again, hating anybody.” Whether it's the Kurds or people in Bosnia and Central Europe, or it's the people in Africa, let's not hate. Let's get over that. It was like a wildfire. I could see it coming, spreading, the hatred and the press about the hatred, and the things that were done, one thing after another, until it built up to a horrible climax.

And that to me is the part that I hope people will remember and will not forget, that you just don't want to get into another situation like that again where anybody has to be killed mercilessly like that because of hatred for some—we've just got to turn it around and try to understand and forgive, and love. And I think that's what the present college generation is about to do. I mean, I think the present college generation is more knowledgeable in psychology and sociology and interpersonal relations. And now with the Internet and the telephones you can call all over, walking around or in your car, I think this is the future. I mean, to me the present college—I look to the present college generation. Some of my colleagues say, “Oh, how could they carry a gun? They're not military at all.” The point of it is, they know about human relations, and I think they're going to—I hope they're going to solve the problems of war before they begin. They're going to get talking in peace conversations.

And that little book there about Czechoslovakia has been fascinating to me, about [Unites States secretary of state] Madeleine Albright's knowledge of what went on in Europe during the war. I had no idea what it was like to be in Europe. I mean, it was bad enough here, but to be in Europe and to appear to be a Jewish person must have been horrible! Unforgivable that we got to that point, that human rights got to that—in my estimation. And we just can't have that happen again. But the present college generation, I think, is in a position to do something very constructive about discussing things with other countries and coming to peaceful solutions to things.

HT:

Well, speaking of Madeleine Albright, Dr. Anderton, did you ever meet any interesting people or famous people while you were in the military?

LA:

Yes, a whole bunch of them. Some of them were—the secretary of state to President Roosevelt, whose name will come to me, but I'm having a senior moment.[chuckling]

HT:

It wasn't Dean Acheson, was it?

LA:

No. Anyway, it will come in a minute. There was a bus strike, and I had to be on duty early in the morning, and I was standing at a bus stop and the bus only came by—they'd cut off some of the buses. And this big limousine came up, and the chauffeur got out and he said, “The secretary of state's wife [Mrs. Cordell Hull] would like you to drive with her. She's going to see the secretary of state, who is in Bethesda. Where are you going?” And I said, “I'm going to the hospital. I work there at the WAVES school.” So, anyway, I got in and I had a wonderful, wonderful talk with her. And then later I met him. And it hasn't come to me yet, but I'll add it in a few minutes.

HT:

Okay, very good. Well, speaking of famous people, what did you think of Franklin D. Roosevelt, the president?

LA:

I thought that he was a brilliant politician and a strong leader. And I admired Winston Churchill [Prime Minister of Great Britain], and the two of them were friends, and I think they did a tremendous amount together to bring about as peaceful a solution as they could. But, yeah, I had a great respect for President Roosevelt's talents.

HT:

What about Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt?

LA:

I did, I saw her one time, I think it was in the Washington airport, and this was after the war. I respected her because of her work in the United Nations. Wasn't she very active at that in the very beginning? You history majors know more about this than I do. But I think she was part of the power behind the throne. I think she helped him a great deal, although his other extracurricular activities [chuckling] were a little different. But anyway, I had respect for him. Of course, he was our commander in chief of the armed services, so we felt that toward him. And I can distinguish, as I think a lot of the people now cannot distinguish, between looking at the president as the President of the United States and looking at the president as some frailties in his personality. A lot of great men have had frailties in their personality, so I can—he was our commander in chief. But anyway—

HT:

Do you recall any heroes or heroines from that period of time?

LA:

Oh yes! Admiral [Chester William] Nimitz was a great—And Admiral [Ernest Joseph] King. But Admiral Nimitz was my great hero. Steel—blue eyes, or gray eyes, and I met him in the—I was in my twenties. I met him in the navy department and I saluted him, a real sharp salute. And I didn't wash that hand for one week. I mean, that's how impressed I was. [chuckling] Somebody said, “Why don't you wash it?” “Hmm-mm, that's the hand that saluted Admiral Nimitz.” So for one week I just didn't wash that hand. But I thought he was a terrific admiral. But we tended to respect admirals like that.

But there were some people in naval barracks that I didn't, some men over me that I didn't respect. One man, when there was a butter shortage and a shortage of beef, asked me to do something, and if I would do it—he was immediate over me in command—that he would give me some beef and he would give me some butter. And I looked him straight in the eye and I said, “Sir, I do not want that. I can't do that, and I can't do it for that sort of thing. I won't take it. And if you leave it at my door, if you have a sailor leave it at my door, I'll send it right back to your office.” And he went like this [facial expression]. He shouldn't have been doing that, giving out food from the commissary for something that he wanted done. And it was something that I would—I would lie about something. I wouldn't want any part of that. My brother had warned me about some of the officers whom you had to be careful about. But anyway, that's the only one that I met that I didn't respect.

HT:

Do you have any special recollections about VE [Victory in Europe] Day and VJ [Victory in Japan] Day?

LA:

Oh, do I ever! I was in Washington and I lived not far from the White House on Riggs Place. And there were quite a few of us WAVES, I think there were seven at that time living there, and we heard about it and got out. And people were—sailors and everybody was shouting, and they were grabbing and embracing everybody and, oh, dancing in the streets and, oh, people jumping on top of automobiles. Because the whole downtown Washington was all crowded with people, traffic couldn't move. We had fun seeing different people, and then after a while it got to be rather tiring, so we got to the edge of the crowd and went back to Riggs Place. But that was a very exciting time. And then it was after that that I had to stay on to see that they were—the men were discharged. The women too, but mainly men went through that naval barracks.

HT:

When you were at the end of your tour of duty, were you encouraged to return to traditional female roles after the war?

LA:

I already had my goal. I knew what I wanted to do. I knew I wanted to get my master's degree and possibly go on. And I had been really spurred on by the hospital, the experience of being at the hospital, and wanted to get more knowledge. And the GI Bill was really such a wonderful opportunity. And that's what I think is great. I mean, the educational opportunities have turned people—I mean, I could not have afforded it. I was in charge of my mother and her welfare, and I had the responsibility. I couldn't possibly have afforded it without the GI Bill. And then that was a steppingstone. So when I came here I was able to get a Fulbright Fellowship and then a Danforth Fellowship to complete my Ph.D. The Danforth completed my Ph.D. at [The University of North Carolina at] Chapel Hill. So, I'm just all for opportunities that the navy gave anyone in the service. And still there are opportunities for them for education. A lot of terrific minds are lost because they don't have the necessary education, and I just think that everybody who can and has a good brain should be able to develop it. And it's the government's responsibility partly, I think. Partly.

HT:

You said you got your master's at Brown?

LA:

Yes.

HT:

Were there other women veterans?

LA:

Oh yes, and men veterans there. We had sort of a veterans group. We had a lot of fun together because we were a little bit older. Instead of twenty-year-olds, we were in our late twenties. You know, eighteen, nineteen, twenty, we were the end of our twenties and we were looked on as being old people. [chuckling]

HT:

Do you think your life has been different because you were in the military?

LA:

Oh, very much different. I think I wouldn't have had the wonderful life teaching and doing research that I have. I've just thoroughly enjoyed it, just thoroughly. I hated to leave it. In fact, I didn't leave it at [age] sixty-five, I stayed till sixty-eight, and I enjoyed the work. And I'm still involved at the college in the gerontology program and some things in biology and women's studies, and I'm still involved in a lot of things. Like I spent the weekend writing letters of recommendation for some people who want to get their doctorate. So, you know, you don't ever—that's the important mission, the education, in my book.

HT:

Do you consider yourself to be an independent person?

LA:

Yes. Well, I don't know what you mean by independent. Independent to the degree that I like privacy so I can write and read. I was one of those people that met a wonderful Marine and fell in love with him, and he was killed. And I just never found another person that quite came up to him. I dated and had a wonderful time, but—so, I threw myself into my profession, and have thoroughly enjoyed it. I don't have any regrets about that. I just have regrets that I didn't have children of my own, but look at all the students I've had—thousands. I used to lecture to 275 at a time. I still write letters of recommendation, and they still come and visit and so forth.

HT:

When you went into the military, did you consider yourself to be a pioneer or a trailblazer or a trendsetter?

LA:

No. I was just interested in the crisis that had blown up. I mean, you could see it all around, even the trains. On a train from Boston to New York, and they had to pull the shades down for a blackout if it was at night, because the submarines, the German submarines, U-boats, were so close. I wanted to help to get the thing over with, and I thought, “I don't want to carry a gun, but I can help in education.” And really, my work was personnel. It was a line officer. I had to write recommendations and I had to evaluate personalities for jobs and that sort of thing. And I loved it. I really enjoyed it.

HT:

Do you consider yourself and other women who joined the military during World War II to be forerunners of what we today call the women's movement?

LA:

Only in part. Ours was not as aggressive. And I have a little trouble with that, even now. I think in history the women of the French salons were very influential in a way that some of the women now have forgotten. Their husbands might have been politicians, but they had these parties and they got people together. And they were the power behind the throne a lot of times; they just didn't take credit for it. And I think my generation tends more or less to be that way.

Let me give you an example. Before I retired, it was sometime in the eighties, early eighties, I was made—I was supposed to carry the mace and—what do you call the person now [marshal]? I was supposed to represent the whole faculty, and I also was supposed to carry the mace. I decided that I would rather walk side-by-side with the head of my department and he carry the mace. He's a tall Texan. He was a tall Texan, and I would just go in beside him. And when the women heard about that on campus they said, “That's ridiculous. You should go to the gym and strengthen your arms so you could carry the mace.” And my point of view is: you don't get the point. I want to make it clear that there's not a distinction in our department, that the men and women get along very well, and I concede that his arms are stronger than mine. I mean, he's a very athletic Texan. And besides, I like walking beside a nice-looking man. And they thought that was horrible. So, you see, that's the difference between—I didn't want to be the one to carry that heavy mace. I really wanted to walk beside him and have him carry the mace.

So now I think the women are much more aggressive. And I find when I talk with them in women's studies that I have a little bit of difficulty because now I can look back and see all the things that happened in my experience. For example, at the hospital I did research with the chief of pathology, a well-known surgeon. The three of us published together. We did a lot of publishing together and we worked on this form of cancer, and we worked on birth defects too at the hospital, the [Moses] Cone Hospital [in Greensboro], and worked with Duke University and Bowman Gray [/Baptist Hospital Medical Center in Winston-Salem], and Wesley Long [Hospital, in Greensboro]. We did things together as a group, as a team. And I'd much rather work as a team. Anyway, I was in a man's world in the navy and I was in a man's world here because there were very few women in my department, in the biology department, at first. And I just find it very nice working with them, although there were times when it was a little bit difficult.

I went away to study a course, to get a course in chromosome techniques, and brought it back, and I was the first one in Guilford County to know about how to do this. So I taught this to the people in the laboratory, and we did the birth defects, analysis of the birth defects by chromosome analysis, for Cone Hospital. When we had a talk with the physicians, that is, when we demonstrated this work and we found a new birth defect, Edwards Syndrome, the obstetricians and pediatricians were there, and they talked all the time about the structure of the heart. At the end of the session, the young interns and residents came rushing up to me and asked, “We'd like to know more about these chromosome studies.” And the chief pathologist was there, and the chief pathologist said to me, “You know, if you would loan me your slides and your lecture notes I can tell these men about it.” Now, the logical thing nowadays would have been the woman would have said, “Oh, I'd be glad to lecture to them.” And I would have been glad, but the woman's place was underneath. It was a little bit different than it is now. So, I have been where there's been quite a change in the way things have happened in the medical profession, and I don't exactly like all of the extremely aggressive things that the women are doing now.

I also take the point of view that I don't think women should go into battle. I really don't think they should go into battle. I just hate that idea.

HT:

You know, recently during—I think it was December of '98, which was not that long ago, some women were fighting over in Iraq and went into battle. So you don't agree with that at all? You would not agree?

LA:

Well, I find it difficult to accept the idea that they could be taken prisoner and taken advantage of. I really do. I like to see the role. I guess I think more in terms of the way it was in World War II when women helped the men. But it's just something I haven't resolved in my own mind. And I tend to be more aggressive than I was, but some of the women are too aggressive now, I feel.

[End Tape 1, Side B—Begin Tape 2, Side A]

HT:

Dr. Anderton, a couple more questions before we finish this interview. One of them is do you recall how women were perceived—by the general public, by their families, and by men—who joined the military during World War II? Just the general perception of what type of woman would want to join the military, was that a proper role for a woman, and that sort of thing.

LA:

A lot of people were against women joining the military service, but what they didn't realize was—A lot of people do not realize that Harriet Elliott [Dean] and Mildred McAfee had a great role in seeing to it that the women were treated quite differently than the men, according to certain psychological, and you might say sociological, habits. And one of the things was that the barracks of the women were designed so that you could have more privacy. It was believed, and I still think it's true, that women like a little more privacy in the barracks. So the barracks that I had to deal with, that I was in charge of, had cubicles. There was a big open part on one side, but it was arranged so that there were four people to one cubicle, and the people in this cubicle over here couldn't see what was going on here—you know, when they were dressing and so forth. And they had the units of four like that so there was that kind of privacy. Men's barracks are open.

Mildred McAfee and Harriet Elliott, when President Roosevelt asked them to set these things up, also had other things that were designed—there were high standards as far as their dress was concerned. I had to examine them when they went out, and they couldn't have untidy clothes on and they couldn't look as if they were streetwalkers. They had to look attractive, and we saw to it that that was the case.

And there were regulations. They didn't want people who had VD [venereal disease], gonorrhea or syphilis, for example. If they had a positive test for that, they tended to try to—I can't remember all the details about this, but they discouraged them from continuing in that way, in their habits, and they also got rid of some of them, and they didn't take them in if they did have any indication of venereal disease.

Then when I was an officer in Washington at naval barracks—[chuckling] imagine this, if a male officer and a female officer who weren't married were found in the same room, the woman had to—WAVES for example, or—I don't know whether the army did this, I know it was true in the WAVES, the woman had to go and she was given a test and—anyway, that whole thing was frowned on. Of course, now today people are much more promiscuous than that and a lot of it goes on, to the degree that even UNCG hands out birth control pills. [chuckling] So the times have changed. The times have changed.

HT:

Right. You had mentioned Harriet Elliott. Do you recall what her part was in starting the WAVES?

LA:

All I know is that she was asked by President Roosevelt to set up guidelines for the women in the service, and from then on I just don't know. You just have to go to some of that—now, there's a lot on, used to be on microfiche, on the tape, and I'm sure that now it's available in some other form, maybe on the Internet.

HT:

I've heard her name mentioned several times in connection to the WAVES, but I've never figured out exactly what she did to help start the WAVES.

LA:

No, and I think it was more general. It was the women's services in general, the things she had to look out for. But a lot of those things have tempered with the changes in times, and I guess you just have to dig to find out examples, when you contrast one with the other, now with the World War II period.

HT:

I was reading recently there was a huge scandal in the summer or spring of 1943 started by men in the army against WACs [Women's Army Corps], women who joined the WACs at that time, giving them a very bad reputation. Did you run across any of that sort of thing while you were in the navy?

LA:

Well, [chuckling] we thought the regulations were not as good for the WACs. We had a song, and I won't sing it because I'm not in voice and it wouldn't be good, but the song said, “Now I am an ensign, now I can relax. Glory be to God that I didn't join the WACs.” [chuckling] So, that's what we thought of the WACs. But, you know, we had a lot of friends who were in them, and there were some certainly fine people, but the selection was much more intense for the WAVES.

And let me mention one other thing. I had to write a lot of evaluations of people. I taught a class in navy leadership, and one of the things, one word that sort of keys the whole thing, if the girl was officious in Officer's Candidate School, that was very much against her, if she was officious. That is, she was so aggressive that she would blurt out and try to dictate to the people under her command. We didn't want that kind of a leader. We wanted a kind of a leader who commanded respect, who was dignified. And in the navy leadership books that I still have, it was that people, that your troops respect you because of you, you're a leader. And officiousness in that drill sergeant that I had would have been considered a bad leader. I mean, he was just too aggressive and too dictatorial. There's sort of a quiet dignity that—and that's what we liked about the admirals that we admired so much. There seemed to be a quiet dignity about them, and they were in charge of things but they didn't demean people. It was a type of leadership that was quite different. And I think that really permeated—that really permeated the way the WAVES were run. The people I met were just wonderful people. And I did meet some WAVES that were kind of dictatorial and—

HT:

You had mentioned Katherine Taylor earlier. Of course there's the connection to Woman's College there. Do you recall how you met her and under what circumstances?

LA:

Very well. She was a student in my company, Company One, at Northampton, and she was to be my student officer of the day. I was the officer of the day and she was the student officer of the day that was working with me in the Northampton Hotel before the whole battalion. I looked up her record and found out that she'd been a French professor and had been acting dean here at the university, well, Woman's College at the University of North Carolina. When I met her and I saw the way she did things, she was wonderful! She not only revised some of the things that we did, she was perfect in her work. She did all the things she was supposed to do, but she revised the way in which things could be done more efficiently. So, when the day was over, and the drill master was also the male officer of the day, he said to me, “Anderton, what grade do you give her?” And I said, “4.0,” which is the highest. He said, “That's ridiculous. All the people who have 4.0 are in heaven. Now, tell me, what is she worth?” I said, “Sir, she's worth 4.0. She not only did a perfect job of her work, but she did something that we're going to be using here for a long time because it's much more efficient than anything we have done.” And I said to him, “Now you are my senior officer, you can change the grade, but as far as I'm concerned, I'm reporting a 4.0.” I never knew whether he changed it, but I don't think he did. But that was the kind of person she was.

And it was interesting that when I went to the WAVES Hospital Corps School at Bethesda, she was sent to understudy me with how we ran a school of that sort because she was going to start the one at Great Lakes near Chicago. And we had a wonderful time talking. She just flew in there, she had so many hours. She flew in, and I got all this stack of papers that showed how the thing was organized and everything. And typical of Katherine Taylor—if you'd known her you would have liked her—we didn't spend time talking about the details, we talked about the philosophy and how it differed from a college or a university. We spent the whole time talking about the philosophy of running it and what some of the major pitfalls are. And of course we were in touch by mail and by phone after that, but I just gave her lock, stock, and [barrel] and said, “Read this on the plane and you'll get the gist of a lot of what we're doing.” So when the war was over, my mother had died shortly after I was at Brown University, she got on the phone and she was able to convince me to come down here. And I've never been sorry.

HT:

At that time she was dean of women, is that correct?

LA:

Yes, Harriet Elliott died the year that I came. She died in the summer or spring of 1948, and I came in the end of the summer of 1948.

HT:

Do you recall what the college was like in the late forties when you first got here?

LA:

Oh, very much so. Three thousand people, three thousand students. It was a girls' institution. And the other thing about it that was unusual and I never understood, was that there were gates that were up at night for the campus. And I didn't know whether it was to keep the boys out or the girls in, or what. What was the purpose of the gates? They were always locked. A big lock was put up.

HT:

There wasn't a fence around the campus, though, was there?

LA:

No, but driving, they couldn't drive through. I never could figure that one out.

HT:

Do you recall Dr. [Walter Clinton] Jackson [WC chancellor]?

LA:

Very well, very much so.

HT:

He was still around at that time?

LA:

Yes. He was beloved. A very good history professor. I mean he had been a history professor. And I worked with him and with his wife. They liked to think of themselves as being the Wellesley of the South, and indeed they had Mildred McAfee come. And you can find that. There's an alumni program, a whole booklet that comes telling about her address and everything. You could find that and what she said, which might be a good source for you to look into. But they thought of this as being Wellesley of the South. And in many ways, the way that they conducted things was very similar to the way it was at Wellesley.

For example, at Wellesley and here, you can invite people to dinner, faculty members at dinner, and then talk with them afterward, so that your friends could all discuss in the living room what was going on, the living room of the dormitory. And Wellesley was very much that way. So particularly with philosophers and historians it was great. In the early days we had Arts Forum and Social Science Forum, which were very, very popular. At that time, they also had the forerunner of what the colleges are here. You know the colleges that I'm talking about, the two where they live in with the students? Which are the ones now they have?

HT:

The resident colleges?

LA:

Yeah, the residential colleges.

HT:

Mary Foust [Residence Hall] is one.

LA:

Mary Foust. There's another one, though, and that one is over near the infirmary. I gave a lot of books to that just a year or so ago. But anyway, the idea was started with Harriet Elliott, and Katherine Taylor followed it, and that is that the dormitory should be not only where you live and wash and eat and that sort of thing—not so much eat, now there's a dining hall, but where you live, but it should be where you get some intellectual stimulation. So, after the forums, the Arts Forum and the Social Science Forum, the speakers would be invited there and/or faculty members, and then we'd all discuss the issues. So that you'd gather around, and people sitting on the floor and just, maybe bring in some coffee or something and just have a ball discussing. And that was the way Wellesley was. And that same kind of spirit, when you go over to Moore-Strong-Moore-Strong Residence Hall is the other one—you find that same thing. They get together and have tea and they have Coke and everything and cookies and sit around with their faculty members and discuss things, because I've been over to some of those discussions. The same kind of thing was what Harriet Elliott started.

When I was here the first year as counselor, we were invited to go to Chicago to a deans convention. I went with Prondecki, the one that started—Elvira Prondecki who was head of the student union, Elliott Hall. We went up to the deans conference and found out that we were way ahead of all of the colleges and universities in the country because that was the type of thing we did. A lot of the state schools, you know, we were way ahead of them, that intimate, discussing things and making academic life be right in the dormitory. So, Katherine Taylor carried that on, but it was started by Harriet Elliott. And now they don't realize at the two residence colleges that it was done much earlier.

HT:

Dr. Anderton, is there anything else you'd like to add about your military service before we finish the discussion?

LA:

I can't think of anything. I think I've gone over a good many things, unless you think of something.

HT:

I really can't right now. Is there anything else that you'd like to add about your post-military life at Woman's College and at UNCG that we haven't covered, about your work, about some of the people who were there during the late forties and fifties and sixties, just in general and very briefly?

LA:

We had a young instructors club that was a research—it was a club that included so many of the people that became famous, like the head of the art department and the head of the english department. They became the heads of these departments. And we got together and discussed our research. The research had to be discussed in such general terms that somebody outside of your field could appreciate it, and we found this was a terrific opportunity to get a new look at your discipline. And so the historians were listening to the way scientists worked on their discipline and so forth. I can give you the names of those, but not right now, I'm getting tired.

HT:

Thank you so much, Dr. Anderton. I don't want to tire you out, so we'll just close it for today.

LA:

Okay.

HT:

Thank you again so much. I really appreciate it.

LA:

Yeah, and I can add some of these things, if you'd like. Anyway, I'll add them and give them to you.

HT:

Very good.Thanks again.

LA:

Sure.

[End of Interview]