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The Betty H. Carter Women Veterans Historical Project

Oral history interview with Lucile Griffin Leonard, 1999

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Object ID: WV0028.5.001

Description: Chiefly documents Lucile Griffin Leonard’s education at the Woman’s College of the University of North Carolina (now the University of North Carolina at Greensboro) in the late 1930s and early 1940s and her service as a hospital dietitian with the U.S. Army in Africa and Italy during World War II.

Summary:

Leonard comments at length about her experiences at the Woman’s College. She describes working to pay for her tuition; social life, including the Civic Music Program, movies, and dating; curfews and dating rules; sleeping on the porches of Kirkland Hall; the dairy farm; the daisy chain tradition; and working in the home economics cafeteria. She also recalls memorable professors, including Miss Stancil, Margaret Edwards, Dean Harriet Elliott, and Katherine Taylor.

Topics related to the Leonard’s military service focus on her time with the army in Africa and Italy. Leonard remembers telling her mother she was going overseas; her living conditions and social life on the Louis Pasteur; meeting a boy from home in Casablanca; helping the Post Office while waiting for orders in Casablanca; the destruction of Bizerte, Tunisia; working in a tent hospital; working in a French hospital in Naples; rationing food in the army; social life overseas, including playing softball, plane rides, USO shows, dances, and trips to Switzerland and Rome; flying in a B-17; work schedules at Camp Butner and overseas; and her fears and lack of fear while in the army. She also provides opinions about President Franklin Roosevelt and Eleanor Roosevelt and her uncertainty about Harry Truman.

Leonard also discusses the advantages of her military service, including increased independence; her opinion of women in combat positions; and the Women in Military Service for America (WIMSA) memorial.

Creator: Lucile Scott Griffin Leonard

Biographical Info: Lucile “Lucy” Griffin Leonard (1920-2006) of Sanford, North Carolina, served as a hospital dietitian in Africa and Italy while in the U.S. Army from 1943 to 1945, and later as a dietitian at UNCG and in N.C. public schools.

Collection: Lucile Griffin Leonard 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:

HERMANN TROJANOWSKI:

My name is Hermann Trojanowski and today is January 29, 1999. I'm at the home of Mrs. Lucy G. Leonard in Lexington, North Carolina, to conduct an oral history interview for the Women Veterans Historical Collection at UNCG [University of North Carolina at Greensboro].

Mrs. Leonard, thank you so much for talking with me today. Could you tell me briefly about your life prior to entering the service during World War II, such as where you were born, where you grew up, if you worked prior to entering the service, what type of work you did—?

LUCILE LEONARD:

I was born in Sanford, North Carolina, and the name Lucy is a nickname. My legal name is Lucile, spelled with one L. I went to Woman's College [of the University of North Carolina, now UNCG] and finished in 1941, and then worked for the Dairy Council in Durham, North Carolina, and traveled six counties. Tires were at a premium, cars were at a premium, gas was at a premium, and they needed a hospital dietitian at Camp Butner [North Carolina], which was about fifteen miles out of Durham. So that's how I decided to go out there, and to get off the road, stop traveling. That was in—gracious, September, I believe, of '42, and in March of '43 they ran short of volunteer dietitians and physical therapists overseas. So they passed a bill in Congress to commission dietitians and physical therapists.

We applied and were commissioned. And then I got my overseas orders in September of '43 and went to North Africa, landed in Casablanca [Morocco], and was assigned to the 81st Station Hospital, which was in Bizerte [Tunisia], out on Hospital Road. We were in North Africa—Gracious, when did we go to Italy? Forty-four? I'll say in the spring of '44, maybe in the summer of '44. We moved to Italy, to Naples, and we were there until—I've lost some of these dates. We moved into Leghorn, Livorno [Italy], and that's where we were when VE [Victory in Europe] Day came. I was transferred out because the doctors figured that the hospital was going to get a direct order to the Pacific, and they felt that any of us who had been overseas, particular any of the girls who had been overseas for two years, needed to come home, not to go to the Pacific. Some wanted to. So I was reclassified and sent down to Naples, back down to Naples, to the 300th General. And the 81st did get direct orders to the Pacific, and they were in the Mediterranean when VJ [Victory in Japan] Day came. They opened their sealed orders on the ship and they came straight home. So they got home a long time before I did, needless to say. [chuckling] They came home in August of '45, I didn't get home until November of '45. But that's generally, you know, where I traveled in the service.

HT:

That's very interesting. If we could backtrack just a little bit, you went to Woman's College in Greensboro?

LL:

Yes.

HT:

And when did you graduate and what was your major?

LL:

I graduated June 2nd of '41, and my major was home economics, institution management.

HT:

Did you work prior to entering college, or during college?

LL:

I worked during the time I was in college. Twenty-five cents an hour was the way I worked my way through college. [chuckling] Worked in the nursery school primarily, in the home ec[onomics] department. At that point, the tuition at Woman's College was $340 a year. That included everything but books and lab fees. So the twenty-five cents an hour was great pay. It doesn't sound like much today, but it was great pay in those days. And like I say, when I graduated in June of '41, I interviewed in Durham—I'll say in July for this job with the Dairy Council, accepted the job. It was a traveling job. I did not have a car and did not know how to drive. [chuckling] I had six weeks before I went to work.

HT:

If we could backtrack just one more second back to Woman's College, do you recall any specific—What were the outstanding events on the college campus during the time that you were there in the late thirties and early forties?

LL:

Well, back in those days, we were thrilled to death with the—What did they call it? The Civic Music Program, I guess, where the national and internationally known people came in. We had formal dinners that night and went to the concert in an evening gown, and we were taught those kind of niceties of life.

HT:

The social graces of life.

LL:

The social graces of life that are not there anymore. But we thoroughly enjoyed it. And we had marvelous programs, just marvelous programs. They also, between my sophomore and junior year, bought a movie projector for the auditorium, for Aycock [Auditorium], like they use in the movie theaters, and could show the movies. They added one dollar to each tuition—my junior and senior year it was $341—to pay for this movie projector. It was free to all the students, your dates were ten cents a ticket. It was pretty cheap to have a date on Woman's College campus back then.

HT:

Of course, no one had a great deal of money.

LL:

No, they didn't. Some of the boys from Carolina [the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill], [North Carolina] State [University] and Duke [University] who would come, anybody who had a car, the boys who needed a ride would pay them to bring them. We had a tremendous number of boys on that campus on the weekends.

HT:

And where did they stay?

LL:

I don't know. Went back to Chapel Hill, I reckon, and came back the next day if they were coming, you know. There wasn't anywhere for them to stay. And like I say, I remember one boy that we all knew, in fact he ended up as a pharmacist at home later on, he had a car and he would come and bring his books and find him a dormitory that there was nothing going on in the parlor and he would study while the other boys were out dating. And then he'd take them back, take them home when they got through with their dates. Because, gracious, they closed up the doors at eleven o'clock, even Saturday night. It wasn't the same world. We had to be in our dormitory during the week, I think, at 10:30, maybe it was ten o'clock. The doors were locked. And Saturday night, maybe it was 11:30 Saturday night and eleven o'clock Sunday night. That was it, the doors were locked. And you had written permission from home as to who you could go out with. Those were different days.

HT:

They were different days. [chuckling]

LL:

Those were different days. [chuckling]

HT:

Well, do you recall any of the counselors or instructors, professors that stand out in your mind?

LL:

Miss [Iona] Grogan was our counselor in East [Residence Hall] it was then. It's since been named Coit [Residence Hall]. Iona Grogan. I think her name was Iona. What was the little lady in Kirkland [Residence Hall]? Miss [Annie B.] Funderbunk was in Mary Foust. Who was the little lady in Kirkland? A teeny little bitty lady. I can't recall her name.

HT:

Well, we can add that later on.

LL:

Okay.

HT:

Were there any specific incidents that you can remember about dorm life that stand out?

LL:

Not particularly. Well, yes, when I lived in Kirkland my junior and senior year, we slept out on the porches upstairs. They had big porches. They've since been torn down. They were over where the entrance is into the dining room, where the&—

HT:

Right, where the fountain is now.

LL:

Where the fountain is. That's where they were. And Woman's [Residence Hall] and Kirkland were just alike, and they had three porches, a big porch in the center and a small porch on each end. And my roommate and I got—You had to go to school a little bit early to get your bed, I think, because there wasn't space for everybody that wanted to be out there. We made our beds up together as a double bed so that you slept warmer with another body. And our junior year we had snow in January and everything got wet, so we had to move in. And then it was too cold to move back out by the time we got everything dry, because there was nowhere in the dormitory to dry sheets and blankets and quilts and that kind of thing.

HT:

So you slept out on the dorm porch from September until November, or January?

LL:

January. And our senior year we stayed the whole year. We didn't get snowed on. We slept the whole year our senior year out on the porch. Good, good sleeping.

HT:

I guess this did give you more room in your dorm room to do other things, for studying, etcetera, right?

LL:

A little bit. We had two beds on the porch and one bed in the room. [chuckling] Like I say, things were different back then. I was at school when the Orson Welles thing came along. I can't think, it was sophomore year, so it was what, '38 or '39?

HT:

That was the The War of the Worlds, wasn't it?

LL:

The War of the Worlds. But I had gone home that weekend, and I was on my way back that Sunday night on the bus and I missed the excitement of it. But it turned over that campus, if you can imagine what would have happened.

HT:

I understand it was a scare all over the United States.

LL:

It was, it was, it was, but particularly that many people together, it was quite a frightful thing. I think they were settled down somewhat when I got home. I don't remember having been that scared of it when I got there, but it had really stirred up the entire campus that night.

HT:

And you say you were coming from your home from Sanford?

LL:

From Sanford to Greensboro on the bus, and we didn't know about it until we got back to school.

LL:

Vacations weren't as good back then as they are today. If we'd had television in World War II, we'd have never won it. [chuckling]

HT:

Did you go home quite often when you were in college?

LL:

No. No, not really. We weren't allowed to go home until Thanksgiving our freshman year. I gained seventeen pounds between going to school and Thanksgiving. I met some people on the street at home who didn't speak to me because they didn't know who I was, I had gained so much weight.

HT:

Was the food that good?

LL:

No, it's just the regular hours, and I ate three meals a day. Now some people don't, but I've always eaten three meals a day. It's the only way to live. [chuckling]

HT:

Well, speaking of food, how was the food on campus in those days?

LL:

Very good. Oh, we talked about the billy goat they served. You know, we were kids. That was lamb and we called it billy goat. Back then they had their own dairy farm, you know, they made their own ice cream. We had a daisy chain for the sophomore class for graduation. We went out—The trucks, the laundry trucks and whoever else took us out. I don't know how we all rode, but the trucks went out with the laundry baskets and we got in a field and picked daisies and put them in our laundry baskets and went back and made the daisy chains. And they had cleared space in the refrigerators downstairs for us to put them. There were two fifty-foot daisy chains. They were gorgeous things. But you know, we've lost a lot of those pieces.

HT:

The traditions and things.

LL:

Yes, the traditions that were lost between Woman's College and [its change to] UNCG.

HT:

Can you explain to me the daisy chain tradition a little bit for me?

LL:

Okay, the daisy chain, sophomores made the daisy chain and carried it. It was used for Class Day. I don't know whether they have Class Day anymore. We had Class Day at that time out on the front campus in front of McIver [Building]. Not in front of McIver, in front of what, the administration building. What is it, Foust [Administration Building] now?

HT:

It's Foust now.

LL:

Okay, it was just the administration building then, it wasn't named. Down in that, the folks sat or stood, I don't remember, on that hill, and then there's a level space down in there and that's where Class Day was. Now, you wore white dresses and you had a white towel on your shoulder because those daisy chains were damp. Well, I know the year I was working on the daisy chain we had had rain before we cut them. And of course when you go and cut that many daisies you're going to get some dirt, so that they were not the whitest things in the world. [chuckling] Anyway, you carried a white towel, and the daisy chain lay on your shoulder. And I don't remember how many girls it took, but right many to carry a fifty-foot chain. And they were on each side of that aisle as the class came down. And then for baccalaureate ceremony and for graduation that daisy chain was used, and then discarded.

HT:

That's very interesting. Do you remember any of your professors that stand out in your mind?

LL:

Well, I guess as a dietitian we all remember Miss Stancil, S-t-a-n-c-i-l. She was our—godmother, really, [chuckling] down in the cafeteria. We had a home economics cafeteria at that time. It has since been closed because there is no institution management training going on. We had a full cafeteria, and in our training we learned all of the intricate parts of running one: bookkeeping, buying, managing, the whole bit. And everybody—it was open to the faculty or people from town who wanted to come in there. It was a marvelous thing. We had a good time with it.

Let me see, Miss [Margaret] Edwards, of course, was head of the home ec[onomics] department. She was delightful. Gosh, who else was there? That's been a long time.

HT:

How about people from the administration, like [Dean] Harriet Elliott and Dr. [Walter Clinton] Jackson [chancellor]?

LL:

Oh yes. Well, I got to know Miss Elliott. I went back as an assistant dietitian after I got out of—after I came out of the army. So I really got to know Miss Elliott then. She was a delightful person. She really was. She's the one that when she first got there and they said one of the girls had run off or something, so she went down to New Guilford [Residence Hall] to see what the situation was. And she said, “I got down there and I walked in the front door, and here was a cord hanging down with one light bulb on it, and so forth and so forth, and I didn't blame her. I believe I'd have left, too.” And that's when our dormitories got the refinishing and refurbishing that they needed to make it look like home. That came [from] Miss Harriet Elliott. She was marvelous.

I was also there when President [Franklin D.] Roosevelt called her to be on whatever committee it was that she was on for him. Now that stirred up the campus too, because it was unusual to have that kind of thing happen. She was a dynamic person. And she said she had had to make herself create that ability in herself. But she could call most of those students by their first name, the ones she met on campus anyway. Which with two thousand girls is remarkable. She was great. Miss Taylor was&—

HT:

That's Katherine Taylor, I guess?

LL:

Yes. She was there as a counselor in the dormitory. She was at New Guilford when I was there. She later took Miss Elliott's place. Mr. Claude Teague was there at the time I was there, as comptroller. And of course Dr. Jackson. He was a love. He was chancellor.

HT:

I think everyone loved Dr. Jackson.

LL:

Yeah, they did.

HT:

That's what I've heard.

LL:

Yeah, they did. And Dr. [Frank Porter] Graham at Chapel Hill.

[interview interrupted, recorder turned off]

LL:

Do you have another question? I can't think of anybody else.

HT:

Okay, could you tell me why you joined the particular branch of service that you did?

LL:

Because I was at Camp Butner under civil service, and the Army was there and they were going to commission dietitians, the army was. Our TO [technical order/theater of operations?] called for fourteen dietitians, and there were four of us there, so we figured we weren't going anywhere. Well, I was commissioned in March and left in September to go overseas. [chuckling] It was Camp Butner's time to give up somebody to go overseas. Evidently every hospital, every army base or whatever—You know, it was an allocation type thing, and it was just Camp Butner's time to give up one. I was the youngest one there, and Major Burns, who was mess officer, thought I was the youngest so therefore he'd keep the more experienced ones if he didn't get a replacement.

HT:

What type of facility was Camp Butner?

LL:

It was technically built to be a veterans' hospital after the war. It was a marvelous place. It was being built when I went there. It was not totally completed when I went there. And it was a marvelous setup. But when they built that hospital they used wooden beams inside, so when the war was over the [Veterans Administration] would not accept it. It needed steel beams to be accepted by Veterans, and that's how North Carolina was able to get it. Are you familiar with Camp Butner?

HT:

Yes, I've been there.

LL:

Okay, that's how North Carolina got it was because, having been built with wooden beams instead of steel beams, the Veterans Administration would not accept it.

HT:

Could you tell me some of the things that you did professionally while you were at Camp Butner?

LL:

[chuckling] Nothing other than feed those kids. Like I say, there was only what? There were only two of us there when I went, and then the third and the fourth came after I got there. And then one of them didn't pass the physical to be commissioned, so she was put in the officers' mess and the other three of us stayed in the patients' mess. We had a large hospital. I wish I knew the capacity of it. I don't.

It was interesting, when I left there to go overseas, I had to sign an affidavit before I left that I wouldn't tell anybody where I was going and for what. I'd never been anywhere in my life that somebody didn't know where I was. So I had a friend there who had trained in the Norfolk, Virginia, area. So I told her where I was going. I was going to Hampton Roads [Virginia], and she trained—I think she trained in Portsmouth [Virginia], I believe is where she was, so she understood the area. And I said, “King, this is where I'm going. I've never been anywhere in my life somebody didn't know where I was.” [chuckling] Because I was leaving by myself. So, when I got to Patrick Henry, Camp Patrick Henry, which is where I went, the next one that came along drove up to the front door. Her mother and daddy brought her to the front door. So it was a difference of interpretation of the camps, of the hospital she'd come from and the hospital I had come from. But I had signed an affidavit saying I wouldn't tell anybody, and here her mother and daddy brought her to the front door. So, you know, this is the way the army works. You know, if you've been there. [chuckling] Interesting.

HT:

You said you were commissioned. You were commissioned an officer, is that correct?

LL:

Yes, a second lieutenant.

HT:

Second lieutenant. So were you considered a WAC [Women's Army Corps] or what—?

LL:

No, I was an army dietitian in the hospital. Army hospital dietitian.

HT:

Was that a separate service, or—?

LL:

Yes. We wore the caduceus just like the doctors. The doctor had an MD on his, we had an HD on ours, Hospital Dietitian. I don't know whether I have one of those or not.

HT:

And what was the chain of command? I mean, to whom did you ladies report?

LL:

The mess officer.

HT:

So you weren't part of the nurse corps or the WACs?

LL:

No, no, no, we wore the nurses' uniforms.

HT:

Oh, you did?

LL:

We wore the nurses' uniforms, yes, but we were not in the nurse corps. We were a separate corps. I don't know what their serial numbers were. Mine was R-500. Ours was R-498, R-499, and R-500, and I caught the 500 for me, but the other two girls got 498 and 499. So the whole thing, no, we were separate, a separate group in the medical field.

HT:

And to whom did you report once you arrived at your new duty station, the head of the hospital?

LL:

Yeah. Colonel [Robert A.] Kimbrough [Jr.] was our hospital commander all the time we were overseas, and I guess I reported to him when I got to Bizerte. Because like I say, I went over as a casual. That's what they termed—We had eight dietitians and five physical therapists in our group going overseas. Well, we knew before we left Patrick Henry where we were going, because we had also a group in that prefab hut that were French, French Red Cross. I guess they were French from this country who were headed to North Africa to join the French Red Cross. They were either going to land in Oran [Algeria] or Casablanca [Morocco], they weren't sure which, but they knew that's where they were going. So we knew before we left here where we were headed. [chuckling] And we went over on the Louis Pasteur.

HT:

That was the name of the ship?

LL:

Yes. It had been a British liner. We had a British crew. We had a dance on board going over. We had five thousand troops on that thing, and it was normally for seven hundred fifty cruise people. And the officers on that thing, I can't remember where the band came from. We had a band. We had evening dresses on. “What are you talking about? [clapping her hands] Going overseas to fight the war!”

HT:

In evening dresses.

LL:

In evening dresses! Yes, law!

HT:

How long did it take you to make the—

LL:

Four, five, or six days. That thing went twenty-three knots an hour, which was a fast ship. We went by ourselves. We weren't in a convoy. We went by ourselves because it could outrun anything we would meet.

HT:

Do you recall which year and what month that was?

LL:

Yeah, September of '43—in the heat of everything, when you think back. Yeah, they said we could—We were in a stateroom that was a stateroom for two, and we had eight dietitians and five physical therapists in there. We had thirteen girls in there, three decks high, and one bathroom that was normally a bathroom for two. Oh yeah.

HT:

That must have been an interesting journey.

LL:

It was! You slept in your fatigues because we might have some trouble during the night, and your boots and everything, you know.

HT:

You didn't take your boots off during the night?

LL:

I don't think we did. I don't think we took anything off. We changed during the day. I learned that when I broke my collarbone, that to sit up at night you were better off not to have to change clothes any more than you had to with a broken collarbone. But you changed during the day and then you slept in your clothes at night, and that's what we did going overseas, you see. We had one girl that was so seasick, bless her soul. They finally got her up on board to get some fresh air. But the fresh air didn't really help her. It and the dry crackers didn't help. She was sick all the way. I never felt so sorry for anybody. The rest of us played bridge all the way.

HT:

I was just going to ask you what did you ladies do for fun, but you played bridge and went to a dance.

LL:

Yeah. On the decks, the—What were they? Isn't that awful? Some of these things I've lost. I haven't talked about them in years. Your lifeboats. Your lifeboats were stacked three or four or five high. Well, if you stack them here and here and there and there, there's a hole right here that in between them this way could—There was a hole that somebody [could] sit, and the middle was the table, and you put a blanket or a towel or something down in there. And you couldn't sit like that long because your knees would cramp and your legs would cramp, so you rotated. And when you got stiff, you'd holler for somebody to come and relieve you so you could get up and stretch. And somebody else was standing there waiting on your place. We played bridge all the way over and all the way back that way, in between the things, the lifeboats. Interesting.

[interview interrupted, recorder paused]

LL:

—in Casablanca, and we were there—I guess we were there three weeks. Because the first orders that came through, I don't remember now which they were. They were for thirteen dietitians or thirteen PTs [physical therapists], and there were eight dietitians and five physical therapists. So those orders had to be changed. The first Sunday we were there—We were staying in a hotel, we all had two to a room. There were eight dietitians of us. I don't know where the physical—I don't remember the physical therapists after we got to North Africa. After we got to Casablanca, I don't remember where they were.

But the first Sunday we were there we went to church, a friend of mine that I was rooming with, and on the way home we were standing waiting to cross the street, and this six by six [truck] passed. And this boy was sitting on the back, and he hollered and I hollered, and the truck driver stopped. And it was a boy that lived about two blocks from me at home in Sanford. He was in Casablanca, had been there a good while. He was with the Postal Service. So they needed a lot of help in directing mail, and our hotel was just down the street from where they worked, so we went down every day and helped them direct mail. And it gave us something to do. So we enjoyed that. It was fascinating to see how it was handled. And we had sense enough to do that for them. [chuckling] And enjoyed, of course, seeing this boy. And of course then when he wrote home and said he had seen me, my mother knew then where I was.

HT:

So your family had no idea where you were?

LL:

No. She said—Well, I was given, before I left Camp Butner, I was given a footlocker and the navy-blue uniforms and the white duty uniforms. And when I got to Patrick Henry, we were the first ones going out with the OD [olive drab] uniforms, the olive drab like the officers wore. We were the first girls to get those. So we got the OD uniforms and the brown and white striped nurses' uniforms, and I had to send all this blue stuff home in the footlocker, and the footlocker—because they didn't take footlockers overseas then. So my mother said she went through every finger of every glove looking for a note of some kind. I knew where I was going. It didn't occur to me to put a note in a glove, or put a note anywhere. That didn't occur to me at all. And I knew where I was going, like I say, because the French girls were there. They knew where they were going. That didn't occur to me. But when Hobson [Cooper] found out and when he wrote home, then my mother found out where I was.

So we got our notifications and got our orders straight. I was assigned to the 81st Station Hospital, and we flew from Casablanca to Tunis [Tunisia]. And they sent a jeep—Well, there were two of us that went that far, went to Tunis. I can't think where Carmen [Sarry] was going, but she was going to another hospital down the road. But they could send us both. They could send us both to the 81st Station Hospital and her hospital could come there and get her, so that's what they did. Well, on the way we got to the ferry that had to take you across. I guess it was a river or a creek or something, I have no idea. I never saw that ferry but that one time. But to get from wherever we were—And we may have been lost because this boy didn't know anything about that section of the country. I guess he was based at the airport in Tunis. I don't remember his source because he was just a driver. Anyway, we stopped in this line of traffic to wait on the ferry, and there was a six by six right up ahead of us who had been to the ration dump to get rations, and they were hungry so they opened a can of pineapple, sliced pineapple. So they came back and brought sliced pineapple. We had sliced pineapple for lunch that day, just out of the can. That's all we had to go on.

Anyway, that's how I got to the 81st. It was out on Hospital Road. There were, I believe, three hospitals down that road. Everything in Bizerte was destroyed. There was not a whole building standing in Bizerte when the fighting was over there. So these hospitals were in tents down a road out of town that they called the Hospital Road because it was just a hospital and a hospital and a hospital, and all in tents. I had been told before I left Butner that to be a dietitian in a station or general hospital, and that's the only place they'd have dietitians was station or general, I'd be in a building, that they were not in the tents. So when I got to the 81st it was in tents.

We got along fine. We had a little pot-bellied stove in our tent. My mother sent a recipe for making pull mints. The chief nurse's desk, her office was her tent, where she and the assistant chief nurse lived. Her desk was a marble-topped desk, so I immediately wrote my mother and said, “We've got a marble-topped desk, how about sending us the recipe for pull mints?” Because that has to go on marble to get cool enough to pull. She sent it, we cooked it in a number ten can on a pot-bellied stove, and poured it out on that desk. And when it got cool enough to pick it up, we could pick it up and walk outside the door and be in the night air, and it pulled—the prettiest mints you ever saw in your life. Never did it again. But they were perfect. Those are the kinds of things you just stumbled onto all the time.

Had boys in the mess department who'd cry on my shoulder and say, “I want to go home. I've got a child at home I haven't seen—”You know, that you had. That, I think, is where we have started a lot of the problems we face today. Some of those kids that we had in that hospital in North Africa and Italy had never been out of their home county let alone their home state and their country. And we spread them all over this world in World War II, and it hasn't been the same since. And anything you saw that you wanted that wasn't tied down and didn't have a name on it, you took it, because the next man behind you would. And that kind of attitude was brought home. And I blame a lot of things that have gone on in this country since then on exactly what went on in World War II. It took it, I reckon, to win the war, I don't know, but I blame a lot of it on just that very thing.

HT:

The boys that were at the hospital, they had seen action in North Africa, I assume, and were brought in because they were wounded and that sort of thing?

LL:

Right.

HT:

So they were fighting [Erwin] Rommel, the German field marshal?

LL:

Yeah. Had been. When I got there, the first time they had an air raid when I got there, it was a practice air raid, the first practice air raid they had. Of course I wasn't used to anything but practice air raids, because we had a practice air raid occasionally at Butner. So I wasn't used to anything but a practice air raid, but they were scared to death because you had to—You had to get yourself dressed and get on duty when you had an air raid, period. The little clerk I had that handled the rations had him an air raid shelter built in among all the cans and stuff. [chuckling] You know, he could handle that because he had to handle—He knew where everything was. That was the main thing. So when he was on duty when they'd have an air raid, he'd go get in his little air raid shelter, which was fine.

HT:

Were you ever attacked?

LL:

No. Oh, well, I take that back. We were never attacked, but when we got to Naples [Italy] we lived in a building up the street and the hospital was down here in that building. We were up here in this building, which had been part of a monastery. That monastery was a three-sided building, and we had not two but almost two—We had one wing and the middle wing, almost all of it, and the other folks had retained this wing over here, and right next door to us in a field was an ack-ack [anti-aircraft]gun. So we felt like we were being attacked when we had an air raid. If they had ever shot at that particular gun, we might have been hit. That was quarters. And yet it was marked with a red cross. It shouldn't have been but it could be. You know how things are.

HT:

Sure.

LL:

And then the hospital was down the street. Oh, I don't know, it may have been a mile down there to that hospital. We were up on the hill overlooking—When we got to the hospital, we were overlooking the Bay of Naples and the Isle of Capri and Sorrento. It was a gorgeous city. [chuckling] We were a French hospital in Naples and we had French Army patients.

HT:

No American patients?

LL:

We may have had a few, but basically we were a French hospital. And they sent us out a keg this big around, tremendous, of wine, because the French people drink wine. That was their army allotment to them. Well, I told Lieutenant Fauske, I said, “There ain't no way in the world that we're going to be responsible for that wine. Let's turn that stuff over. We'll feed them the rest of it, but turn that wine over to the French people and let them have it. You know if our boys get into that wine what shape we would be in. We wouldn't have the next meal fixed.” [chuckling]

HT:

That brings me to a question that I've been meaning to ask. Who did the cooking for you?

LL:

The detachment, the boys.

HT:

The boys? Army people?

LL:

Yeah. They went to cooks and bakers school. They had a cooks and bakers school. Most of them had been. Some hadn't, we just trained them. Some were better than others. I had a baker who was a baker in civilian life, which was unusual.

HT:

So were you in charge of all these people?

LL:

Yeah. Basically. I was a dietitian. I had a mess officer and a mess sergeant, so I was backed up, you know. We were all technically in charge. I guess technically I was in charge of the food end of it, but we all worked together. We had a good organization.

HT:

And how did you get food? From the local countryside, or—?

LL:

No, no, no. In fact, we got some fresh things, but you were very limited as to what you could use fresh. We had a ration truck, like I say, a six by six that went to the ration depot—I want to say every day. I may be wrong. There may have been a day or two in that week that they didn't go, but basically they went every day. And there was a ration depot somewhere close by that you didn't have to go far. When we were in Livorno, the ration depot was at Pisa. So I don't remember where it was anywhere else. That's just like the truck [when] we had the sliced pineapple. He had been to the ration dump. The boys had a slip of paper that said how many patients you had, how many detachment, you know, how many nurses and how many officers you had, and they allotted a can of—Let me see, it took three cans of sliced pineapple for a hundred people. It depended on how many you had as to how many cans of pineapple you got, that kind of thing. They had a sheet that had a menu across the top for breakfast, dinner, and supper, and the foods listed, and you gave them how many you had at your location, and they, the ration depot, filled it, gave it to them on the truck and they brought it back. We got special allotments for diets.

Where did we pick up hepatitis? We didn't have the hepatitis patients much in Naples, but we were the hepatitis hospital in Leghorn and we got special diets for them. We got—let me think, high-protein, low-carbohydrate, low-fat diets for them. We got frozen beef like this every day for them. And I cautioned the boys. I said, “When you get this thawed, if any of it looks—is tender enough—” And they had been in the food business long enough that they could tell that I didn't have to approve of every single one of them. We had roast beef all the time, and I knew the boys were getting tired of it. “If you find some good beef that comes through, let's give them a steak.” So we tried to give them a steak along the way, just to vary it instead of having to roast it every time and make roast beef.

I had a mess officer who was pretty good with stuff. He later became a doctor after he came back. But they were rigged up. I don't remember what he had outside that window, some kind of thing that ran, and put pipes in through the window and they could stick them into big garbage cans and boil that water in no time flat with steam. Anything to cut the time element. Because to put a big GI can on a Army stove, it took forever to boil the water and make coffee. And that's what we had to make it in because we had to have so much. So we did things like that. We had walk-in freezers a couple of places. We even had a walk-in freezer in North Africa sitting out in the back yard. And they finally—I asked them to put a frame over it with a tarp, just to keep the water from collecting on the top, because it was a flat-topped thing, and that helped. It helped my feelings, if nothing more. It didn't have a cover over it or anything.

So we had some provisions that we just hadn't counted on. And I never asked these men how they wheeled and dealed to get anything they brought in there, I just said, “Thank you.” We had flower gardens, we had ball teams—We had a private and PFC [private first class] team, we had a corporals', we had a sergeants', we had an upper-grade, we had a nurses' team, we had a doctors' team, of softball. We played softball anytime we could.

HT:

In North Africa and in Italy?

LL:

Yeah, anytime we could. We had a good time. That took your mind off of whatever else you were doing. I guess we played more softball in Italy, in Livorno, than we did—We didn't have space to play in Naples because we were uptown, what I called uptown, up on top of a hill, and there was nothing flat enough to play. But we did play a little in North Africa.

We also stood formal retreat in the afternoon. One of the MACs [Medical Administrative Corps], they call them—MAC was a what, Medical Administrative Corps, and they were the men who were officers in our unit without being doctors. One of the MACs took the girls, and the colonel wanted them to learn how to march so they could march and stand retreat in the afternoon. And in Class A uniform. [chuckling]

HT:

This was the dietitians, right?

LL:

Nurses or—There wasn't but one [dietitian]—Well, there was a dietitian when I got there, and she was soon transferred somewhere else, so I was the only dietitian.

HT:

So you really had no basic army training as such, did you?

LL:

No! No.

HT:

No boot camp?

LL:

No! No, no, no. No, they just put us in a uniform. [chuckling] And then the colonel decided he wanted us to all stand retreat, so he told the MAC to teach us how to march. Well, some of those girls didn't know their left hand from their right hand. [chuckling] It was interesting. I didn't have any problem with it because we had fooled with it at Camp Butner some. But I didn't have any problem with it. And he wanted them to take—What do you take in the army, a thirty-inch step, a man?

HT:

That sounds right.

LL:

Okay, he wanted the girls to take a thirty-inch step because the officers were going first, or maybe the nurses went first, and then the detachment and so forth were going to be behind us. And Harry said, “Colonel, there is no way I'm going to teach those girls how to take a thirty-inch step. Their mamas and daddies have taught them all their life how to walk and be a lady.” [chuckling] He said, “These girls can't take a thirty-inch step.” So we went through all that turmoil, you know. We finally got it together, where there was a [compromise]. There's a compromise with anything if you'll work at it. So we enjoyed it.

HT:

Did you ever have any leave time when you were overseas?

LL:

I didn't have any leave time. That's interesting, and that's what that thing shows. We were put on temporary duty and that kind of thing. When I got out of the army, I had all my leave time, accumulated leave time. I think I had four months leave time that I was in the army after I really got out of the army. It took me till April after I got out in November to get out of the army because I was paid for all that leave time. The colonel, I decided, was looking [out] for the colonel because he had it too.

I went back to Oran while we were stationed in Bizerte. I had a first cousin who was stationed in Oran, so I went back to Oran with a group—It seems like one of the girls—maybe one of the girls that went overseas, one of the dietitians that went overseas with us, was stationed in Oran too, and we went back to see her—a couple of the nurses and me. And you hitched rides. That's the only way you had to get anywhere, hitched rides on an airplane. So when we came back from Oran, we got to Algiers [Algeria] and we were supposed to fly out of Algiers to Bizerte. Well, the airport at Bizerte didn't have any landing lights, so you had to get in there in the daylight. And they had trouble with the plane, and the sergeant called the hospital and said, “We've got three or four of your girls here.” He told who we were. He said, “We can't get them out tonight because we can't land in Bizerte with no landing lights. We'll send them out first thing in the morning. Will that be all right?”

“That would be fine,” they said.

So there we were. In a few minutes he came running out there. He said, “I've got a B-17 going back to Tunis. Will that help?”

We said, “Oh yeah, we can get home from Tunis. We can call them and they'll come get us from Tunis.” So we flew a B-17. That's the roughest ride I ever had, ever, in anything.

HT:

That's a bomber, correct?

LL:

Yeah. They were just brand-new at that time. The reason that B-17—

[End Side A, Begin Side B]

LL:

They had left Tunis, being transferred to England, this plane and this whole crew. One of them left their val-pack in Tunis, which is their suitcase, so they had to go back to Tunis to get that val-pack. That's how we got our trip to Tunis. They took us while they were going. So when we got there, they took us over to the nurses' hotel—there is a nurses' hotel in Tunis just for a rest area. And there was a group there from the 78th Hospital, which is one of these other hospitals on Hospital Road, and they were going home that night so they took us home. So we didn't have any problem. Tunis was about, oh, forty-five miles maybe from where we were. And you could go down to Tunis and have a day, you know, if you wanted to just go shop, if you had a day off. If you could find enough going, they'd take you down in an ambulance or whatever vehicle they had that was usable.

HT:

What kind of hours did you keep, and how many days straight did you have to work?

LL:

I worked every day—oh, generally speaking. At Camp Butner we had strange hours. Let me think, we went on at 8:00 and worked till 5:00. The next day you went on at 5:00 in the morning and worked till 2:00 in the afternoon and had the rest of that afternoon and the next day off—that was just our setup—to give you some flowing time. It worked out fine and we got along fine with it. Overseas, after I got there, I guess I had Saturday and Sundays off if I needed them. But what were we going to do? Everybody else was working, you know, so you just worked.

And I know my mess officer's mother and father had been missionaries in—where? China, I believe. And I'd go in on Sunday morning and I'd say, “Are you going to church with me this morning?” Well, he was or he wasn't. And I said, “You mother and daddy wouldn't be a bit happy with you. Come on!” It was always an ecumenical service, I guess you'd say, a Protestant service or a Catholic service. At that time I was a Presbyterian and he was a Lutheran and we went to the Protestant services. We usually had an awfully good chaplain, so we got along fine.

I didn't get along very well with the Catholic chaplain because we were told before we went overseas that the Catholic requirements on their Friday stuff was exempted, the church had exempted that situation, and Father Coleman thought I ought to adhere to it. I had something on that table every Friday—He was primarily concerned with the officers—Primarily was concerned with himself, is what I figured. [chuckling] I had something that was a substitute for his meat, and he didn't have to eat—He could get a full meal without eating meat. But I said, “If you don't have something to tempt you, you're not going to test your beliefs anyway.” He didn't like that a bit, so he and I didn't get along very well about that Friday thing. [chuckling] But I did just exactly what I'd been told before I left this country, you know, that they didn't have to—They were exempt, they didn't have to not have it, so that the church wasn't going to disown them if they ate meat.

HT:

If they ate meat on Friday.

LL:

Ate meat on Friday. So we got along fine.

HT:

Well, it sounds like you really enjoyed your work.

LL:

I did. I did.

HT:

Well, do you think you were treated equally with men? Were there any men dietitians that you're aware of?

LL:

[chuckling] No.

HT:

No? All ladies?

LL:

No, I don't know of any. There could have been, but I don't know of any.

HT:

Well, during your service time, did you ever encounter any kind of discrimination because you were a woman and overseas?

LL:

I'm sure there was, but, you know, we didn't know discrimination from nothing back then. The only thing I can think of, we had the 10th Mountain Division in Italy with us, and that was the first&—we thought the only—black unit—division, and they were over there, the 10th Mountain Division, and they were supposed to be mountain fighters. And they were Eleanor's boys, we called them. But I grew up with a black lady in my home always. She came to work. Her mother was there before I came along, she came when I was two months old and stayed with us till after I finished college, and she stayed there at night until she got married, I guess when I was in high school, so she was a second mother to me. So I don't have a feeling about those things that most people have, you know. I'm blessed, is the way I look at it, that I was subjected to this. I don't have the fear of them—I do think today we have to be especially careful with where we go and what we do with everybody—black, white, yellow, red, whatever—because times are different. But no, back then and during World War II, huh-uh, I didn't see any discrimination. If there was any, I didn't see it or didn't feel it. And I think part of this is what you make of it yourself. I didn't have any problems.

HT:

You mentioned black troops. I know there weren't that many black troops around, and particularly there were very few black women in the military. Did you ever meet any?

LL:

No, I don't know that I did. We didn't run across WACs. I didn't personally run across any WACs. I'm sure they were out there, but we didn't have any WACs in our hospital. I don't know, just didn't.

HT:

Do you recall what was the hardest thing you ever had to do physically?

LL:

I guess when we got all that stuff on us to get to the boat in Patrick Henry. We left Patrick Henry in the rain, in a raincoat and full regalia, with a backpack and a shelter half [LL note: a shelter half is a half of a tent. Two people put them together to form a pup tent. It was folded over the backpack]. Did you have to wear that in the air corps?

HT:

No.

LL:

Okay, we walked from the barracks over to the train, and then when we got off the train we walked from the train to the ship with all this stuff. One of the girls just plain fell over backwards. [chuckling] She just got out of balance. And here we had all this backpack, with a shelter half over the top of it on, with a raincoat—

HT:

Well, how much did all this weigh?

LL:

I don't know. It was well we didn't know. [chuckling] We were told what to put in that backpack and how to pack it, and everything else went in our bedding roll—oh, everything.

HT:

That must have been some sight, all you ladies in the rain with this huge backpack on.

LL:

It was! Of course, I was twenty-two years old. [chuckling] I didn't know any better. You know what I'm saying? I didn't know—No, I guess I was—Twenty-two, that's what I was. Twenty-two years old when I went overseas.

HT:

Just a kid.

LL:

Yeah, I was myself.

HT:

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

LL:

I guess to deal with telling my mother that I was going overseas, because my brother was in the navy and he was headed to the Aleutian Islands [Alaska] at the same time that I was going to be headed to wherever I was going. But I had an aunt who lived next door, and I called her and I said, “Annie Lou [Scott], please—”There was a colonel at Fort Bragg [North Carolina] who had been a friend of my father's—my father died when I was three years old. I said, “Call Colonel Rosser and see what he can do about keeping me here. I don't want both of us going at the same time.” And she called Colonel Rosser and he said it was Butner's time to give up a dietitian, and if I was the one selected, there was nothing he could do. So when I took my stuff home—See, I had to take my car home. I had a car at Camp Butner, and I had to take my car home and my stuff home. I had to pack it in three sections: what I was going to take with me, what I was going to take with me if I was transferred, and what the girls were going to take later. And I went home and took most of it and told Mother I was being transferred. I didn't tell her where, and she was thrilled to death. And after I left and she got over that shock, then the girls took the car home and the rest of the stuff to her. I think that was the hardest thing emotionally I had to deal with, because she was at home by herself and two of us on the high seas at the same time.

HT:

You just had the one brother?

LL:

I have an older sister, but she didn't live at home at that time. She was married. And my mother served meals to teachers, so she was just so busy. Which was a blessing she was busy. So I think that was the hardest thing I ever did.

HT:

Do you recall what your most embarrassing moment was?

LL:

No. I don't know that I had any real embarrassing moments. Like I say, I've been blessed. I'm sure there were some. I'll tell you another funny thing we used to do in Leghorn. We got tongue issued to us in the mess department. Tongue.

HT:

Are you talking about—?

LL:

Beef tongue.

HT:

Oh, beef tongue, okay.

LL:

Pork tongue, whoever's tongue it was. Tongue. And Paul [Moen] said to me, the mess sergeant there, “What are we going to do with this stuff?” I said, “Paul, I don't know but one thing to do with it.” So we fixed it and cut it in cubes and put it in a glass jar and filled it with vinegar and sent a box of toothpicks with it to the officers' club. They were thrilled to death. It was an hors d'oeuvre. They never knew what it was. We didn't tell them what it was.

HT:

What did they think it was?

LL:

Didn't know! They just thought it was great. [laughter] I think about that every now and then and just get the biggest kick out of it. I talked to Paul not long ago, he called me from Minnesota, and I didn't think to remind him of the tongue. Oh, we had a good time.

HT:

Did you ever get into trouble?

LL:

Not in real trouble, no. No, I've never been a trouble person.

HT:

Were you ever afraid while you were on the high seas or when you landed in Africa?

LL:

I didn't have sense enough to be, I don't think. I think that was the whole thing. Like I say, I was a young one and I think that took care of it.

HT:

So were you ever in any kind of physical danger, that you recall?

LL:

Didn't know it if I was. Because like I said, we were scared to death going over that here we were out on the high seas by ourselves, this one ship. Where were all of our protectors, you know, and all these convoys you heard about? They said, “No, we can go twenty-three knots an hour, which is fast, and we can outrun anything we see.” So we just went, you know? And like I said, [chuckling] we danced our way over, one night. I don't know of any time that I was ever really scared. Like I said, I didn't like the ack-ack when we were in Naples, when the gun out here would get to shooting. But nothing was ever any closer, nothing ever fell any closer, but it was just the sound of that.

One of the doctors used to go down the steps with us at night going to the air raid shelter and he'd say, “What would Miss Jesse [Griffin] think of you now?” I said, “She'd have a fit, wouldn't she?” My mother was called Miss Jesse. “What would Miss Jesse think of you?” I said, “She wouldn't be very happy with us.” You know, everybody was in the same boat.

HT:

We talked a little bit earlier about your social life, and you mentioned baseball and that sort of thing. Do you recall anything else you gals did for fun while you were in North Africa and Italy?

LL:

Saw Frank Sinatra.

HT:

Oh?

LL:

Yes, we did.

HT:

A USO [United Service Organizations] type—?

LL:

Yeah, he and Phil Silvers. I don't know who else was with him, but Phil Silvers was with him. We saw him in Leghorn. He was just this kid that they said all the girls were going crazy over in this country. And I said, “Well, I want to go see him.” He was real young. It was early in his stage career. I thoroughly enjoyed it. I thought he had a great voice, but I didn't understand these kids over here that were going so crazy over him. But we didn't understand that anyway, you know. Things take place when you're away from home that long that you just don't understand. So I think that was—

HT:

I think it gives you a different perspective on life.

LL:

It does, it does.

HT:

It truly does, yes. Well, do you recall what your favorite movies and songs were from that era?

LL:

Oh, law, no. Whatever they were playing. Because we danced. We had some dances in the officers' club. We had an officers' club everywhere we went. And of course there was an outside officers' club, you know, that if you dated somebody else that you could go to. I went to the Orange Club in Naples. It was divine. Everybody participated in that club. It was up on the hill where you overlooked the Bay of Naples, too. It was a lovely place.

HT:

Was this a nightclub?

LL:

Yeah.

HT:

And for Americans only, I assume?

LL:

No, I guess that was Americans only. Now, I went into Switzerland for a week from the 300th General after I was transferred back down there, and we went into Switzerland for a week, and there we found that when they go out everybody goes out, children, grandmas, grandpas, everybody. Families go out, let me put it that way, to clubs like that at night, which I thought was divine. But we didn't find that. It was just Americans that went. Italians were running the club.

When we moved from Naples to Livorno, they moved by Liberty [cargo] ship, and the Liberty ship has no provisions for women, so we begged two six by sixes from the ordnance outfit there, which were fellows from High Point and Greensboro and Charlotte, all through North Carolina, South Carolina, and Florida—we had them from everywhere. But I begged two six by sixes for the girls, because our six by sixes were being used to take the stuff to the ship and had to go with the ship to be with the equipment north, and we didn't have any of our six by sixes to take the girls. So the ordnance sent us to Rome, and they had a nurses' hotel in Rome and we stayed there the week while they went up the coast and unloaded to our hospital. And when they got everything unloaded and could free up the trucks, then they came back to Rome and got us.

Well, we had a real good time there. We went to the opera in the afternoon, just like you go to the theater here. Did in Naples when we were there. Just like you go to the theater here, we went to the opera. And the hotel, we didn't have any food in our hotel, but around the corner the other hotel had the food for the officers and nurses. We paid five cents for breakfast and ten cents for dinner and ten cents for supper. And that paid the labor, because they were using American rations but they had to pay the Italians. Well, they could take our GI stuff and do marvelous things. You know, we didn't even know. We didn't know from whence it came [chuckling] when they got through with it, because they were such good cooks.

We went to see an opera one afternoon. When we got out it was late, the dining room was closed, and somebody said, “Well, where in the world can we eat?” Somebody said, “The Grand Hotel is still open.” So we marched over to the Grand Hotel in Rome, and it was run by the government. So we went on back to the dining room, and the sergeant back there said, “Oh my, I've already counted up all my money. You got a ten hundred?” A thousand lira was ten dollars. Somebody said yeah, and he said, “Well, give it to me and I'll give you change for it. I don't want to have to refigure this stuff.” [chuckling] So we ate supper free. And it was divine. This was still Italians, I guess, predominately. I know the dining room was run by the government, I don't know how much else because we didn't palaver. We didn't stay long. We just needed to eat and get going. But you just fell into things like that.

HT:

Do you recall which year and month you were in Italy? Was that in 1944, maybe?

LL:

Yeah, and '45. We went over—Let me see, I joined the 81st in October, or it was October by the time I got to them, of '43. And I'll say it was April or May till we moved into Naples, of '44, and I left—I left the Eighty-first in July of '45 going to the 300th, and came home from there—I'll say in October of '45. Because we were still in operation when President Roosevelt died in April of '45, and we wondered if we'd ever get back home, because none of us knew what President [Harry S.] Truman stood for. We didn't know Truman, so we wondered if we'd ever get home again. I guess that was the weakest, scaredest feeling, if you had—And it wasn't a scared feeling, it was just a concerned feeling, I guess you'd say, because we didn't know what Mr. Truman stood for and we didn't know whether we'd ever get home again. But then, of course, VE Day came on the 1st of May, so—

HT:

That fear of the unknown, I guess.

LL:

The unknown, yeah.

HT:

Well, did you ever think of making the army a career?

LL:

Oh law, no. Oh law, no. No. In fact, I had trouble getting out at Fort Bragg. I came back into Bragg and I was filling out a paper and asked a question. I said, “What do I put here? I've been reclassified.” Well, when they found I'd been reclassified—See, I was reclassified to keep from having to go to the Pacific. And when they found I'd been reclassified, they couldn't discharge me as a—I don't know what kind of service they call that anyway. I couldn't be reclassified and still get out. I had to be analyzed and go through a review board.

Well, they put me in the hospital down there, and I didn't know how long I was going to be there. There was a lady who worked in that—That was the number two hospital. Well, it was the main post hospital is what it was, where the women were, and there was a lady that worked in that main post hospital from Sanford, so I got permission to go home with her every night and go back to work with her every morning so I didn't have to stay overnight. Well, it took me three weeks to get out. And the only way I got out was I went across the street to this Colonel Rosser again.

He said, “What are you doing still here?”

I said, “Well, I'll tell you how it is, I can't get to the review board.” I was a first lieutenant by that time.

And he said, “Law, child, that hospital over yonder is full of everything from majors up wanting a disability pension.”

I said, “Colonel Rosser, I don't want a pension of any kind except my discharge papers. That's all I want. Just put me back on general duty and let me get out.” So he made a couple phone calls and I went the next day to the review board. See, I didn't have any power to get over there because I was a first lieutenant, with all that brass. But when the colonel—He was post commander at that time, Fort Bragg commander at that time. But when he spoke they moved. So I went right on through the review board.

And through the years I have had a back problem spasmodically through the years, but I did have some trouble with it while I was over there riding on those six by six trucks and stuff. It'll tear up a back if it's not good. They told me I was born that way, reclassified me, put me back on general duty and I got out. That's what I was after. I got married and had two children, didn't have any back problems. I do have some back problems now, but I know how to handle them. It's been strange, but it came in handy at the time. I sure didn't want to go to the Pacific.

HT:

I think you said some of your friends did go to the Pacific after all?

LL:

Well, they didn't get there. Like I say, the ship sailed for the Pacific, but VJ Day came while they were in the Mediterranean. I believe they were in the Mediterranean. Because I think when they got to Gibraltar they opened their sealed orders and it said, “Proceed to the nearest United States port.” So they came right on in, in July. But my mother had sent me cake pans and all that kind of stuff to use, and all that stuff was packed in that mess department stuff. I know whoever got into that had a good time because there wasn't anything GI in there at all. [chuckling] They probably wondered where in the world that stuff came from.

HT:

So you never got that back?

LL:

No, no, no. We had some round cans, I called them, that we sent food to the wards, and the baker would make me a round cake in there, a one-layer cake, and we iced it and said “Happy Birthday” on it to anybody that had a birthday while they were a patient. I had a good time with that because the boys loved every bit of that. But it didn't take much. You could just roll up a piece of paper and do what you do with a pastry bag, you know. She sent me some coloring, and I colored some of the icing and that kind of thing. We had everything else there. We just needed a couple pieces. So we made a birthday cake. We always got their birthdays when they came in as a patient anyway, that's on the record, so we had it channeled to us. And if they were there—And see, with this hepatitis some of them would be there thirty to sixty days. If they had a birthday while they were there, they got a birthday cake. Just one layer, but they got a birthday cake&—with a candle on it. Mother sent me candles.

HT:

I'm sure that was very good for morale.

LL:

It was. Anything! We had—one of our boys got sick. Where were we when that happened? I believe we were in Leghorn when that happened. One of our own ward boys, one of our detachment boys had pneumonia and we couldn't get him out—just couldn't pull him out of it. So I went up and asked Major Limberger, I said, “Will you give me permission to feed Turner an eggnog if I can get it in him?” “I'll give you permission to feed anything you can get.” My mess sergeant could speak Italian, so I sent him out to get me some fresh eggs, in a shell, and he brought me some eggs back. We got a ration of liquor. We had the liquor. That was a small matter. So I made an eggnog. Well, to make a good eggnog, you need to beat that egg white separate to fluff it up. And I made it and took it up there immediately, and they took it in. Little by little, it gave him an anchor. That tasted, I guess, good enough to him or he could get it down. It was liquid, good nourishment. The whiskey was a stimulant and we finally got an anchor and then he began to eat.

But little things like that, you know, made the world go round is what it did. I had had pneumonia when I was a small child, and that's what my mother gave me to get me back when she couldn't get anything in my stomach. And I thought, well, you know that if it worked for me it ought to work for Turner. So, just needed the help of some raw eggs, because all of ours were dehydrated eggs, dried eggs. And Paul went out and found them. I never asked where these things came from. If they needed cigarettes, I gave them cigarettes. You know, there's a good bargaining factor out there.

HT:

Do you recall what the mood or the climate of the country in general was during that period of time? Of course you were overseas, so—but before you went overseas.

LL:

No. I got along fine. You know, like I say, I think I've been blessed. I really do. I remember going home one afternoon from chapel, from Durham, when I was working after—I can't think, that first year, '41 to '42. This was when I was working for the Dairy Council, so that was '41 to early '42. We had a lot of convoys in this area because of Fort Bragg, and they were evidently headed to Fort Bragg because they were headed south. And we were on the road between Sanford and Pittsboro [North Carolina], and this little boy sitting on the back of a six by six had a great big package of mail in his hand. And he kept motioning to me, he wanted to give it to me, he wanted to give it to me, and I thought, “Well, there is no way I can get that stuff from that boy because I can't pass you sitting here.” I knew the road. And I reached over and rolled down the window on the other side of the car, and I knew there was a place coming up if I didn't meet somebody I could pull up by him, he could throw it in that window. He did, and then I backed up and they went on down the road. When I got to Sanford, I just stopped at the post office and put it all in the post office. You can't do that anymore. You know, the world's different. It's just—I don't know, it's sad. Those were the olden days.

HT:

Right. You mentioned Frank Sinatra and Phil Silvers earlier. Did you meet any other interesting people while you were in the military?

LL:

Oh, I'm sure I did.

HT:

They don't necessarily have to be famous, but . . .

LL:

I'm sure I did. Yes, the man who was head—Mr. Carroll, what was he? Head of the Department of Public Instruction in North Carolina? He was over there in that section. I talked to him one night somewhere. Yeah, there were a number. One day when we went—Where had we been? We were in Leghorn at that time, and I think we'd been to Rome—We'd either been to Rome or Naples. I think we'd been to Rome, trying to bum a ride from the Rome airport back home, and couldn't find anything. And finally the sergeant said, “I've got some fellows bringing in some pilots. They're going back to Florence. Would that help you?” Yeah, we could get home from Florence. So, when they landed and they said yes, they'd be glad to take us back to Florence—Well, come to find out the pilot was Bill Covington and he was from Rockingham, North Carolina. His mother and his aunt lived across the street in front of my mother, were all friends.

His co-pilot was a major somebody, I don't remember his name, from Philadelphia [Pennsylvania], who had been looking for his buddy. He didn't know anything except his name was Duke Kimbrough. He had no other connection at all as to how to find him. Well, Duke Kimbrough was our commanding officer. [chuckling] We said, “We can help you. We know where he is.” So they took us back. We landed in Florence, and instead of sending us home they took us home to Leghorn, and then came over a couple times and had meals with us, you know. They had a plane going to Paris once for a couple days, and they would have been glad to have taken us because they were just going to fly out there for something and be there a couple days and come back. But Colonel Kimbrough said, “I normally would let you go on detach service, but not this time because that's from one theater to another theater and I can't do that.” So he wouldn't let us go to Paris. But, you know, it's a small world. It was then.

HT:

That's unbelievable. You had mentioned Franklin D. Roosevelt earlier. What did you think of him as president of the United States?

LL:

He was right where he ought to be, you know. Because we thought he was going to get us out of this thing. We were so near out of it at that point. And when he died it was devastating because, like I say, we didn't know what Mr. Truman stood for. We didn't know what would happen. Yeah. No, we liked him.

HT:

What about Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt?

LL:

Yeah, I liked her too. Yeah. See, when Roosevelt put the Social Security thing together, I was sixteen years old, that year or the next year, and worked at the dime store for Christmas that year. I made nine dollars for that whole week. It was marvelous. But they took Social Security out, and I thought, “Well, my land above!” It may have been thirty-five cents, you know? [chuckling] But everything he had done was trying to get the country back on its feet from the Depression. Yeah, I liked him.

HT:

Do you recall who your heroes and heroines were?

LL:

All these people, you know? And my mama, you know, all these folks.

HT:

After you left the service, I think you said it was in 1945?

LL:

Yes.

HT:

Can you describe what your adjustment was like?

LL:

I got along fine because I got home. All of us got home that fall about that time, except my brother. My brother had not come in at that time. Everybody wanted to get together for Christmas, and nobody seemed to want to do it. And my mother said, “I'll do it.” So she said, “Go on and invite them over here.” So they all came to our house one night, and she had eggnog and I don't know what else she had with it. There were twenty-five or twenty-six of us, and she used one pint of whiskey. [chuckling] She didn't think anybody was going to get hurt with that. But it was delicious. She had my aunt who lived next door to come over and pour. She made a party out of it, just for us to get together. See, we'd been scattered all over the world. And like I say, everybody was back at that time, I believe, but Jack [Griffin]. He had not gotten in yet. So we had a good time.

HT:

And what line of work did you go into when you came back from your military service?

LL:

I think my first job was at Woman's College as assistant dietitian. I went back under Miss [Mable] Swanson. I went in up there April of '46, when they came back from spring break. Because she had a dietitian there whose husband had come in from overseas and she needed to go, and yet Miss Swanson needed somebody, and she had heard that I had come in. She called me wanting to know if I'd consider it. I said, “I think so.” So anyway, I did, and I stayed all the rest of that year and that summer, summer school, and the next school year and the next summer. And I think I left at the end of summer school that second summer of '47 and went home and stayed six months with Mother, and then came to Coble Dairy [Company] January first of '48. I worked for them a year and got married in January of '49, and here I am.

HT:

So did you work during your married life?

LL:

I went back to work—Let me see, I got married in '49, and Bruce [Leonard] didn't want me to work. I went back to work in '71. He was a dry cleaner and had gotten to polyester and blue jeans, which didn't either one have to be dry cleaned, and had one boy who was a senior in high school and one in the ninth grade, and both of them wanting to go to college with programs that wanted a graduate degree behind it. I said, “Don't worry about it. That's why my mother sent me to school.”

So I called the school office to see if they had anything in the cafeterias, because I knew having been at home for twenty-two years I'd have to get back on the ground floor to get my mind channeled that way. And they needed a cafeteria manager at middle school, which was where Ed [Leonard, LL's son] was. So I managed the middle school cafeteria that year. And the next year the federal government was coming in with money for directors in all schools, school food service, so the county schools were going to put in one. And Dr. Brown lived right up the street, he was superintendent. So he had Mr. Allen to call me and ask me if I was interested, and I went out and talked to Mr. Allen. Well, I wasn't interested because he wasn't going to pay me as much as I made doing just one. They had twenty-four. [chuckling] So I told him no, I didn't believe I could do it for that amount of money. Well, by the time we got through talking, I told Bruce, “I believe we can almost write our own ticket on this thing.” [chuckling] Anyway, I went out there the summer of '72 and stayed till December of '87 when I retired, and I've been home ever since. Of course, Bruce died in '81, so I was mighty thankful I had something to do.

HT:

Has your life been different because you were in the military, do you think?

LL:

Probably so. I was talking to Eshie [Helen B. Eshelman], this girl I gave you her name, the other night because—I don't know, something had happened. I was telling her a funny story about something that had happened at prayer breakfast the other morning. She said, “Did it really bother you?”

I said, “Not like it bothered the rest of them, but I thought it was unnecessary.” I said, “We learned when we were growing up not to tell those kinds of things at the breakfast table.”

And she said, “Yeah, but having been in the army, did it bother you?”

I said, “No, not really, because we heard all that.” [chuckling]

We had somebody that was in the hospital and sick, and they were telling the details on all this stuff. And the breakfast table is not the right place to do that. But having been in the army, she and I both knew how it was, you know? But we've been away from it a good while, too. But yes, it makes a difference. Just the fact that—Well, partly because you were in the Army and partly because it was a hospital. Both.

HT:

Would you do it again&—that is, be in the military?

LL:

If I had to. But at my age I don't think they want me. [laughter] I said at the time I came home, “I wouldn't take a million dollars for having been and gone. I wouldn't give you five cents to do it again.” So that was the way I felt when I got back. But I had been and seen and done. And I'm sure you're aware of the national thing that they are doing for the military women in Washington.

HT:

WIMSA, [Women in Military Service for America memorial] yes.

LL:

I called it the entrance to Arlington [National Cemetery]. I don't know what it was. Isn't that what it was?

HT:

Yes, that's correct.

LL:

Okay. I'd love to have gone up if I could have been a fly on the wall to have seen that thing, but I didn't want to be in the crowd. I don't like crowds anymore. I've been and seen and done all I want to. I don't like to travel. I like a couple of days, or three days, but I just—I don't like to fly. I've got a son in New Orleans and I don't like to fly, so, you know—[chuckling] I hitched all those rides and got home and realized what I had done. I said, “The Good Lord was good to me. I'd better leave that alone.” I don't like to fly.

HT:

Well, do you consider yourself to be an independent person?

LL:

Yeah.

HT:

Do you think the military made you this way, or were you independent before?

LL:

I was independent before, to a certain point. Because like I say, my daddy died when I was three and my mother was independent. She was a widow forty-nine and a half years before she died. And she was gifted at many, many things, you know. If it's doable, do it. I think I've always been. Sometimes I know I'm a little too independent. When I retired I said, “I hope I'll still know how to say no.” Because before I went back to work, when I was raising the children, people would call and say, “Your children are in school —” “Yeah, but when I walk out my back door my work stops. Call these girls that have got full-time help.” You know, because a lot of these girls over here had full-time help. I didn't. And that makes a difference. So I learned how to say no. I hoped I'd know how to say it when I got home.

HT:

Did you consider yourself to be a pioneer or a trailblazer or a trend-setter back in those days?

LL:

No. I'm not in that [category]. No, I just happened along at the right time and that was in my path. We knew if we didn't apply for those commissions at that time—that was February of '42—we'd be in something related to the war, because everybody was. So we figured we're happy here and we've got a good setup, let's just do it now. So that's why we applied. So I didn't do it to be trail-blazing at all. That's was just the step I made.

HT:

Do you recall how women who joined the WACs or the WAVES [Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service—Navy] at that time were perceived by the general public and by their family, and particularly by men?

LL:

I don't know that I knew any of them personally. I can't answer that at all.

HT:

Okay. And have any of your children ever been in the military?

LL:

No.

HT:

I think you just said you had two sons, no daughters.

LL:

Two sons. Just these two boys right up here. One's forty-five and one's forty-one. Reid [Leonard] had to register. The older one had to register, but he was—Gosh, I'll say 336 was his number, which was way up yonder, you know. It scared us, worried us. His daddy was in the service. You know, we both knew what it was. But they neither one had to serve.

HT:

Well, how do you feel about women in combat positions?

LL:

I question the feasibility in some positions. Maybe some they can handle, maybe some they haven't got a bit of business being in. There is a definite difference between men and women. The Lord made us that way, and He knew what he was doing. And some of it they can handle and some of they haven't got a bit of business in, is my personal feeling.

HT:

Do you think they can't handle it physically, or mentally?

LL:

A little bit of both. A little bit of both. They can get in an airplane and fly it somewhere else if they want it moved, but I don't know that they've got a bit of business out there fighting in a plane. I don't know, that's just—I'm of the old school. I'm seventy-eight years old and I look at things a little bit different that what these young people do. [chuckling] I just can't help it.

HT:

Is there anything else that you'd like to add about your military service, either domestic or foreign?

LL:

No, not that I know of. I've remembered more this morning than I've remembered in a long time.

HT:

Well, I certainly thank you for talking to me today. It's just been wonderful listening to your stories.

LL:

Well, I've enjoyed the visit.

HT:

It's been just absolutely wonderful.

[End of Interview]