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The Betty H. Carter Women Veterans Historical Project

Oral history interview with Henrietta Stevenson Ingram, 1999

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Object ID: WV0030.5.001

Description: Primarily documents Henrietta Stevenson Ingram’s military service with the Women’s Army Corps (WAC) from 1943 to 1944; her career in allied medical professions after the war; and her experiences with racism during both time periods.

Summary:

Ingram discusses her decision to enlist in the WAC in 1943, including the role of being orphaned at thirteen and her use of a dead older sister’s birth certificate to get around age requirements. She describes basic training at a segregated facility in Des Moines, Iowa, especially drilling in the cold and kitchen patrol duty. Ingram also discusses in detail her assignment to the print shop at Douglas as a typesetter and mimeograph operator, and her great disappointment at being reassigned due to the supervisor’s disapproval of women in the military. She recounts another example of gender discrimination for a WAC who broke fraternization rules with her fiancé. Ingram also describes her social life at Douglas, including visits to nearby Fort Huachuca.

Notable are Ingram’s examples of racism in the army, including assignment of black WACs to maid-like duties and her use as a practice subject for white doctors during surgery. Ingram describes her resistance to assignment as a maid and her efforts to integrate the base service club and movie theater, which resulted in a personal visit from Eleanor Roosevelt to investigate the situation. She also describes public attitude toward blacks and women in the military during World War II; post-war experiences with racism in public accommodations and church membership; and the role of African American veterans in the civil rights movement of the 1960s.

Ingram also details her post-military career as a nurse’s aid, laboratory technician, and serology lab supervisor, and the role of the GI Bill-funded education in that career.

Creator: Henrietta Stevenson Ingram

Biographical Info: Henrietta Stevenson Ingram (b. 1925) of Statesville, North Carolina, served as a mimeograph operator and nurse’s aide in an African American unit of the Women’s Army Corps (WAC) from 1943 to 1944 and as a medical lab technician following World War II.

Collection: Henrietta Stevenson Ingram 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:

Could you tell me your maiden name, please?

HI:

Stevenson.

HT:

Where were you born?

HI:

Statesville, North Carolina—seventy miles west of Greensboro.

[Recorder paused]

HT:

Mrs. Ingram, could you tell me a little about what you did before you joined the military during World War II? Such as where you grew up, where you went to high school and a little bit about your family life, and if you worked, a little bit about your work.

HI:

I grew up in Statesville, North Carolina, and I went to Morningside High School. My mother died when I was nine; my father when I was thirteen. After that I was more or less on my own. When I went in the service in 1943, I was working at the Betty Lou Shop in Salisbury, North Carolina.

HT:

You mentioned Morningside High School. Where was that?

HI:

Statesville.

HT:

Were you living in Salisbury when you joined?

HI:

Yes.

HT:

That was in 1943?

HI:

Yes.

HT:

What made you decide to join the military?

HI:

Well, there were two things. You heard all kinds of ads on the radio. And also, as I said, being an orphan and on my own from about thirteen years of age, my life was rough. So, that was another reason why I wanted to join.

HT:

Did any of your friends join?

HI:

No. [laughs] My best girl friend was going to join, but she got cold feet.

HT:

So, you went in by yourself?

HI:

Yes.

HT:

Where were you inducted? Do you recall?

HI:

Charlotte, North Carolina.

HT:

And from Charlotte, where did you go from there?

HI:

Fort Des Moines, Iowa, for basic [training].

HT:

And do you recall anything specifically about your first day in basic training?

HI:

That's a rough one. First we had to check in and get our GI issue clothing, our building and bunk number. You probably heard from some of the others if they went to basic training in Iowa. We lived in barracks—it was originally a cavalry post-the barracks we lived in were originally horse barns. In staging, they were still horse barns. But they were not bad. Was I frightened? Yes! I would ask myself, “What am I doing here?” [laughs] But it was a comradeship. It started in the beginning. All of us in basic training were young girls—a lot were not twenty-one. I wasn't twenty-one—as a matter of fact, I was seventeen. And here is something for you. When I went into service, you had to have parental consent if you were under twenty-one. When I wrote to Raleigh for my birth certificate, I received the birth certificate for my next-to-the-oldest sister, who had died as a baby. She was born on April 20—the same birthday as Hitler—1922. I was born in 1925. No—I guess it was April 20, 1921, because I know it made me twenty-one.

HT:

So, no one knew that you were underage.

HI:

The only person that ever questioned my age—and that was years later—was Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt.

HT:

We'll get to that later on. That's very interesting. I know manyladies have said that one of the reasons they joined is because they had siblings who were in theservice, and they saw posters, and they just wanted to do something patriotic for their country. Did you have that sort of feeling?

HI:

No. As a matter of fact, I was the only one in my family to go in. My brother was the youngest. The others were girls. But I guess it was more posters and radio because it wasn't siblings or friends. As a matter of fact I do not remember seeing a WAC [Women's Army Corps] in uniform until I went to Charlotte to go into service. I don't remember seeing a WAC around Salisbury.

HT:

Do you recall why you joined the WACs as opposed to the WAVES [Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service—Navy] or one of the other services?

HI:

Well, at that time, I don't think I could have joined one of the other services. You know, in 1943, everything was segregated—there was a lot of prejudice.

HT:

Right. Segregation was still king, so to speak.

HI:

Yes.

HT:

Was this the first time you had ever been away from home for any length of time?

HI:

Well, out of North Carolina. But, as I said, I had been on my own practically from the time my father died. But that was the first time I had been out of the state of North Carolina.

HT:

Did you go by train to Fort Des Moines?

HI:

Yes.

HT:

Do you recall anything specific about the train trip?

HI:

Oh, yes—changing trains in Chicago and the wind off that lake—I didn't think anybody could be so cold and still live, much less walk. [laughs]

HT:

What time of year was this?

HI:

It was in the winter.

HT:

Oh, gosh, winter of 1943.

HI:

Yes. It was so cold.

HT:

Can you describe a typical day during basic training, such as what time you had to get up, march to the mess hall and that sort of thing?

HI:

Yes. We got up at five o'clock, showered, got dressed, and went to breakfast. And when we came back—I think we made up our bunks before we ate—we finished polishing up. Then out to drill in the cold. The drill fields were always set up on a hill with nothing to break the wind. We had this little girl— Peterson—I forget her first name—she was from Florida. She was only twenty- years old. She would always start to cry out on the drill field when she got cold, and her tears would freeze. She said that she was going to ask her mother to write the army to tell them she was too young to be in service, and she wanted out. And she'd cry again. I would say to her, “Stop crying. It makes it colder.”

One day, an especially cold day, we went out on the drill field and Lieutenant Fouschee—she was from Florida also—was leading us at that time. She told us to return to the barracks through the front entrance rather than the rear, as we normally did. She said to be very quiet and to “tip” in. The offices of the company commander and the first sergeant were in the back. There were twenty-five or thirty of us—I don't remember. We were tipping in like little kids. Just as we got to the bulletin board, where they put up different activities, stood the company commander [Captain Donaldson]. We froze, like a bunch of naughty children, and she turned around and looked at us. You could tell she was trying to keep from laughing. And she said, “Lieutenant Fouschee, you will come to my office right away.” So the lieutenant had to go to her office. I don't know what happened, but Captain Donaldson was so tickled. I remember her face. I know we were a sight.

HT:

You ladies were in uniform by this time, I guess.

HI:

Oh, yes, yes. We were in basic training.

HT:

I was talking to a lady yesterday , and they did basic training in Daytona Beach in civilian clothes for the entire six weeks. They did not get uniforms until they went to their first duty station. She went in in 1942 and this was right when the WAACs [Women's Army Auxiliary Corps]—

HI:

She went in the W-A-A-C?

HT:

Yes.

HI:

Yes, okay. That's different. You see, we had become a part of the army by then.

HT:

Right. But she said it was absolutely horrible to do basic training in your same outfit day in and day out. But she said everybody was in the same boat.

HI:

They must have looked ridiculous in street clothes! [laughs]

HT:

Is there anything else in particular that you remember about your basic training days that stand out? Did you receive any special training? Was it just general army training?

HI:

It was just general army training.

HT:

Drilling and that sort of thing?

HI:

Yes. And, KP [kitchen patrol]. And at that time you had to stand watch. I don't know what you were watching, but you still watched!

HT:

Were all of your officers women or were some men?

HI:

All women.

HT:

Was this an integrated camp or—

HI:

No, no.

HT:

So it was still segregated at this time?

HI:

Yes.

HT:

When you were assigned your first duty station, where was that?

HI:

Douglas Army Air Base, Arizona. That's where I stayed. That was my station—period. [laughs]

HT:

What type of work did you do?

HI:

Well, first I was a mimeograph operator. We ran off all of the orders and that sort of thing. Douglas was an advanced flying field.

HT:

So this was air-based?

HI:

Yes. Douglas Army Air Base.

HT:

How long did you stay there?

HI:

Let me see. We stayed in staging for a long time. Well, I was there about a year and a half.

HT:

Did you do the same type of work during all of this time?

HI:

No. Elgie Mooreland, from Cushion, Oklahoma, and I were assigned to the post print shop. We worked there for about five or six months. The supervisor of the print shop was transferred—I don't remember her name. Then we got this redhead male lieutenant from California. His first order was, “Get the [expletive] out of my print shop. If you want to do something for the service, stay home and knit socks.” Well, Sergeant Wright, who was the non-com[missioned officer] directly over the print shop, felt so bad. He had put us in for a promotion several times. He was sure that we would get it this time. Before Elgie and I came to Douglas, there were six men running these three mimeograph machines. But we ran the three between us. You know, one on each end and one in the middle. We could even run onion skin paper. Sgt. Wright was very impressed by our work, and he felt badly. After we left the print shop we reported back to our CO [commanding officer].

HT:

Did he not want women in the print shop? Was that it?

HI:

I guess. Because he told us we should be home—we should all go home and knit socks. I don't know if a female had replaced some of his buddies who were sent overseas. You know that was what we were doing, replacing men who were then sent overseas. Sometimes there was a great deal of resentment. Some thought if we weren't there, maybe they wouldn't have to go into combat.

HT:

That brings up my next question. Were you treated equal with men who had the same position?

HI:

Well, there were several other men in the print shop, but they did a different job. They set things for print, like a newspaper. We did mimeograph.

HT:

It's called setting type.

HI:

Yes, something like that. Yes.

HT:

Were you treated equal as men, or did you ever run into any type of discrimination because you were a woman or because you were black?

HI:

Oh, plenty of it because you were black. After we left the print shop, the day we were ordered out, we came back to the company and I was sent to the dispensary. I am not sure where Mooreland was sent. I was supposed to report to Captain Bendatte. When I reported to her, she told me my duties. She told me to report the next day to clean up the nurses quarters. I said, “Pardon me, Captain.”—I had a thing with calling people “sir” or “ma'am”; I would call them by rank—“Pardon me, Captain. Is there a man cleaning the nurses' quarters?”

She looked at me and said, “No, of course not.”

I said, “Then I refuse. I joined the service to relieve a man for active duty. If there is a man cleaning the nurses' quarters, I'll report in the morning. Otherwise I refuse.” And I saluted her and did an about-face and left.

I went back to the barracks and just cried. The first sergeant came over and told me to report, I think, to Lieutenant Clark, who was the CO. I didn't go. I just laid there on my bunk and cried.

Later, the sergeant and Lieutenant Clark came back. I remember her yelling, “Attention.” I still laid there on my bunk. Lieutenant Clark came and sat on the bunk and started rubbing my shoulders. I think she was the one who cut my name from Stevenson to Stevie. She said, “Stevie, what's the matter?” I was just crying, telling her how hard we had worked in the print shop, only to be run out. And then Captain Bendatte tells me to report the next morning as a maid. I said, “For twenty-one dollars a month! I could get fifty dollars a week in civilian life because maids are hard to find.” [laughs] She said, “All right. Let me talk to them.”

She left and when she came back she told me to report to the clinic. So I reported to the clinic the next morning. When I walked in, this lady was bent over, straightening out something in the cabinets. I walked in and said, “Private Stevenson reporting for duty.” Well, she turned around and who was it but Captain Bendatte. I said to myself, “Oh my God.” She looked at me and laughed and said, “Well, if it isn't my little spitfire.” From then on, we got along. Everything was beautiful. I think she admired me for what I did.

Captain Bendatte and I became very close. I remember when a plane had gone down up in the mountains—a naval officer and a civilian were on board. It had been missing for, I think, eleven months. They located the wreckage and found the bodies. They brought them in in body bags. We went in to look at the bodies. Since she had been an OR [operating room] nurse in civilian life, she said to me, “Stevie, let me look first.” She opened the bag, looked at me, grabbed her mouth and ran out saying, “No, no, no, don't look!” Remember I'm only seventeen years old. I unzip the bag and look in. The eyes have fallen down—I'll never forget—and the bugs are crawling around. And she's saying, “No, no, no, don't look.”

In the clinic, we tested the pregnant women, mainly officers' wives, for albumin and glucose. And that's how I got interested in lab work. I'll never forget. I had to have minor surgery, and I was talking to Captain Bendatte about it. Naturally, I was afraid. She said, “Well, don't be afraid. I'll be there with you.” So, she came to the operating room for the surgery. And I'll never forget. She said, “Just before they give you this pill, then just before, they give you the needle.” Because they gave spinals. Remember, at that time, spinals were in the experimental stage.

HT:

Yes.

HI:

Who else would you think they would practice on, but black people? So, I remember her saying, “Do you have to? The poor little skinny thing.” I weighed a 119 pounds at that time. I weighed 129 when I came out. I remember this doctor, saying, “Well, we have to learn.” Those were the last words I heard.

HT:

Oh, gosh.

HI:

So, I went on and had the surgery. I was fine. And when I woke up, you have never had such pain in your life—the spinal. I don't know what it is like now. But it was excruciating. The captain was sitting on the side of my bunk. I was so thirsty and I kept saying, “Some water!” This is in Arizona, where the temperature is way up there. I remember she would give me about two or three tablespoons of warm water, and I would beg for more. She made me lay flat, and she would come down every day and rub my back, sometimes two or three times a day. And she would give me those couple of spoons of water, telling everyone on the ward not to give me any more water or anything else.

In the meantime, I am hurting—bad. I kept begging one of the nurse's aides, another WAC who lived in the barracks with me, for an ice pack. The aide's last name was Cook—we called her “Cookie.” I had begged Captain Bendatte, but, of course, she refused. Finally, Cookie gave me an ice pack. I got on that ice pack and went to sleep. The next thing I knew was Captain Bendatte shaking me awake. She had seen the pack sticking out from under by back. Oh, my God. She threw the pack away and started massaging my back. And she asked me, “Who gave it to you? Who gave it to you?” I said, “I don't know.” She said, “Yes, you do. Do you know what could happen?” I said, “If I tell, is that any guaranty it won't happen? The person who gave it to me just got tired of my begging and crying. No, I'm not going to tell.”

She continued to work on my back. She was really a wonderful lady. If it had not been for her, I probably would have been paralyzed or all bent over. I had a male cousin that was in the service. When he had a spinal, there was not anyone with him who knew what they were doing. Some of the doctors had not finished school.

HT:

Right.

HI:

He was bent over. As years went by, it grew worse, until his spine snapped and he died. I still have pain in my back. I think it comes from the spinal. I can't bend over too much; but at least it wasn't like my cousin's. So, what else do you want to know?

HT:

Well, I was going to ask you if you ever received any special treatment because you were a WAC or a woman?

HI:

Well, no I don't think so. We were refused service in the Service Club because we were black. And, also, some of the other WACs were assigned to permanent KP duty in the hospital mess hall. One of the girls got word to Lieutenant Clark about the KP. When she heard—well, let's backtrack a little—actually, quite a bit!

After we arrived at Douglas, we heard that the commanding officer—I believe his name was Colonel McGuire—said that he had called Washington, or someone, and asked for “them” to send him WACs, but they sent him Negroes. That is what he called us. Lieutenant Clark went to Colonel McGuire's office and laid her bars on the table. She told him that he could take her bars, but her WACs would not work as maids or on permanent KP.

By this time, there were a lot of girls at Douglas, not just our basic group. That Colonel probably asked for clerical people, secretaries and such. Some of the WACs at Douglas were from Washington, New York, and Philadelphia. They had gone to school and had worked. Of course, we southern black women had not, for the most part. But you have some people who may not have any special training, but they are able to learn new things. I had never worked in a print shop, but I did a good job.

Now to get back on track. Douglas is right on the border of Mexico. You can walk across the border to Agua Prieta, Mexico, from Douglas, Arizona. We had a lot of Mexicans working on the post. I think all of the employees in the Service Club were Mexican. We went up there even though no blacks were allowed. When you have a bunch of young, black females, they're kind of tough. The men in the black company were docile. They would not have dared gone to the Service Club. Lieutenant Clark said, “We're going to the Service Club. Have some change in your pockets.” So we marched in there, and this little Mexican girl said, “We don't serve 'Nigs' in here.” Her English wasn't very good. “We don't serve 'Nigs.'” [laughs] So Lieutenant Clark asks if anyone in our group had experience working at a soda fountain-they were called soda jerks then. There were two sisters from Chicago-half-sisters really, another person from Pennsylvania, and Lettie Williams from Washington. They had all done this type of work. Lieutenant Clark told them to go behind the counter and fix anything we wanted. She then told us to lay down the exact money on the counter. So we did. Everyone else began leaving the club.

There was another problem with the movie theater. The theater had regular seats, except in the back there were about two or three benches—just legs with a board across them. The black soldiers, male and female, were expected to sit on these benches. Lieutenant Clark said, “You are not going to go up there and sit on those benches.” She told us, “Get your money and pay at the window.” After we paid, we went inside to the regular seats. Lieutenant Clark told us to spread out all over the theater. She did not want to see any two of us sitting together. The Mexicans, who were working in the theater, told us that “Nigs” were not allowed in the regular seats and called the manager. The manager called the MPs [military police].

They turned on the lights and stopped the movie. It was a big to-do. We just sat there. At that time, they did not have any female MPs and the male MPs were not supposed to handle any females. So they could only ask us to go, but we didn't go. The southerners in the theater were talking about it. The ones from other states were yelling out, “Turn off the lights and run the movie. What difference is it going to make?” Others were yelling out some funny things. “It won't come off. Now, don't you think, if it would come off, they would have washed it off a long time ago so we wouldn't have to go through this?” [laughs] It was really hilarious.

After this, they quickly built a little service club for the black military. The group of black soldiers on the base, who were mainly manual laborers, built the club. From then on we sat where we wanted in the theater. We went back the next night, the next night and the next night. Lieutenant Clark was called to the commander's office because of these incidents. We also wrote a petition to Mrs. Roosevelt about our problems.

HT:

That's the president's wife?

HI:

Yes. Lieutenant Clark got sick, and we all believed that it was either neglect or deliberate. No, she wasn't really sick. She had appendicitis, and she died. We all believed that they did it deliberately because she was a fighter. I can't remember if another officer replaced her by the time Mrs. Roosevelt came out. Anyway, there were three other WACs and I that were assigned to talk to Mrs. Roosevelt. I know we had some discussion with the lieutenant before she died, but I'm trying to think if she had died by the time Mrs. Roosevelt came. I can't remember. We talked to Mrs. Roosevelt about the problems on the base.

Years later, in the early 1950s, I was working in upstate New York at Sprout Lake Camp for underprivileged cardiac children. Mrs. Roosevelt was on the board of directors. As we were talking, she looked at me and said, “I've met you someplace before.”

I told her, “Yes.”

She said, “I told Franklin I had met one of the most intelligent young colored girls I had ever seen. How old were you?”

I said, “I wasn't old enough to be in the service.”

She said, “I knew that you weren't.” Usually, black people look much younger than they actually are. She said she knew I wasn't old enough but thought, “Well, maybe she is.” She had remembered me from back in Douglas, Arizona.

HT:

What was the final outcome of you ladies going into the Service Club and the theater? You mentioned a separate—

HI:

The theater was completely integrated. Most of the women in our group are dead. Elgie Mooreland made a career out of the army. We write to each other ever so often. Louise Haywood now lives in the Bronx. She and I keep in touch; in fact, I've got to call her this week. You could say that we had marches and sit-ins in Douglas, Arizona, in the 1940s, long before [Dr. Martin Luther] King .

HT:

As far as you know, was this one of the earliest times that something like this had occurred-the integration of a public theater?

HI:

Yes. I tell people that a lot of times. Of course, the army did not let this out because they were afraid that it would spread like wildfire and that others would rebel.

HT:

One quick question about Lieutenant Clark. Was she white or black?

HI:

She was black.

HT:

She was a black woman?

HI:

Yes.

HT:

So you had all black officers?

HI:

Yes. Now, let me see. In the print shop there was a white officer. But your company commander, sergeant in basic, and others were black.

HT:

You mentioned that there were some black men on this particular base.

HI:

Yes.

HT:

Were there many? Was it half and half?

HI:

No. It was just a small group of men, black men. A lot of them could not read or write. Our commanding officer—it had to be Lieutenant Clark because she was a go-getter—asked us if we wanted to volunteer to teach these guys to read and write. We did it for a little while but it did not work out. They got the wrong impression. They thought we wanted to date them. But we were not impressed with them. They were beginning to get out of hand. My gosh, today they would have been court-martialed. Lieutenant Clark spoke to the men about what we were trying to do. But she had to stop the course.

You don't know the black soldiers' real rank, because, so often, they would be made “acting.” It was the same for male and female. It was hard for a black soldier to be promoted—much harder than it was for whites. That is why Sergeant Wright in the print shop had a problem. If Elgie Mooreland and I had been white, they would have promoted us immediately.

We used to visit Fort Huachuca, which was sixty-some miles away. You had a different type of people over there. There were many black people who were college educated. I think the men in group 308th at Fort Douglas probably resented our going to Fort Huachuca. We had been invited a couple of times before Lieutenant Clark asked us if we wanted to go. “Yes, we want to go.” So we went.

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

HT:

You were talking about going to Fort Huachuca.

HI:

Yes

HT:

Was this on a social event?

HI:

Yes. We would go over there to visit different companies in the 92nd Division, known to be rough and tough. It was a huge base. I think it is still open and running. There was not to be any fraternizing in the ranks, you know.

HT:

Between officers and enlisted personnel?

HI:

Yes. Even the high-ranking enlisted men were not supposed to fraternize. But who was going to complain. I guess the WACs said, “Well, why go out with a private when you can go with a captain?” There was a lot of resentment on the part of the Fort Huachuca enlisted men. It seems that the enlisted WACs stationed at Fort Huachuca were mostly officers' girlfriends. As a matter of fact, it got so bad that they had to have guards around the WAC quarters at all times because the enlisted men felt they were just going to force themselves on the women. There were some rapes. The security was really tight around the WAC quarters because of the incidents.

HT:

This was Fort Huachuca—not where you were stationed?

HI:

At Fort Huachuca—the one that we used to visit.

HT:

What did you ladies do for fun? Did you go to dances or—you mentioned movies earlier.

HI:

Well, they had this little place in Douglas that they called the Doughboy, and that was were most of the black military went. It was very near the Mexican border. Douglas was very small, mainly civilian and strictly segregated.

HT:

You said Doughboy. Was that the name of a club?

HI:

Yes, that was the name of a place where the black military went to socialize.

HT:

Did you have dances and that sort of thing?

HI:

Yes. You could have dances and music. It wasn't dances per se, but they had a jukebox and you could dance to that. There really wasn't that much entertainment. You could go into town or go down to Mexico. In the dayroom on the base, some girls played cards and others danced with each other. You could invite fellows to the barracks, but they could not come to your room. Of course, we didn't have rooms. Only the higher non-coms had a private room.

HT:

Do you recall what your favorite songs, movies and dances were from those days?

HI:

Oh, boy. Well, the jitterbug was the dance. One of the songs I liked was Stairway to the Stars. There was another one-I think the name was Sweet Slumber.

HT:

Do you recall what the hardest thing you ever had to do physically while you were in the military? Earlier you mentioned marching during the cold winter at Fort Des Moines. That must have been tough.

HI:

The hardest thing, I think, was KP at Fort Des Moines. Have you ever tried to clean grease and frozen coffee grinds out of a garbage can? You had to crawl in. [laughs] That was hard, KP at Des Moines. That was harder than the drilling.

HT:

How often did you have KP?

HI:

Well, in basic I didn't have it too often. But in staging, you had it often because you weren't doing anything but waiting for orders-and shoveling snow. It was a very dry snow. When you tried to make snowballs they would fall apart and come back down in flakes.

HT:

Now, staging was also at Fort Des Moines?

HI:

Yes.

HT:

What was the hardest thing you ever had to do emotionally?

HI:

I don't know. Well, I guess one of the things that hurt the worst was when we were ordered out of the print shop. The sergeant had just put us in for promotion, and we had to walk out of there and not say anything. Refusing to clean the nurses' quarters was another incident. Captain Bendatte knew that the nurses were supposed to clean up after themselves. She knew that I was right when I refused to go. I think she admired me for it because we got along fine after that. She was a fantastic person when I got to know her.

HT:

Do you recall any embarrassing moments?

HI:

Embarrassing?

HT:

Yes, and they can be funny.

HI:

Not really. You know, the most embarrassing thing that you have in basic is trying to learn to march. You might be chewed out because you are out of step. But I can't think of any other really embarrassing things.

HT:

Speaking of marching, was that difficult for you to learn?

HI:

Well, yes. It is in the beginning. For the first week or so, you felt that it is just impossible to do. Then suddenly, something clicks and you have it. From then on, it's just building on what you already know. Being in the military service did a lot for me. I gained self-esteem that I never would have gotten in civilian life. You see, I'm 5'9" tall. At that time, my feet were 10AAAA—and they were too wide at that. My feet were like this and like that. [laughs] When I was young, it was a time when women were small. Boys liked little, petite women. In the military, the uniform looks much better on the tall person. The tall person is at the head of the platoon and the others follow. [laughs] So, you stretch up taller and taller. I wouldn't have changed for anything.

When I came back to civilian life, I thought nothing of wearing three and four inch heels at 5'9" and I would stretch up even more. So it really was good. I would not want to be in the service today. It has changed so much.

HT:

Were you ever afraid when you were in the military?

HI:

No, not really. Because, you see, I wasn't in the war zone.

HT:

Right. Did you ever feel you were in any physical danger? You mentioned some instances at Fort Huachuca earlier. Were you ever in any danger?

HI:

No, no. You see, your uniform identified you as being from Douglas. That used to call us the “Angels from Douglas.“ We had the wings, whereas Fort Huachuca had different insignia—the buffalo, lightning and others. So you could tell the Douglas girls from the Fort Huachuca girls. They treated us like queens, really. [laughs]

HT:

How long were you in the military?

HI:

Just two years.

HT:

Just two years?

HI:

Yes.

HT:

So, you got out in 1945?

HI:

December of 1944.

HT:

Did you ever think about making it a career?

HI:

Originally I did, but I got married and then I got pregnant. [laughs] Now, you can stay in. They'll give you housing, a room for the baby and all that. But in the 1940s you were discharged.

HT:

Was your husband in the military?

HI:

Yes, he was in the navy.

HT:

How did you meet?

HI:

Well, we had met in Salisbury before I went in.

HT:

Oh, so he was a hometown boy?

HI:

Yes.

HT:

Did he encourage you to stay in? Well, you couldn't stay in because you were pregnant—so you had no choice.

HI:

Right.

HT:

Do you feel you made a contribution to the war effort?

HI:

Yes, I do. I really feel that I made contribution to the war effort, and, also, I feel that we made a contribution to civil rights. It was small and the authorities at Douglas did not let the news out. But we certainly changed a lot of things while we were there.

HT:

So, Douglas was a much better place to live and work after you were there?

HI:

Yes.

HT:

Do you recall what the general mood or climate of the country was during World War II?

HI:

[pauses]

HT:

Was it patriotic or was there a lot of fear?

HI:

It was very patriotic. Because of the climate, you would have thought that they would have dropped segregation automatically, but they held onto that. If you were off the post in uniform, everybody, white or black, gave you that extra consideration.

HT:

Just because you were in uniform?

HI:

Yes. But I don't know what would have happened in a restaurant or at a water fountain that had “white only” and “colored” signs. I don't know what would have happened to a military person who was not used to watching for that type of sign and they used the wrong facility. But if it was giving you a ride or giving you directions, most anybody would do that for you, regardless of race. The uniform automatically got you that kindness. But still the prejudice and segregation stayed.

HT:

You mentioned Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt earlier. Did you meet any other interesting people while you were in the military? They don't necessarily have to be famous.

HI:

No, I think she's about the only one. She's the only one.

HT:

And what did you think of President Franklin D. Roosevelt?

HI:

You know, you didn't think of politics as you do today. He was just the president. But I think everybody loved Eleanor because she was the one that would see about things. You could ask her for help—like when we wrote to her about our problems—she came out.

HT:

Did you write to her directly?

HI:

No. We sent a petition to her, signed by us with our addresses.

HT:

What made you ladies think to write to her? How did you know that she might be able to help?

HI:

Well, by the time that we wrote, with all the discrimination and restrictions, we were afraid that things could have gotten worse. I think that the situation did not get worse because we were women. Even in the South, to a much greater extent, women, regardless of color, were more respected and could get away with things that the men would not have dared even to think of.

HT:

So, if the men had tried something like that, they might have been—

HI:

Oh yes. Yes. They all would have been court-martialed. They would have really gotten into trouble. But we got away with it because we were women.

HT:

Whose idea was it to write Mrs. Roosevelt? Do you recall?

HI:

I'm not sure if it was Lieutenant Clark or some of the other women. I am trying to think. Lettie Williams was from Washington. Lieutenant Clark was from Chicago, I think. I'm really not sure how the idea originated.

HT:

Anyway, it worked.

HI:

Yes.

HT:

Very interesting. Do you recall who your heroes and heroines were in those days?

HI:

One of them was—I believe his last name was [Dorie] Miller—he was the navy guy who manned the gun during the attack on Pearl Harbor. Of course, he had a low rank and was a black man. I used to remember his name but now I am not sure. And General Douglas MacArthur. I thought he was fantastic. I can't think of anyone else that I thought of as really a hero.

HT:

That's fine. I think you said that you got out in December of 1944. Is that correct?

HI:

Yes.

HT:

Do you recall where you were when you heard about VE Day? That's Victory in Europe Day.

HI:

Yes. I was at my sister's house in Statesville.

HT:

What about VJ Day, which happened three months later—Victory over Japan.

HI:

D-Day was in June, I think.

HT:

Let's see. D-Day was June 1944. That's the invasion of Normandy. VE Day, I believe, was in May of 1945. And VJ Day, I think, was in August of 1945.

HI:

All those things I used to rattle off like that, but I can't anymore. The invasion of Normandy was when?

HT:

In June of 1944. So you were still in the military when that was on.

HI:

Yes, I was still in the military then. Was there something in July of 1945?

HT:

I've lost my dates too, but there might have been. VJ Day? But I thought VJ Day was in August.

HI:

Oh, I'm not sure either. As I said, I used to know. Old age is my excuse—what's your excuse? [laughs]

HT:

[laughs] I need to look that up. Let's go on to another question. Can you describe your adjustment to civilian life in December 1944?

HI:

It was rough. The war wasn't over. When you enlist you agreed to stay in for the duration of the war. It was really hard to adjust to civilian life. I just felt lost. When I would see a military convoy go by, I would just stand and look at it and cry. I loved the service. Civilian life was really rough those first months.

HT:

Did your husband remain in the navy after you got married?

HI:

Yes. Well, he stayed until the end of the war and then the ship went into dry dock in New York.

HT:

Was he stationed in New York?

HI:

Originally, his home port was San Diego.

HT:

Did you work after you got out of the service or were you a homemaker?

HI:

Well, until 1951, I was at home. And then I started to work March 16, 1951. I started working as a nurse's aide at Ewing Hospital in New York.

HT:

Was that in New York City?

HI:

Yes.

HT:

What type of impact do you think the military had on your life immediately after you got out and in the long term?

HI:

Well, I think it had a good impact because you were able to get an education. The opportunities after WWII were endless for education.

HT:

Did you take advantage of the GI Bill?

HI:

Oh, yes. But not as much as some people. In New York City, if you were a resident, you could attend college without paying tuition. In the service, I learned about lab work for the first time. So, while I was at Ewing as a nurse's aide, I started going to lab and X-ray school at night. At Ewing, three women on the staff were ex-military—including Miss Jordan, the supervisor of nursing. She wanted me to go to nursing school—the city would have paid for it. But I really did not want to go to a nursing school. I wanted lab work. I saw too many cases where the doctors had goofed up and blamed the nurses. They would order around the nurses, barking and yelling at them like dogs. You don't do that to lab and X-ray techs. You get it back. [laughs]

So I told her that I wanted to go to lab school. They adjusted my hours accordingly and I went to school. After I completed school, Miss Jordan and Dr. Chambers, the first black administrator of a hospital in New York, got me the job over at Bird S. Coler, where I did blood bank and serology. In 1959 I went to the VA [Veterans Administration] Hospital in the Bronx as, I guess you would say, the technician in charge or supervisor in serology. I didn't stay there very long. In 1962, I went to MSTS, the Military Sea Transportation Service, at Brooklyn Army Terminal. I began going to college at night after I went over there.

In 1970 I went to Fort Hamilton and continued going to school at night until I got my bachelor's. I was in charge of the lab at Fort Hamilton for fourteen years, 1970 to 1984, until I retired.

HT:

And you got a bachelor of science degree, I guess?

HI:

Yes. When I first started, I was going to take some special courses in hematology because I worked for the navy. We were doing special platelet counts in themorphology of the red blood cells. I wanted to get more specialized training in this area. The navy was paying for that. Then when I got into it, I said, “Well, why not go on and get a degree?” So the navy paid for the initial courses and the City of New York paid for the rest.

HT:

Which college did you attend?

HI:

I started out at a junior college—a community college—in Brooklyn. Then I went to York College out in Jamaica, New York. That was a four-year college.

HT:

Do you consider yourself to be an independent person? I think you have touched on that briefly.

HI:

[laughs] Yes, I guess so. Yes.

HT:

Do you think the military made you that way, or kind of helped you along?

HI:

I think it helped greatly.

HT:

Do you consider yourself to be a pioneer or a trailblazer or a trendsetter whenyou entered the military? And looking back, do you consider yourself any of those things now?

HI:

Yes, still. I was then. I started in the military, and I continued after I left the service. I used to go to a resort in upstate New York. The law [against discrimination] had changed but people had not. When I was at Bird S. Coler Hospital, I worked with two Jewish ladies, Molly Saltzman and Miriam Bogdish. And Dr. Goldstein was the deputy superintendent.I got to know Dr. Goldstein by being a smart-ass, like I did when I refused to clean the nurses' quarters. I had done a test on this lady—a dietitian—a nice, quiet, black lady, a little old maid. And her serology was positive. You know you can be positive from heredity for syphilis. When the test went up to Dr. Goldstein, he came down to the lab. He was one of those boisterous loudmouths. If you didn't stand up to him, boy, he would make you feel microscopic. “This ain't possible,” he shouted. So I drew another blood on her and sent it down to the Health Department. The results came back the same as mine. So when the dated test came back, I took it and my test, which had been done first, up to him. I slammed them down on his desk and asked, “Now are you convinced that I am a good serology technician?” His secretary—we used to ride together on the train—or trolley—told me that afternoon, “After you left, Dr. Goldstein just laughed and said he finally had found somebody that would stand up to him.” So he was glad that I stood up to him. After that, we were friends. We used to send applications to the different resorts in upstate New York.

First we sent them together and I would be accepted and they would not be accepted. Now, Goldstein and Saltzman are Jewish names; Ingram is English. We tried sending them in differently. They would send theirs out this week, and I would send mine out the next week—to the same place. I would always be accepted, they would not. We would talk very openly about discrimination against Jews and blacks. After they were not accepted, I would send a notice canceling my reservation.

But I decided that I was really going to this one place, Silver Spur Lodge. When I went in, the lady behind the counter, a German lady, said “Oh, no.” She went to the back. Her daughter came out to talk to me. Her husband just peeked out. I don't think they had been in this country very long, or else they came when they were adults because they had terrific accents. But as the mother was talking to the husband, the daughter and I were just chatting away. She was going to school in New York City. When the mother came back out, I said, “I have my canceled check and my reservation.” When she seemed rather dubious, I said, “All right then. I'll see what I can do for this place when I turn this over to my lawyer.” This was just after the anti-discrimination law was passed.

HT:

Do you recall what year that was?

HI:

Oh, boy.

HT:

The Civil Rights Act was passed in 1965. Was that after 1965?

HI:

No. You see the law in New York was passed before then, before everything changed in the South. This was upstate New York, the Catskills. So, I suddenly had the reservation. There was too much of this stuff going on. And there were lawyers just sitting there, waiting to hop on things like that.

I've stayed in the Adirondacks, the Catskills. I didn't do it just to be the first one to do it. You know, my mother died when I was nine years old. I can't remember her face, but I remember something she always told us. Nobody in this world is any better than you, and you are no better than anyone in this world. So, I've always believed that. And then being in the service, and getting that extra confidence. Nobody can tell me differently. They might have a different job. They might be paid more money. They are no better than I am. And I have accepted people in the same way. Come to my house. My neighbor used to tell me that the United Nations met at my house. [laughs] I might have the cleaning woman, the kitchen man, the doctor, the hospital administrator all at my house at the same time. I like people. Another thing she said: “There is noone that you can't learn something from and there's nobody you can't teach something to, because nobody knows everything.” I've always felt that way.I am the only black member in my church. I joined in 1983, right after I came down here. We had one young black fellow for a while, and a couple with a little girl, but they moved. For most of the time that I have been there, I have been the only black. Most of my family are Baptists. But I had been a member of a United Church of Christ church in New York. When I moved down here, I asked my nephew about a church. My family acted like I had spoken a dirty word for mentioning any denomination except Baptist. So I just got the telephone book and found this church. I told my nephew that I had found a church.

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

I asked him about the neighborhood. He said he was not familiar with it and suggested that I drive by and take a look. I said, “Okay.” But then I thought about it. This is God's house. I just got dressed and went to the church. They had greeters at the front door. And this little guy—I don't know his real name, but we call him Mickey Finn. He met me at the door like I was his long-lost relative. When I went on in, everybody was smiling; and after service, everybody greeted me and asked me to come back. So, I went back for several Sundays. And then the minister said, “Well, I think you've come here enough to see what we're like. Now it's time for you to join.” So I joined the church; everyone treats me nice and everything is fine. A white neighbor asked me—she couldn't understand—“Don't you feel uncomfortable?” I said, “No. Human beings are people. Everybody's people. Everybody gets here the same way. There has been only one immaculate conception. Everybody else got here the same way. The parents did the same thing. So why should I be uncomfortable?” That's how I feel about it.

One of the church members and I volunteer at the [Greensboro] Urban Ministry. I kid him all the time. I say, “The Urban Ministry is run by the Congregational United Church of Christ.” Reverend Akins is a member of my church, and he is the director of the Urban Ministry. The director of the night shelter at Weaver House is my minister's husband. Ed Driver, another church member, and I volunteer down there a lot. We are buddies and carry on with a whole lot of foolishness. But the four of us are there all the time. We've been there for years. If you have an inferiority complex, people can see that. But if you have confidence in yourself and don't go around with downcast eyes, people can see that. Meet everybody, look across to them. Don't look up; don't look down. It doesn't matter if they are the president or a floor cleaner.

HT:

Do you think the military helped give you this outlook on life a little bit?

HI:

Yes, it did. The military did me a world of good. It gave me so much confidence. Because of my height, I've been called an Amazon and a freak. Before I went in the service, it hurt; after I came out, it didn't bother me. I remember this one fellow who said something about my height—that I was a freak. I said, “Do you see the models, all of those beautiful models walking around on TV? Are they freaks? They are taller than I am. The shortest one is my height, 5'9". They are all up about 6 feet. Are they freaks, too—the ones that you are gawking at?” He looked right stupid. That shut him up. It didn't bother me at all after I got out of the service to be taller than most of the other women I knew. My niece is 5'10". My brother, of course, is over 6 feet. He and I were the tallest—my sisters were shorter. But yes, the military gave me a lot of confidence.

I am glad I was in at a time when they were strict. I would not want to be in there, from what I see, now. Even when I was working at Fort Hamilton, the military personnel were more like civilians than I was. When I was in service, we had to wear uniforms all the time; and there were strict rules. Now there are no rules to break because they don't have any rules.

I remember I had a date with a handsome MP from Fort Huachuca. The aide to Col. Oveta Culp Hobby [Director of the WAC] was coming to Douglas the same day for an inspection. I was supposed to meet my date at the Doughboy. After I was off duty, I came back to the barracks, got dressed, and went out the back door. The bus stopped at the theater, up the street from the barracks. I went up there to catch the bus. After getting on the bus, I pulled up my foot and deliberately untied my shoe. As the bus was going by the barracks, I bent over to tie my shoe. I did not want anyone in the barracks to see me on the bus.

HT:

Oh!

HI:

I learned later that the guard at the gate was called and told that no WACs were supposed to leave the base. He reported that one had just leFort So after I get into town, I started to get scared and I come back to base. I don't think the CO would have made a big to-do out of it, because she knew that I was always pulling the stuff I could get away with. When somebody was fighting and arguing with each other, and couldn't get along, I never knew where my bunk was going to be. The first thing she'd say was, “Move it [the bunk]. Put Stevie there. Very few people could make me angry or get me upset.” But I came back to the base. As I was coming in, a bus load of WACs were leaving. The restriction had been lifted. The guard reported to the CO that I was returning as the other bus was leaving. She pulled my pass and restricted me to the base.

I went in the barracks and woke up my buddy from Texas—she seldom went anywhere. I said, “Go and get your pass. I've got to go back into town.” She said, “Stevie, you are going to get in trouble.” But she gave me her pass. I called my MP friend, back at the Doughboy. I told him that the general restriction had been lifted and that I would be back in town on the next bus. After my restriction was lifted—it probably was a week or so-I went back into town. When I came back to base, I reported that my pass was lost. So, they issued me another one. So, from then on, I had a pass all the time. If they pulled one, I had another. [laughs] You see, that is the fun of the service—when you can do something like that and get away with it. Now you can go out and come back when you want to. They have co-ed dorms. That's no fun. It's fun when you can get away with something. Even when you get caught, it's fun.

HT:

[laughs]

HI:

I just loved it, that kind of thing. You had to think, “How am I going to get out of this?” You're not hurting anyone. You know I did not hurt anyone. I returned the pass to my buddy. I stayed on the base until my restriction time was up, and then I got my pass and went into town. I came back and reported it lost and they issued me another one—and I had that one all the time.

HT:

[laughs]

HI:

That kind of thing is fun—when you can get something over or put something over the powers that be. Oh, it does you so much good.

HT:

And you're not really harming anybody.

HI:

No, right! You're not harming anybody. It's just fun. And Lieutenant Clark knew I was famous for that. The only time I was really upset was when we were kicked out of the print shop. And that was unjustified. She and I both wore our skirts short. I'll never forget the day. I was coming out of the mess hall and she was going in. She said, “Private Stevenson, you will lengthen that skirt.” Now, she's standing there—she's older that I am—and her skirt is up to there. I just looked at her face, down at her skirt, and back up to her face and said, “Yes, Lieutenant.” She knew I wasn't going to change my skirt. Hers was short and so was mine.

HT:

How long were the skirts supposed to be?

HI:

It was supposed to be below your knees, about to the end of your knee cap. And ours were up here.

HT:

Now, since you were fairly tall, did you have any problems with clothing?

HI:

No. The only thing I had problems with were the shoes, and I think everyone had problems with GI shoes. Mine were not narrow enough, and they used to rub blisters on my heels. When I came out of the service, I had this big knot sticking out on my heel, where those shoes had rubbed up and down. They had improved. When I worked at the print shop, I wore brogues like the men. The fatigues used to have belts around them—I used to wear that. They used to kid me and called me “L'il Abner.” I wore the men's shoes, but they did rub my heels. Have you seen those little brown things that they wore in World War II—WAC shoes? Oh, God. Those were the ugliest shoes you've ever seen. And you could not get them narrow enough. I believe the smallest width was a B. I usually had them wrapped around as tight as I could get them, and they still just flopped up and down.

HT:

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

HI:

Yes, I think so. I really think so. I have lost touch with most of the women that were in service with me. But almost all of them were strong women. If they had not been to college, they went to college. They broke into all kinds of fields. I know one became an FBI agent. I don't think any of them went into factory or domestic work. I think their military service greatly influenced them.

HT:

What about the black WACs and black ladies from other services? Did they affect the civil rights movement later on?

HI:

Well, I think they did. Even if they did not personally participate, sometimes their children or nieces or nephews did. The veteran's influence was felt. My niece did a sit-in in Winston-Salem at the Teachers College—I forget the year. She called me and said, “I can't tell mama. I can tell you, Aunt Henry, because I know you will understand.” They rebelled against some segregation thing. She called me in New York and told me. She had to talk to somebody that she knew.

HT:

Do you recall how women were perceived by the general public, particularly by men? I was reading recently that there was a slander campaign in the spring of 1943, particularly against WAACs.

HI:

Yes.

HT:

And the British women and the Canadian women had undergone the same thing. Do you recall that?

HI:

Yes. They used to call us “GI Sallies.” We were supposed to come into service, be prostitutes for the men. Those men who did not want to go in or those who were in but did not want to go on active duty—and when I say “active duty” I mean the front—were most likely to complain about us. And there were some on the outside, too. If you thought a woman would be taking your son's place and he would be sent to active duty, you might engage in such talk.

The funny thing was, if you wanted to be sure that your daughter was walking the straight and narrow, the best place for her to be was in the military at that time. You had bed checks, you had to have a pass to leave the base, and if you were caught in any hanky-panky, you would be discharged. It was very strict. Of course in those days, parents were strict on their kids, too. But the military was one of the safest places you could be.

In connection with this, one incident comes to mind. A couple were engaged to be married. He was one of the guys in the 308th Company and she was a member of my company. He worked at the Bachelor Officers Quarters. She met him after he got off—probably about 5 or 7 [p.m.]. I don't know how it happened, but they ended up in the visiting general's quarters. A white lieutenant had been trying to talk to her, but she had not given him any encouragement. Supposedly he saw the couple go to the general's quarters and reported them to the MPs. The man got six months in the brig, but she got a dishonorable discharge—very unfair. Only an act of Congress can remove a dishonorable discharge from your record. You aren't even considered a citizen.

The MPs brought the girl over so that she could pack her things. Someone had to count what she packed to be sure she took only her stuff. She was crying: “What am I going to do? What am I going to tell my parents?” Suddenly she started to run out the back door. At that time, I don't know how strict they are with it, but if they yelled “halt” three times, after the third halt, they can shoot to kill. Now, although she had not done anything, they would have been justified in killing her because she ran. As the MP yelled the third time, her close friend threw herself over his hand, and the gun went off into the floor.

Someone tried to bring the girl back so that she would not be shot, but she would not come back. Later she was seen in town on drugs and prostituting. Her girlfriend offered to take leave and go home with her. She offered to get in touch with her parents. I don't think she ever made it back home. They had taken everything out of her. I saw her not long after and she did not look good. Later, others saw her and barely recognized her.

If this had happened today—both were enlisted people—they would have probably been fined or demoted—not for what they were doing but where they were doing it. But back then, they were punished for what they were doing first and where they were doing it second. Why not give both of them six months? But she got a dishonorable discharge and he got six months.

HT:

As far as you know, he had to serve his six months. And then he went back to his normal duty?

HI:

Yes. That's all he got—six months. And she got a dishonorable discharge.

HT:

Oh, wow. That's quite a story.

HI:

[laughs]

HT:

Have any of your children ever been in the military?

HI:

My son was in the military.

HT:

Army?

HI:

Yes.

HT:

Did he join or was he drafted?

HI:

He was drafted. That was during Vietnam.

HT:

Do you have any daughters?

HI:

I have one daughter. She was going in the military. She had planned to apply for a commission. But after she graduated from Howard University, she got sick. She got spinal meningitis. That was in 1973 or 1974. It left her mentally paranoid, schizophrenic. She's been in and out of hospitals in New York, on the street, in mental hospitals, and that kind of thing. That's the story of my two children. My son died in 1996, November 1996.

HT:

Did he make the military a career?

HI:

Oh no. He was a musician and an artist. He also was a counselor for substance abuse and an AIDS counselor in Brooklyn.

HT:

How do you feel about women in combat positions, such as the women who recently flew combat missions over Iraq?

HI:

Well, if I were going to be in it, I'd want to be on something rather than on the ground, in the swamps and mud and stuff. [laughs] I'd fly combat planes or be on the ships. But I'd just be doggoned if I'd be out there in those jungles in the mud. Of course, Tammy Kikta—in New York she was my last female technician to work in the lab—I think she would have fit in anywhere. I think she could have held any man in any position. She was nice, sweet as could be. But she was built strong. Oh boy, she just worshipped this one guy. Of course, she married him and it didn't work out because she loved him too much. I think she would have been ready to go into combat. She could have stood up and held her own. But put me in the plane or on the ship, not out there stomping through the jungle. No sir.

HT:

Do you think women in general should have equal opportunity—

HI:

Yes! If they want to go out there in those woods, let them go ahead. [laughs] But I don't want it. If you train them and get them mean enough—you know, Indians used to say the worst thing in the world is to be turned over to the squaw. If you really train them—they don't have the strength but they have the cunning—they could be really tough if they were trained and their cunning enhanced. They could really do it. They could hold their own.

HT:

Is there anything else that we haven't covered that you'd like to add about your military service?

HI:

Not really, not that I can think of now.

HT:

I was going to ask you about what you had done since then, but I think you have already answered that. Thank you so much. Mrs. Ingram, those are all the questions that I have for you. I really appreciate this so much. It's just been absolutely fascinating listening to you today.

HI:

I know that I have jumped around quite a lot, but you can't do it chronologically. Things come up and you need to connect them.

HT:

Right. They do all make sense after a while. They really do. Thank you so much again.

[End of interview]