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The Betty H. Carter Women Veterans Historical Project

Oral history interview with Jean Comins Mitchell, 1999

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Object ID: WV0052.5.001

Description: Documents Jean Comins Mitchell’s time at the Woman’s College of the University of North Carolina (now the University of North Carolina at Greensboro); interning at Walter Reed Army Hospital; the various army hospitals she was stationed at during her World War II service in the Army Medical Corps; and her life after the war.

Summary:

Pre-war topics include Mitchell’s experiences as a student at Woman’s College in the early 1940s and her one-year dietitian internship at Walter Reed Army Hospital in Washington, D.C., in 1943.

Mitchell mentions basic training at Fort Meade, Maryland, but she primarily discusses her activities at the army hospitals where she was stationed. She notes the frequent changes in dietitian assignments; the assignment of patients to hospitals based on ailment; and schedules, quarters, and social activities of dietitians. Of particular interest are Mitchell’s recollections of being the dietitian for General John J. Pershing, who lived in the penthouse of Walter Reed. She also recalls the death of President Roosevelt and discusses popular music of the time.

Post-war topics briefly include her marriage to a navy man, her employment, and her children.

Creator: Jean Comins Mitchell

Biographical Info: Jean Comins Mitchell of Kingston, New York, was a dietitian in the Army Medical Corps from 1943 to 1945.

Collection: Jean Comins Mitchell 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:

ERIC ELLIOTT:

Good afternoon, I am Eric Elliott with the University of North Carolina at Greensboro [UNCG], and I am in Martinsville, Virginia, today, which is Tuesday, March 16, 1999, and I'm interviewing Jean Mitchell for the Women Veterans Oral History Project at the university. Mrs. Mitchell, thanks for doing this today.

JEAN MITCHELL:

You're welcome.

EE:

As I say, we want to kind of get some background information on everybody that we're interviewing, so could you just tell me for a minute where you were born, where you grew up?

JM:

I was born in Kingston, New York, but I went to high school in New Bern, North Carolina, which is probably how I got to WC [Woman's College, now UNCG].

EE:

I was going to say, I don't hear much New Yorker in that accent.

JM:

No, I've been here a long time. [chuckling] But my father was in the chain store business and we moved a lot, so one year I went to seven schools in four different states.

EE:

Good gracious! What was the company?

JM:

Montgomery Ward.

EE:

Montgomery Ward? Okay, so he was a manager, a store manager?

JM:

Yes.

EE:

And what did your mom do?

JM:

Well, she was just a housewife. I don't say just a housewife.

EE:

No, no. Well, if you've done that, it's not just a.

JM:

No. [chuckling]

EE:

Do you have any brothers and sisters?

JM:

One sister. She went to WC, too.

EE:

Well, now are you older or younger?

JM:

No, I'm older.

EE:

Older and wiser. That's the way I like it. [chuckling] So how old were you when you moved to New Bern?

JM:

Let's see, I guess I was twelve, because I graduated from high school there—I was just sixteen—and went to WC in '39.

EE:

Were you the first person in your family to go to college?

JM:

No, my mother went to Saint Lawrence up in northern New York.

EE:

Well, how did you find out about WC then?

JM:

Well, of course, going to high school in North Carolina, and during the time of the Depression, people didn't have a whole lot of choices about where to go to school, and you kind of—

EE:

Tuition and transportation made that one a good option.

JM:

Yeah. And then in the meantime we moved to Bluefield [West Virginia], but I was already registered at WC.

EE:

You got accepted at WC, and then your family moved to Bluefield before you moved. So it was senior year in high school when you moved.

JM:

Yes, I went to New Bern.

EE:

Did they have in-state/out-of-state tuition back then? Did you still get in-state?

JM:

Yes, I think they had that, but of course when I went to WC I can kind of remember my father saying that a thousand dollars a year covered everything, you know, your traveling, your spending money, your tuition, everything.

EE:

Well, what did you do? Did you take the train down from Bluefield?

JM:

The bus!

EE:

The bus? Oh, my!

JM:

I've never been on a bus since I graduated. [chuckling]

EE:

Enough of that trip. [chuckling]

JM:

Yeah. [chuckling] It was a wind-y journey, and of course there was no gas so you couldn't take the cars much. So I rode that old Greyhound bus a lot.

EE:

So you started when, '39?

JM:

I went in the fall of '39.

EE:

Did you go to school expecting to study anything in particular, or you just kind of—?

JM:

No. I think it was after my freshman year, you kind of had to make a decision by then, and so I guess my mother influenced me to go into home ec[onomics].

EE:

Was that something that she wished she'd had? What did she study at Saint Lawrence?

JM:

She was a teacher.

EE:

Okay. Which dorm were you in at WC, do you remember?

JM:

My freshman year I was in Coit, and I always remember Miss Grogan at Coit.

EE:

Keeping order on the hall?

JM:

Yeah, we really had order. And then I lived two years in North Spencer [Dormitory]. In my senior year I lived in one of those new dorms, they were new then, that were near the freshman dorms, you know. There was a pair—I can't even remember the name of it now, but Miss Katherine Taylor was the housemother.

EE:

Yeah, many people have fond memories of her. [chuckling]

JM:

Yeah.

EE:

Were you one of those people that tested the wiring in Spencer and cooked at night?

JM:

No.

EE:

Was college a pretty good experience for you?

JM:

Pretty good, although those years when all the boys went to war and—

EE:

You were coming at a bad time then, weren't you?

JM:

Yes, and in '41, of course, the ones that hadn't gone left then, and so the social life wasn't quite as good after that. But—

EE:

When you started school, do you remember thinking that—Because at the time you started it wasn't an American war, it was halfway through with Pearl Harbor, so did people just sort of think, “Well, it's over there, it's not our problem”?

JM:

Yeah, I don't think we worried about it so much. At that age you don't worry too much about things.

EE:

True. Even things that are important, you sort of have an attitude that you can go through it. Well, are there favorite professors or classes that stand out in your mind?

JM:

Oh, yeah. I wish you hadn't asked me that because it leaves me.

EE:

We'll come back to it. Don't worry about. Go back to it.

JM:

But I liked most everything.

EE:

So you were a major in home ec at the school. Did you have to do things outside of the campus for part of that degree? Did you have to go to different parts of town?

JM:

No. One year, one summer we were required to get a job, and I took a job at the hospital at home in Bluefield, in the dietetic department. But other than that, during the year we didn't go—

EE:

Was that the first time you had done anything in dietetics?

JM:

Yeah.

EE:

And you must have liked it.

JM:

Yeah, I liked it. I majored in food and institution management.

EE:

And that's what you were planning on doing right after your degree.

JM:

Yeah.

EE:

Now, in '43 when you graduated, did you go right into the army? How did that work?

JM:

Well, this was out of the Greensboro paper, and that was five of us got chances to go to hospitals. As I remember, I had the choice of Walter Reed [Army Hospital, Washington, D.C.] or one in Texas, and I chose to go to Walter Reed for—That's like a year's—

EE:

I think part of this is you have to have an internship like this to be accredited as a dietitian.

JM:

Right.

EE:

So it's really a one-year study after your four years.

JM:

Yes.

EE:

And everybody has to do this. But you got this internship at Walter Reed. Walter Reed is a pretty impressive place, so that means that you were in the top of the class.

JM:

Well, it really is a great place, thinking back on it.

EE:

Yeah. So did that pay your expenses? Did you live in the hospital, or how did you—?

JM:

Well, the first six months we didn't get paid at all, but we did get our room. We lived on the base, and got our room and board of course. And then after six months you became—rather than a student you became an apprentice, and they paid us a little bit. [chuckling]

EE:

In other words, room and board, and if you got anything more than that you just said, “Thank you,” and didn't spend it at once.

JM:

Yeah. But I don't remember that it seemed a problem. We were so busy, really, and there was such a little bit to buy that you—You really didn't have much desire to go shopping.

EE:

Well, I guess they had started rationing before you got out of college, didn't they?

JM:

Oh yeah, I had that old ration book.

EE:

Gas stamps and—

JM:

For shoes and sugar and cigarettes—you know, all the things. So I don't remember that money was a problem. Of course, nobody had a car.

EE:

So everybody was on an equal level of deprivation.

JM:

We were all in the same boat.

EE:

Well, once you got to Walter Reed, how many other people were in the same program there? Were you the only one, or were there others?

JM:

No, this is a picture of our class. They were from all over, you know. Here we are with John Garfield.

EE:

Oh my, the movie star.

JM:

Yeah.

EE:

Yes, I think everybody is happy for that picture. [chuckling] A good-looking guy. I wish they made suits like that these days. So this looks like about fifteen women. From all around the country?

JM:

Yeah, from all over. I didn't know any of them before I went there.

EE:

Now you were a civilian at this point.

JM:

Yeah.

EE:

You weren't part of the army, they just needed you at this army hospital.

JM:

Yes.

EE:

These other places were not. They weren't all army facilities.

JM:

Not all of them are army.

EE:

Okay. So you're working with these people and they're teaching you your profession. And what would be your job while you were here?

JM:

Well, we did everything. Well, while we were students we went to classes half a day. We worked in the mornings, went to class in the afternoon, and then went back to work. We always worked a split shift, from like 6:30 in the morning till after lunch, and then from four o'clock till after dinner, with one day off a week.

EE:

It makes you not want to complain the rest of your—

JM:

No. [chuckling]

EE:

Now you were working that kind of shift because that's part of the normal internship or because of the war and all the work that was going on?

JM:

No, that always goes on in hospitals, you know. I mean, you have to be there for breakfast and you have to be there for dinner, and so we worked—

EE:

So your social life consisted of hanging out with the fellow nurses, it sounds like, or the dietitians there.

JM:

Yeah, the dietitians.

EE:

This was a one-year program.

JM:

Yes.

EE:

And when you were there, you were probably looking to go back out and work in another hospital. Were you wanting to come back home?

JM:

No.

EE:

You were wanting to see the world?

JM:

I was wanting to join the army. [chuckling]

EE:

Oh? Now when did you get this idea? Because you didn't start out being a dietitian to join the army in '43?

JM:

No, but after it became evident that I could go to Walter Reed, it was just natural to go on. In fact, I think everybody in our class got a commission, in that class, I'm not sure.

EE:

Why do you think that was? Was the pay better, or was—just a patriotic duty?

JM:

It was just what you did then, if you had anything to contribute.

EE:

How did your folks feel about that?

JM:

Fine.

EE:

It's a long way away for my baby to go away from home.

JM:

Well, I had been away at college for four years, so it was—You know, I don't think they ever expected me to come back to Bluefield. There wasn't too much there to do.

EE:

So you had become independent in spirit enough to take care of yourself at that point.

JM:

Yeah.

EE:

Did you sign on as a member of the—Tell me, is it the Army Dietitian Service? What was the formal name of the group within the army?

JM:

Well, we were Medical Department Dietitians and attached to the Army Medical Corps. I saw on this calendar that I have in the kitchen that in 1947 they formed the Army Specialist Corps, which now includes people like dietitians and physical therapists, but then we were just attached to the Medical Corps.

EE:

And you made that decision—Was it early in the year you signed on once you got to Walter Reed, or was it at the end of the internship?

JM:

I think I always knew when I went to Walter Reed that I was going on to take a commission.

EE:

At the end of this year at Walter Reed, did you have to go like to basic training or something?

JM:

Oh yeah, I went to Fort Meade [Maryland]. I have a real cute picture of me in here. Here's the class of ladies at Fort Meade.

EE:

Oh my. Now these are not all dietitians, are they?

JM:

This group is. This group would include physical therapists and maybe nurses and all.

EE:

These would all be part of the Medical Corps.

JM:

Yes.

EE:

What was basic training like? For dietitians, I can't imagine.

JM:

We learned to march and pitch a pup tent by the numbers, and we crawled under barbed wire on our stomachs, and learned how to put on a gas mask, more or less like the men, only they laughed at us. [chuckling]

EE:

Did the women take it seriously?

JM:

Sure.

EE:

But you don't think the instructors took it seriously?

JM:

Not too. [chuckling] I don't believe they did, but they were nice.

EE:

Were the instructors mainly men, or women?

JM:

Men.

EE:

And you were all housed in the same barracks.

JM:

Yeah.

EE:

Those are great pictures. It looks like you've got kind of this “Luther Billis” [character in South Pacific] hat turned up here. [chuckling]

JM:

Yeah. Well, everybody, we would roll up our hair in the morning and then put the hat on over it, you know. So when night came we would have curls.

EE:

My. And everybody's doing their own home perms then, I guess.

JM:

Yeah.

EE:

Well, that's great. How long did basic training last?

JM:

It seems like it was about six weeks.

EE:

Six weeks?

JM:

Five or six weeks.

EE:

Now when you went in, did they tell you in advance where you would be going?

JM:

No. We got orders to go to Fort Meade when we got our commissions, and then after that we had really no idea. And I went from Fort Meade to Valley Forge Hospital up in Pennsylvania.

EE:

I used to live in Valley Forge.

JM:

Did you?

EE:

Right outside. You know where Wayne, Pennsylvania, is?

JM:

Sort of, yes.

EE:

It's right across the bridge.

JM:

I believe the town this was in, is it Phoenixville? I don't know. Anyway, it isn't too far from Philadelphia.

EE:

Right, and you know where King of Prussia is, yeah.

JM:

Yeah. So that's where I went first from there.

EE:

How long were you at Valley Forge? Now that was a military—?

JM:

Yeah, that was an army hospital.

EE:

Okay, an army hospital.

JM:

I wasn't there too long, a couple months maybe.

EE:

And your job there was to make sure that everybody had the right balanced meals and all the patients had their special diets met?

JM:

We planned menus and supervised the trays, interviewed patients, and—

EE:

So when you got there, were you in a supervisory role? Were you an officer?

JM:

Yeah, a second lieutenant.

EE:

And that was sort of where dietitians started in at was second lieutenant because of their professional ability?

JM:

Yes.

EE:

Okay. How long were you at Valley Forge?

JM:

You know, I can't remember, but it wouldn't have been over a couple of months, something like that. And then I went to Deshon [Army Hospital], which is near Pittsburgh, in Butler, Pennsylvania.

EE:

You'll have to spell that one for me. How do you spell it?

JM:

D-e-s-h-o-n.

EE:

Okay, Deshon, just like it sounds like.

JM:

I was there over Christmas. I remember it was a terrible winter. And that's snow. You see the snow?

EE:

Oh yes.

JM:

That's the mess sergeant and I and the civilian kitchen helpers. Here's a picture of our Christmas tree. [chuckling]

EE:

That's a pretty tall-roofed building there, looks like.

JM:

Yeah. Of course a lot of the buildings then at army bases were temporary, you know.

EE:

Right. Kind of Quonset hut, throw them up and get ready to move on. And that's right outside of—It's in Butler, Pennsylvania?

JM:

Yeah, near Pittsburgh.

EE:

And you had a similar kind of role there?

JM:

Yeah.

EE:

How long were you at Butler?

JM:

Not long.

EE:

Not long, huh? So they just moved you wherever, the next spot down the road?

JM:

Yeah, and then I went to McGuire [Army Hospital] in Richmond [Virginia].

EE:

These are all army hospitals?

JM:

Yeah. This is McGuire, a picture of it. I don't know how it looks today, but then it had a lot of temporary buildings, you know.

EE:

Right. Tell me about the patients that you got there. Were they all from the same field of combat? Were certain hospitals—

JM:

No, they were separated by what was wrong. Like at Valley Forge they were burns, terrible burns, and at Deshon it was blind people.

EE:

So all the patients had similar ailments.

JM:

Yeah. And then at McGuire—I don't remember a particular thing at McGuire.

EE:

This is a good list. And of course this is the days before the photocopy machine and everything's in quadruplicate, and I just feel for those folks who had to put all this together. [chuckling]

JM:

I know it.

EE:

And if you moved as quickly—I'm sure this list was valid for about a month.

JM:

Yeah, not long. Like they used to say, “Shoot the bull, pass the buck, and make three copies of everything.” [laughter]

EE:

My goodness. Well now, how did you keep track of each other? They were coordinating you through what, Washington? Your orders came down from Washington?

JM:

Yeah, the head dietitian of the army was in Washington.

EE:

What was her name?

JM:

Gosh, I can't remember.

EE:

The head dietitian. Did you have any other superiors on a more regional basis?

JM:

Oh yeah. Like at Walter Reed when I was there, the highest-ranking dietitian was a captain, and I heard later that she became a major. That was really good for a dietitian. [chuckling] But most of these other hospitals, there would be like first lieutenants.

EE:

Okay. How long were you at McGuire then?

JM:

I guess I was there till—I believe I saw in those orders I was there till May that year.

EE:

Now this is interesting, this list. This would have been May of '45?

JM:

Yeah.

EE:

So this is where you were on VE [Victory in Europe] Day.

JM:

Yeah, right about that.

EE:

Do you remember that?

JM:

Yeah.

EE:

A big party?

JM:

Right. [laughter] And I also remember the day President [Franklin D.] Roosevelt died, and the train—

EE:

Did the train come up through Richmond?

JM:

—came through there, and everybody was—went to see it.

EE:

I remember my mom—It went through Concord [North Carolina], and she remembers going out with her mom and standing beside the tracks. How did you feel about Roosevelt?

JM:

Well—

EE:

He inspired strong opinions.

JM:

Yeah. I didn't hate him like people—you know. And I guess at that point we were into the thing, you know, and we thought we ought to have continuity, I guess.

EE:

Did anybody know who Harry Truman was?

JM:

I don't think we really did. [laughter]

EE:

I think he had about three different vice presidents while he was president those four times, so it was sort of like, “Who's this? Who's there today?” I was looking here that at McGuire you had a first lieutenant as head dietitian, and then you and another woman, Miss Kiddie it looks like, was—There were three dietitians in charge of—How many patients were there at that hospital, do you remember, at that time?

JM:

I don't remember what we had.

EE:

Were there more than a thousand, or less?

JM:

I would think not more than a thousand, but I'm not sure.

EE:

Okay. And it looks like there's a lot of Red Cross personnel too, caseworkers and stuff.

JM:

Yeah.

EE:

What was their function? How did they work with you? Were they assisting with the individual cases?

JM:

Well, of course they didn't have anything to do with us, the Red Cross. They did a lot for the patients, helping them with—

EE:

Well, what's interesting is that this listing kind of is a snapshot I haven't seen before of all the different kinds of personnel needed at one hospital. And my guess is that this hospital basically came into existence with the war and left existence after the war because it was a temporary.

JM:

Now that hospital, I think, still exists. I'm not sure whether it's still—

EE:

Is it a V.A. hospital now?

JM:

I'm not sure whether it's a V.A. or whether—I know it's still there, McGuire Circle in Richmond, but at that time they had a lot of temporary barracks where we lived.

EE:

That was May of '45.

JM:

Then I went back to Walter Reed.

EE:

When did you go back, the summer of '45?

JM:

Right, in May, and I was there till the end of the war.

EE:

So you were in Washington on VJ [Victory in Japan] Day?

JM:

Yes.

EE:

Another good party.

JM:

That was a really wild time.

EE:

When you went back to Walter Reed, did you have your own apartment or did still—

JM:

Well, we didn't have accommodations on the base, the dietitians didn't, and we lived in an apartment right across from the gate on Georgia Avenue. We just had to find our own thing, and three of us lived in a one-bedroom apartment over there, but we got along just fine.

EE:

I guess you were just old enough, having graduated, your parents did not have to sign for you to join the service?

JM:

No.

EE:

And you say their attitude about you joining the service was—?

JM:

They thought it was fine. I really don't think it ever occurred to them—

EE:

It could have been dangerous.

JM:

It really didn't occur to me too much that I might go overseas.

EE:

The woman this morning, it was interesting, she said when she signed up she asked them, “Would I have to go overseas?” And [they said], “No, we've got plenty of folks overseas. We need people at home.” And six weeks later they said, “We need you in Naples.” And it makes a lot of difference. [chuckling]

JM:

Oh yeah. So I didn't ever have to do anything like that. I had a friend who came back to Walter Reed who had been in the Battle of the Bulge, got caught. Some of my friends were overseas, some of the people in this class.

EE:

And the reason that they got caught is because they were in these hospitals, which were close enough to the front lines that they were—If the lines moved quickly, they could be caught behind the lines.

JM:

She was the only one I ever really knew personally, you know, who'd had an experience like that.

EE:

The army was not the only branch of the service that had dietitians, was it?

JM:

I'm sure not, no.

EE:

I'm pretty sure that the navy had some.

JM:

I think all the branches, they'd have their own—

EE:

Well, I guess once you're at Walter Reed there's no choice about whether staying in the army or somebody else then.

JM:

No.

EE:

That made your decision for you.

JM:

Yeah, so that was, I guess, considered a really good post to get.

EE:

How were the women treated in general working in the military?

JM:

Fine, I think.

EE:

So you didn't feel anything distinctive about being a woman working in this military environment?

JM:

[No.]

EE:

You came back to Walter Reed, and how long were you at Walter Reed after that?

JM:

I was there till September of '45. I got married then.

EE:

Married a military man, or—?

JM:

Well, he was in the navy. He was someone I went to high school with. We'd known each other a long time, and he'd been in the Pacific forever, all during the war.

EE:

So you had kept up in writing during the war?

JM:

Yes. He was over there at Pearl Harbor.

EE:

So he was there from the beginning?

JM:

Yes, and never did get to come home till that summer of '45.

EE:

And you kept a romance going the whole time?

JM:

Well, yeah, I guess we did. [chuckling]

EE:

Well, that's a story in and of itself, because that takes a toll on your heart. That's hard to do. So you got married in September?

JM:

Yes.

EE:

And then you came back—?

JM:

Came here to Martinsville. Walter Reed was pretty interesting. You saw some of the famous people. I saw General [George S.] Patton walk through one day. And General [John J.] Pershing lived in the penthouse at Walter Reed, so I was his dietitian for a while. I never saw him.

EE:

Right, but you checked off on his menu. [chuckling]

JM:

He had a corpsman who stood between him and me, you know, and came for his trays. [chuckling] He just lived there and people came to consult with him, I think, you know, the army people.

EE:

Well, he was the World War I expert. I think he's probably instrumental in veterans getting as good a treatment as they did, because he stood up for the veterans after World War I and said we need to treat them right.

JM:

Yeah.

EE:

You said there was a woman who was in charge of you who was later made major. Who was in charge of the hospital overall at that time, do you remember?

JM:

I don't remember his name. I had a menu here that was from Christmas that might have his name on it. Here's a picture of the hospital.

EE:

Oh yes, Marrietta, the commanding general. Christmas dinner of '42. Now you weren't there in '42, were you?

JM:

Let's see, no.

EE:

So this was just from the year before. You were probably using this to plan '43's menu is what you were doing. You were looking and making sure you didn't have the same thing and—[chuckling] Okay, I understand. That's a pretty picture. And Washington was a different town then than it is now, wasn't it?

JM:

Oh yeah, I'm sure. I haven't been in quite a long time, but at that time we thought nothing of going out at night and catching the trolley downtown, you know, or coming in. We didn't think about anything being dangerous.

EE:

Did you ever have any thought of staying in the military at any time?

JM:

No. Well, of course it wasn't a choice after I got married. I got out right then. I really didn't have too much desire to do that.

EE:

Well, now did you go back to work as a dietitian?

JM:

I worked here at this hospital, local hospital, for maybe a year, until I had my first baby. And then later on, after my children were grown up a little, I had a catering service, which is, I guess, sort of connected to food. [chuckling]

EE:

Yes. Being exposed to the wide variety of patients, I guess, what's the hardest thing that you had to do during your time in the military, emotionally?

JM:

Well, when you just see that many sick and wounded people—At Walter Reed, of course, they had a lot of people who'd lost legs and arms, and I don't think you ever forget that, just rows of people like that. I never have bought a foreign car.

EE:

It stays with you, doesn't it?

JM:

Yeah. My children laugh about that, but, you know—

EE:

Yeah, this is a lingering—You remember the troubles it caused before. [chuckling]

JM:

Yeah.

EE:

That's interesting. Was boot camp physically hard for you?

JM:

Not really. No, I don't remember that it bothered me.

EE:

So your military career didn't have a lot of physical hardships as such?

JM:

No.

EE:

Well, you didn't drop your tray in front of General Pershing, that would have qualified as this one. What's your most embarrassing moment? We have to ask this one, I guess, just to make sure everybody can find something funny.

JM:

I guess the most embarrassing one was the morning that General Pershing didn't get his breakfast on time. And ever after that—[chuckling]

EE:

You personally delivered it?

JM:

No, but I personally stayed on that ward till he ate. [chuckling] I had been in the habit of fixing the tray, laying it out, ready for his corpsman, you know, and then going to breakfast, because we never knew when General Pershing might want his breakfast. But after that I stayed till he got it.

EE:

So you were the one personally who had to put together that. Was that when you were an intern you were doing this, the first time around? This was during your internship?

JM:

Yeah.

EE:

What was the mood of the country back then, to you? Were people generally optimistic? Were they afraid?

JM:

I think people that I knew were generally optimistic and thought we were going to win, you know, and we just had to persevere.

EE:

And of course you had a very personal connection with your boyfriend in the Pacific, so that was something that you kept in contact with.

JM:

Yeah.

EE:

Did you keep in contact with his family, I guess, when he was overseas?

JM:

I didn't really hear from them. No, he was on the USS Enterprise the day that Pearl Harbor was bombed, and they were about to come into port and turned back to sea. And so then when Admiral [Wiliam F. “Bull”] Halsey took charge in the Pacific, he went ashore in Honolulu and Stan was on his staff there. So I did meet Admiral Halsey one night in Washington. So lots of interesting people came through Washington.

EE:

And that was through your husband?

JM:

Yeah, when he was—

EE:

Was he on his staff throughout the rest of the war?

JM:

Yes. He was a chief petty officer, and so we were out for dinner one night in Washington and the admiral came in and had the table right next to us. So he spoke to Stan, and that's how I met him. [chuckling]

EE:

Wonderful. Now were you allowed into the officers' club, being a second lieutenant?

JM:

Yeah.

EE:

So you had a chance to at least go have a break with the other folks who were in the service up there?

JM:

Yeah, we had a very good time, really.

EE:

Now was there an officers' club at the hospital complex?

JM:

No.

EE:

Where would you go for the officers' club in D.C.?

JM:

Well, I don't ever remember being in an officers' club around there. If we had dates we went downtown, to dinner or the movies or dancing.

EE:

Got any favorite songs from back then?

JM:

Oh, lots of them, yeah. [chuckling]

EE:

Every time my dad hears Begin the Beguine, he has a woman in mind. It's not my mom, but there's a woman back there somewhere. [chuckling]

JM:

That's one of my favorites. I think Artie Shaw was playing in Washington at the Shoreham [Hotel] that summer, and we could hear Begin the Beguine a whole lot if we went there.

EE:

Oh yeah. I guess he and Benny Goodman were sort of like tit for tat, who was the clarinet player that you'd go hear. I'm going to ask you a question, which I can tell you the answer is probably going to be yes because it should be yes, do you feel you contributed to the war effort?

JM:

Well, you know, I wasn't a great addition to anything, I don't think, but I filled one spot.

EE:

General Pershing knows you were there.

JM:

I don't think so. [laughter]

EE:

He may not know your name but he knows you were there. You say Patton walked through one day?

JM:

Yeah, we saw him.

EE:

Was he just visiting Pershing?

JM:

I guess. I don't even remember if they said why he was there.

EE:

Did he have his white-handled—

JM:

Yes, his pistols and—

EE:

Oh, good gracious!

JM:

He was a very impressive-looking person. I guess that was before he slapped that soldier.

EE:

Yes, that kind of—What did you think of that when you heard it? I've seen the movie version, what was your experience of it?

JM:

You know, I don't even remember hearing about it.

EE:

At the time?

JM:

During the war, at all. They didn't have a TV over there then.

EE:

Probably a better life, I would guess, because of it.

JM:

Probably.

EE:

Who were some of your heroes from that time? Heroines? You know, a lot of people—Eleanor Roosevelt stood out for so many because she went around and talked to folks. While her husband was worrying about the war, she went around and actually visited people. But are there some other women?

JM:

Yeah, she was really into it. I don't know that there was anybody special. You know, when you're young like that, you just sort of live, I think, from day to day, and maybe you're not as concerned about the news as you are after you get a little older.

EE:

I think everybody at that time had somebody—they lost somebody. Was there some family members or some folks that you lost during the war?

JM:

We didn't have anyone in our family who was killed in the war, fortunately. I had some friends from high school days that I knew that were killed kind of early in the war.

EE:

You didn't have too much of a difficult transition getting out of the military, it sounds like.

JM:

No.

EE:

It sounds like you got your man and you went home and you were happy.

JM:

Yes.

EE:

But do you think the military experience had an effect on your life?

JM:

Oh, sure.

EE:

How so?

JM:

Well, in the first place, you know, I had that much experience, and it helped me get a job and have a business of my own later on.

EE:

It teaches you to be organized, doesn't it?

JM:

Yeah, you get organized all right.

EE:

But fortunately you don't have to make three copies.

JM:

Right. [chuckling]

EE:

Do you think you would have done it again, looking back?

JM:

Oh yeah, I think I would.

EE:

Now some folks, when they look back and they see what's happened since, think that the folks who joined the military, the women who joined the military in the war, were really the forerunners of the women's liberation movement. Do you think of yourself as a “Women's Libber”, or is that—?

JM:

No, I never thought of myself as trying to start anything. [chuckling] And I think it's great what the women are doing now, you know, but I don't think I was—

EE:

So you don't have any problem with women in combat?

JM:

Well, if it isn't me, I don't. [laughter]

EE:

That's an honest answer. I like that. [chuckling]

JM:

I don't know what I think about that. I think if that's what they want to do, but I think there are some places probably that they wouldn't be helpful.

EE:

Yeah, war is not by nature a pretty thing, and if you really put yourself in that situation there are some things I think as a society we've got to decide that we can live with, and I'm not sure we want to live with all those consequences, I hope. But just three months ago, I guess it was, in Iraq they had the first combat pilots, female combat pilots doing bombing runs.

JM:

Yeah.

EE:

Do you have kids?

JM:

Three.

EE:

Three? Any of them in the military?

JM:

No, they were the wrong age.

EE:

Wrong age? Generationally, you mean it wasn't a—? They didn't hear stories from you and say, “I'd like to join someday”?

JM:

No. Well, the two older ones are girls, and my son wasn't old enough to be in Vietnam, and so we didn't have that question.

EE:

Would you have had any reservations about them?

JM:

Well, I think you would always worry about somebody in a war. I think that my husband would have been very disappointed if instead of going ahead when he was drafted we'd had a son who decided to demonstrate or go to Canada. I don't think he would have ever understood that.

EE:

And you?

JM:

Well, as it turned out, when all that was going on I thought it was pretty bad that people would not join in and help their country. But as that war turned out, I guess they were right.

EE:

[discusses Vietnam draft]

Well, is there anything that you'd like to add about your military service that I haven't—?

JM:

I don't think so. I think you about covered it.

EE:

Well, you've got some favorite photos here. Maybe we'll just let this—This will be the end of our formal interview for the folks transcribing it, and then we'll just talk a little bit about the stuff that's here.

[End of Interview]