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The Betty H. Carter Women Veterans Historical Project

Oral history interview with Norma Martell, 1999

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Object ID: WV0072.5.001

Description:

Primarily documents Norma J. Martell’s early life during the Depression; her service in the Women’s Army Corps (WAC) as a cryptographer from 1942 to 1945; and her post-war pacifist ideology.

Summary:

Martell discusses her family and her life during the Depression, including her father’s career as a subsistence farmer; having a full scholarship to a small college but being unable to afford the bus fare there; working as an airport record-keeper; and leaving airport work.

Martell recalls her time in basic training, including riding the troop train to the base; taking tests in Florida; and the drills and parades. She discusses being shuttled around waiting for an assignment; decoding messages with the Office of Strategic Services (OSS); the OSS facility in a barn in Vint Hill, Virginia; reading about the battle of Stalingrad on the tape; and working long hours. Martell also remembers in detail transcribing the message of the end of the war in Europe too slowly and her reprimand for it. Other topics include the atom bomb; her brother-in-law’s experience on the Manhattan Project team; her feelings on the repercussions of the use of the weapon; and the use of nuclear energy.

Personal topics include Martell’s marriage in 1944 to a friend’s brother; her Quaker faith; becoming active in politics; and keeping in touch with friends from the service.

Creator: Norma June Saunders Martell

Biographical Info: Norma J. Saunders Martell (1917-2003) of Forest Hill, West Virginia, was a cryptographer in the Women’s Army Corps from 1942 to 1945.

Collection: Norma Martell Oral History

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:

My name is Eric Elliott and I am with the University of North Carolina at Greensboro [UNCG], and today is April—Are we getting to April 30th yet? Must be. April 30, 1999, and I am in Hillsborough, North Carolina, or pretty close to it. They call it Hillsborough, the mailing address; I'm really out in the country at the home of Norma Martell this morning. And thank you, Mrs. Martell, for having us here today.

NORMA MARTELL:

Oh, you're welcome.

EE:

We're going to ask you about thirty-odd questions. The first question is not really the toughest, but I've got to ask it of everybody, and that's the simple question: where were you born, and where did you grow up?

NM:

I was born in the country, about three miles from a little crossroads called Forest Hill, West Virginia, the eleventh child of a subsistence farmer.

EE:

Was this southern West Virginia, northern, at the handle? Where was it? Where is Forest Hill?

NM:

It's near the Virginia border, close to Pearisburg.

EE:

When you say “subsistence farmer,” does that mean that your dad wasn't a tenant farmer, he wasn't going from place to place, but he just had a small amount of land and just able basically to feed the family? Is that what you mean?

NM:

Well, he owned about four hundred acres, but most of it was only good for grazing. There wasn't too much that you could use to grow crops on.

EE:

Right, that's very mountainous countryside.

NM:

Yes, and this was the height of the Depression, of course.

EE:

Right. You were one of twelve children. Did you stay in that area of Forest Hill through the time you went to all your schooling and high school and stuff?

NM:

Yes, I went through high school in Forest Hill.

EE:

Are you somebody that liked school?

NM:

I didn't understand.

EE:

Were you somebody that liked school? Did you like schoolwork?

NM:

Oh yes, I was an excellent student. I should have had a better high school to go to. [chuckling]

EE:

What were your favorite subjects when you were in school?

NM:

History and English.

EE:

Tell me about your folks. Were they both from that area of West Virginia?

NM:

Yes. They lived about three miles apart, and my maternal grandfather grew tobacco and my other grandfather spent most of his time fighting the Civil War, it seems.

EE:

Meaning long after it was over, even? [chuckling]

NM:

Yes. He was resting on his commission and not doing very much.

EE:

So your parents knew each other from a very young age, it sounds like.

NM:

I suppose they met at church frequently. That's about the only place there was to go.

EE:

Well, when you finished high school, what did you end up doing after high school?

NM:

For a short time I tried various jobs, working in a G.C. Murphy store, and babysitting, you know, as a sort of nanny-type babysitter.

EE:

When was it that you graduated from high school?

NM:

Nineteen thirty-six.

EE:

So it was still in the thick of the Depression and jobs were hard to come by.

NM:

Absolutely.

EE:

And you didn't have much option for traveling too far from home, I guess, at that time, did you?

NM:

I had a full tuition scholarship to a small West Virginia college, and we couldn't raise the bus fare to get me there. It seems to me it cost something like seven dollars, and there was just no way.

EE:

That sticks with you, doesn't it, that experience? You really wanted to go off to school then, it was just a matter—?

NM:

Oh, I wanted to go terribly bad, and fortunately President [Franklin D.] Roosevelt started the National Youth Recovery Act, the NRA [National Recovery Act], and I was able to go to what would be called a Job Corps school, I suppose, now.

EE:

This would have been, what, spring of '37, something like that? When did you start doing that?

NM:

Yes, because I was twenty at the time, so it must have been '37.

EE:

You were born in—That would have made it—

NM:

1917.

EE:

So this Job Corp training, was that in Forest Hill or was that nearby? Where did you go for that?

NM:

No, it was in a large house in Parkersburg, West Virginia. And they offered secretarial training, and fortunately there was a small airport nearby that asked for girls to work in the airport. And this, believe it or not, was in the days when airmail was snatched between posts.

EE:

They just scooped down. That's right, I remember that.

NM:

And so I worked in the airport for about a year, and then a large airport near Washington, D.C., called the Congressional Airport heard about us and called and asked for someone to work for them. And fortunately I got recommended, and went off to Bethesda [Maryland].

EE:

This would have been in about '38 or '39? When was this that you went to Bethesda?

NM:

Let's see, it was '40, I guess.

EE:

Well, you made reference to the fact that the airmail was picked up that way, was that part of your job, going out there and getting up on the ladder and putting the bag out, or what did you do?

NM:

Actually, when we worked in the airport we kept the flight schedules for the instructors and kept the log books for students of all the hours they flew, just record-keeping mostly.

EE:

You know, flying is not that very—What kind of people were flying in the late 1930s? My sense is it had to be a wealthy man's pastime? Was it that case, or was it becoming more common? Did people offer flying lessons to more middle-class folks then?

NM:

Well, when I went to Maryland, President Roosevelt was just about to start the student pilot training program, because he knew the war was coming. He kept saying it wasn't, but he was busy training pilots, and we had college students from all over the east getting their commercial flying licenses before they went off to Pensacola [Florida], and places that hadn't yet been established, for their final training.

EE:

So this was basically a way to start beefing up our military preparedness without calling it military preparedness. [chuckling]

NM:

Exactly.

EE:

We're going to train as many pilots as we can and then lo and behold we're going to say, “Surprise, the military needs pilots.” [chuckling] When you were working at the airport, does everybody know that this is what's going on? Did they have a sense? Because before Pearl Harbor I guess the country is really kind of of a conflicted mind about the war, isn't it, whether we should have anything at all to do with it or whether it's something that affects us.

NM:

Yeah. I'm sorry, I'm not feeling well enough to really think clearly.

EE:

That's okay, take your time. Let me ask you this, I'm here today in part because of a friend of yours who is a Quaker and has known you for thirty years in the Quaker community. Were you a Quaker at the time? Was your family Quaker?

NM:

No, I came to this partly because of what I'm trying to tell you here. After we went into the [U.S] Army, we were given a choice of what occupation we would like to fill. I chose to go to radio school because I wasn't learning very much in the airport business anymore, and they moved the airport out of the Washington area for fear somebody would drop a bomb on the White House, and we were back to West Virginia again. So I decided to do something different, and I tried to get into the Marines but they wouldn't take me. So then I decided that radio school was the thing I wanted to do.

EE:

This was '42?

NM:

Yes.

EE:

What was it that motivated you to join the service? Was it just knowing that your job was not going to develop? Did Pearl Harbor have an effect on you, wanting you to do something with the service?

NM:

Well, I certainly remember, as everybody must, very vividly the day it happened, but it didn't—Well, it affected my job in that the airport moved to West Virginia and most of the students went off to train in the service places.

EE:

So that lost a lot of the folks for you.

NM:

And so the airport business was really going nowhere at that point. So I decided I wanted to do something challenging and different, and useful. I claim to be the poster girl with the “Star-Spangled Heart” that was posted all over the place for recruiting women at the time, but I really wasn't.

EE:

So it wasn't a patriotic fervor for you, it was just “I need to get a better job than this?”

NM:

[chuckling] Well, my patriotic fervor was that this is something that probably will never happen again, and I wouldn't want to miss it.

EE:

Right. You said everybody remembers, and it's true, I've had a lot of people tell me about when they heard about Pearl Harbor. Where were you when you heard about Pearl Harbor?

NM:

I was at the airport at my typewriter, and I must have had a radio on at the time because I heard President Roosevelt's announcement. It was chilling, even though I didn't really understand what was involved. And then when I finished my training and went to my first assignment, and all the men in that unit went overseas and died on the beaches within a month, I felt very differently about the whole thing. I was sorry that I was in a way responsible for what happened to one of them.

EE:

I guess you were one of those people who had freed a man to fight then? Is that what you're talking about?

NM:

Yes.

EE:

That in so doing, you had actually—

NM:

We literally did, and we knew where they went and what happened to them afterwards.

EE:

Did you know the person that you had—Some of the women I've talked to were actually trained by the person that they freed to fight as part of their job. Did that happen to you, or was that person—?

NM:

No, that didn't happen to me.

EE:

Tell me a minute, because I want to make sure I get the timetable right, when did you actually join? You joined in the spring of '42, or when did you—?

NM:

I joined in April of '42 and was out in April of '45.

EE:

Where did you do your basic [training]?

NM:

In several places. Oh, I went to Florida for the first month of training, and then from there to Missouri, and then to Georgia, and then to—

EE:

Did you go to Fort Oglethorpe?

NM:

Yes, and then to Virginia to a place called Vint Hill, where our work area was a beautiful red barn.

EE:

A beautiful what, red barn?

NM:

A red barn. It's still there. I went back for our fiftieth anniversary and nothing has changed, except that it's very sophisticated where they won't let you go now.

EE:

Right. A lot of these places that folks were stationed at arose out of nothing, existed for a few years in the war, and then went back to nothing. So that's interesting that you had a chance to physically go back to places.

NM:

And they preserved our barracks and mess hall for their historic value.

EE:

What did your folks think about you joining the service? I mean, that's kind of unusual for a woman to be doing at your time. Did you keep up with your folks and let them in on—I guess you were old enough you didn't have to have their signature, did you?

NM:

No. After all, I was twenty, and they just kind of figured that—Well, they knew what the opportunities were at home, and so they were very accepting of it.

EE:

And when you joined and went to Florida first thing, I guess you rode the train down from Washington?

NM:

Yes, I rode a troop train, my first. Oh, what a horrible train that was! People sitting on their barracks bags in the aisle. And of course it always came two hours late, and you'd sit there and wait and wait and wait, and then have to stand up or have a horrible seat to sit on.

EE:

Did they keep all the women in one area of the train, one car, and the men in the rest of it, or were you all mixed together?

NM:

The women went alone.

EE:

And I guess you had a chance to meet people. That's a long train ride down to Florida in those days, it's just about as long a one today.

NM:

Yes, I met several really interesting people, and that made me feel better about what I was doing.

EE:

Was this the first time you'd been around kind of in a group living situation? You hadn't really had a dormitory experience before. Were you living in an apartment with somebody else when you were working at the airport in Washington?

NM:

When I went first to the NRA school—

EE:

The training.

NM:

It was a large, diverse group, people like me who couldn't see anything else to do. So I had that much of group living, but certainly nothing like the tent that we had the first month at Daytona [Florida].

EE:

Is that where you were living, in tents?

NM:

Yes.

EE:

Okay, that stuff, I guess, was new. I guess they had not built permanent housing for the women yet, had they?

NM:

No, they hadn't built anything much.

EE:

And you were at Daytona is where you went in Florida?

NM:

Yes.

EE:

What was a typical day like for you? You all were the first, I guess—You said the Marines were getting organized about the same time as the—

NM:

Yes.

EE:

What was a typical day like for you at Daytona?

NM:

I didn't understand the question.

EE:

What was a typical day like for you? Did you all get up and drill first thing in the morning, or—?

NM:

Just about daylight the bugle blew, and you had five minutes to get dressed and get out and in formation. And then you had to stand there [chuckling] a long time for instructions of a sort, and in the meantime the sun came out blazing hot and one or two people fell out from the heat. And then you had to practice marching in sand up to your ankles, and after that you could have breakfast. And then—I can't remember how the days went.

EE:

Did you all have classes, I guess, in the afternoon teaching you, I guess, a little bit about army life and ranks and things like that?

NM:

Yes, there was an awful lot of drilling and parades, and you had to stand retreat and whatever it's called when they raise the flag in the morning. You'd have a few minutes to sleep on your bunk and then the bugle would blow and you would fall out and not know what was going to be done.

EE:

Well, I guess were you early enough, as far as classes go, that there probably wasn't a lot of advance word about what it was going to be like, because you all were probably some of the first women to experience basic training, it sounds like.

NM:

I think we were the first group. When we were still in the WAAC [Women's Army Auxiliary Corps] in Holidaysburg, Pennsylvania, they told us that this was an experimental thing and that we were the first of the foot soldiers. They had the women in the air force before that. [Colonel] Oveta Culp Hobby was well-known to us at that point.

EE:

Did she come down and visit you while you were in basic?

NM:

No.

EE:

Were your instructors men or women?

NM:

Both. We were supposed to learn a great deal about electricity, and we had a man for that. And I didn't learn anything about electricity [chuckling] because he assumed that we knew something already, and it was hard to make him understand that we didn't know anything already.

EE:

When you signed up, did you ask for a specific assignment? Did you ask them for radio school?

NM:

Yes, I did. I asked for radio school, and I didn't know what I would do if they sent me to cooks and bakers [school].

EE:

Because there wasn't a guarantee, was there?

NM:

No.

EE:

And so everybody going down to Florida basic, there was a whole bunch of people who were eventually signed to all the different diverse tasks. You're there for a month or so, and then you say you go to Missouri. Is that for specialty training? Did you get radio school afterwards? Did you get to radio school?

NM:

They gave us a lot of tests at one place or another along the way, and I think that's what they based their assignments on.

EE:

What were you assigned to do in Missouri, and how long were you there?

NM:

I was in something that was called Service of Supply with Signal Corps insignia, but the official arrangement of the initials were OSS, which is Office of Strategic Services, which is basically a spy organization. Because two of our members who volunteered for it and were adept in languages, Italian and German, went directly into the CIA [Central Intelligence Agency] or whatever was the military equivalent.

EE:

Oh yeah, I think the OSS was the predecessor for the CIA.

NM:

One to North Africa while [German Field Marshal Erwin J.] Rommel was there, and another to Germany.

EE:

So when you were at the school at Missouri, what were you being trained to do for future work in the OSS?

NM:

To copy coded messages with a diplomatic identification—we actually copied a lot more to be sure we covered everything—and they were sent immediately to cryptographers who lived in another part of the post. Those were the men. And then directly from there to—I don't think Langley [Virginia] was established at that time, but to the Hoover Building [Washington, D.C.] in the beginning, I believe.

EE:

Was this on the Mall? Was the Hoover Building on the Mall in D.C., or where was it?

NM:

I think it was down near the Capitol at that time, on Constitution Avenue.

EE:

I talked with a woman a couple weeks ago who was a cryptographer, or worked with that in D.C., and what they did was—She said up till just a few years ago they were sworn to secrecy, they couldn't say what they did, and what she was doing was testing the codes to see if they could break them, that kind of stuff.

NM:

Well, they eventually did, of course.

EE:

Oh yes, they broke the German—They were testing their own codes to make sure they couldn't break them. That was her task. But you were in coding. I've also talked with a woman who was a—I guess a teletype operator, who would actually be the—She followed the different groups around as the front shifts, and was responsible for relaying these messages in code. So were you—when you're saying copying coded messages, you were taking messages and putting them into code? Is that what your job was?

NM:

No, the messages came over in code. And at first we copied them directly, and then they developed a set of receivers that were somehow connected to a direction finder, and the set of receivers mixed the signals that they got and gave you the best. They were called diversity receivers, and I don't know why.

EE:

When you say “the messages,” are these our Allied messages or are these the enemy messages?

NM:

We copied Great Britain a lot, I guess just to see what they were up to. Once a British general came to visit our post, and he stood behind my typewriter for a while, and we'd changed all the “GBs” in the heading to “WBs,” and he said, “That's a strange code, what is it?” And the general said, “Oh, we're just copying one of our stations.” The general stood there a little while and said, “Mmm, we copy our stations too.”

EE:

[chuckling] He knew what was going on, didn't he? How long were you at Missouri doing this training?

NM:

Let's see, we started in April, and it was—

EE:

Were you there by the end of '42, at Christmas?

NM:

I'm trying to remember exactly. I was there, I think, from April 15, '42 to April 15, '45, something like that.

EE:

That was your whole time in the service?

NM:

Yes. And so I was in Missouri, and there we covered all the ways of espionage. We even had carrier pigeons. That was a month, and then we were at Fort Oglethorpe [Georgia] just waiting for—

EE:

An assignment, right?

NM:

Several weeks, and then we were sent to Virginia.

EE:

And that's where you stayed till the end of the war then?

NM:

Yeah.

EE:

So were all the OSS officials—was that a major headquarters then for OSS, Vint Hill, Virginia?

NM:

I didn't get the impression that it was the main headquarters, they came out of the Pentagon or someplace like that, but certainly it was one of their largest listening posts besides Langley.

EE:

What does your office look like at Vint Hill? Are you in a big room like this with a lot of other women who are similarly doing the work, or is the workforce—is it mostly men, mostly women? What's your environment like?

NM:

Well, we had tiers of typewriters in the barn at different levels, and they—The officers were all men but one. There was a woman officer in charge of us, but the rest of the post was men. It was just this one unit of women that worked in the barn.

EE:

What rank were you when you started this work?

NM:

Rank? I was a [chuckling] yardbird. That was the term for people who had no rank at all. Then I became a PFC [private first class] after the month was over. Then after I had been at work, I don't remember how long, but maybe six months, I was made a T-5, a technician fifth class, a T corporal, in other words.

EE:

The woman who was in charge of you, she was in charge of all the women who were doing this similar kind of work as what you were doing?

NM:

I don't know.

EE:

She was your immediate CO [commanding officer]?

NM:

Yes, she marched us back and forth to work and was in charge of the flag raising and lowering and in charge of disciplinary problems, things of that kind.

EE:

What was her name, do you remember?

NM:

I did remember when I started this, but I don't now.

EE:

Okay, we'll get back to that. I'm just curious, because some of the work environment differs because there are so many different kinds of jobs. Some women I've talked to are in an office and mainly it's men, and there's only one or two women. Others, they don't see many men at all. And one of the things that's interesting is to see how were you as a woman treated by the men, servicemen. Did you have any problems in the way you were treated? Were you treated professionally by the men?

NM:

Yes, I would say that we weren't treated any differently than the men, because they discovered very quickly that we were better at it than the men because we were more patient.

EE:

Everybody in this office, all the women doing this code work, were doing jobs that men had done. Is that right?

NM:

Yes, they left the day we came.

EE:

And you said you felt personally, after you heard what happened to those men, ashamed. You were doing this same kind of work basically until the end of the war, or did your job change during the time? I guess you probably started this when, in '43?

NM:

The countries that we monitored changed as the war went along, and at the end I was part of the time listening to Stalingrad [Russia]. I got all the battle of Stalingrad on the tape. It was a horror. And we listened to some of the neutral countries' things, Italy, the south of France, places like that.

EE:

When you say you got the battle of Stalingrad on tape, are you—You're monitoring their radio broadcasts, is that what you're doing? What kind of messages?

NM:

No, the tape copied the code itself. There was a—Do you have a pencil? I think I am cogent enough to show you how it went. [pause] If you can see that, there was a small projection for an “A,” and a larger one for an “M,” and there was a whole alphabet printed that way. The whole Morse code, or international code it was then, could be printed out on tape.

EE:

So you basically just kept—

NM:

So it ran through a length of the typewriter, and you were supposed to be able to copy it at about sixty words a minute as you ran it through with the foot pedal.

EE:

So you were feeding it?

NM:

Feeding it with my foot.

EE:

So it's like a dictation machine, but you're running actually the physical tape that you—

NM:

A visual dictation machine.

EE:

Visual dictation, yeah.

NM:

And it was coming directly off of the wires from the stations that were broadcasting it in Germany and various places. It was occasionally my job to tune the signals so that all three receivers were getting the best possible thing.

EE:

I guess this triangulation is how you're fixing where the point of origin is of the broadcast.

NM:

That's right.

EE:

This is sophisticated work. I mean we're at an age now, I think, we're spoiled, in terms of communications, because there's so much progress on instant communications. But this is a different order of task, trying to have a global network of information that you had to have about what's going on. This is a new level of skill that I guess we're learning as we're going along. Did the job and the techniques change as the war evolved? Was there a new machine that came in on a given day, [and they said], “Oh, this will change how we're doing the work,” or did you have the same technologies throughout the time you were there?

NM:

Yeah, I have a member of my family who's an undercover agent for the CIA. You wouldn't believe what goes on. And you don't want to know. [chuckling] I'm sure you don't want to know. You will sleep a lot better if you don't know.

[conversation about spies]

EE:

You finished the war in April of '45. Was that before President Roosevelt passed away, or when did you leave service?

NM:

No, he had already died. I went to his funeral, [chuckling] not that I got anywhere near. Let's see, Harry Truman was president then, and—I'm trying to remember.

EE:

Most folks, when Roosevelt passed away and Truman took over, their first thought was: “Who's Harry Truman?” Did you have any concerns about Roosevelt passing on or what was going to happen to our country?

NM:

Well, yeah, like everybody else, I thought Harry Truman was probably the worst possible choice. Like everybody else, I couldn't see what he had to offer, until he made his first speech, and then I decided that at least if he made mistakes they would be out in the open, we'd know what was going on, and maybe that was better than a lot that had gone on in the Roosevelt administration.

EE:

Where you didn't know everything maybe. What was it that caused you to leave service? Had you signed on for the duration of the war? Was that your enlistment? Most folks it was duration plus six [months].

NM:

Yeah, I signed on for the duration and ten, as everybody else, but then I got married.

EE:

Did you marry somebody you worked with or you knew, or how did you meet your husband?

NM:

I went home with one of my best friends in the army when we had a furlough together. She lived in New England and so I went with her, and her brother was there. He was teaching at New York University at the time, and it was instant dynamite. We met in August and were married in September.

EE:

This was '44?

NM:

September of '44. And so the following spring I was eligible for a Section 5, which is a discharge for the good of the army, because I was pregnant, and that was the end of my army career.

EE:

And once you were pregnant, did they give you the option of coming back after you'd had your child?

NM:

I never considered it.

EE:

That wasn't under your horizon. Before love entered the picture, had you enjoyed your work enough where you thought about making the army a career for yourself?

NM:

I was a little too young yet to—I wanted to try everything, and at that time everything was open. It's not like today where the poor kids have to do whatever they can get. But there seemed to be endless opportunities out there, and I wasn't really in any hurry—

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

EE:

So Martell is your married name?

NM:

Yes.

EE:

What was your maiden name?

NM:

My maiden name was Saunders.

EE:

So, what was your husband's name in September of '44?

NM:

Arthur Earl Martell.

EE:

Well, after you got married, did he continue teaching at NYU [New York University] and you continued living in Washington for six months or whatever it was?

NM:

He taught at Worcester Polytechnic for a while, and then he took the chairmanship at Clark University in Worcester [Massachusetts]. He was there until 1960, and in 1960 he was offered the chairmanship of Illinois Institute of Technology, and we moved to Chicago—to Evanston, actually.

EE:

Now when you say the chairmanship, are you talking about within the department, or—?

NM:

Of the chemistry department.

EE:

So he was a chemist by profession?

NM:

Yes.

EE:

I used to work at the Center for History of Chemistry at University of Pennsylvania, so I know a little bit about chemistry. What kind of chemistry did he do?

NM:

Organic.

EE:

Wonderful. Did he do his work at Illinois under [unclear], or where did he get his degree from?

NM:

He got his degree from New York University.

EE:

Great. During the course of your time at Vint Hill in Virginia—How far is that from D.C.? Is that fairly close to the city?

NM:

Twenty-five miles. It's closer to Manassas [Virginia].

EE:

When you were there, you were living in a dormitory for the women who were working there?

NM:

Yes. And we worked a twenty-four-hour shift, so it wasn't—

EE:

So you didn't have much chance for a social life when you were there, did you?

NM:

Well, I think they didn't want us to think. We didn't have any time to develop any kind of problems, because we were busy or asleep all the time because of the shifts.

EE:

So a twenty-four-hour shift, seven days a week. What did you have, a rotating day off, or how did it work?

NM:

No, every so often we could get a three-day pass, but for the shift changes we—I don't know how we managed that in between. I know that we were only half-awake most of the time. But they wanted the station manned all the time.

EE:

Most of the women who were doing this work were about your age, a little older, a little younger? How old were they?

NM:

Most of them were older. Very few of them were younger.

EE:

Was that the case generally with the WAACs when they were first starting the service, that they wanted women who were a little bit older?

NM:

Well, you see, I only knew a few of them, and those were the ones in the original radio school, and they were about my age.

EE:

Did you socialize with many of the people that you worked with?

NM:

Yes, mostly we did, because we were treated by civilians as a bit peculiar, you know, and they weren't sure they had anything in common with us.

EE:

Did you go into D.C. much, or did you stay mostly—Because you were out from the city, when you had time off, did you stay mostly in that area?

NM:

I'm trying to remember. I went home with other people as often as I could, and I had some time off to go visit my folks and so on, so I went off the post certainly.

EE:

And I guess you were always in uniform? Did they ask you to be in uniform at all times?

NM:

At first we were, for the first year, and with instructions to answer all questions with, “I don't know.” And that got interesting expressions from people, you know?

EE:

You weren't allowed to talk about your work, were you?

NM:

No. I remember someone speaking to me on the street in Washington and saying, “Where are you stationed?” “Oh, I don't know.”

EE:

[chuckling] That immediately says, “Don't ask,” doesn't it?

NM:

Yeah, that's it.

EE:

But that does tend to put distance between you, and I can imagine—I've had most people say that from civilians they were treated fairly well. But if the first innocent question is, “Where do you work?” and you say “I don't know,” that would tend to put a little distance between you and the community.

NM:

Yeah, it did. So I really had no civilian friends while I was in the service.

EE:

And you could not tell even your own family very much about what you were doing, could you?

NM:

No. They didn't even know what—They knew I was in the Signal Corps, that's all, because it was a Signal Corps address.

EE:

That had to have been difficult, not to share with the people you cared about what you were doing. Was that the hardest thing you had to do in the service? Or what was the hardest thing to you?

NM:

The hardest thing I had to do was work that darn twenty-four-hour shift. That was a killer. But I think I gave my family and friends to understand immediately that there was nothing I could say, and I pretty much stuck to that. One of my sisters I wrote to quite consistently, and two of the letters to her survived her and were eventually sent back to me. And I realize in rereading those that I was very cagey. I didn't talk about anything at all of the post, just what I was doing with my friends.

EE:

Given your employer, did you know that your mail was screened? I know overseas folks, when people would send V-mail back home and they'd have black lines if somebody forgot and mentioned something where it had been censored out, did you know that could have happened to your mail as well?

NM:

No, I don't think that did happen to my mail. It happened to some that I wrote, and my CIA record and FBI record in the Vietnam era, I asked for those, and everything was blacked-out but the “ands” and “buts.” But they didn't censor our mail.

EE:

Why do you think that was changed during the—? They didn't want to tell what you were doing, I guess, is what they blacked out for secrecy.

NM:

They didn't want me to know when and how they did their surveillance during the Vietnam War. One of my children went to Canada rather than to Vietnam—there's my Quakerism again—and he wrote me frequently when the war was still on and he couldn't come home. On one of them he wrote at the bottom of the envelope, “The message is in the microdot in the queen's eyeball.” And someone had gone over that queen's eyeball, I could see, with all kinds of devices trying to discover the microdot. But that was just—

EE:

Silly.

NM:

Contrariness on his part.

EE:

Yeah, and just trying to confound them. Well, let me ask you some questions about that. You said that that was the hardest thing. It doesn't sound like that, and maybe I'm wrong, did you ever feel in physical danger or afraid during the time of your military service?

NM:

No, never.

EE:

Okay. Most folks, in the course of being around people from all different backgrounds and all different life experiences, find in their military experience, either happening to themselves or to others, an embarrassing moment. Is there an embarrassing moment or a funny story that you can recall from the time of your military service?

NM:

Well, my most horrifying moment I never told anybody until this year, and that was when I let my tape pile up. It was three o'clock in the morning and I was very tired and I thought, “Oh, what the heck?” and just slowed up and wasn't working at a speed to keep up with it. And all at once the master sergeant in charge—his name was Murchison, by the way, Donald Murchison—came by and he started rolling the tape off my roll and scanning it as he went along unrolling it. And finally he came to the part he was looking for, and he told me that Quantico [Virginia] had said the war was over, and why had they not heard this from us? The Pentagon was wanting to know why they hadn't heard the war was over. And he stood there and he swore at me for at least fifteen minutes, words I never heard before and have never heard since. He was literally purple in the face. I didn't think people got purple in the face, but Sergeant Murchison did that night. And there was not one word I could say because I did it, and I knew I did it and I shouldn't have done it.

EE:

Well, now was that a true statement, that the war was over?

NM:

That was the first we had heard that the war was over, when he had gotten it on the teletype machine from Quantico.

EE:

This would have been the war in Europe?

NM:

Yes, just the war in Europe. I was out before the war in Japan ended.

EE:

Because I think the official surrender was probably early May, but probably hostilities were starting to cease. That's what they were talking about.

NM:

[Unclear] it was—

EE:

So your memory of VE [Victory in Europe] Day is not a very good one then, it looks like. [chuckling]

NM:

No.

EE:

So much for celebration. When you think about that time, are there songs or movies or things from that time that make you think of those days?

NM:

I'm sorry to be so dull, but try it again.

EE:

Are there some favorite songs or movies that you have that take you back to those days?

NM:

We had our own army songs, you know, like everybody does, and once in a while I try out one of those. [chuckling]

EE:

I have not heard a WAC volunteer a WAC song. Is there a WAC song? Can you carry a tune? Do you remember the tunes?

NM:

[singing] “I don't want to fight with the infantry, shoot with artillery, ride with the cavalry. I don't want to fly over Germany, I want to be a WAC.” [chuckling]

EE:

Now is this what the men would sing or the women would sing? [chuckling] That's pretty good.

NM:

There were other verses.

EE:

Now, my father was in service. Not all the songs were probably hearable on tape. [chuckling] Were the women in the WACs more genteel than the men counterpart, or were they as—I mean, I've heard some people talk about that one of the things, the obstacles to women joining the service, is that there was this fear that somehow they would lose their femininity.

NM:

Well, I think it takes a different type to be in now, where they have a totally integrated army. See, we had two completely separate units.

EE:

So that kind of preserved your differences then.

NM:

Yes. We saw each other in the mess hall and in the day room when we had time off, so that there was enough social interchange to make life interesting but not—And so, because we were not competing in any way professionally, there was no problem. And there may not have been anyway, I don't know.

EE:

See, I think the competing professionally is a change that makes things different.

NM:

Yes. Besides, there weren't any men left to complete with in our area. They had all gone off and largely died.

EE:

Right. You say that that realization started hitting you several months into this job, this work, once you started doing this. This was a big change for you personally, wasn't it?

NM:

Yes, because I suddenly saw that the army was not at all what I thought it was, that it surely was from all angles a killing machine, and nothing else. And that was really a growing-up experience. I had a hard time with it.

EE:

Did that kind of compete with—My sense is that the general mood of the country throughout was very strongly patriotic. Did you share these concerns with other people, or would doing so jeopardize—?

NM:

Oh, I couldn't share them with people because I had taken an oath not to reveal anything that I discovered. And so I didn't, I never talked about it at all. I never told anybody even the name of the outfit until just this year, and then I decided that it needed to be a little more known.

EE:

What was the name of the group that you were with, the official name?

NM:

Office of Strategic Services was the company we were in within the Signal Corps, which was the larger group, and the Signal Corps included the cryptographers and the users of the machines that sent it to Langley.

EE:

Did you feel that you contributed to the war effort, in a positive sense?

NM:

No. No, and I still don't, because I guess I was too upset by the realization that there really wasn't anything good about it.

EE:

Well, it's interesting because people have said, “Well, if there ever was a good war, surely beating Hitler was a good war.” You've probably heard that before, you know, that that was one time.

NM:

You're right. Britain would have gone under without us, and that certainly could never be allowed to happen. And yet, the price was so high. I've never quite forgiven us for Dresden [Germany], I guess.

EE:

There were some excesses on our side maybe. Is that what bothered you? And maybe you knew more about it than you wanted to know.

NM:

Yeah.

EE:

It's that it wasn't simply enough to keep something from happening. We went beyond what was necessary to stop something.

NM:

Yeah, and that, as President [Dwight D.] Eisenhower so well said, “When you start one, be sure you know how to stop it.” No, he said, “It's easy enough to start one, but then you don't know where it's going to go.” And I'm sure we didn't know where this one was going to go. We thought it would be over in a year when it started.

EE:

I guess your work probably changed a lot around the time of the D-Day invasion, my guess would be, in '44.

NM:

Yes, it did, because the Japanese war was different, you know, and our involvement was different. The communications about that were handled more from the West Coast, too.

EE:

A different monitoring station center.

NM:

Yes, different monitoring stations.

EE:

So they were doing that in California someplace? They had an OSS office?

NM:

Yes. I don't remember where it was now in California, but there was.

EE:

You mentioned an impressive character in Murchison. Are there some other-The personalities that you meet in military service are from all different walks of life. I know my uncle talks about the fact that he was in the D-Day landing forces, and the only way he got through that was there was a fellow by the name of Buddy Hackett in his company who cracked jokes at the most inopportune times all the way across Europe. [chuckling] Are there some characters that stand out, some personalities, for all sorts of reasons, that stand out from your military memory?

NM:

Yes, there was a very interesting girl in our barracks who came from a very wealthy family, I think her parents were both lawyers, and she grew up in Swiss finishing schools. She broadened my very sheltered life by telling me or making it possible for me to recognize homosexuals. That was a word I had never heard and a situation that had never come to my attention in twenty-some years. And then, of course, I became aware that there was a normal amount of homosexuals in the army.

EE:

Both in the WACs and in the regular army.

NM:

What?

EE:

In the WACs as well as the regular army.

NM:

Yes, in both. And that's why I thought all the foofaraw in Congress was very silly, because I could have named a half a dozen of them very easily that were in my own company, and they performed well. There was no difference in their performance or their behavior than anybody else's.

EE:

This was something that happened during the Second World War, that Congress was up in arms about that then, too?

NM:

Yes. Yes, at the beginning of the war they were.

EE:

Well, that is something that's sort of a subtext that's out there. In a sense, there's an intentional campaign by some members of the regular army against the WAAC, a slander campaign.

NM:

Yeah, I know.

EE:

How did you feel about that? Did you know? Did they tell you about that?

NM:

I ran into it only once, from that woman on the street in Washington, and she said very slyly that she was sure the men were glad to have us in the army. And it was obvious what she meant, that my job had nothing to do with winning the war. But no, the term we had for people like that was “San Quentin quail.” And I don't know how the term came about, but these were the very young country girls who hung around outside the post. There was a stockade fence so they couldn't get inside the post, but they would hang around the outside and try to date up the soldiers.

EE:

I think that's happened ever since there have been military. There have been women who hung outside just to get a soldier.

NM:

That's right.

EE:

In fact, we had something from a nurse who wrote us when we first started this project, who was upset that in the initial brochure we did not mention nurses. We just mentioned who and what we had on hand, there wasn't much stuff on nurses, and she said, “Well, all those WACs and WAVES [Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service—Navy] wanted to do was to get a man. We were the ones who did the work.” I think that was fifty years of something built up in her. [chuckling]

NM:

There were only, I would say, four or five in my company that married in the two years I was there, and some of them, like me, married civilians. And the only one that married a soldier was my sister-in-law, and I pointed him out to her once, and told her that she was overlooking a good thing, because he was an only child and never had a date in his life, I knew. So after—let's see, long after I was out of the army, they got married. But that's the only one that I know personally who did.

EE:

Any of your brothers and sisters, were they in the service?

NM:

I had a brother who was with Claire Chenault in China. He was a radio operator, too. My oldest brother was drafted, and they made the mistake of putting him in the medical corps because he was an overage draftee, and he fainted at the first sight of blood and so they sent him home. [chuckling]

EE:

So much for that assignment. 4-F [classification for those unfit for military service], okay. Given that the war really brought out some very deep conflictions in you, this may be a hard question to answer: Do you have heroes or heroines from that time?

NM:

Do I have what?

EE:

Heroes or heroines from that time. Are there people who did something, in terms of service or example, that stick out to you?

NM:

Well, I wasn't close enough to the action to know anybody personally who did it, but I think there were many heroes who risked their own lives to save somebody else's. And quite frankly, I think that it was rather heroic of the conscientious objectors who went into ambulance duty and risked their lives to rescue people from both sides.

EE:

This was what was going on during the Second World War as well?

NM:

Yes. The Quakers, to a large extent, were driving the ambulances and picking up everybody that was wounded, regardless.

EE:

Did you start exploring the Quaker faith during the wartime?

NM:

I think I've always been a Quaker, because I certainly knew early enough that I wasn't convinced about this. And I remember telling my grandfather when I was about twelve—somebody must have been talking about joining a church—and I said, “I think that basically I'm a Quaker because I can't see any of this stuff you're talking about.” And they all thought it was very funny, but I meant it then and I guess it just sort of stayed with me, though I didn't get around to joining for a very long time. And I tried out various other—

EE:

So it was something more than simply pacifism that attracted you to the faith. It was beyond that?

NM:

Yes, it was beyond that. It was the sudden realization that all the things I had been doing up to then, because it was the thing people did, didn't have much to back it up. And that was a shocking recognition. And I tried various denominations. A Presbyterian minister here told marvelous stories. He should have been a stand-up comedian. He was good. I used to go to his services regularly for a while, but always there was that something else that was missing.

EE:

Well, it is the nature of faith that you have to make whatever it is your own. You can't inherit. There's no grandchildren in faith.

NM:

That's right, you certainly can't inherit. That's why I haven't tried to convince anyone.

EE:

And yet your one son, you say, was an objector during the Vietnam experience. How many children did you have?

NM:

But he was a nonreligious objector. He never used the—Well, we helped him fill out his conscientious objector papers. And since that time, all of our grandchildren have put on their draft registration card that they're a conscientious objector and none of them have been active.

EE:

How many children do you have?

NM:

Six.

EE:

You were out of the service when VJ [Victory in Japan] Day came along. Were you still in the D.C. area, or had you moved to Massachusetts?

NM:

I was in Massachusetts then. The whole town turned out.

EE:

A big celebration?

NM:

Yeah, it was a big one.

EE:

That's a great day for a lot of people. I don't think anybody—and this is the debate, you know—people have made the suggestion that the worst weapon of the war, the atom bomb, killing as many people as it did, may have saved the lives of a lot of other people who would have died if we invaded Japan. Nobody expected the atom bomb at the end of the war because they thought we were going to have to invade Japan inch by inch like we did Europe.

NM:

I knew the people who made the bomb possible. Willard Libby—My brother-in-law was part of it. He was at Alamogordo [New Mexico] when they blasted off the first one.

EE:

Was he a chemist?

NM:

He was a nuclear chemist trained by the army.

EE:

What was his name?

NM:

Edward Martell, and he was the head of the army's nuclear division, and resigned and went to Congress and testified against the bomb, and spent the rest of his life fighting the bomb and Rocky Flats [Colorado] nuclear waste, and died of leukemia.

EE:

Probably from that exposure.

NM:

The way all the people who worked on the bomb did. Libby did, [Enrico] Fermi did.

EE:

They didn't realize all of the dangers.

NM:

They didn't know how dangerous it was at the time. But anyway, their feeling was—these people who put it together—was that if we had dropped the first one in the air, exploded it in the air offshore, we would have ended the war the next day.

EE:

Just by showing them.

NM:

Yes. And that it wasn't necessary. They just wanted to see if it would work.

EE:

What's the quote that [J. Robert] Oppenheimer says, “I've seen death—” or whatever, where he quotes the Bhagavad Gita when he saw that bomb, that was so scary just seeing it. That's what you're talking about, just seeing it alone without seeing the effects on human life, but seeing it alone, [they] would have said, “We're stopping.”

NM:

It very well might have, but they certainly could have saved all those people.

EE:

It's just the mixed—Those who developed it are not ultimately in charge of using it.

NM:

No. It was out of their hands as soon as they said, “It will work.”

EE:

And the thing is, I think they had only made the two, hadn't they?

NM:

Yes.

EE:

So this is something that—When you heard about it, of course, did your—I assume that at the time your husband did not know that's what his brother was working on. I'm sure they were sworn to secrecy like everybody else.

NM:

Yeah, no one knew.

EE:

When was it that he went up to testify? Was it in '46?

NM:

He testified against all nuclear use. He wanted a total ban on nuclear, except for medical purposes, and that very sparingly, because they haven't yet proven that it does anything for cancer.

EE:

They keep trying to mess with it, but—

NM:

My dying neighbor over here has it regularly because there's nothing else to do. And that's the way they use it now in medicine.

EE:

But at the time you first heard the news, were you ambivalent about the large loss of life as soon as you heard? Knowing what you knew about the kinds of people and the decision-making process, were you suspect as soon as you heard about the A-bomb? Or was it just overjoyed by the fact that the war was ending at that time?

NM:

Well, yes, I was terribly glad the war was ending. But because I had spent a lot of time in the States demonstrating against it—No, that's the Persian Gulf War that I did that demonstrating against. Give it to me again.

EE:

When you first heard about the atom bomb, were you shocked by its use then, or were you simply glad that it brought about the quick end to the war?

NM:

Oh, I was totally shocked by its use the way it was. I thought it was inexcusable for any nation anywhere to do this. I had thought that the fact that it existed meant that it never would happen. I was physically ill, because I have an arthritic condition that is increased by tension, and so I had a bad session physically as well as emotionally. That they could really do that to people with fire was just—

EE:

Just basically incineration.

NM:

Yes. I had earlier had my doctor refuse to buy anything from Dow Chemical because of napalm. He bought blood separators and various things like that from them and was a fairly good customer of them. And when the representative came around with new products after the napalm, I told him that he would not be able to see the doctor, that we were not buying anything Dow Chemical because of that.

EE:

I remember reading that napalm was invented by a chemist to stop crabgrass.

NM:

Oh, I knew him. Because my husband was a chemist, we happened to be at the same convention in—Where were we? In Sweden, and he told us one day that that was the real problem with chemistry because he happened to—just happened to—devise the formula, and he put it on the bulletin board at MIT [Massachusetts Institute of Technology] without giving any thought as to what somebody—

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

EE:

Well, I was just saying as we switched the tape, you were talking about the napalm inventor who—the frustrations of creating a product and then not having control over its use, that once it's out there, knowledge has a way of finding its uses for good and for ill independent of its creation.

NM:

Yes.

EE:

I will say that there is another flip side to that for the chemist. I don't know if you read recently about the firefighter who was sorting through a fire in Florida and noticed that the only thing that did not get burned was a disposable diaper. He looked at the absorbent that's in the diaper and he figured out a way to make a gel out of it that when you spray it on something it keeps it from being burned. So there are good things that happen when you put knowledge out there too, it's not just always for bad.

NM:

That's true. There have been some good uses of nuclear energy.

EE:

That's right. But it is the double-edged sword. You know, it's the old Pandora's box mythology. You open up the box, you don't know what's going to come out once you open it up.

NM:

That's for sure.

EE:

Well, tell me, after you left the service did you get back into the workforce, or was your role primarily—With six children, that would have been a large occupier of time.

NM:

I always wanted a big family because I came from a big family and we always got along so well, all of us, and still enjoy each other's company, and I really wanted—

EE:

You told me earlier about your husband's career going from Worcester Polytechnic to Clark, then to Illinois Institute of Technology. Did he retire from Illinois Institute of Technology?

NM:

No, he retired in Texas. He went down and was several years as chairman of the chemistry department at Texas A&M [University]. It's called Texas University or something else now.

EE:

So you followed him in his career, his involvement in the chemistry department. I'm curious, how did you get from Texas to Hillsborough? Did you retire here? Is that what happened?

NM:

Oh, we were separated before he moved to Texas, and he married again and had two more children.

EE:

This would have been in the sixties?

NM:

Yeah, it was 1960 when I moved here, or somewhere around there.

EE:

But you did not remarry?

NM:

What?

EE:

Did you remarry? Or you did not remarry?

NM:

No, I never remarried.

EE:

When was it that you officially became Quaker?

NM:

In 1965.

EE:

After coming to this area.

NM:

Yes, five years after I came here. I attended meeting quite frequently before that, but I didn't get around to joining until 1965.

EE:

Then that sets up a rather strange paradox with my next question, which is: What impact did the military have on your life, short-term and long-term?

NM:

Oh, boy. Short-term it—how do I put it? It expanded my life experience, for sure. It increased my awareness of the need to deal with problems through the United Nations instead of with force, because force inevitably produces counterforce, and so it's a senseless waste of human life to fight wars. And with the money that we spend on wars, we could feed and dress every person in the world and nobody would ever go hungry.

EE:

Yes, we just threw another twelve billion dollars on the Kosovo fire, I just saw today in the paper.

NM:

That's indecent!

EE:

Again your comment about—your quoting Eisenhower, “Know how to get out.” I'm not sure we did that before starting this one.

NM:

Oh, we didn't. That was the first thing I thought of is that you just don't know where it's going to go.

EE:

And no one knows now.

NM:

And this one is just beginning. I think we're in it for a long, long haul.

EE:

How has your life been different because of the military experience?

NM:

It has made me much more aware of the world out there and what's happening in it. I put a great deal of time into trying to do what I could, or what I thought I could, to keep the peace—letters to Congress, letters to the president, which only count in numbers, I understand, but still they do count. I saw that when we really got going on the Vietnam War. I went to the congressional hearings on that and really was aware of the fact that it made a difference.

EE:

One voice alone might not make a difference, but one voice joined with a lot of other voices do make a difference.

NM:

Yes, that's right. When enough of the people won't stand it, it doesn't happen. But it takes a lot of people to do that.

EE:

Did the military experience make you more independent, do you think, than you were otherwise?

NM:

Oh, I think it made me more independent, yes. After all, it's something you do alone. It's something that nobody can help you with. And this is true of the soldiers, too, and so I am very aware of what's likely to happen to all those nice kids down there, and still do what I can to put my ounce of weight on the other side.

EE:

Socially, the fact that so many women were doing jobs, in the military and without, that were previously men's jobs, many folks have looked back at that time of the forties and said this is really the start of the women's liberation movement—same work, same pay. This is kind of a trailblazing experience for society. Do you think of yourself like that, in terms of a trailblazer role?

NM:

Not really, because I wasn't consciously doing that. But I think it happened because of the time.

EE:

So these were unknowing trailblazers. In other words, it's sort of like your reason for joining the service, in a sense. There may have been another motivation—my job's going nowhere, I want some excitement, something different—and yet the effect of you making that decision, and thousands of other people making the decision, is to change our understanding of women's role in society and in the workplace.

NM:

Yeah, I'm sure it did that, because my brothers-in-law went and built Liberty ships, and that certainly changed their lives.

EE:

Did you have daughters as well in your six kids? You had sons and daughters?

NM:

Three of each.

EE:

I've got two boys. My wife says, “Do you want a daughter?” I said, “Well, can you guarantee it in advance?” I don't think so. [chuckling] My sister has four girls, trying to get a boy, I think. Did your daughters ever have any interest in joining the military?

NM:

Did they ever have what?

EE:

Any interest in the military? Would you have encouraged them to join the military?

NM:

No, I would not, because now it's not a support system the way it was when I was in it. Now it's part of the action, and I am not for that.

EE:

I know just December of last year our country sent a woman pilot into combat for the first time. Are there certain things that women shouldn't be allowed to do in the service, do you think?

NM:

Well, I think once you open it up, as you say, you don't know where it's going to go. I heard a woman combat pilot on NPR [National Public Radio] yesterday in Kosovo talking about the mission and where they dropped the bombs. I don't know what position she had, whether she was a bomb-dropper or whether she was a pilot, but they're there, and I certainly would not encourage any of mine to do that. In fact, over Grandma's dead body. [laughter]

EE:

I think that's a strong no. [chuckling] There are many things that we could talk about. We've talked about quite a few things, but in terms of your military service, is there anything about that part of your life that I haven't asked you about that you'd like to add to this interview today?

NM:

Well, I'm sure there were fun parts of it. I'm trying to think of what they were.

EE:

Did you stay in contact with any of the women you met in the service?

NM:

What?

EE:

Did you stay in contact with any of the women you met in the service? I mean, obviously the one that brought you her brother you probably stayed in contact with.

NM:

Yes, I hear from her regularly, and I heard from one of them from California a time or two. She was studying to be an undertaker, and I didn't really feel we had too much in common [chuckling] to write about there and so that kind of died. And then I heard from another in Michigan, and she seemed to be totally at loose ends and couldn't decide what she wanted to do or what she wanted to be, and she wasn't at that time doing anything. And those are the only two I've heard from, but I haven't made any effort to keep in touch with them. No, actually, we got on well. You knew the names of everybody in your company and a little bit about them sometimes, but you only spent most of your spare time with someone that you had fun with.

EE:

This is one of these questions that—You cannot redo life over again, but if you could do it over again, would you have joined the military?

NM:

Well, I guess, given the same—

EE:

Not knowing in advance the same amount that you know now, that's a difficult question. You knew a lot more, as you say, than you probably ever wanted to know.

NM:

Oh, no. If I had even thought about it in any serious way before I did it, I don't think now that I would have done it. The kids nowadays don't look at it the same way; it's just somewhere to go while you're deciding what you're going to be.

EE:

It's a way to pay for college now for a lot of folks.

NM:

Yeah, an awful lot have gotten in, and we helped a lot of them get out again, too, at Quaker House in Fayetteville, because they realized quicker than I did what it was, and—

EE:

Have you been active in supporting them down in Fayetteville?

NM:

Yeah, I was on the board for a very long time, but now that—when my vision became bad, I stopped going. But our meeting still supports it heavily, and they do an awful lot of counseling now because the military is even more confused now with the way things are going. It's a terribly boring place to be if you're not kept busy every single minute, and that's why they try awfully hard to do it. Now that they put out civilian brushfires, so to speak, that they can be called on for other things, floods and things like that. It's a way of keeping them from thinking of what they're really in there for.

EE:

It sounds like they don't have much time to be worried about having to fill their schedule because there's going to be developing more and more stuff in Kosovo, I'm afraid.

NM:

Yeah, I'm afraid so. I think that probably Quaker House is going to be a busy place because now the dissatisfied ones know they can get out. There is that special discharge for the good of the army. And I think it's a good thing, because who wants a soldier who doesn't want to fight?

EE:

Well, I certainly appreciate you taking the time to sit down with us today and share this. And I'm going to ask you a few more chemistry questions probably off this tape. [chuckling] But thank you, from the university's standpoint today.

[End of Interview]