Object ID: WV0084.5.001
Documents Inez Bailey’s time at the Woman’s College of the University of North Carolina; her service with the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC) and Women’s Army Corps (WAC) during WWII, and her subsequent military career.
Bailey discusses transferring to Woman’s College for their French department; her difficulties as a transfer student; and working in the cafeteria to pay for school. Other pre-war topics include teaching in Taylorsville, NC; living at home over the summers; and rooming with a girl whose fiancé was drafted after Pearl Harbor.
Bailey recalls enlisting at a time when women’s role in the military was unclear. She discusses being in the third class of officers at Fort Des Moines, and remembers her time at Daytona Beach, Florida, including living in old hotels; her marriage to Roy Bailey; and being given command of a company. She describes her role as a company commander at George Field in Illinois and reenlisting when the WAAC became the WAC. Topics relating to her time at Craig Field in Alabama include teaching English to members of the French Air Force; the French men’s desperation to learn and return to Europe; and staying at the base through the end of the war.
Bailey also explains her decision to remain in the army after World War II and details the remainder of her 33-year career with the WAC. She recalls being sent to Germany in the late 1940s; her work with intelligence in the early 1950s; recruiting women and working on traveling exhibits about women in the army in the late 1950s; and her job as a liaison to the Senate in the early 1960s. She also discusses her promotion to general and becoming director of the Women’s Army Corps in 1971. Topics related to her tenure as director include visiting every area where women were stationed; checking the morale and welfare of the women, and visiting TV and radio stations in the area.
Other topics include the effects of army scandals on servicewomen; army policies; the changing role of women in the military; and the responsibility of a female veteran to represent all women veterans.
Creator: Mildred Inez C Bailey
Biographical Info: Brig. Gen. Mildred Inez Caroon Bailey served in the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC) and Woman's Army Corps (WAC) from 1942 to 1975, the last four years as director of the WAC.
Collection: Mildred Caroon Bailey 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.
My name is Eric Elliott and today is May 26th, 1999. I'm in Washington D.C., at the home of Brigadier General Mildred Bailey. Thank you for agreeing to be with us this morning, General Bailey. This is an
interview for the Women Veterans Historical Project at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro [UNCG].
Lots of things we can talk about today, General Bailey. The first question I have for everybody is fairly simple. Where were you born and where did you growup?
I was born in North Carolina, a small town, Fort Barnwell was the name of
it. My family moved to Kinston, North Carolina, when I was quite young. I don't
remember exactly. I spent all of my growing-up years and my education there
until 1942 when World War II happened, and that changed many people's lives.
Did you have any brothers and sisters growing up?
Yes, I have one brother and three sisters.
You're right in the middle of that group? Oldest?
Middle, the middle child.
What did your folks do for a living?
My father was in the grocery business, owned a grocery store. That's what I
remember most, because he went into this when I was still quite young as a
child. All of my life, that was the field in which he worked.
So he owned his own business?
I guess you worked in the store when you were growing up?
Oh, yes, the entire family. When we were not in school we were working. My
maiden name was Caroon.
I guess your mom helped out in the store and raised the kids?
Fort Barnwell, was that someplace down east also near Kinston?
Yes, it's only about between fifteen, twenty miles from Kinston. I don't
remember the name of the route now, what city it would be on its way to. I know
we passed through it when we went to visit my grandparents who lived in
Vanceboro, North Carolina. But I really don't remember the name of the route or
Were you somebody who liked school when you were growing up?
I don't think anyone ever asked me before whether I liked school. I never
even thought about it. You went to school. Everybody went to school, and no
one really cared whether you liked it or not. [chuckles] But when I think back
on it, I enjoyed being in school. I enjoyed the other children that I was with.
I enjoyed my teachers. So what's not to like? Yes, I enjoyed going to school.
Do you remember having a favorite subject or anything that you wanted to
study when you got older?
Not really, because at that time in our educational history, I don't think
you started out very early in life thinking about what career field you were
going to be in.
Career planning wasn't that—
No, it was not a term that we used at that time. Very few of us had a chance
to go beyond the high school level. So I can't remember any particular field
except that [when] I was in high school I insisted on taking courses in French just
because it seemed exotic, I think. It was interesting to me, another language.
When I finished high school and the possibility opened up of my being able to go
away to college I decided I wanted to major in French. So I, for some reason—how does one know how you take one path instead of another? But that particular
decision influenced my life for a lot of years.
Had either of your folks been to college?
How did a young woman get the idea to go to college? This is during the
Depression, is it not?
You're absolutely right. As a matter of fact, the year that my oldest sister
graduated from high school it was the very height of the Depression and there
was just no question of whether she could go. As a matter of fact, she was
planning to go away. As I recall, even had the suitcases packed when the boom
was lowered and it became absolutely impossible. So she went to work instead.
My brother, who graduated two years later, really didn't want to go away to
school. As I look back on it, it might have been impossible for him at that time
anyway. Certainly financially we were not out of the woods at the time I
graduated from high school. But I wanted very much to go to college, and I was
trying very hard to get a scholarship or an opportunity to work that I
could help pay my way. When my father found out what I was doing, he said, “We'll do everything we can to help you.”
I was able to get help at a school that you may not—I don't know whether—it's not in existence now under the same name, at any rate, because I'm sure
it's affiliated with another college now. Flora McDonald College, which was a
women's college somewhere near Fayetteville, North Carolina, in that area, a
very small Presbyterian school. I was able to get work there, to work in the
dining room, to help pay my expenses. So my family was able to raise the rest of
the money to let me go.
I went there the first year, and I could see that if I was going to get enough
out of college to make it worth my time and finding work I needed to leave
there. Because to major in French, their language department was very, very
small. I didn't think that I would be able to get four years of work and
training in that field that would make it worthwhile. So I transferred to what
was then the Women's College [WC] of the University of North Carolina [now UNCG].
This was after one year?
After one year. So I went there in my sophomore year.
This experience at Fayetteville, was that your first time with any extended
time away from home?
Yes. I thought I was homesick when I went to Flora McDonald College, a very
small college, very strict rules and regulations, a very small town, and only
about an hour and a half bus ride from where I lived. But it was like being with
neighbors, things I was familiar with. At that time, transferring to Greensboro,
that was a big step to the university level, and it was very impersonal and much
larger. I was trying to work six hours a day to help pay my tuition and working
very hard to keep my grades up, so I was extremely homesick when I first
You didn't know anybody else from your area who was at school?
I've had several people say that. Of course, anytime you transfer in and
you're not with a group—if you've got a bunch of folks who were going through
the same experience as you are, you can make bonds. But when you're an odd man
out, it does make it tough.
Yes. Once I got there, I did find a member of my senior class there who
started out there. Her name was Rose Pulley, and she later went to medical
school and became a doctor and went back to Kinston to practice medicine. She
just retired from that about two years ago. But when I went there, I didn't know
What was your dormitory when you were at WC?
I really can't remember.
You were working in the cafeteria when you worked?
Yes, the cafeteria. Well, we had two cafeteria meals and one dinner meal
that was served. The university felt that the women there ought to learn
something other than going through a cafeteria. They should know how to conduct
This was a separate dinner?
No, in the evening, every evening. Served dinner each evening.
Were you one of the servers?
Yes. Served behind the receiving lines, the lines in the cafeteria for lunch
and breakfast, and then went for dinner. Altogether I suppose we put in about
six hours a day.
I had interviewed somebody yesterday who lived in the Georgetown area, who
said she was from Massachusetts. When she got to WC, she ate more than she'd
ever eaten in her life. She put on twenty pounds the first semester because of
that “sit-down and invoke the social graces.” [chuckles]
One thing that I remember so much about that was the dietitian. There were
two dietitians in charge of the dining halls. I can see their faces now, but I
can't remember their names. But one of them, particularly, one of her jobs was
not only the menus and the serving and the cooking, but to monitor the students
who were working there. She felt that those of us who were working to get
through school deserved the opportunity to not have to eat all of our meals as
cafeteria meals and on the run, and so we were required—and in order not to be
there, we had to have a bona fide. We had to report an hour and a half before we
were scheduled to start serving. We had a dining room of our own and a beautiful
meal was served to us personally. When we finished that meal, then we went out
and served the rest of the students. But as I think back on it, she was a very
She didn't have to do that. That made you feel special.
No, but she felt that we deserved the same opportunity that the other
students were getting.
That was a good lesson.
Why I remember that particular thing when I don't remember things that were
much more important, but I was terribly impressed by that.
What did you end up having as a major at WC? Was it French?
Who was the French instructor? Do you have some instructors that you
remember from those days?
Monsieur André. That I remember. The other names I really don't.
Language major. You were doing student teaching as well? A lot of the folks
at WC there, whatever their degree major, they're headed to be, I guess, because
of the historic role of the school, to be teachers in that field.
Were you encouraged to get an education degree?
Yes. As far as I could see, that's the only thing I could do with it.
I didn't see any point in majoring in a language and then never having an
opportunity to do anything with it, so I set out to be a teacher.
Did you get to go to Paris as an exchange student? Opportunities for using
your language skills weren't as varied then as they are now.
They were nonexistent at that time. We were lucky that our French instructor
was a native of France because all of my high school French was learned from
someone that had never spent a day in France and who did not speak the language
as their native language. So the first time I found that was when I arrived at
the university. Ask me again later as we go along. I finally got to France, but
not through the university.
With all that work, did you have much time for a social life?
None. None whatsoever until my senior year. I decided that I deserved at
least one semester—and my family supported me on this—where I did not have
to spend weekends, because if you were away on the weekend, you had to pay
someone to replace you, and I couldn't afford to do that. I wanted one semester
that my weekends would be free and I could go to a football game or have a date,
and not have to worry about working. So I took a loan through the college the
last semester of my senior year, so that I only went to class and then had fun.
That's great. Do you remember anything about Dean [Harriet] Elliott or any of the
other administrators at the school?
The name. I'm very familiar with the name Dean Elliott.
Were you there when Eleanor Roosevelt came to the school?
No, I don't remember that.
You were going to school at a time, of course, coming out of the Depression, a lot of things were happening in the world. When you're in college you're not
always aware of what's going on in the world. Were you aware of things happening
in Europe and in Japan?
Absolutely not. As I think back on it, I never paid any attention to it.
There was no television. I didn't listen to newscasts. I didn't read a
newspaper, and it certainly was not a subject of discussion among the students.
It's almost impossible to imagine today how one could be at a university and be
so ignorant about the rest of the world, but it was true. I think it was
probably true of most of us at that particular time in our lives.
You graduated from the university in the spring of 1940. Where did you go
My graduation present was to go to summer school at the University of North
Carolina at Chapel Hill, where I wanted to take some more courses in French, but
also to take some courses that were just fun courses. So that's what my family
gave me, six weeks' summer school. Of course, I went looking for a job, and I
ended up teaching in a small community in western North Carolina. The town was
called Taylorsville. And I was the French teacher.
This is Alexander County, I believe.
That sounds right.
Near Hiddenite and everything else in that neighborhood.
How long did you have that job?
So it was in Taylorsville that you heard about Pearl Harbor?
No, it was in the summer of 1942 when I had come home from Taylorsville. At
that time, you didn't get a salary all year. You were paid for the number of
months that you worked. At that particular time in our history, our schools were
open eight months out of the year. So in the summertime I came home and worked
in my father's business and stayed at home.
As a matter of fact, that second year, I had completed my second year there, I
had decided not to go back to Taylorsville that year. I had found a teaching
position closer to home, like fifteen miles from where my family was, in a high
school, also teaching French, and signed a contract to begin teaching there when
school opened in the fall. It was during that summer that—well, Pearl Harbor
happened while I was still in Taylorsville. That would have been December of
Did that make an impact on you?
Oh, it made a tremendous impact, especially when my roommate—we shared
quarters there in Taylorsville—was engaged to a young man that was immediately
drafted. So this was the first time I became aware of anything military. I knew
the army existed and the navy. I knew somebody flew planes and I knew the
marine corps existed, but I had never really known anyone who had been a part of
it. Occasionally in our hometown you'd see a young man in uniform, maybe once a
year, that was home on leave from someplace. But I knew absolutely nothing about
the military service, had no ties to it or family or friends or experience in
any way, shape, or form until that summer of 1942 when the newspapers—
everything was about the war after Pearl Harbor happened and the draft started.
Then everything was about the war. Everybody was conversant with it.
I read that they were considering taking women into the army. Congress had
passed legislation making it possible. See, at the end of World War I, the women
who had served in the navy and the Marine Corps—because there were no laws
against having women in the military service, and the [U.S.] Navy and the Marine Corps
went out and enlisted several thousand women.
The Yeomanettes and Marinettes.
Yes. Congress was so horrified that they immediately passed a law saying
that women could not partake in the military service. The [U.S.] Army got left out. So
at that particular time, all the army could do, because they were as desperate
as the other services were, they got AT&T to recruit French-speaking
telephone operators for the army and sent them to France. They wore a uniform
very much like all the uniforms of the nurses and the other services but they
were civilian employees. So the Army did not get women during that period of
For this reason, they were the first that sought legislation to bring women into
the military service when World War II happened. Then immediately the Marine Corps and the [U.S.] Navy followed. And I don't say air force, because the air force at the time was part of the army. It was the Army Air Corps. Most of my World War II service, all of my World War II service, was within the branch,
which was like signal corps, quartermaster. It was with Army Air Corps.
You read about this going into the army, and so that immediately catches
your eye as something that you might like to do because of patriotism,
In order to save you a lot of time, those books I'm going to give you—the
first fifteen, twenty pages gives an absolute detail of my thoughts, my intents,
the why and the attitudes and so forth. So instead of going through all of that
with you now why don't you just read that first part of it? But to sum it all
up, it caught my attention and I was curious. My father always said I had a big
bump of curiosity, and I thought my, this is interesting. Only from the
viewpoint of being interested.
The newspaper said that women who were interested should contact the nearest
army installation. Well, I wasn't interested enough to contact anybody, and I
guess the nearest army installation was Fort Bragg at that time. I knew it
existed, but I'd never been there. But a friend of mine who was very interested
in it wanted to go to Fort Bragg and see what it was all about, so I went along
with her for the ride. That's the way it all started. I'm not going to say any
more because it goes in great detail.
Is your parents' reaction in there? What did your parents think of that?
My parents, again it's covered in there, but my parents—to sum it up is
they were absolutely unhappy in that they worried about me because no one knew
who, what, where, when or how.
There was no restrictions at this point.
It was just an open discussion to have women in the military.
Absolutely. We were going to replace men in jobs so that they could be sent
Free a man to fight.
That's the only explanation we had. Where the training would be, what kind
of training it would be, where we would end up, this was absolutely brand new.
No one knew. Had nothing to fall back on in any way, shape, or form. So they
were concerned from that viewpoint.
But to sum it all up, my mother and my father knew what they had done all their lives. My father said to me, “I'm not sure what you're doing and all that. You know what you're doing. But if you've made this decision, then your family stands behind you.” That summed the whole thing up. That was certainly not the attitude of a lot of people in this country when women started in the military service.
I've talked with a couple of recruiters that said that they spent most of
their time in recruiting talking to men's clubs, like the Kiwanis, to convince
daddies to let their kids go.
I was thinking it would be through a women's club, but it was through the
Four years of recruiting duty. And my boss would say to me, “Why are
you out talking to all these men's groups?” I said, “Because their
grandfathers and their fathers and their brothers and their boyfriends are the
ones they're listening to, and they're the ones we have got to educate.”
You're absolutely right.
Did you go to Fort Des Moines?
Yes. Des Moines was my first station.
I think you're either the second or third class.
You're automatically—at that time I assume that they're recruiting for both
enlisted [and] officers, but because you're a college grad—
I was eligible for the officer candidate class and that's what I
started out aiming for. We had to take written tests. That was at Fort Bragg.
Now, my friend was not selected to go any further than that. I was told that if
I was interested in going any further, I had to go to Georgia, Fort MacPherson,
Georgia, to Atlanta to take a physical examination and to go before a board and
to take further written.
They were being very, very careful about selecting women in the beginning
because there's a lot of adverse publicity and criticism on accepting women into
the armed forces, and all the bad publicity is beginning. So they were being
very, very careful, especially for the officers who will become the leaders and
So when I had to make a decision to go to Atlanta, that was, “Oh, do I
really want to do this? Because I'm still not certain what I'm doing.”
Again my father would say it was curiosity. Am I good enough to make it?
So I got on the train, which was a big thing for me. First time in my life I had
ever traveled on the train alone. Went to Atlanta, Georgia, which is a big city
compared to Kinston, North Carolina. I took all the testing and was absolutely
certain that I was not good enough, because I met all these other women who were
so much better qualified with so much more experience than I. I was sure that I
would never make the grade. I went back home convinced and signed my contract
to teach school that fall. But again, I'll stop right there because all this is
what you're going to read there tonight.
So I ended up at Fort Des Moines in the third officer class. Six weeks'
training. The men had three months' training. They called them ninety-day
wonders. We called ourselves six-weeks wonders. Because a lot of the training
the men got didn't apply to us. We had nothing to do with weapons, nothing to do
with training for military-type jobs.
Had they defined it at that stage, early stage, the limited jobs you were
able to do?
They were still deciding what jobs. They knew we were going to take over all
the typing, all the office work, all the supply and maintenance work that was
bookwork, not overseas. We knew we were going to do those. That was obvious.
You were assigned sort of like as a battalion or something? You weren't
No, no. We weren't assigned until we got through our training, the officer
candidate class. Then each of us got orders. Since we were very new now—the two
classes ahead of us had graduated, and we knew by now this is really going to be
big thing, there's going to be more women's training centers. All of us took for
granted that our first assignments would either be recruiting duty somewhere in
the country or we would be sent to a new training center, wherever that would
be, and that's exactly what happened in my class. Every single one of us either
went on recruiting duty or it was going to Daytona Beach, Florida. I was on the
orders, along with most of my class, to go there. There were three other women
from North Carolina.
This was the tent city as I've heard.
We started out taking over the hotels. The hotels were boarded up. That's
all in my book. The hotels were all boarded up because there were no tourists,
no gas. We took over the hotels and moved our troops into them, used the ball
parks for parade grounds. The hotels that were on the beach, when the tide was
out, we went down and learned to march. By the end of the year, this was a very,
very difficult situation, and no transportation of any kind. They decided to
build temporary billets away from the beach. They were in the middle of
building that when I left, had taken over the command of a company. All that
conversation you're going to listen to, it tells about everything that happened
there. I stayed there about eighteen months, I think.
Then I was told that I'm going to be transferred, but nobody tells you where. We
have all these secrets, so you would get sealed orders, get on a train. You were
permitted to open them at a certain date and then you found out where you were
going. Well, I didn't know whether I was going overseas or somewhere within the
When I got on the train that night, I got on there with about 150 women, my
company that I was responsible for, and where we're going and what we're going
to end up doing I didn't know. I was a first lieutenant by this time. The third
night out, because at that time instead of the trains going directly where they
were supposed to go, in case there was espionage afoot, you took circuitous
routes. It took us four days to get from Florida to George Field, Illinois.
Today you could make it in about nine hours, I think. But it was because of the
situation at that time.
So the third night I opened the orders and I found that we were going to an
installation called George Field in Illinois, George Field Army Air Base. We
arrived at about three o'clock in the morning. The train pulled in, I stepped
off, and there was a band there to meet us. [chuckles] That was the first women
they had had. They had built barracks for us and everybody. The entire post was
awake to greet us and welcome us. We got settled and we finally got into bed
about six a.m.
Then we started working. My job was the welfare and morale of these women and
their housing and supervision. But to coordinate with the people in the
headquarters about their jobs, where they'd be working and what they'd be doing,
that began the next morning.
The folks in your group were just basically assigned to do the office of
They were interviewed, and if they already had some skill that could be
used they were immediately put in that. That made sense, you know. They didn't
have to train them to do something. So every day, little by little, the
interviews went on until everybody was assigned. Our women, we were primarily
administrative clerical supply-type jobs, but we had women who were packing
parachutes. We also had women mechanics. There were some women that had some
experience with mechanics.
Taking women right from the farm—
Exactly. We had women who were working in that category. Whatever skills
they had we utilized them. If they didn't have skills, we went to work to give
them the training they needed to do that.
You went to George Field. This would have been early '43?
Yes, mid-'43. I'd say mid-'43.
This was before WAAC [Women's Auxiliary Army Corps] becomes WAC [Women's
Yes. I was there when that happened.
You must not have had any problems with barracks life or marching. This is
while you were still in the service and there's—
Oh, the marching was fun.
You liked that?
I didn't know any women that didn't like the marching. We thought that was
fun. That was a good break from all the other stuff that we had to do. We were
very, very proud of our marching. We were good at it. We were very proud of it
and most of us really liked that.
Now KP [kitchen police], that was—now I didn't have to do KP. I never pulled a
day of KP in the army because I went into the officer candidate program and
they felt our training was more important than doing KP duty. Now, the women who
started through went through basic training as privates and then later went
into officer candidate. Once you went in basic training, then you were on
that KP schedule. But I commanded the women that did, so I knew how popular KP
was with them. [chuckles]
Do you have time for one good story? While we were at George Field there was a
flood. We were close to Vincennes, Indiana, and the river flooded there. There
was the possibility that the air base was going to be inundated by the floods.
They needed every man they had to fill sandbags and try to keep the floodwaters
back. This happened within the second or third week that we arrived. So for
almost one week, everybody on that post was pulled off of their jobs to protect
the post from the floods.
So the women—no one even suggested that we go out and fill the sandbags. Today
we'd be out there filling the sandbags, of course, but no one even suggested
that. They would have been horrified at the idea. But most of our women knew how
to cook, and they certainly knew how to do KP because they'd already had this
training. We took over all the mess halls on the field, did all the cooking. The
mess halls were open around the clock because they worked in shifts around the
So, for over a week, nobody on that post had much rest. And the women, we held
our own and made a contribution and nobody complained. The commanding officer
of the post told me that we were good for the morale of the troops on the post,
that we set a good example. And from that point on, any feelings that I had of
people there that thought we shouldn't be there, or would rather we were not
there, I really never felt that after that. They accepted us as one of them.
So you didn't face the slander campaign personally?
Oh, I did. Everybody faced that. Because, as a commanding officer, I would
have women come to see me and sit and sob from letters they were getting from
their parents about they had made this decision to do this, and what a mistake
they had made. I read the papers, too, and people were saying that I was a
prostitute and all I was in the army for was to find a husband or to practice
prostitution, you know, and that's not very good for the morale. But we knew who
we were and why we were there and what we were doing, but it really hurt our
feelings. It really did.
Of course, in 1943, when we did away with the “Auxiliary” and became the Women's
Army Corps [WAC], we were all discharged [and] had to be sworn in again. We had a choice to
stay or go. Ninety-five percent of the women on duty stayed. Only five percent
decided to call it quits. In my company, I don't remember anybody. I think all
of our people—I could be wrong, I might have lost one or two, but it was
Now, I, of course, I was not the happiest person in the world with knowing what
my family was going through, you know, all this slander. I liked what I was
doing, felt I was making a contribution.
In the meantime I had married. I married while I was at Daytona Beach. But my
husband was in the Marine Corps, and he immediately had to go back to his duty
and I went back to my duty. There was a war going on. But I thought, well, maybe
I ought to let him have some say-so in this. That would have been a good excuse,
wouldn't it? If he wanted me out then I could say he wants me out, so it's okay
for me to get out.
But when I called him and discussed this with him, he was a pretty remarkable
man. He said, “I would never ever tell you what your decision should be. At
some time later in life, if you were sorry that you made that decision and you
felt bad about it, I'm the one that suggested you do it. No. This is a
decision you must make on your own, and whatever your decision is I will
support it.” My father all over again.
Smart man. What was his name?
Bailey, Roy Bailey.
Did you meet him down at Daytona?
No, I met him before I went into the service. He was a Marine stationed—
From back home?
Yes. Stationed at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. It was this brand-new Marine
base that opened up there. We had dated before that. Then he was sent overseas
and ended up on Guadalcanal. And while he's away, he gets a letter from me
saying I had joined the army. There was no reason for it to make any difference,
though. As far as I was concerned, at that time, he was a nice young man and I
enjoyed dating him, but we had never had any serious talks about the future or
anything deciding the future.
But he was wounded very badly on Guadalcanal. That he lived was miracle. After
months in the hospitals back in the States, he had two months' leave and he
found me. [chuckles] He came to Daytona Beach during his leave, and during the
period of time that he was there we decided to get married at that particular
Then did he follow you to George Field?
Oh, no. No, he's a Marine. He's going wherever the Marine Corps sends him.
So you're going in two different directions?
There's a war on.
He had to go back?
Absolutely he had to go back. He was not sent back overseas again. I think
the rest of the wartime effort he was in California. We got together once during
the period of time. Only once. I flew to California and we had about ten days
together, and then he went back to his work and I went back to my work until
the war ended.
V-mail was just overseas, wasn't it, or was that anybody within the service?
It was anybody in the service, and all it meant was that it went a little
faster than if you put it in the regular mail.
It seemed like the circumstances were different for you when you entered
early enough—where the “Free a man to fight” campaign may not have
been directly in your vision. But when you'd go to places like George Field and
you have women who you're in charge up there taking over these positions, did
you get a lot of resistance from folks who were afraid that you were sending
them off to combat?
Not really. I'm sure there were people that felt that way, but no one had
the nerve to say it to my face. The people that were upset about it, I'm sure,
were the young men who were using typewriters and doing administrative jobs, and
today they're safe on this job and have a warm bed to go to at night and three
meals a day, and tomorrow they're in Southeast Asia or Europe in a combat zone.
So I'm not saying that all of them really resented this. We had draftees, of
course, but most of our people during World War II were volunteers. They wanted
to do their job, too. But they were the ones that were most likely to be upset
I remember one officer there in the chain of command had some say-so about how
I did my job and he gave me a lousy efficiency rating. It was uncalled for,
because you know when you're doing a good job. I had letters of commendation. I
fought it. I was learning to stand up for myself. I'm in the army, you know. I
went through channels and fought it and got it wiped out of my records.
It happens on any job, you run into the obstinate supervisor who has an
opinion of things. Was George Field part of the Army Air Corps?
That was your first station?
Army Air Force installation.
For the rest of your career you were actually assigned to that?
Always Army Air Force bases during World War II.
How long were you at George Field? For the rest of '42?
I stayed in George Field about a year, I remember, because they moved us
frequently then. Then they had a vacancy again in the WAC detachment at Walnut
Ridge, Arkansas. I went to Walnut Ridge. I stayed even less time there and I
know now why. I only stayed there less than six months.
Then my next assignment was Craig Field, Alabama. There was a good reason for my
being sent there, that I didn't know for the first six months. Because when I
first arrived they made me the club officer and I thought, well, yes, this job
has to be done, and if I were not doing this billeting a man would be doing it,
so I have relieved a man from the job. But this is not really what I had hoped
to be able to do.
At the end of about six months, I was called in and told that there was a new
program opening up and that within a period of two or three weeks it would
begin. I was going to be assigned to the ground school because we had fighter
training there. You're an air force person, they have ground school training,
they have air training. We were both in ground school training and fighter pilot
They were going to bring over from Morocco several thousand Frenchmen who had
been prisoners of war in Morocco. They had been there for quite some time. They
were all former members of the French Air Force. They were pilots, they were
bombardiers, they were gunners, they were machine gunners, signal corps people,
all experienced men in the French Air Force, and they needed to get them back
into action when they were broken out of prison by British troops.
The thing of it was, they had been out of action for so long and they would not
be going back to French aircraft. They'd be using British and American aircraft.
They had to be sent someplace where there was no war going on for training, so
they brought them to Craig Field in Alabama by the trainloads. That was the most
rewarding experience, I guess, I had in the army, because these were trained
military men, French Air Force, but they didn't speak English. We had no
French-speaking instructors. They had to learn enough English within a very
brief period of time to be able to take their instruction from English-speaking
instructors. So now I had majored in French [and] that gives me a head start. I'm
going to teach these Frenchmen enough English.
Well, now after all you've taught these North Carolinians who had trouble
with English, I guess. [chuckles]
Yes, that's right. Trying to learn French. But if I hadn't had the French
background it would have been impossible for me because the officers, all of
them spoke some English, many of them very, very good English. They had been in
school in England. Their enlisted personnel, 99.9 percent could say hello, good
morning. That was the extent of their knowledge of English.
When they left us they had to be able to get on trains, travel to their new
destination, go into restaurants and deal with the public, and when they got
into the classroom, take their instruction. Whatever their specialty was,
whether it was somebody renewing their skills as a fighter pilot or someone in
signal communication, because they were sent all over the United States to all
the different types of—
This was late '44, early '45?
You're doing this job for about how long now?
So this takes you through the end of the war?
I was there the day the war ended. We wrote “The war ended today”
on our walls. [chuckles]
Both VE and VJ Day?
Yes. Yes, I was right there.
So they were training these folks to send to the Pacific theatre over there?
Back to Europe primarily. Back to Europe, because this is where they came
from. When they left us, when they left the States, they went back to British
and American bases in England and continued to fight the war.
During the war were you on seven-day shifts, five-day shifts?
Oh, yes. We taught six days a week. Sunday was supposed to be off. You're
never really off duty. You had a few hours.
So your downtime, I guess, is pretty much private quiet time.
We weren't bored, I'll tell you that. [chuckles] There was camaraderie,
though. There was a mission. We were experiencing the same thing. We all had the
same problems, the same good, the same bad, and we helped each other.
Whereabouts is Craig Field? Is it near Montgomery?
Selma, Alabama is about—let me stop and think now—about fifty miles from
Montgomery. It's still a small town.
Was it a place that just started for the war?
Yes. Now, it stayed there for a number of years after the war but, from what
I hear, it has closed now.
[End Tape 1, Side A—Begin Tape 1, Side B]
You were saying you were there when [Franklin D.] Roosevelt passed away.
Yes. We had special services at the chapel. I remember that very well.
People were very saddened by this. I mean, he was our wartime president, and in
the midst of a war that was still going on. It was a hard time for us.
Did you even know who Harry Truman was?
No. No, I had no idea because I paid no attention whatsoever to politics.
What did you think of Mrs. Roosevelt?
I didn't know that much about her at the time, because we were working very
long hours and almost seven days a week and we really didn't read newspapers.
There was no television and we didn't listen much to news on radios. I really
didn't know what was going on, except for the war and what I heard from people I
worked with because of my job.
Did they have a regular debriefing of the status of the war for folks
saying, “This week we're here and here”?
Not at my level they didn't. Now, I'm sure they did with the commanding
officer of the post and people who were in certain types of jobs. But I was a
first lieutenant and my job is teaching English to French cadets, and there
would have been no reason for me to be briefed.
How many WACs were at Craig Field?
The normal company of WACs. You had to have at least 150 in order to justify
having them there, so I'd say we were around 150.
So you were teaching. Did you also have administrative responsibility over
No. No, my job had nothing to do with that.
So unlike George Field, where that was your main job—
That's right. They had their own commanding officer. They had three
officers: commanding officer, supply officer, and executive officer to command
the women. The only time I had anything to do with them—because I was a first
lieutenant, if the commanding officer took leave and was gone for a week or so,
I assumed command of the company to sign the morning report and that sort of
thing. I went on about my regular duties, but went over and signed the morning
report and did the administrative work.
For the most part, your work was with other men?
Completely with the cadets.
And you always felt treated professionally in that environment?
Yes. I was assigned to the ground school. My subject was English, but
there were other men there who were specialists in other fields and they were
trying to find out how good they were in navigation, in aircraft recognition,
naval recognition, all sorts of military things that they had been away from for
so long. So there were people there—mathematics, they got refresher course in
I remember one professor from Harvard [University] was stationed there, and he was at the
ground school where I was. He was a good friend, was teaching them mathematics
at that particular time. So while they had an hour of English training every
day they were getting other courses. For six weeks we had to do what we could
to prepare them to go on to take the training they were sent over here to take.
This was just preparation.
What's the hardest thing about army life during those World War II years for
you? Was it the separation from your husband? It sounds like maybe—
And my family. I missed my family and I missed my husband, but you don't
think about it because it has to be done. I mean, sometimes you feel sorry for
yourself but somebody would always say, “Well, come on now, there's a war
going on, you know. There's a reason for our being here.”
Right. And you're not the only one with the same feelings.
Exactly. Exactly. No one let you feel sorry for yourself for long. They
didn't tolerate it.
I know I've talked to many folks who have special things they remember,
little songs and stuff they had. I've never heard this, “Duty is calling
[chuckles] “Calling you and me. We have a date with destiny.”
Well, actually there's a march called the Colonel Bogey March. It's very, very
popular. For some reason, the Colonel Bogey March, we could keep the beat to that
better than any other march any band ever played for us. So if the women were
marching, they played the Colonel Bogey March. We took that as our march.
Somewhere along the way, somebody put words to it. Now, we had an official song
written for women in the army, but as far as we were concerned, the Colonel
Bogey—the song Duty is what we called it—became our song, and if we're going
to get sentimental and sing a song, we sang Duty.
Great. Great. Well, that's the kind of snippet you can't get from reading.
I could probably remember all the words if I tried.
“Duty is calling you and me. We have a date with destiny. Ready, the WACs
are ready. Our hearts are steady, the world to set free. Service, we're in it
heart and soul. Victory is our only goal. We love our country's honor, and we'll
defend it against any foe.”
What's the tune to that? I probably know the march as soon as you—
Bridge Over The River Kwai.
That's when it became popular. Nobody had ever heard of the Colonel Bogey
March except the military, until The Bridge Over The River Kwai movie came out. As a matter of fact, I was on recruiting duty at the time in Fort MacPherson,
Georgia. Since this was our song and it was so popular with the public, every
time I went to a radio station, I took a recording of our song Duty, and they
would play Bridge Over The River Kwai march and then do our song for our
That was a nice tie-in. So the physical part of your work you didn't find
Oh, no. No, it wasn't, and it was interesting. As a teacher, can you imagine
what it would be like to have no disciplinary problems, to have no students that
were not just willing to learn but desperate to learn? These men knew that
until they learned enough English to go through their training and get back into
the war effort, they could not find out whether their families were dead or
alive. Now, that's a lot of motivation. They were so desperate—well, I worked
wherever I was. If I met them on the street, if I met them in the post exchange,
in a mess hall—wherever they were they wanted to practice their English.
Actually, the classroom part of it was just the beginning because what they
needed was direct contact.
About how long would they be there—for two, three months?
Six weeks. Six weeks we had. Six weeks. And they were so eager to learn.
They had a great sense of humor. Some of the things we were trying to teach
them: okay, go to a restaurant order a meal; to get on a train, buy a ticket; and
all these things, regular conversations with people. So I come in with
vocabularies to teach them different subject matter. At the same time I'm
having to teach them military language, too, because you—Take the word “hedge hopping,” you translate that literally, that's not what the military means. [chuckles] So we had to teach them military language as well as
civilian language. But they were so eager to learn and the entire time we went
through there—and there were several thousand of these men. To my knowledge,
one of them, lack of knowledge of English washed him out. One out of several
The reason I know about it was that he was sent back to Craig Field to go
before the board to decide whether or not he could be retained. He was a warrant
officer. I remember him in a very special way because during the time he was
there, he brought me a dictionary that he was using in his own spare time to try
to learn new English words. I took this dictionary and I could not believe it.
This dictionary was so old that the translation for the word “donkey”
was the biblical term. Now, that's how old his dictionary was. This is what this
poor man was struggling with trying to learn English.
Some people have an affinity for languages and some people they could study it
for ten years and it be almost impossible to learn fluently another language. He
was one of the minority that his ability to grasp another language just was not
enough to keep him going within a military operation, especially within the air force. So he washed out. But only one in those several thousand.
So that was very satisfying and rewarding, and I enjoyed the cadets. They were
funny. I'd get to talk with them before and after classes as I met them on the
post. They were interested in anything and everything, and the other instructors
in the ground school—I mentioned the mathematics teacher. As a matter of fact,
he was the one. I would come into my classroom in the morning and there would be
a message for me on my blackboard written in English. It would be from him. He
was from Boston. It would say something like “corn pone” and “hog chitterlings”
because I'm from the South. The cadets had no idea what was meant. All they knew
was that we would laugh. We'd just break up laughing.
So I would write something for them to write on his board. I would send him
something like [said in New England accent], “Park your car in the Harvard
yard.” All they knew was that when we would see these things we would both
break up laughing. They didn't have a clue what it meant. So they transmitted
the messages back and forth. It was long hours and a lot of work but it kept
you going all the time.
Sounds like a wonderful way to tie together all of your previous experiences
as an adult.
Yes, it was, and I'm doing something—I worked, I waited tables to get
through college to learn. I couldn't have done the job without that knowledge.
And I'm teaching. I trained to be a teacher. Now I am working with people who
were born in France and French is their native language. I learned more French
from them than I ever learned in a classroom.
So with that kind of exciting combination of things, I could see where you
might decide to stick around in the service after—
Had no intention of doing so. As a matter of fact, the law wouldn't
Well, they were rapidly—that's right—they were rapidly going [to
When the war ended, it was 1948 before they passed the law [allowing
permanent integration of women into the regular armed forces].
Weren't you priority [for discharge], being married already to somebody? They
let you out first.
Oh, yes. Well, I could have left when I got married. I could have left when
we stopped being an auxiliary. And certainly when the war ended we could go
home. They said to us, “If you are willing to stay we need to keep several
thousand on active duty to make this a gradual transition and to replace you at
what you're doing now with men.” So there wasn't any particular reason at
that point. My husband was still in the Marine Corps. He had decided when his
enlistment was up he was going to get out. Well, by that time he had fourteen
years' service. But having gone through all those months of hospitalization, the
horrors of war, and Guadalcanal, he decided out. So I knew that he had to go
back to school and start all over again, because he'd had no training in
anything else before he went into the Marine Corps.
So for me it was convenient to stay on at that particular time, so I did. While
he was still in California, at this point the army sent me back to Florida.
[chuckles] Would you believe it? Miami, Florida. But this time I'm going to be a
vocational guidance and counseling officer for veterans, army veterans or any
branch of service, actually, getting out of the service that were having
problems trying to get loans, get into college.
Sounds almost like a VA [Veterans Administration] kind of a thing.
It was. VA took it over eventually. But for about a year after the war
ended the army kept counseling officers around the country, at the post
offices as a matter of fact, that veterans could come in and if they had legal
problems we would find lawyers in the vicinity who would help them at a fee
they could afford to pay. If they were having medical problems and couldn't get
adequate care we were able to help them—send them to people, whether it was
the Red Cross or some other civilian organization that could help them. So it
was trying to get the veterans resettled in civilian life.
Once the “52-50” [fifty-two weeks pay at fifty dollars] ran out something had to happen.
Yes, that's right. That's right. And that's where I was when my husband was
discharged, so he came where I was. There wasn't any point in doing anything
else because he's got to go to school, he's got to find a job, and we need my
salary as a first lieutenant—which at that time was a magnificent sum of
$166.60 and two-thirds cents a month. But it was more than a schoolteacher was
earning in this country at that time. So that was our plan: give him a chance to
get his feet on the ground, go back to school, get firmly established, and then
I would resign.
Then 1948 happened and the law said women can stay permanently, and I had a
decision to make. I either was sworn in again or I left. We needed the
money. We needed the stability, and I'm in a job that is a very, very good job
there. I'm no longer in counseling—vocational counseling, that job had closed—but they had assigned me in an intelligence assignment there in the area. This
was tremendously interesting, too. Since it was intelligence I can't tell you
what it was, but it was a very, very interesting assignment. As far as I could
see I was going to be there—I was just starting. I could stay there two or
three years. By this time surely my husband will have his education finished.
He will be established in a job and then will be the time.
So you were thinking, “This will get me through until he gets
Did he go to school in that area?
Yes. The thing of it was, when they passed the legislation in 1948 they
separated the air force from the army, and I had to make a decision whether to
stay with the army—this army assignment there—or go with the air force. Well,
I knew that if I took an air force commission, was sworn into the air force, I
would immediately be transferred to an air force installation. That was not
convenient for me. I wanted to stay where I was. So I took a commission in the
army, and two months later got my orders to go to Germany. [chuckles] Hindsight,
Well, the best laid plans, right?
But again, the thing you're going to have access to tells all the story; all
these years in between and why it happened and how it happened. So if you want
to move along, that's fine.
You were stateside throughout the war. You're on a base, but I assume you do
get contact with folks—civilians as they're going through. One thing that I
hear from people in talking about those times is that back in World War II
everybody was patriotic.
They were. If they weren't they didn't admit it.
There was no such thing as a public cynic.
No. You weren't stupid enough to tell your friends and family that you were
against the war effort because everybody had friends and family in uniform. It
was almost impossible for a family—and especially when they started bringing
women in. There would have been no male member of my family in the military
service if I hadn't gone in, because my brother had had an accident with his
eyes when he was a child and he couldn't meet the physical examination so he
was exempted from the draft.
But your folks got to fly the flag in the window with a star for you.
That's right. So I was the only member of my family in the military service.
And everybody supported the war effort. Now, my father's business was a grocery
store, and lots of things were rationed during the war because food was sent to
the troops. My mother and father never took an item out of that store that was
not part of our family's rationing allowance. That's how people felt about the
war. Their sons, their daughters, their husbands, their wives, their mothers
were in the service. I really never ran into anyone who talked against the war.
Was there ever at any point a fear that it might not turn out for the best—that we might lose?
I never heard any discussions along that line. As a matter of fact,
any commander—like the commanding officer of my installation, or the senior
officers I dealt with—would never, ever, if they could help it, permit anything
that would lower the morale of their troops—let such information get to them.
So any briefings that were done about the status and what was—by this time,
movies, the news and the movies—
Television still wasn't in, but you went to the movies, you saw it happening
in the movies. We knew from the newspapers and that bad things were happening
and where they were happening, but it was always over by the time we saw it. But
on a day-to-day basis we really had no idea of what was going on or where. I
knew we had women all over the world—Southeast Asia, in Europe—and then that
was where I wanted to go, you know. I always felt that if you didn't put
yourself in danger you weren't really in it, physical danger. I was perfectly
willing to go but then somebody else decided that whatever talent I had, or
skills, were best utilized someplace else.
Well, even though you didn't get to go overseas, did you still feel you
contributed to the war?
Yes. Yes, I did, because when I was commanding women's units—the jobs they
were doing, every single one of them was freeing a man to go do a job in the
war, in the war zone. The job with the French cadets—I really felt that,
because as fighters—fighter pilots and all the other occupational specialties
within that field—they were going right back into the war. They'll be flying a
You clearly gave them something they needed.
The fact that I gave them something they had to have and needed. I felt
very, very good about that.
What was your assignment in Germany?
When I first got there, I told you, I was in an intelligence assignment. I
was assigned in an intelligence assignment at the headquarters at Stuttgart,
Germany. Now by this time, my husband and I had decided there were all sorts of
civil service employees in Europe, and he went into the accounting field. We
tried to find out through civil service in Washington whether there were any
civil service jobs that he might qualify for and that they would send him there—hire him and send him. Couldn't do that, so when I got there the first thing I
did was go to civilian personnel office and found out there were all kinds of
jobs in Germany that he could qualify for. If he arrived on a plane at our
expense on Sunday he could go to work Monday morning. So that's what we did. He
gave up his job because we wanted to be together. He arrived on Sunday. Monday
morning, went to work with a job with the post engineers in Stuttgart. This was
great because when he got there—see, as far as the military is concerned, I'm
not married. I don't get any monetary allowances or anything for my marital
Did it bother you right from the start?
No. At that time it didn't make any difference to me. First of all, I'm not
making a career of this and this is the way it's always been, and it's not
important enough to challenge it. I'm still making more money than I would make
in civilian life at this point, and so why worry about little things like that? As time went on it began to really get me annoyed, and it finally was
taken care of but it took until 1970.
I think it was the [U.S.] Supreme Court that had to do it, wasn't it?
Supreme Court did it. A young officer in the air force got it into court and
it got to the Supreme Court. Not only did they say that it was unconstitutional,
they did what I think they call “grandfathered” it—made them go back
and find everybody they could find according to their records.
Including me. Since I'm sitting in the Pentagon knowing what's going on, I
was probably the first person who applied for it. They had to reimburse me for
quite a few thousands of dollars for the difference between a married officer's
allowance and a single officer's allowance for all those years. By this time, my
husband had died. He never got to see that. My husband could not even accompany
me to go into the post exchange or the commissary to shop. He was a civilian. He
had to wait outside in the car. When you think back on anything, ah! But this is
the way it was then. I mean, this is history. That's why I'm so thrilled with
our memorial. I've worked very, very hard to make that memorial happen, and
still working with it.
When you were over there in '48, I guess Germany was split into zones, was
Yes. Yes, we were still army of occupation—French, British and American
You were pretty restricted in what you could do.
Yes, because I was in an intelligence assignment. I could go to Berlin if I
went on a train that was guarded. I could not cross into it.
When does the Berlin airlift start?
Well, the Berlin airlift was still going on. The wall was in place,
everything. So I never did get to Berlin. I could not take leave and go there,
because I was not entitled to go on the trains that were guarded. Since I was in
an intelligence assignment, they wouldn't let me expose myself to it.
So you actually were working in intelligence for some time then, as it turns
Yes. I took breaks every now and then while I was there in Stuttgart, and
very, very happily so, because we have our own apartment and my husband's there.
Our assignments were controlled by the Women's Army Corps branch. They
sometimes had to take women out of assignments that they had been in for a long
time and qualified for, because we did our own training and we had to have
people for that. We had to have women commanding our units. Everybody had to
take their turn. My turn came up.
So while I'm in Stuttgart, I was sent to Munich to command a WAC attachment at
the 98th General Hospital. So now we're back. We're in Germany together, but I'm
in Munich and my husband's in Stuttgart. So we spent, let's see, a year, about a
year and a quarter—either I went to Stuttgart every Saturday morning or he came
Taking the train?
Every Saturday morning, the train. But we had so much at stake at that time,
and he had a very, very good assignment. In our off-duty time—One of the
reasons we decided to do what we did, and I ended up over there, was that we may
be retirement age before we will ever be able to save enough money to go and see
Europe. We can go and work our way and in our off-duty time we can see Europe at
the army's expense because we're already here, and that's what we did. Matter
of fact, I extended a year.
The army had their place at Garmisch [Germany] then?
Oh, yes. I stayed four years instead of three, which is the normal tour,
because we hadn't done all the things we wanted to do.
So '52, you came back stateside?
No, '53 I came back, because I didn't get there until '49. Came back
Then you come back to work at the Miami area or where were you assigned?
Came back to the Washington, D.C. area because at this time my husband—of
course, he was still there, and we decided he would just stay put until I got
where I was going; got the assignment; found us a place to live, then he would
resign and come home. So I was assigned right here in the Washington area. I was
assigned to Military District of Washington. The headquarters now is at Fort
McNair. At that time it was almost part of the airport, right across from the
airport. Still an intelligence assignment. I found a place for us to live in
Falls Church, [Virginia], so my husband resigned his job and came, because we
knew he could find work here in the States in his field.
There's something that's happened in this transition—you're still in the
Yes. No reason for me to get out.
No reason to get out. Now that you've got going, are you looking to get out
Well, we went to Europe so we could see Europe. So when you come home, we're
not going to see Europe. If I leave we've got to come home. So this time it
was, well, when I get home, and if I get assigned where he can't be, then this
will be it. But as long as we are together, it doesn't make a bit of difference
to us whether he's doing a civilian job and I'm doing a military job as long as
we can be together. We're still getting our feet on the ground financially and
getting established. We bought a house and we're paying a mortgage and all this
sort of thing. Normally at that time you could figure, unless something
unexpected came up, you could figure on staying where you were three years, and
sometimes with an extension, four years. So I knew this gave us all the time we
When you were in Europe were you living in a separate apartment off the base
or did you have to live on base in married housing?
Both. When I was in Munich and he was in Stuttgart, he got an apartment in a
basement in a building where only families lived because he worked for the
engineers. The engineers fixed it so it was livable, put a stove in it and
turned the electricity on. So we had a home there. I shared an apartment with
two nurses in Munich. So if he came to Munich, we stayed in a hotel. Most of
the time I traveled to Munich. We had a housekeeper who cooked his meals and
took care of the house, and he went to work every day. She would meet me at the
train when I'd come in on Saturday afternoon and we would go shopping. Then we
would entertain our friends and have fun over the weekend.
In the wintertime, when I was going by train, I had to go back Sunday afternoon.
When we finally—after long enough we had our first car. I kept the car and I
drove back and forth. In the summertime, I could stay till Monday morning. I got
up at three o'clock in order to drive back to Munich and be there in time to go
to work. But in the wintertime, I couldn't afford to take that chance because of
the snow and ice on the roads, so I'd have to go home on Sunday afternoon.
I stayed out the amount of time that I had to—commanding the WAC attachment
there—and they promised me that when I finished that tour I could go back to
Stuttgart, and they kept the promise. I went back to Stuttgart again in an
During this time, how concerned are you with the general political issues
about the WACs and their strength and things? It's not even in your field?
Don't even think about it.
You're just doing your job.
I knew we had something called a director that worked out of Washington. I
met one once—well, twice, in my Officer Candidate School, Colonel Oveta Culp
Hobby, the first one, who everybody knows, came out to every graduating officer
class that first year. So I knew who she was. She didn't stay only two years.
After that I didn't even know their names, because I'm off someplace doing a
job completely disassociated from anything that's going on.
The WACs, because they were attached to other groups, they pretty much got
their instructions locally.
That's right, exactly.
They were not centrally coordinated.
Right, I was with the Air Corps and got all my information from them. But
while I was in Germany, the WAC director did make a visit there. She came
every place they had women. Later when I was a WAC director, boy, all over the
world wherever they had women, there you are. She came to visit us. So for the
first time, during all those years, I knew somebody's name. By this time I was
smart enough to know what the problems were and what the hopes and dreams were,
and that we might make it and we might not. But you weighed your advantages
against the disadvantages. As long as the advantages outweighed the
disadvantages I didn't think it was reason enough to say I quit, because I
could have resigned at any time.
Did you feel you were advancing in rank and responsibility?
Yes, by this time. When I arrived in Europe, I was the highest ranking first
lieutenant in the European Command, men and women, because I made first
lieutenant within six months after I came into the service. Then [I] got sent to
these assignments—where they were wonderful assignments—but there were no
As a matter of fact, I had the commanding officer of the air base where I was
stationed call me in. He was a wonderful man, and he said to me, “Lieutenant Bailey, I have got to tell you we have some vacancies for
captain on this post, and you deserve a promotion. But as long as there is a
male first lieutenant on this post, I will not give that slot to you.”
I said, “Yes, sir,” and saluted and left.
Now—when I think back on it now, it did not make me angry because this is
temporary for me. This is not my life, my career. I'm not out putting my life on
the line being shot at or where the bombs are falling. So why should I get a
promotion before that male first lieutenant does? Because tomorrow he might be
where the bombs are falling. So that didn't make me angry. Matter of fact, I
really thought that it was okay.
You appreciated him maybe saying that?
Yes. The male first lieutenant deserved it more than I did, because he is
the one that is going to end up putting his life in jeopardy, not me. I'm safe
and sound here on this post. So it did not make me angry at all.
Now, then the jobs I had—there were no promotions until '48, of course, hardly
any woman got a promotion because it's still in limbo. Then our promotions—we
were given a few promotions, whether it's enlisted or officer, and then the
boards divided it up among the people they felt were best qualified. But I was
doing a job I enjoyed. It was challenging. I was learning something. Here I am,
and my husband is doing well, and when we have free time we can get in the car
and go to France—and did that. [chuckles]
You don't realize until you get over there it's like little states.
Yes, just like I could go to France easier than I can go to Richmond.
Absolutely. So there was just no reason for me to feel angry about it. Of
course, the war's over. But I'm not going to make a career of it. I'm happy the
way I am.
But you have put in close to ten years by the time—
Yes. Well, and then I got promoted. Suddenly they promoted me to captain.
Just before you came back?
Just before I came back here, got promoted to captain. But there was one
thing about being the highest ranking first lieutenant when I arrived in that
command in 1949. The billets for officers and families were great, because we
took over buildings and redid them and they had maids and maintenance people to
take care of everything. But the bachelor officers lived in what was left, and
nobody made any effort to fancy them up or make them good. You had to eat in a
hotel, mess halls, and that sort of thing. So you didn't get very good quarters.
But there were a few quarters available for junior officers. I was a
ranking first lieutenant in Europe, so I got an apartment all of my own.
See, when my husband got there, he was not entitled to quarters, because as
far as the military was concerned he was not married. So I had an apartment.
Then by the time I lost that, he was working for the engineers who ran the post,
and they saw to it we had a place where we could be together.
You can't tell me the details of the work you were doing, but obviously you
were working closely with men. Were you working with other women on your job in
Very few. Matter of fact, there was no WAC detachment in Stuttgart. There
were about five officers there. There were two majors. I was a captain by then.
I think there was a first lieutenant there. One was—she was a whiz as a
comptroller, worked for the comptroller there, and she was a major by then.
Did you have any interaction with women in the other services from the other
countries, France and British?
No, because my work didn't put me in line for that.
You came back stateside and you're working in the D.C. area. Were you
working at the Pentagon then, or where were you working?
No, I was at the Military District Washington in headquarters, still in the
intelligence branch there.
In '57, I think you graduated from an intelligence school.
Yes, Strategic Intelligence School. Six weeks. That's here in Washington. I
was permitted to go to that during duty hours, and when I got off duty I went by
the office and did my work at the office. But I got to school; the only school
the army ever sent me to other than Officer Candidate School.
So you're committed to largely intelligence work throughout the fifties.
How do you get from that line of work—of course, it's always fascinating
the shifts in position with which folks go. You go to head WAC recruiting.
Okay. This is again with the Women's Army Corps. We have certain
requirements for the Corps, like the training and recruiting, and people have to
take their turn. I had not had any recruiting duty. I had been in intelligence
now for about four or five years. It's my turn. Well, I almost resigned, but
this time I had fourteen years' service.
You were getting to that twenty [years of service].
At this time things are changing in our culture, also. Men's jobs, more
women are in the work force, and people's jobs are requiring them to move
around. The men we knew were out of town almost as much as they were in town,
even in civilian jobs.
True. The growth of corporations—
That's exactly right. Things were changing. We sat down and said, “Now, what
have we got here?” Now, of course, my husband was at the point that for him to
make a change would put him at a standstill in his career. So we'd reached that
point, you see. So we said, “Well, what can we put up with?”
Then we looked around and decided that we were going to try it anyway, that I
would go down, and if we found it an absolutely unbearable situation I'd resign
and come home. Well, I absolutely thought that would be the job I would hate. I
had no interest in it. I had no skills for it. It was something I had to do if I
was going to stay in the army. It was either that or resign.
I went down there with an attitude, and my attitude was “I'm going to give
this nine months, and if I'm as miserable as I think I'm going to be they
either transfer me or I will resign.” The day I walked in to report for
duty—at this point I'm a major—I'm in charge of recruiting for seven states,
and I reported in to the headquarters there.
Now, where is this?
This is at Fort MacPherson in Atlanta—Fort MacPherson, Georgia, in Atlanta,
Third Army headquarters; responsible for recruiting for the seven southeastern
states. The deputy commander—the commanding officer was out inspecting
recruiting stations, and I reported in to the deputy commander. When I went into this office, he looked at me and he said, “Now, Major Bailey, this [is]
WAC recruiting. You'll find here it doesn't make much difference if you do and
it doesn't make much difference if you don't, because we don't pay much
attention to WAC recruiting.” See, we were completely dependent upon the
men to recruit for women. We don't have enough women in the army to send out WAC
recruiters to recruit women. We had one woman in each recruiting main station.
It meant each state had one female.
For the entire state?
For the entire state. So, again, I'm a person that if you issue a challenge,
I rise to it. I stood at my best attention stance and said, “Sir, you may
not have had anyone in the past who cared. You now have someone who cares.”
He made me so angry. I thought, “I'll get even with him. I will recruit
women in the seven southeastern states, or I will die in the attempt.”
[chuckles] I was so angry.
You had been valued at every other job up to then.
This is the first time where they say, “Well, we don't need you.”
I had two assistants, but they were really there for officer recruiting. All
of our officer recruiting was on the college campus, a direct commission
program. We didn't have West Point. We didn't have ROTC [Reserve Officer Training Corps] on the college campuses.
We couldn't go to Officer Candidate School, men's Officer Candidate School, so
all of our women officers came direct commission as a college graduate from a
college campus. This was the assignment that the two women that I supervised
had, officer recruiting.
So most of my time had to go into the enlisted recruiting. I spent most of my
time traveling the seven states, encouraging and helping our men on the job.
Instead of staying in the headquarters, I'd go out to the small towns where our
recruiters were and I would visit the schools with them and go to their
television stations and their radio stations. I said how much I hated going into
recruiting and was sure I was going to hate it. I had never been in a television
station in my life. I had never been in a radio station. I had never made a
speech in my life. For the next three years, that was my job. And I found I was
the biggest ham that ever lived. I absolutely loved going out in the field and I
hated the desk job. I loved going out in the field and working with the
recruiters and working with television and making speeches.
It's easy to be a salesman when you believe in the product, though. See, you
believed in the product probably even more than that fellow at Fort MacPherson
So I stayed there three years and did the very best job I could.
Did you get close to the two percent?
Yes, I did. I not only did a good job, but Third Army did the best recruiting
for women in the United States of America and I got an award for doing the best
in women's recruiting in the United States.
Was it from that that you got the idea of having this exhibit to go around?
No, not really. Because I'm still in intelligence.
That's your mindset.
This is just your temporary assignment. “I'm going back to
They had promised me, since I had been such a good girl, that when I came
back to Washington—I would come back to Washington, and that I would get an
assignment in intelligence.
Who's “they”? Personnel?
The Women's Army Corps personnel assignment branch. We did our own
assignments and monitored the careers. So I am just thrilled to death at this.
I come back to Washington and the director—this time I knew what a director
was—calls me into the Pentagon and says, “We promised you that you would
go back to intelligence, but I'm here to ask you to take a different
I said, “Go ahead, lay it on me.”
She said, “I want you to take over the WAC detachment at Fort Myer.”
Now, this is the biggest detachment in the country. It has over three hundred women and
they all work in the Pentagon or in the highest echelons of the army. It was
considered a very special detachment. “We want you to take it over.” I
was not happy, but I told you I have a pretty remarkable husband. I thought,
well, I'll be biting off my nose to spite my—we are together. I go home every
night. So I said okay. Two years I would give it. So while I was there—because
you're going to ask this question, too—
[End Tape 1, Side B—Begin Tape 2, Side A]
In 1961, you're talking about that you're going back to work at Fort Myer.
This the start of, I guess, Vietnam. The Tonkin Gulf resolution came later.
We've got advisors in Vietnam, but it's not a front-page thing.
Yes. We had some women there by then, a very small number—other than the
nurses, a very small number of women. But my job was—These women worked for the
Pentagon and that was a full-time job because they worked shifts around the
clock. I never had my whole unit together at one time. They worked not only in
the Pentagon but in other agencies spread around, like Ben Hill Station out in
Virginia, and the engineers.
Actually they either walked to work at the Pentagon or buses came and picked
them up to take them to other places to work. A very small number worked at Fort
Myer headquarters, but they had to take the bus to work because it was at North
Post. Our billets were down as part of the cemetery at that time, right behind
the Pentagon. There was a male detachment and a women's detachment and all of
them worked in the Pentagon, they all walked to work from there.
So, [I was] dealing with high-ranking personnel who wanted their people that worked for
them to get special consideration, of course—and you couldn't always do that
because there were certain jobs that had to be done by everybody, and everybody
had to take their turn doing them. So it was really a challenge to keep
everybody happy. Sometimes I would have to call the WAC director and say, “You may want to reassign me, because you're going to be getting some
complaints about decisions I made. That's all right with me. I'd just as soon do
another job. But if I'm going to do this job it's my company. I'm responsible
for their future and their welfare and their morale, and I'm going to be the one
that says how it will be done.”
But the army decided they needed to do a program. They were building all kinds
of exhibits about other branches of the army, Signal Corps or the infantry or
the artillery. Stationed right here in Washington was the unit that built
them, the exhibits, and assigned ranking NCOs [non-commissioned officers] and so forth to them. They
traveled all over the country with them, trying to educate the public about
the army. But they had never, ever done anything—spent any money or done
anything—to support recruiting the women. But the Chief of Information of the
Army decided finally they were going to do something, and I happened to be the
commanding officer of the women there at Fort Myer.
When they finally got going after all those years they really did a magnificent
job. They ended up doing movies, built a beautiful exhibit, but they needed
women from all kinds of jobs and backgrounds to participate in this. They're my
women and I can get them off their jobs if anybody can, so I ended up spending
quite a few months working with them and going out and supervising what the
women were doing. I was working with them. Actually, [I] got into some of the shots
myself because I was available when they were doing the movie. But when this
was finished, that was all over and done with. I was coming up for reassignment.
Matter of fact, I already had my orders: in the Pentagon, intelligence—back to
intelligence at the Pentagon.
This was what you were waiting for.
Yes, this is what I've been looking, working for all these years. So that
was the end of that, and then I get a telephone call from the director's office.
By this time, this is not going to be good news for you. Every time she
But this time it was a different director. It wasn't even the one that was
there when I first started. She said, “Would you consider going out with
this exhibit for three to four months until we can evaluate how it's going to be
accepted by the public—what the problem areas are going to be, and how we
should proceed from here?” She said, “We had planned to take a young
second lieutenant, select the teams, and send her out with them, but we're
having second thoughts. We feel we should send somebody who's had a few years of
military service, who's more mature, settled, married, to see what the problems
are going to be when you're traveling the country as a team. We think you're the
one for it because of all the experience you've had in recruiting and the
television and the radio.”
Success coming back to haunt you. [chuckles]
I said no. And this time I was up for retirement.
You've got your twenty.
Twenty-two. “No,” to my husband, “I'm not leaving town. We're
going to be every place but home. We're going to travel all over the United
States of America, to include Alaska and Hawaii ten months of a year. Come in
twice a year, take a break. No, not doing that,” to my husband.
They said, “Okay. We just thought we'd try.”
They said, “The Pentagon said they will hold your job for four
“Nope, not interested. Not going to do it.”
My husband said to me, “I understand that you were asked to take the team
out on the road to get it started and you said no.”
I said, “You bet your life I said no.”
He said, “Wow, I'm surprised. As hard as you worked to make this possible
and you turn down the chance to see if it's going to work. They said they'd hold
your job for you for four months.”
I said, “But I'm going to be in California and in Iowa, I'm going to be
every place but here. You are here alone.”
He said, “I know that, but we put up with it all those other years, and
I'll fly out and join you once or twice and you'll be coming in at least
Just four months.
I said, “You're saying you think—”
He said, “I think you're going to be sorry later if you turn down the
So I called them again, I said, “Okay, my husband talked me into it. I'll
go for four months.”
Well, by the end of four months—everybody was predicting, all the men were
saying, “Nobody's going to be interested in the women's exhibit. Nobody's
going to pay any attention to it. You're not going to be able to get newspapers
and television and this sort of thing.” They were wrong, and, of course,
since they told me it couldn't be done I had to prove it could be.
They didn't talk to anybody at Fort MacPherson. [chuckles]
Well, I got out there and I discovered that I'm the highest paid babysitter
that ever lived. Here I am, a lieutenant colonel by now, and I have got four
young women and four young men who are the best the army has—great, their
records. I'm here to be sure that they do their job. Most of my time is sitting
in the hotel room and going out and checking. If we were at a state fair,
everybody's on the job doing their job wherever our exhibit's set up. We
run shifts. Everybody's on the job. I'm bored. There's got to be something I can
do. I thought, well, maybe I'll contact a Rotary Club or Kiwanis Club or
somebody and maybe I can make some speeches while they're doing that. I did, and
Then I discovered I only had two people on duty at the time at the exhibit. We
didn't make anybody work more than a three-hour shift, because you can stand on
your feet for just so long before your feet begin to hurt. So we changed the
shift every three hours. During that period of time, I have all these other
people who have time to get bored. If you're going to have any disciplinary
problems it's when people aren't busy, you know. So I thought, well, I've got
to do something about this.
I knew that I could get old uniforms for women in the army, like World War II.
Of course, we've changed our uniform four times by now. So I managed to get hold
of a uniform, every uniform that we'd worn since 1942, and I took the women who
weren't on duty at the exhibit with me to all these meetings. And I showed them
what we wore in 1942, during World War II and I, showed them what we wore in 1950.
Had a little fashion show to go with it.
And here's what we're wearing today. Told them about women, the jobs they
were doing, and the qualifications and all sort of thing. Then I discovered that
television studios—they like something other than talk, they like to be able to
show people something—so I took them to the TV studios with me.
Then by the time we came in for the first time I thought if I can put some
history with this—it's less of a recruiting program if you're doing a history
lesson. So I did some research and then I found out there'd been women in the
service, in the [U.S.] Navy and the Marine Corps during World War I and that the
nurses were in and there was a uniform. So I went to some museums and managed to
get uniforms of the Yeomanette, the Marinette, and the nurse in World War I. I
took those out with me and we not only showed current, from World War II, we
went back to World War I. That was even more popular, especially for schools.
So the next time we came in, I went back to the Spanish-American War. I had to
do research and then I had made up—because the nurses who served in the
Spanish-American War, they were recruited as civilian nurses but for the army,
all wore the same thing and it went very much along the lines of what civilian
women were wearing in the uniform—the design of it, the sleeves and that sort
of thing—but they wore the nursing caps of their individual hospitals where
they had received their training. So I added that, and that was even better.
I went back to the Civil War and I got Dr. Mary Walker and Belle Boyd,
who was a spy during the Civil War, and Dr. Mary Walker, who served with the
Union Army. Again, I did research and had costumes made up representative of
that time. Then finally I put an Indian, Sacajawea, who helped settle the West.
She's going to be on the dollar coin coming out.
Little by little, I added to it until in the end we had a program that,
although the exhibit was our reason for being there, our work was every place
but. So now we were setting the exhibit up and not even manning it, just leaving
it in the lobby of a bank or other location where the public went on a regular
So you again made something out of nothing and it turned it into a thing of
All of our time and we got—they had never had an army exhibit.
So this four months lasted how long?
Five years, almost six years.
But you did get a chance to come home a little more often than—
Yes, I would come home. We'd come home about July, stay August.
Right in the middle of '63-'68, something like that, I think.
Yes. I think we had the first showing of it in our twentieth anniversary,
'62, and then got it on the road in '63, yes.
Was that at the World's Fair in Seattle?
The World's Fair in New York. At the time we were in California, I think, I
took the women and the costumes; we flew to New York and did the World's Fair in
New York. By this time we're doing network television shows. The army got
millions of dollars because we weren't recruiting. Schools wanted us because we
could give them an hour's program with a history lesson.
As a historian, I'm just grateful that you proved there is some way out
there to do it, then.
One of our men did the narration. The five of us—if somebody was on duty
at the exhibit, whoever was not at the exhibit did it. We were very organized
and we could make a costume change in one and a half minutes, and we had to
This is almost a little touch of Broadway, where you're doing the “another opening, another show” kind of thing.
You should have seen us when we had pantaloons or lace-up shoes. We actually
had zippers put in the lace-ups. Of course, we did everything we could to make
it authentic. We did research, and if we could get shoes that were from 1918, we
had shoes from 1918. We did everything we could to make it authentic. Nothing
was a copy unless it was absolutely necessary.
It extended because it was successful. Was it also extended because this is
sort of, with the war picking up steam and becoming a more broad-based effort
after, I guess, Tonkin Gulf, is this part of the positive feedback?
We were getting great positive reaction from it—from the public, from
educators—in every way.
Putting a history with patriotism.
Yes, it was. It was, and it really didn't make any difference. In this
program we were doing, our narrator might say “United States Army”
fifty times, and we'd come off the stage and somebody would say, “Now,
you're air force, right?” I didn't care. The thing of it was women—
because it was women in uniform they didn't care whether it was [U.S.] Air Force,
[U.S.] Navy, Marine Corps. They denigrated us all these years, and so I didn't care if
somebody thought I was [U.S.] Air Force or Marine Corps or anything else.
Something about the uniform that is—it's a constant throughout. Even in the
early days I would ask, “Why'd you join?” “Well, I liked the
uniform. I liked the look of the uniform.” When we collect things from
people the most coveted thing is the uniform, because somehow it is the
identifying badge that says different, special, unusual. Yes, you did hit on
something when you did that.
All this time I'm taking up of yours is every bit in those books, so if you
want to skip along to something else—
You spent a year coming back to D.C., and I think you were a liaison officer
I was liaison officer to the Senate.
Was this for the WACs or for the Pentagon?
Actually, it was a Pentagon job, but I never worked in the Pentagon.
Didn't have anything to do with intelligence, did it?
No, it wasn't intelligence it was legislative liaison.
Had you given up on intelligence by this time?
It really didn't make any difference at this point. By now I have
twenty-three, twenty-four, twenty-five years' service, you know, and I really
don't care. I'm doing what I like doing. When I came back to Washington,
finally, almost six years, I said, “Listen, if you'll give me a year off
I'll go back and do it for six more years, but I need a break and my husband
deserves a break.”
Well, it sounds like you discovered in the recruiting job and this, you just
were energized by people—it's something you were reminded about yourself.
Yes, I'm not a desk person.
But you were reminded about yourself about that. And then that probably made
the transition to the political flavorings of being a liaison a little easier to
do, because you basically treated it as another people job.
Yes, it did. Of course, I didn't have the faintest notion what I'd be doing
as a legislative liaison officer. I replaced a woman who had been there for
seven years, and she was very, very good in what she did or they wouldn't have
kept her there for seven years. Now, she knew politics. Me, I wasn't even sure
who the governor of my state was; I certainly didn't know who the senator
was. I just had paid no attention to that.
Doesn't that make it an easier thing? The military did not really pay a lot
of attention to that.
You're just doing your job.
You get too caught up in the politics you're—
She said to me, and I had one week with her, she said, “There are about
twenty people here I can introduce you to. They will be very helpful and help
you when they can, if it doesn't jeopardize their own jobs.” As I say, it
was not in intelligence, so I was just trying to figure out what was going on
before it happened. Instead of reading it in the newspapers the next morning—
the army might know that the Senate passed legislation yesterday that affected
the army, but instead of reading it in the newspaper they'd hear on the
telephone. So that was the purpose of the whole thing. She said, “But the
people that are my really best sources I can't introduce you to. You have
got to build your own, make your own contacts—this will lead you to somebody
else, this will lead you to somebody else.”
I thought, well, I don't know how long it will take me to be of any use
whatsoever, because, first of all, to do your job you attend every meeting that
has anything to do with the armed forces. At that point, between Vietnam and all
the other things and all the scandals [that] were going on—the provost marshal
scandal and sergeant/major scandal, and the navy hit a bridge down in Norfolk—we were in the newspapers every day; everything going on.
It wasn't just the Armed Forces Committee that were doing things about the
military; it was your Budget Committees, it was your Foreign Relations
Committees. It was all the committees and it was almost—one person could only
be in one place at the time, and three committee meetings were more than you
needed to be at.
Were other people doing this job full-time?
I was the only one for the army. I was the army representative. The air force had somebody there. The navy had somebody there.
Did you know General Westmoreland at that time?
General Westmoreland was not—
He was not Chief of Staff at that time?
No, he was not Chief of Staff at that time. But we had an office over there;
we had an army colonel and two civilian employees. But what they were doing—the
colonel did a lot of liaison with the armed forces committees, and we got all
the complaints from around the world that people sent in to their senators that
had anything to do with the army. They had to do liaison with the senators and
find out what the story was and what's being done about it and give them an
answer to go back. That was their job.
I had a desk in there which I didn't see but for about ten minutes in the
morning every day; because by the time they went home at night I'm still in
session. I'm still there and I didn't go back to my office. The only time I
went to the Pentagon was if there was a briefing or something I needed to know
about and I'd get on the bus and go for an hour and go back. That's the only
contact I had with the Pentagon.
But the navy representative just happened to be a WAVE [Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service—Navy], and we worked together to help, because you can't be but one place at a time. We would meet in the
morning, all of us, and say, “Okay, this meeting, that meeting, and that
meeting. I'll cover this one if you'll cover that one, and we'll meet at a
certain time and share information.”
So it was a very interesting job, but really, when I first got there I spent a
lot of time—If the Senate's in session you sit, stay there and listen to
every word. You have a seat up in the visitors' gallery. All I saw was the back
of their heads. I finally had to get pictures so that if I ran into a senator in
the hall I knew it was a senator instead of a tourist. When they were talking
I didn't know whether it was Senator So-and-so from so-and-so, or some other
senator who was making the statement, if it had anything to do with the
military, because all I had was the back of their head.
She was right, you have friends. There was a friend on the floor where they
were, facing me. If I signaled puzzlement because I didn't understand, I
would just get up and leave and in a few minutes he would get up and leave and
meet me in the hallway.
Tell you what was going on?
Tell me what was going on. [chuckles] Who it was and explain their
My father is such a C-SPAN [TV station airing government proceedings] junkie. It's hard to imagine life before
C-SPAN. Now every politician has got their face plastered [in] as many places as
So it turned out to be a very interesting and challenging assignment, as far
as that's concerned.
But you only did that for about a year, didn't you?
Yes, because in the meantime—during the time I had that traveling job—my
husband was killed in an automobile accident, right in the middle of it. I
probably would have left that assignment before then if that had not happened.
But once that happened I—for the next two years I didn't want to come back.
Anywhere but home, you know. I was in some city and dealing with strangers every
day, I didn't have to think about it. But by the end of that time, I thought,
well, you've got to come back and settle in.
So again the director called me, because she knew things I didn't know at the
time. By this time I'm a colonel; my job as a liaison officer on the Hill. I was
there the day the bill came through Congress. I got there that morning and my
cohort from the navy said to me, “Inez, go down to the office where the
announcements were being made and pick up this piece of paper. There's something
on there that is very important to you. I've just come from there.”
I went tearing over there, went in, picked up this piece of paper, and it had
two army women's names on there being promoted to brigadier general. It wasn't
until 1968 that Congress passed a law saying a woman could be promoted to
general. They waited until 1971 before anybody did anything about it. The army
did it first. The army picked the Chief Nurse of the Army and the Director of
the Army and made both of them brigadier generals the same day, same date,
same orders. So we say that the nurse was the first because the nurse came into
existence in 1901, we came into existence in 1942.
I saw that, I go running back. I mean, this is a breakthrough in history. I
called the director, who was Brigadier General [Elizabeth P.] Hoisington at the time. I said, “Congratulations.” She was Colonel Hoisington. “Congratulations,
There was this big silence at the other end, and she said, “How did you
I said, “I've got your orders here in my hand that Congress has
She said, “There was supposed to be a press conference called tomorrow to
announce this. Nobody's supposed to know about it. Hang up. I've got to go tell
public relations that the news is out, because if you know it, everybody else is
going to know it within the hour.”
So they immediately—they didn't wait for the press conference. They called the
newspapers and told them to get it out. So I was there on that auspicious
Well, she called me and said, “I don't know how I'm going to replace you
where you are, but I need for you to go to Fort McClellan, Alabama, at the
training center as the deputy commander.”
I said, “No way. You will have my retirement orders.” I now have
twenty-nine years' service.
You don't need to move again.
I'm working for half salary now because you only get credit for twenty
years' service. Twenty-five is the limit you can get credit for after that, so
I'm really working for half my salary. I said, “No, I've had it, I'm not
going to do that.”
She said, “I do hope you'll reconsider,” and she talked.
I said, “No. Listen, twenty-nine years of service now and I'm not qualified
for that job, and I don't want that job.”
She said, “Okay, you can stay where you are then.”
So I went home and my conscience began to hurt me. I thought, “You've given
twenty-nine years. Look at all those years you spent trying to educate the
American public, look at all you've put into this, and the director tells you
she needs you at Fort McClellan and you have never spent a day in your training
center since you left in 1942. Who are you to not do what the director says she
needs you to do?”
So I called her up and said, “Okay, you win. I will go to Fort McClellan.
I will guarantee to stay a year. After that, it's up for grabs.”
“That's fine with me,” she said.
This is what, '70, I guess?
This was 1970—let's see, where are we now? '70. 1970. So I went to Fort McClellan, knowing I was going to hate it, and I loved the area, small town.
It's the first time I'd been on post in years. I loved the camaraderie of fellow
soldiers and friends, and I had a very nice little house all my own there as the
deputy. The job, it wasn't a terrible challenge; the job had to be done. I'm
supervising and I'm responsible for this and that and the other, but it wasn't
anything that I particularly enjoyed doing, but then I didn't hate doing it
either. I enjoyed dealing with the new recruits coming in. We had an advanced
school there for officers, which was part of it, and I was the deputy commander
of this. So I thought, well, I'll just stay until I'm really ready to retire,
but this will be it.
About seven months after I was there, I got a call from the Pentagon saying that
I needed to be in Washington on Monday morning, the Chief of Staff of the Army,
to have an appointment with him. I said, “I can't come on Monday
morning.” By this time I'm involved with a little theater group on post and
we've been working for four months. We only show this presentation on Friday and
Saturday night, and this is our opening ceremony and I have the second lead in
it. I can't be in the Pentagon Monday morning.
They said, “Okay.” About an hour later I got a call back from the
chief of staff's office, saying, “You will be in the chief of staff's
office tomorrow morning.” [chuckles]
I said, “Okay.” What in the world does the chief of staff want with
me? I was so angry. They canceled everything. I got on a plane, I went up there,
and by this time General [William] Westmoreland is the chief of staff. He did not say
directly what the purpose of this interview was, but before it was over I knew
what the purpose of it was. I thought General Hoisington is retiring and they
have got to have a new director, and that new director has got to be a full
colonel regular army. There's only five in the United States Army. I'm one of
the five so I'm being interviewed.
But I'm thinking, well, I'm one of five. The others have had assignments that
qualified them for the job, much like General Hoisington had commanded the
training center and that sort of thing before she became director. They've all
had jobs that made them much more qualified to be the director than I have.
Mine, by this time, had become public relations. So I had the interview and went
home, and we rescheduled our little theater performance.
So had the play already set to go again.
Ten days later they called me to say I've got to be back up there on Monday
morning again. [chuckles]
You probably weren't asked to be back in the play after that, I guess, were
Well, I'm still in the running, I'm saying, but I know it's not going to me.
And I'm saying to the people on General Westmoreland's staff, “If you will
tell General Westmoreland what the situation is, that the whole community is
involved in this play—half of us are civilians and everybody in this
community, on this post, is involved with this—General Westmoreland would say
I could come Tuesday morning.”
They said, “You'll be here Monday morning.” Nobody had the guts to go
talk to him. So I was there. This time I'm thinking, “Boy, if they're
suggesting that I might be the new director of Women's Army Corps, I'm just
going to say thank you but no thank you. If I'm the first choice, you can take
the second choice.” I walked in the office and saluted and General
Westmoreland said, “Colonel Bailey, you're the new director of the Women's
Didn't give you an opportunity to say anything. [chuckles]
Didn't ask my opinion. So I was absolutely stunned. We sat and talked and
before we got through I knew why he had chosen me. He said, “We're losing
the draft. We are going to have to recruit thousands more women than we have
been recruiting. I will need you to be everyplace in this country but the
Pentagon because, yes, your responsibility is about women and where they are
and their welfare and morale—they're being properly utilized and treated. But
you have got to get the public support for when we
start trying to recruit thousands more women.” Because we were only nine thousand
women at that time.
So this is your initial discussion with him about the job, “we need you
because you've got a track record of recruiting.”
In public relations. So I'm in. So I walk in and, of course, General
Hoisington had a very fine staff, and I just said to them, “I am completely
ignorant about the training base, the assignment base and so forth. You've been
doing this job for four years, if you're willing to stay with me I'm asking you
to stay. If anybody here thinks that they cannot transfer their support and
their allegiance to a new person I will understand and let you go on the best
of ratings.” Every single one of them stayed, and thank heavens they did
stay because I—
That makes it a lot smoother because you
really had gotten, at that point, a grasp of mechanisms and how things ran.
He was right. Of course, I went to every military installation. I went every
place in the world where women worked. But while I was there I didn't just
visit the military. If I'm at Presidio in San Francisco in California, I not
only went out and worked with the women and their supervisors as to what their
assignments were and how they're being utilized and the state of their morale
and their health and their welfare, but I stayed two or three days and did
television, radio, made speeches and this sort of thing.
So you hit the ground running as far as immediately starting?
Yes. When I look back on it, I was the only one of that group of five that
had had—now, one of them had spent eight years in the public affairs division
of the Pentagon, but had never spent a day outside the Pentagon. Her job was in
the office and working with television stations and radio stations and
newspapers, but she had never done a newspaper interview.
One of the things that Colonel Westmoreland says that really helped you, I
think, in doing the job that he assigned you was the opening up of the jobs that
women could do.
It has to be great to say, rather than give you a list of what you can do,
here's a small list of what you can't.
Yes. Listen, that period between 1970 and 1975, we saw more changes in
public attitude, in laws, in every way about not only women in the
military but women in industry. We had been doing things in the military all
these years that women in industry were not doing. Women in industry envied us
because if we were a major in the army we drew the same salary that a major,
male major, in the army drew. We were limited as to how high we could go until
1968, but at least we drew the same pay as our male counterpart. In civilian
life this was not true then.
All of these things were beginning. The people were going into court
challenging rules in civilian life, and they were using the army as an example.
“The army does it—”
“Why can't you?”
Why can't you? It was a tremendously exciting time, because you didn't know
from one day to the next, every day in the newspapers it was some other
challenge, and saying to the army, “Okay, why can't women do this in the
army?” These are legislators now saying this.
Then it becomes a hard challenge for the army to be setting the lead.
Because you don't want to find yourself playing catch-up where you'd be at
a competitive disadvantage.
You needed to do it in an organized, methodical way so that you don't
create more problems than you gain good things. Because if you do something too
fast you upset the apple cart to the point that it creates problems for you.
So here we were, Congress wanted us to move as fast as possible, and there were
times that we had to say, hold on, yes, we're going to do this, but don't tell
us we've got to have it done in three months. Give us a year to work, to get
assimilated and to do this. If you've been doing it this way for fifty years
you can't change it overnight without creating problems. You have got to do in
an organized manner.
Yet at the same time, the next day I would be over at Congress before a
committee saying there's no reason why women should not do this type of work.
They have the physical and mental abilities to do it, and if they have the
desire to do it there's no other reason it can't be done.
The one area, and I ask this question to other women—we talked before this
interview started about the changes that women had in the military roles. Just
this last December had a first woman into combat. That was one area where you or
the other military personnel were in agreement, as opposed to maybe some in
Congress saying no women in combat.
Exactly. Now, see, at this point each director of the armed forces, all of
us had this same type setup, the women were a separate entity within the [U.S.] Navy,
the [U.S.] Air Force, the Marine Corps. They had a woman director and women's
detachments and no woman could command a male detachment and no man could
command a women's detachment; it was completely separate. In order to move
on and move into other fields we got to begin to disassemble this type of
organization in order to get into this field and that field. You can't remain
That was a difficult thing, too, because we had a history now that meant a lot
to a lot of people. These people who started out in 1942 and worked their way up
and the other way, they don't want certain things to change. In order to do this
we've got to change that, so you [have] got to be concerned about the morale of these
people. It was not an easy time, but it was sure challenging and interesting
time. You were never bored, I guarantee you.
I think I've read this form, it says, “You understand life looking backwards,
but you have to live it going forwards.” We're here twenty-five years after those
events that changed so much the role of women in the military. Twenty-five years
ago it wasn't clear where things were going to go.
I've talked to some folks and ask, “Would you recommend your daughter
going in the military?” A few of them have said, “Well, if it was like
the way it was when I went in, yes. But it's not.”
It's because they were kept separate and apart.
They liked the fact that you could be a lady.
Well, what is a lady? If it's not having perspiration in your armpits, or if
it's having perspiration running down your nose, and if it's being dirty,
that's not what a lady is, in my opinion.
Look at my grandmother work in the garden this summer. [chuckles]
Exactly, but that was okay for her to go out and get dirty in the garden.
It is funny how these lines are drawn, aren't they?
See, this is the thing, this is the way life is and you can beat your head
against a stonewall or you can adapt and live with it and do what you can to
The only other comparable time of changes, and public input seems to be . .
.the WACs for most of their history were sort of left alone—maybe ignored is
the better way to really describe it—but in '48, I got the feeling that—who
was the woman who succeeded Colonel Hobby? Boyce?
Colonel Westry Battle Boyce.
Yes. I got the sense that she was sort of almost bamboozled or something. “I'm supposed to come in to tear this thing down,” and all of a sudden
the rules are shifting on her.
She didn't stay long either.
No, she got some health problems—and I can see why, because of what was
going on. And yet you had somebody like an Eisenhower who was strong—
She was from North Carolina.
There's a lot of folks, like I say—there's a strong North Carolina
connection on things. But General Eisenhower was very strong in support for
having the permanent role for women. He had women in his office in Europe.
Well, you see, by the time World War II was over, we learned some lessons.
It was absolutely clear that in the world of 1948 and what we had just been
through that we would never again be able to approach military services and the
protection of our country the way it had been done in the past. All the
developments, all the things that—World War II did more to change the way the
world lives, the way people live, and to change custom than any other single
factor that I know of in history.
It really did, and for all kinds of reasons. We could talk about that for
ten hours. But that period of time, between '70 and '75, everything, the time
was right, from civilian and military. Civilians were using the military to say,
it can be done. If the military was reluctant to open up new—because if
you have something a certain way it just gives you more competition. I never
ran into a man that—if it was a job that had to be done it was a necessary job
but it wasn't a challenging job, and it wasn't an exciting job, and it didn't
move you forward in your career advancement—who minded a woman having that
job. But he really didn't like to compete with her on the jobs that met the
category of career enhancement and the future. Of course, we sat back and
accepted that other status for a long, long time, but things are changing all
over the world now.
Women in the army—there wasn't any point in making a fuss about what's
happening to them there because in civilian life it was exactly the same thing.
Where [are] you going to get the support from?
Well, but you could not have had the changes in the military that happened
without the social environment, the cultural changes first.
That's exactly right. One fed on the other. The civilian women in civilian
life got the advantage of the experiences of the women in the military all these
years, and then we—when they began to get into court and challenge it for
civilian women—then this was the incentive that military services had to do
something. Our legislators had to do what the people who were voting for them
wanted them to do, and at this point equal opportunity for women and equal
opportunity for race were the important things.
A question I ask folks, and most of them don't have your experience—Let's
say, when folks look back, what changes did war—whether it's Rosie the Riveter
or Wanda the WAVE, all these women in World War II who are entering the work
force doing jobs previously held by men—set in the stage for equal work, equal
pay, and women's liberation? It's a question of who's leading who, I think,
during your time period, as far as—
Interestingly enough, when the army brought us in there was never any
question to my knowledge that we wouldn't get the same pay the man did if we had
the same rank.
I was surprised at that.
I am, too, because in England that's not what they did. Women in the British
Armed Forces did not get the same pay scale as the men until late in the seventies or
[End Tape 2, Side A—Begin Tape 2, Side B]
You say you're going to be here the rest of the week.
I'm going to be here through probably Saturday morning, I guess.
I suggest—because I could stay here and talk to you all day—
I'm sure. Actually, I'm through with our formal questions here because the
last question I ask the folks is did they think that they were trailblazers. You
would have answered yes.
We were trailblazers—and I picked up where the other director stopped. At
that particular time in history, in those years, with attitudes that we had
this person could do only what she was permitted to do by the American public.
Then the next person that came along built on what she had done and managed to
go a little further. I happened to be there at a time when everything got into
my ballpark, so I was able to see things happen during my tenure that took fifty
years to make it possible to happen.
Well, it's also got to be rewarding for you. A lot of these changes—it's
one thing to have an idea, “The world's going to be different,” but
there's a practical problem of how do you do it. The framers of the Constitution
say, “All right, we're going to make it a better country.” But how
practically do we do it? And that was your job as head of the WACs to try. Do we
keep the WAC as an independent unit? There is a tradition here. There is a
special role of being prepared in time of emergency. And yet the country says, “Well, no, we want a bigger role, a peacetime role.”
I could see that unless we were totally integrated into the system with the
same rules, same regulations, same opportunities, we were going nowhere. And yet
we had a nice comfortable existence where we were. We had our own history. No,
it's not infantry history and it's not artillery history; but it's our history
and you hate to give that up. I was sure glad it didn't happen on my watch. It
happened after I left. But I knew it was coming and I worked to help make it
happen. I told the person that followed me, “It's going to happen. And
we're going to feel bad and we're going to weep and they're going to see. Some
of our women will never accept or understand it, but it's got to be done
for us to move forward. That's all there is to it.”
That's why it's nice that WIMSA [Women in Military Service for America] got
together when they did, I think, to encapsulate that time. Because I think, from
my generation certainly, and the folks ten years or so younger than me, they
don't think a second thought about women being in service—anymore than they
think about whites and blacks going to school together. It is a change that, I
think, has got deep roots.
That's right. No big deal to them anymore. So what. It was an earthshaking
subject. No, if you just wait longer. But they say, “What goes around comes
[Discussion of a visit to WIMSA headquarters.]
Listen, now, I'll never not be army. Today, I live my life like I'm still on
active duty, because as far as I'm concerned I represent the United States Army.
Everybody I deal with knows I'm army. I represent women in uniform because
still we are lumped, because we're women. Like if you're black or you're white.
Whether you're [U.S.] Air Force or Marine Corps, if it's a black eye for the Marine Corps it's a black eye for the [U.S.] Army—if it's a woman. So I still [live] my life as though I'm on active duty.
I would no more just throw myself together and go out in public for fear I'd run
into somebody that knows who I am. And I'm too proud of what women have done to
commit anybody to say, “Wow, is she letting go.” [chuckles] Most of us
feel that way. We have a very strong sense of, I think, responsibility and
caring, and especially about women. We help each other.
Well, you have traveled a long road and, like you say, when you walk
out you know that you're carrying a whole bunch of tradition with you.
Yes. Of course, when I was in uniform I would get on a plane—I wouldn't
even take my hat off or unbutton my blouse even if it was a twelve-hour flight,
because I'm a woman in uniform. If I'm sloppy with my blouse undone and my
hair in a mess, that is for every woman in uniform. They will judge every woman
in uniform by that.
It's not an easy burden. Every woman felt this way, that she had a
responsibility, had to be better than everybody else, and that she could never
let down her guard.
Well, like when she [Bettie J. Morden, in her book The Women's Army Corps,
1945-1978] talks about some ideas that you had on lowering the standards for
officers because you felt like—whether it was physical training or with
intelligence—you needed to be a cut above because you were going to be judged
Exactly. Exactly. Now, if you have a chance to look through some of that
and it brings up anything—just thumb through it, because it would take you
hours to read—and you want to call me on the phone and talk about it or come
[End of the Interview]