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The Betty H. Carter Women Veterans Historical Project

Oral history interview with M. Inez Caroon Bailey, 1999

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Object ID: WV0084.5.001

Description:

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.

Summary:

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.

Full Text:

EE:

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?

MB:

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.

EE:

Did you have any brothers and sisters growing up?

MB:

Yes, I have one brother and three sisters.

EE:

You're right in the middle of that group? Oldest?

MB:

Middle, the middle child.

EE:

What did your folks do for a living?

MB:

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.

EE:

So he owned his own business?

MB:

Yes.

EE:

I guess you worked in the store when you were growing up?

MB:

Oh, yes, the entire family. When we were not in school we were working. My maiden name was Caroon.

EE:

I guess your mom helped out in the store and raised the kids?

MB:

Absolutely.

EE:

Fort Barnwell, was that someplace down east also near Kinston?

MB:

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 the number.

EE:

Were you somebody who liked school when you were growing up?

MB:

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.

EE:

Do you remember having a favorite subject or anything that you wanted to study when you got older?

MB:

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.

EE:

Career planning wasn't that—

MB:

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.

EE:

Had either of your folks been to college?

MB:

No.

EE:

How did a young woman get the idea to go to college? This is during the Depression, is it not?

MB:

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].

EE:

This was after one year?

MB:

After one year. So I went there in my sophomore year.

EE:

This experience at Fayetteville, was that your first time with any extended time away from home?

MB:

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 transferred there.

EE:

You didn't know anybody else from your area who was at school?

MB:

No, no.

EE:

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.

MB:

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 anyone personally.

EE:

What was your dormitory when you were at WC?

MB:

I really can't remember.

EE:

You were working in the cafeteria when you worked?

MB:

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 themselves.

EE:

This was a separate dinner?

MB:

No, in the evening, every evening. Served dinner each evening.

EE:

Were you one of the servers?

MB:

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.

EE:

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]

MB:

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 smart lady.

EE:

She didn't have to do that. That made you feel special.

MB:

No, but she felt that we deserved the same opportunity that the other students were getting.

EE:

That was a good lesson.

MB:

Why I remember that particular thing when I don't remember things that were much more important, but I was terribly impressed by that.

EE:

What did you end up having as a major at WC? Was it French?

MB:

French.

EE:

Who was the French instructor? Do you have some instructors that you remember from those days?

MB:

Monsieur André. That I remember. The other names I really don't.

EE:

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.

MB:

Yes.

EE:

Were you encouraged to get an education degree?

MB:

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.

EE:

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.

MB:

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.

EE:

With all that work, did you have much time for a social life?

MB:

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.

EE:

That's great. Do you remember anything about Dean [Harriet] Elliott or any of the other administrators at the school?

MB:

The name. I'm very familiar with the name Dean Elliott.

EE:

Were you there when Eleanor Roosevelt came to the school?

MB:

No, I don't remember that.

EE:

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?

MB:

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.

EE:

Decidedly apolitical?

MB:

Yes.

EE:

You graduated from the university in the spring of 1940. Where did you go from there?

MB:

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.

EE:

This is Alexander County, I believe.

MB:

That sounds right.

EE:

Near Hiddenite and everything else in that neighborhood.

MB:

Yes. Absolutely.

EE:

How long did you have that job?

MB:

Two years.

EE:

So it was in Taylorsville that you heard about Pearl Harbor?

MB:

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 '41.

EE:

Did that make an impact on you?

MB:

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.

EE:

The Yeomanettes and Marinettes.

MB:

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 time.

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.

EE:

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, travel, what?

MB:

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.

EE:

Is your parents' reaction in there? What did your parents think of that?

MB:

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.

EE:

There was no restrictions at this point.

MB:

No.

EE:

It was just an open discussion to have women in the military.

MB:

Absolutely. We were going to replace men in jobs so that they could be sent into combat.

EE:

Free a man to fight.

MB:

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.

EE:

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.

MB:

Exactly.

EE:

I was thinking it would be through a women's club, but it was through the men's.

MB:

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.

EE:

Did you go to Fort Des Moines?

MB:

Yes. Des Moines was my first station.

EE:

I think you're either the second or third class.

MB:

Third class.

EE:

You're automatically—at that time I assume that they're recruiting for both enlisted [and] officers, but because you're a college grad—

MB:

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 the teachers.

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.

EE:

Had they defined it at that stage, early stage, the limited jobs you were able to do?

MB:

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.

EE:

You were assigned sort of like as a battalion or something? You weren't assigned individually?

MB:

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.

EE:

This was the tent city as I've heard.

MB:

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 United States.

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.

EE:

The folks in your group were just basically assigned to do the office of clerical positions?

MB:

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.

EE:

Taking women right from the farm—

MB:

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.

EE:

You went to George Field. This would have been early '43?

MB:

Yes, mid-'43. I'd say mid-'43.

EE:

This was before WAAC [Women's Auxiliary Army Corps] becomes WAC [Women's Army Corps].

MB:

Yes. I was there when that happened.

EE:

You must not have had any problems with barracks life or marching. This is while you were still in the service and there's—

MB:

Oh, the marching was fun.

EE:

You liked that?

MB:

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 clock.

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.

EE:

So you didn't face the slander campaign personally?

MB:

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 minimal.

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.

EE:

Smart man. What was his name?

MB:

Bailey, Roy Bailey.

EE:

Did you meet him down at Daytona?

MB:

No, I met him before I went into the service. He was a Marine stationed—

EE:

From back home?

MB:

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 time.

EE:

Then did he follow you to George Field?

MB:

Oh, no. No, he's a Marine. He's going wherever the Marine Corps sends him.

EE:

So you're going in two different directions?

MB:

There's a war on.

EE:

He had to go back?

MB:

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.

EE:

V-mail was just overseas, wasn't it, or was that anybody within the service?

MB:

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.

EE:

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?

MB:

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 about it.

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.

EE:

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?

MB:

Yes.

EE:

That was your first station?

MB:

Army Air Force installation.

EE:

For the rest of your career you were actually assigned to that?

MB:

Always Army Air Force bases during World War II.

EE:

How long were you at George Field? For the rest of '42?

MB:

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 training.

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.

EE:

Well, now after all you've taught these North Carolinians who had trouble with English, I guess. [chuckles]

MB:

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—

EE:

This was late '44, early '45?

MB:

Early '44.

EE:

You're doing this job for about how long now?

MB:

Two years.

EE:

So this takes you through the end of the war?

MB:

I was there the day the war ended. We wrote “The war ended today” on our walls. [chuckles]

EE:

Both VE and VJ Day?

MB:

Yes. Yes, I was right there.

EE:

So they were training these folks to send to the Pacific theatre over there?

MB:

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.

EE:

During the war were you on seven-day shifts, five-day shifts?

MB:

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.

EE:

So your downtime, I guess, is pretty much private quiet time.

MB:

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.

EE:

Whereabouts is Craig Field? Is it near Montgomery?

MB:

Selma, Alabama is about—let me stop and think now—about fifty miles from Montgomery. It's still a small town.

EE:

Was it a place that just started for the war?

MB:

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]

EE:

You were saying you were there when [Franklin D.] Roosevelt passed away.

MB:

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.

EE:

Did you even know who Harry Truman was?

MB:

No. No, I had no idea because I paid no attention whatsoever to politics.

EE:

What did you think of Mrs. Roosevelt?

MB:

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.

EE:

Did they have a regular debriefing of the status of the war for folks saying, “This week we're here and here”?

MB:

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.

EE:

How many WACs were at Craig Field?

MB:

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.

EE:

So you were teaching. Did you also have administrative responsibility over those 150?

MB:

No. No, my job had nothing to do with that.

EE:

So unlike George Field, where that was your main job—

MB:

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.

EE:

For the most part, your work was with other men?

MB:

Completely with the cadets.

EE:

And you always felt treated professionally in that environment?

MB:

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 mathematics.

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.

EE:

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—

MB:

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.”

EE:

Right. And you're not the only one with the same feelings.

MB:

Exactly. Exactly. No one let you feel sorry for yourself for long. They didn't tolerate it.

EE:

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 you.”

MB:

[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.

EE:

Great. Great. Well, that's the kind of snippet you can't get from reading.

MB:

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.”

EE:

What's the tune to that? I probably know the march as soon as you—

MB:

(Hums)

EE:

Bridge Over The River Kwai.

MB:

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 recruiting effort.

EE:

That was a nice tie-in. So the physical part of your work you didn't find that difficult?

MB:

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.

EE:

About how long would they be there—for two, three months?

MB:

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 thousand.

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.

EE:

Sounds like a wonderful way to tie together all of your previous experiences as an adult.

MB:

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.

EE:

So with that kind of exciting combination of things, I could see where you might decide to stick around in the service after—

MB:

Had no intention of doing so. As a matter of fact, the law wouldn't permit it.

EE:

Well, they were rapidly—that's right—they were rapidly going [to discharge women]—

MB:

When the war ended, it was 1948 before they passed the law [allowing permanent integration of women into the regular armed forces].

EE:

Weren't you priority [for discharge], being married already to somebody? They let you out first.

MB:

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.

EE:

Sounds almost like a VA [Veterans Administration] kind of a thing.

MB:

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.

EE:

Once the “52-50” [fifty-two weeks pay at fifty dollars] ran out something had to happen. [chuckles]

MB:

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.

EE:

So you were thinking, “This will get me through until he gets settled.”

MB:

That's right.

EE:

Did he go to school in that area?

MB:

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, you know.

EE:

Well, the best laid plans, right?

MB:

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.

EE:

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.

MB:

They were. If they weren't they didn't admit it.

EE:

There was no such thing as a public cynic.

MB:

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.

EE:

But your folks got to fly the flag in the window with a star for you.

MB:

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.

EE:

Was there ever at any point a fear that it might not turn out for the best—that we might lose?

MB:

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—

EE:

Old newsreels.

MB:

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.

EE:

Well, even though you didn't get to go overseas, did you still feel you contributed to the war?

MB:

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 plane again.

EE:

You clearly gave them something they needed.

MB:

The fact that I gave them something they had to have and needed. I felt very, very good about that.

EE:

What was your assignment in Germany?

MB:

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 status.

EE:

Did it bother you right from the start?

MB:

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.

EE:

I think it was the [U.S.] Supreme Court that had to do it, wasn't it?

MB:

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.

EE:

Including you?

MB:

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.

EE:

When you were over there in '48, I guess Germany was split into zones, was it not?

MB:

Yes. Yes, we were still army of occupation—French, British and American soldiers.

EE:

You were pretty restricted in what you could do.

MB:

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.

EE:

When does the Berlin airlift start?

MB:

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.

EE:

So you actually were working in intelligence for some time then, as it turns out.

MB:

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 to Munich.

EE:

Taking the train?

MB:

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.

EE:

The army had their place at Garmisch [Germany] then?

MB:

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.

EE:

So '52, you came back stateside?

MB:

No, '53 I came back, because I didn't get there until '49. Came back in '53.

EE:

Then you come back to work at the Miami area or where were you assigned?

MB:

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.

EE:

There's something that's happened in this transition—you're still in the army.

MB:

Yes. No reason for me to get out.

EE:

No reason to get out. Now that you've got going, are you looking to get out later?

MB:

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 needed.

EE:

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?

MB:

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 intelligence field.

EE:

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?

MB:

Don't even think about it.

EE:

You're just doing your job.

MB:

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.

EE:

The WACs, because they were attached to other groups, they pretty much got their instructions locally.

MB:

That's right, exactly.

EE:

They were not centrally coordinated.

MB:

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.

EE:

Did you feel you were advancing in rank and responsibility?

MB:

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 promotions involved.

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.

EE:

You appreciated him maybe saying that?

MB:

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]

EE:

You don't realize until you get over there it's like little states.

MB:

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.

EE:

But you have put in close to ten years by the time—

MB:

Yes. Well, and then I got promoted. Suddenly they promoted me to captain.

EE:

Just before you came back?

MB:

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.

EE:

Very nice.

MB:

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.

EE:

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 Europe, too?

MB:

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.

EE:

Did you have any interaction with women in the other services from the other countries, France and British?

MB:

No, because my work didn't put me in line for that.

EE:

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?

MB:

No, I was at the Military District Washington in headquarters, still in the intelligence branch there.

EE:

In '57, I think you graduated from an intelligence school.

MB:

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.

EE:

So you're committed to largely intelligence work throughout the fifties.

MB:

Yes.

EE:

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.

MB:

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.

EE:

You were getting to that twenty [years of service].

MB:

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.

EE:

True. The growth of corporations—

MB:

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.

EE:

Now, where is this?

MB:

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.

EE:

For the entire state?

MB:

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.

EE:

You had been valued at every other job up to then.

MB:

Yes.

EE:

This is the first time where they say, “Well, we don't need you.”

MB:

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.

EE:

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 did.

MB:

So I stayed there three years and did the very best job I could.

EE:

Did you get close to the two percent?

MB:

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.

EE:

Was it from that that you got the idea of having this exhibit to go around?

MB:

No, not really. Because I'm still in intelligence.

EE:

That's your mindset.

MB:

Yes.

EE:

This is just your temporary assignment. “I'm going back to intelligence.”

MB:

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.

EE:

Who's “they”? Personnel?

MB:

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 assignment.”

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]

EE:

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.

MB:

Yes.

EE:

We've got advisors in Vietnam, but it's not a front-page thing.

MB:

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.

EE:

This was what you were waiting for.

MB:

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. [chuckles]

EE:

By this time, this is not going to be good news for you. Every time she calls, it's—

[chuckles]

MB:

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.”

EE:

Success coming back to haunt you. [chuckles]

MB:

I said no. And this time I was up for retirement.

EE:

You've got your twenty.

MB:

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 months.”

“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 twice.”

EE:

Just four months.

MB:

I said, “You're saying you think—”

He said, “I think you're going to be sorry later if you turn down the opportunity.”

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.

EE:

They didn't talk to anybody at Fort MacPherson. [chuckles]

MB:

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 they did.

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.

EE:

Had a little fashion show to go with it.

MB:

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.

EE:

She's going to be on the dollar coin coming out.

MB:

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 basis.

EE:

So you again made something out of nothing and it turned it into a thing of beauty.

MB:

All of our time and we got—they had never had an army exhibit.

EE:

So this four months lasted how long?

MB:

Five years, almost six years.

EE:

But you did get a chance to come home a little more often than—

MB:

Yes, I would come home. We'd come home about July, stay August.

EE:

Right in the middle of '63-'68, something like that, I think.

MB:

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.

EE:

Was that at the World's Fair in Seattle?

MB:

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.

EE:

As a historian, I'm just grateful that you proved there is some way out there to do it, then.

MB:

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 sometimes.

EE:

This is almost a little touch of Broadway, where you're doing the “another opening, another show” kind of thing.

MB:

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.

EE:

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?

MB:

We were getting great positive reaction from it—from the public, from educators—in every way.

EE:

Putting a history with patriotism.

MB:

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.

EE:

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.

MB:

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—

EE:

You spent a year coming back to D.C., and I think you were a liaison officer or something?

MB:

I was liaison officer to the Senate.

EE:

Was this for the WACs or for the Pentagon?

MB:

Actually, it was a Pentagon job, but I never worked in the Pentagon.

EE:

Didn't have anything to do with intelligence, did it?

MB:

No, it wasn't intelligence it was legislative liaison.

EE:

Had you given up on intelligence by this time?

MB:

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.”

EE:

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.

MB:

Yes, I'm not a desk person.

EE:

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.

MB:

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.

EE:

Doesn't that make it an easier thing? The military did not really pay a lot of attention to that.

MB:

Yes, right.

EE:

You're just doing your job.

MB:

Absolutely.

EE:

You get too caught up in the politics you're—

MB:

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.

EE:

Were other people doing this job full-time?

MB:

I was the only one for the army. I was the army representative. The air force had somebody there. The navy had somebody there.

EE:

Did you know General Westmoreland at that time?

MB:

General Westmoreland was not—

EE:

He was not Chief of Staff at that time?

MB:

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.

EE:

Tell you what was going on?

MB:

Tell me what was going on. [chuckles] Who it was and explain their discussion.

EE:

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 possible.

MB:

So it turned out to be a very interesting and challenging assignment, as far as that's concerned.

EE:

But you only did that for about a year, didn't you?

MB:

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, General Hoisington.”

There was this big silence at the other end, and she said, “How did you know that?”

I said, “I've got your orders here in my hand that Congress has passed.”

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 occasion.

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.

EE:

You don't need to move again.

MB:

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.

EE:

This is what, '70, I guess?

MB:

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.

EE:

So had the play already set to go again.

MB:

Ten days later they called me to say I've got to be back up there on Monday morning again. [chuckles]

EE:

You probably weren't asked to be back in the play after that, I guess, were you?

MB:

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 Army Corps.”

EE:

Didn't give you an opportunity to say anything. [chuckles]

MB:

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.

EE:

So this is your initial discussion with him about the job, “we need you because you've got a track record of recruiting.”

MB:

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—

EE:

That makes it a lot smoother because you really had gotten, at that point, a grasp of mechanisms and how things ran.

MB:

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.

EE:

So you hit the ground running as far as immediately starting?

MB:

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.

EE:

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.

MB:

Right, attitudes.

EE:

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.

MB:

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—”

EE:

“Why can't you?”

MB:

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.

EE:

Then it becomes a hard challenge for the army to be setting the lead.

MB:

Exactly.

EE:

Because you don't want to find yourself playing catch-up where you'd be at a competitive disadvantage.

MB:

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.

EE:

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.

MB:

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 static.

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.

EE:

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.

MB:

Exactly.

EE:

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.”

MB:

It's because they were kept separate and apart.

EE:

They liked the fact that you could be a lady.

MB:

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.

EE:

Look at my grandmother work in the garden this summer. [chuckles]

MB:

Exactly, but that was okay for her to go out and get dirty in the garden.

EE:

It is funny how these lines are drawn, aren't they?

MB:

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 change it.

EE:

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?

MB:

Colonel Westry Battle Boyce.

EE:

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.

MB:

She didn't stay long either.

EE:

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—

MB:

She was from North Carolina.

EE:

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.

MB:

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.

EE:

You're right.

MB:

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?

EE:

Well, but you could not have had the changes in the military that happened without the social environment, the cultural changes first.

MB:

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.

EE:

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—

MB:

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.

EE:

I was surprised at that.

MB:

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 early eighties.

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

MB:

You say you're going to be here the rest of the week.

EE:

I'm going to be here through probably Saturday morning, I guess.

MB:

I suggest—because I could stay here and talk to you all day—

EE:

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.

MB:

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.

EE:

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.”

MB:

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.”

EE:

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.

MB:

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 around.” [chuckles]

[Discussion of a visit to WIMSA headquarters.]

MB:

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.

EE:

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.

MB:

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.

EE:

That's right.

MB:

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.

EE:

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 harder.

MB:

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 back by—

[End of the Interview]