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The Betty H. Carter Women Veterans Historical Project

Oral history interview with Betty Berry Godin, 1999

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Object ID: WV0096.5.001

Description:

Interview primarily focuses on Betty Berry Godin's service as an Army Air Force Evacuation Nurse.

Summary:

Pre-service topics include Godin's nursing education and employment; being reject for a job as a flight attendant; and the death of a boyfriend in a pilot training accident. She then provides many details of her service with the Army Air Force Evacuation Corps, including training for overseas and flight conditions; traveling across the Pacific to India; organization of flight evacuations; picking up patients in Pakistan, India, and Burma; her co-workers, including Dr. Seagrove and Major Morris Kaplan; her duties as mess officer; flight nurse duties, including monitoring reactions to altitude and administering medicine; evacuating Merrill’s Marauders; precautions against malaria, mosquitoes, and snakes; killing a python in a trench and having shoes and a purse made from its skin; and her pet hog, Pennsylvania.

Topics related to her stateside and post-war service include VE Day and VJ Day; her desire to fly; her frequent trans-Pacific flights while stationed in Hawaii, and her long-distance relationship with Gene Godin, which continued after their marriage. Other topics include Gene Godin's career with the Medical Service Corps of the U.S. Air Force overseas and abroad, their four month journey to Alaska; admiration of Charles Lindbergh; and her opinion of women in combat positions.

Creator: Betty Berry Godin

Biographical Info: Elizabeth "Betty" Berry Godin, of Wilkinsburg, Pennsylvania, served as a U.S. Army Air Forces (AAF) evacuation nurse from 1943 until January 1948.

Collection: Betty Berry Godin Papers

Rights: It is responsibility of the user to follow the copyright law of the United States (Title 17, U.S. Code). Materials are not to be reproduced in published works without written consent, and any use should credit Jackson Library, The University of North Carolina at Greensboro.

Full Text:

ERIC ELLIOTT:

My name is Eric Elliott, and I am here in Etowah, North Carolina. Actually it's the woods near Etowah. Etowah may be a place where it's mainly woods anyway, but it's Etowah, North Carolina. I'm at the home of Betty Godin this morning.

Thank you, Mrs. Godin, for having us here. This is an interview for the Women Veterans Historical Project of the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, and today's date is June the 19th. Are we moving on? It's got to be close. It's Saturday, the Saturday that week of the 19th. I think that's what it is.

BETTY GODIN:

Look here, look on the paper.

EE:

Okay. It is in fact Saturday the 19th. Sorry about that, transcriber, I'm usually pretty good on remembering what date it is.

Ms. Godin, we go through about thirty questions with everybody, and I hope the first question isn't the hardest. I don't think it is, because I think you know the answer. Where were you born and where did you grow up?

BG:

I was born in Cincinnati, Ohio.

EE:

That's a great place.

BG:

Yes. I'm a Buckeye, but I didn't stay there very long.

EE:

I was going to say, I thought Pennsylvania was in your future.

BG:

I was about six months old when they moved to Wilkinsburg, Pennsylvania.

EE:

Were you an only child? Do you have brothers and sisters?

BG:

I'm the oldest of five girls.

EE:

What did your folks do?

BG:

My father worked for the Gulf Refining Company, which is no longer in existence; it's now BP.

EE:

My dad worked for Standard Oil for many years, which is now Exxon, which is now Exxon Mobil, so they're just merging right along.

BG:

Right.

EE:

It was Gulf that moved you all from Cincinnati to Wilkinsburg?

BG:

I don't know that. I don't know if he was with Gulf at that time or not. I don't know that answer.

EE:

What did your mom do?

BG:

She was a housewife, PTA [Parent Teacher Association] and all the good things mothers were supposed to do.

EE:

You graduated from high school there in Wilkinsburg?

BG:

I did, class of 1937.

EE:

North Carolina was slow to get on the twelve-year system. Were y'all a twelve-year or eleven-year high school? Did you go twelve years to high school?

BG:

You bet.

EE:

We were advanced educationally back then.

BG:

Oh, you're just smarter. In fact, our 1937 class still has a reunion. I just got a paper from them.

EE:

That's great.

BG:

Yes.

EE:

I had my twentieth last year and I can only imagine doing it for thirty more years. You graduated in '37. Were you somebody who liked school? Did you enjoy going to school?

BG:

I didn't mind it. I did all right.

EE:

What did you want to be when you grew up?

BG:

I was going to be an airline stewardess, I thought, and I wasn't.

EE:

What kept you from being an airline stewardess?

BG:

I was rejected because I wasn't—I went out for my, what was it, TWA [Trans World Airlines], I went for an interview, and I didn't sleep around and smoke and play bridge. And I was told to come back when I matured.

EE:

Really.

BG:

Really. In the interim, my flight nurse school became available and, by golly, I went there.

EE:

Tell me, you went down to TWA in Pittsburgh?

BG:

No. Where was it out west? I forget where the headquarters is.

EE:

But you made a special trip out there?

BG:

Yes.

EE:

Thirty-seven—when was it that you went to this flight school? What did you do after high school?

BG:

I went to West Penn Hospital and became a registered nurse.

EE:

So you took nurse's training at West Penn?

BG:

Western Pennsylvania Hospital in Pittsburgh.

EE:

What was that, a three-year program?

BG:

Three years, four months, I graduated in 1940.

EE:

My mom's an R.N. [registered nurse] and she went through Cabarrus Hospital, and I think when you're trained at a hospital, they have, what, a nurses' dormitory right there?

BG:

Yes, and they have somebody sitting there watching you and scowling at you and locking the door. You come in after ten o'clock, you get a demerit. They watched you.

EE:

Yes. This was just general nurse's training so you got the grand tour. You did surgical, you did floor, you did all different shifts?

BG:

Right. OB [obstetrics] and psychiatric and everything.

EE:

Half the day was in classes, and then you'd have your shift?

BG:

That's right. Then pretty soon you were on the floor and pretty soon you got to be head nurse.

EE:

It wasn't obvious, or was it, because I think in those days stewardesses had to have nurse's training.

BG:

That's why I went in training. [chuckles]

EE:

So basically you tried to be a stewardess before you went to nurse's training?

BG:

Oh, no, no, no.

EE:

So you had already gone to nurse's training.

BG:

I had my R.N. when I went for—

EE:

When you went to get your R.N., you went to get your R.N. with a goal of being a stewardess, not being a floor nurse?

BG:

Right. That's right. I didn't want to empty bedpans all my life.

EE:

Smart woman. How did your folks feel about this choice of a career? Because being an airline stewardess was sort of a new thing, wasn't it?

BG:

They didn't say anything about it. I mean, it was up to me. They did not object. Of course, I didn't get it. But then I went in the service, so what could they say then?

EE:

True. You finished in '40.

BG:

Yes.

EE:

Then immediately you tried to go in with TWA. You didn't get that job. Did you go work in the hospital?

BG:

Right, I worked for two years at Women's McGee Hospital in obstetrics. I was a charge nurse on the OB ward for two years.

EE:

Was Women's McGee in Pittsburgh, as well?

BG:

Yes, Oakland, right down by Forbes Field. You do know Forbes Field?

EE:

It's the predecessor to Three Rivers [Stadium]; this is where the baseball team was.

BG:

You betcha. Yes. [Pittsburgh Pirates player Bill] Mazorowski.

EE:

I take it you were a fan.

BG:

You betcha.

EE:

You know, when we lived in Philadelphia, I really enjoyed live baseball. It is so different from watching it on TV, and you were at the golden age of baseball, so I know that was fun being there.

When you worked at McGee, did you stay there on the hospital grounds; did you have your own place?

BG:

No. They had billets for us, a nurses' home. I stayed in the nurses' home. I was a good girl.

EE:

So I guess what I'm getting at is that you've had three or four or five years of community living.

BG:

You mean away from mama?

EE:

Away from mama, with other people.

BG:

Oh, yes.

EE:

Your dormitories and training at McGee, are they sort of like private apartments? Are you sharing a room?

BG:

Just one room. No, in training we had roommates. At McGee I had my own room.

EE:

You're working as a nurse at McGee when Pearl Harbor happens.

BG:

I certainly was.

EE:

Were you on call that day? How did you hear about it?

BG:

I was at home. I was home in Wilkinsburg, in my parents' home. I heard it on the radio at home. That was my day off.

EE:

How aware had you been before that time of what was happening in the world? There's been some discussion about whether America ought to be—you know, that's their problem overseas, it's not America's problem.

BG:

Is this thing going?

EE:

Yes.

BG:

Okay.

EE:

You can choose not to answer certain questions. You're young, and the thing about when I interview folks, I do have to remember that young people aren't often very political. Young people are never very political, unless they're forced to be, I think.

BG:

I knew what was going on, because my dearest boyfriend was a pilot—he went to Penn State University—and he enlisted right then after Pearl Harbor into the air force. I knew what was going on.

EE:

So you knew that meant a big change, because it affected you as a big change right off the bat.

BG:

Right. He graduated from pilot school in March and he was killed in May, in San Antonio.

EE:

In '42.

BG:

Yes.

EE:

So he was killed in practicing down at San Antonio?

BG:

He elected—instead of going overseas, you know, and bombers and all this and that—he elected to stay in the States and be a teacher for students. He was a good pilot.

EE:

So it was an instructor accident that happened?

BG:

Yes, right. That's all I know about it. I don't know what happened.

EE:

But that was '42, right off the bat.

BG:

Yes.

EE:

Is that when you decided to look at service yourself, or when did you start thinking? Because there were several options as a nurse, you could have been an army nurse, a navy nurse.

BG:

We went in as army nurses at that time, right when I went to Bowman Field. It was army then. I had a hard time after I lost Bill. The obstetrician was a wonderful man and he suggested I go in the service and get away from it all. And I really wanted to. I thought, well, maybe I could—I don't know what I thought, but I wanted to go.

EE:

He was a local fellow, his family was nearby?

BG:

Oh, sure, we went to Wilkinsburg High School, class of '37.

EE:

So you had known him since high school then?

BG:

Oh, sure.

EE:

So he was a longtime—

BG:

Oh, you betcha.

EE:

He was a sweetheart.

BG:

Maybe that's why I'm not going to San Antonio this week, you know, because that's where we were going, the same air base. Isn't it funny how things work out?

EE:

Maybe it is. You read the tea leaves.

BG:

Another reason we're not going.

EE:

So how did you end up joining the—I've heard different people talk about recruiting offices for these different branches of service, and I know that they'd made some effort to come to hospitals and inform nurses. How did you—on your own?

BG:

On my own, yes. I think I wrote letters. I can't quite remember now how I got to go.

EE:

But the Army Nurse Corps is what you were planning on joining?

BG:

That's what I joined at Bowman Field in Louisville for flight nurses' school. I went right there first.

EE:

Did you express a preference, or did you even get the option to express a preference, “I'd like to be stationed in this area doing this”?

BG:

Oh, no, no, you didn't.

EE:

Or you said, “I'm here for the duration”?

BG:

Yes. They made the decisions where you were going out of the school when you finished.

EE:

Were you the only person from your hospital going at that time, I guess?

BG:

Yes.

EE:

That trip out to Bowman Field, was that your first big trip away from home? You're still in that general area. You had experiences with other people, as far as seeing parts of the country.

BG:

You mean by myself?

EE:

Yes.

BG:

Oh, I guess you could say that. My parents took me—we went to Washington, D.C. We went places, but that's the first time I left home, really. Of course, I really left home, I went in training.

EE:

True. Tell me what nurses' training is like for flight nurses at Bowman Field.

BG:

Just read the book. There it is.

EE:

True, I could read the book. I want to get your impressions of it.

BG:

Oh, it was nice. It was good.

EE:

You can read about Washington, D.C.'s interstate system, but I'll tell you by impressions of its traffic. [chuckles]

BG:

Never mind, we just came back from Washington, from Walter Reed Hospital this spring. My husband said, “We're going back.”

EE:

What were your impressions? Did you have to go through a basic training, where you had physical training?

BG:

Yes, we went through the infiltration course and the whole thing like the soldiers did.

EE:

Were you out there for six weeks, eight weeks, how long?

BG:

Let's see. Dotty says in her article there. I forget how long it was. At least eight weeks, if longer than that. I forget. It's in Dotty's.

EE:

You went in in the fall of '42?

BG:

No, I went in the spring of '42 and we went overseas—no, that was '43.

EE:

Spring of '43?

BG:

Yes. We went overseas in the fall of '43, yes.

EE:

So you were at Louisville for your two months and then you're doing all the basic training, learning about military protocol and about the ranks and things like that.

BG:

Right, how to salute and all that.

EE:

Are you being prepped for how to bivouac, how to set up all this temporary stuff?

BG:

We went on bivouac and lived out there. You saw the pictures of what we did.

EE:

Right. So these pictures here, when you're on bivouac was that when you were in training, or that's actually from India?

BG:

No, those bivouac pictures are from when we were at Bowman Field.

EE:

How many women are in this group? How many women did you train with?

BG:

You mean in all of Bowman Field?

EE:

I assume you had a little company or something that you go to back there.

BG:

We had a squadron. We were assigned to a squadron and there were twenty-five nurses in the squadron.

EE:

All different specialties and experiences?

BG:

That's where the airline stewardesses came in and everybody, just regular people like me from school.

EE:

Most of the women your age, or a little older?

BG:

Mostly my age. There were a couple older. Audrey, our chief nurse, was older, and “Ma” Murphy was older, but they were mostly all my age.

EE:

There were some restrictions on what women can do in some branches of the service. There's not on army nurses as far as location; you're not just stateside. How did your folks feel about you going into the army?

BG:

I didn't ask them. I don't know how they felt. It was my business.

EE:

Your business. You didn't bother to get an opinion on it? Nobody gave you any grief about it then?

BG:

Oh, no. No. They came to see me.

EE:

Yes, that's good. That's a good sign. They come and want to take pictures and things. Because I know some women had to fight that battle right up front.

BG:

Oh, no. I think they were kind of proud, because my mother started Women in the Service Mothers' Group in Pittsburgh. She was president of that. With her PTA work, you know, but she started that. No, they were proud.

EE:

I guess even as army nurses—I think with nurses you were not officially part of the army, except when captured, then you got a rank. Wasn't that how it worked?

BG:

We had our rank when we went in.

EE:

So when you finished basic, what rank were you when you finished basic?

BG:

I was second lieutenant. I still have my ID card. Let me show you my ID card. Wonder where that is. I was second lieutenant, since we were already nurses, RNs. Then along the way we got promoted to first lieutenant someplace, and when I got out I was a captain.

EE:

Great.

BG:

I outranked my husband when I met him. [chuckles]

EE:

We had a woman who said that she left the service two days before she was supposed to get her promotion just so she wouldn't, because she knew her husband couldn't take that fact. [chuckles]

BG:

It was already ordained when I met him, so I didn't have to worry about that.

EE:

Where did you go from Louisville? You said that it took six months before they sent you overseas. Is this where you went, to Camp McCall?

BG:

Oh, that was just a side kick. They thought they'd be nice and stick the nurses out there when the place was dedicated. One of those things.

EE:

Junkets, right.

BG:

One of those things. Then we went to Camp Anza in California, Riverside—Camp Anza for our debarkation.

EE:

So you were waiting there for a couple of weeks to figure out where they wanted to send you?

BG:

They knew where they were sending us.

EE:

They just didn't tell you?

BG:

No, we weren't allowed to know. There it is. Oh, I was a first lieutenant on that one. That's the oldest one I have. I lost my other one. I guess I had to give it in when I got that one.

EE:

That's great.

BG:

We stayed out there a while and then we got on the troop ship, which was an old German vessel, the George Washington, for two months.

EE:

So this is something that they converted. It's just women on this ship?

BG:

No. Troops, everybody. Real troop ship.

EE:

So you went from Riverside. Did you stop in Hawaii on the way out?

BG:

No, no, not that time.

EE:

Just went straight across. How many days were you at sea?

BG:

Zigs and zags. Two months.

EE:

Good gracious.

BG:

Zipping and zagging, Japs, submarines. Blackouts at night.

EE:

You didn't go in a convoy; you were just trying to—

BG:

We just went by ourselves.

EE:

Scared?

BG:

Didn't bother me. I sat out in the deck and did my needlepoint. What's there to be scared about? You were there.

EE:

You weren't going to go anyplace for two months so you might as well get used to it.

BG:

That's right.

EE:

When did they tell you where you were going to be, or did they not tell you until you saw the lights of the harbor?

BG:

I don't remember when they told us where we were going. We landed in Bombay on the west side of India. Oh, no, wait a minute. First of all we stopped in Hobart. We stopped in Hobart first.

EE:

New Zealand?

BG:

Yes.

EE:

Hobart in Tasmania.

BG:

In Tasmania. Yes, we stayed there a couple of nights. Why I don't know. We all sat there and cried when we saw that beautiful green land. It was nice to see. Yes, we stopped in Hobart, and then we went to Bombay.

EE:

Did you know the kind of work you were going to be doing before you went over there?

BG:

Yes, we were going to be evacuating patients, and we practiced that at Bowman Field.

EE:

The air evacuation group starts in '42, judging from this. This is a separate group that's attached to the Army Air Corps, is that how it works?

BG:

No. We're [army] air force nurses now.

EE:

When you land at Bombay, is that just a temporary docking and then you go someplace else, or how does that work?

BG:

Yes, we got in a British boat, a little British boat, and we went around the tip of India over to Calcutta. I think that took another month, if I can remember. It took a long time in this little boat.

EE:

Do you ever have the urge to go back to sea?

BG:

I had to once. Yes, I had to. We lived in Japan after we got married. Our daughter was born in Japan, so when we came home from Japan we came home by sea, through the North Pacific in the wintertime.

EE:

Gosh, with the storms.

BG:

I was never so seasick in my life. Nobody went to the dining room, except my husband. He was the only one in the dining room. Roberta was not quite a year old. Of course, she couldn't keep anything down and she'd roll up and down the floor, and I'd put her here and she'd slide down. It was a rough trip into Seattle, and then they had the worse storm in the Northwest that they'd had in years, and we drove down the West Coast there. We were stationed in Tucson. Why we had to go just down—I think we could have waited a day or two, but we drove through that storm.

EE:

What a mess. Well, let me get you through World War II. You were at Calcutta.

BG:

Yes.

EE:

Tell me where you go from there.

BG:

Well, then we got on an airplane. We were riding airplanes then. They flew us up to Assam, which is a little town, Chabua, in the Assam province.

EE:

Tea country.

BG:

Yes, Pierce's Tea Patch. Mr. Pierce.

EE:

This was going to be your staging area. Were you in the 803rd, is that what this was?

BG:

Yes, 803rd. That's where we lived. That was our home.

EE:

That was your home base throughout the time that you were in the service?

BG:

Yes, as long as we were in India. But then I went on TDY [temporary duty] to Calcutta to do my thing down there.

EE:

How long were you at Chabua? This was from fall—well, I guess, it wasn't fall of '43, because by the time you had all these trips you probably didn't get there until what, winter of '44, February or March? When did you get there?

BG:

I guess. I don't remember. It was '44 I'm sure, or something. No, I think we got there before Christmas. I can't remember that. Does it say in here? I bet I told George. Maybe I told him. “Arriving in August of '43,” it says. We flew to Chabua in India's northeast-most province of Assam arriving in August of '43. There we go. Located at the edge of the large tea patch.

EE:

What was your job when you were there? The group's job, I know, was to help evacuate people.

BG:

I was mess officer. What else could I say? We were kept busy flying.

EE:

Had you flown in airplanes much before this experience?

BG:

Nope.

EE:

No trouble doing that.

BG:

I didn't get the TWA, remember. [chuckles]

EE:

That's right.

BG:

Oh, dear. Well, no.

EE:

In that picture you show you and your co-workers, you were in charge of a bunch of men it looked like, or working with a bunch of men doing this job.

BG:

We had our technicians. There were, I think, twenty-five technicians, too, with us on our flights. We always had a medical technician in the plane with us. There were four flight surgeons, I think, four or five. They went with us sometimes, and sometimes they didn't.

EE:

You were stationed about, well, less than a hundred miles from the Japanese front.

BG:

Oh, yes. Oh, yes.

EE:

How solid was that front, or did you get a lot of flyover business from the Japanese?

BG:

I can only remember one serious time when we had slit trenches in the tea patches where they sent us. When I was there, that's the only time. That's when the python was in the slit trench. There was a python down in there. Fortunately, the air police was billeted by right by us, and they were coming in the evac, to be safe, too, so they shot it for us. They shot the snake. After the all-clear, we pulled the snake out and laid out in their front yard. I said, “What are you going to do with that snake?” “I don't know.”

I said, “Can I have it?” So we skinned the snake.

EE:

Cooked it?

BG:

No. I got the skin, I took it to Calcutta and I had it treated and I carried it around with me for years. When we lived in Madrid, I had shoes and a purse made out of my python. I don't know what they were going to do with it, but they weren't going to throw that away. [chuckles]

EE:

That's too much of a memento to give up.

BG:

It was a beautiful skin. I'll show you my python. Then, dumb me, I threw the shoes away, because they were round-toed and it wasn't the vogue to wear those kind of shoes, so I pitched them. But I had the bag.

EE:

Well, maybe we'll subtitle this “How I got a purse while in India.” [chuckles] That's nice. I imagine it's interesting if you watch that show M*A*S*H, do you think of your experiences?

BG:

That was cute.

EE:

Whenever somebody needs evacuation, it could be morning, noon or night, but I assume there is some routine there. What was your day like?

BG:

Our flights were all scheduled. Our chief nurse kept a roster of who went out next, you know. It was all scheduled.

EE:

So, on a flight they'd have a nurse and a flight surgeon accompanying every flight out for the evac, or how did that work?

BG:

A nurse and a technician and sometimes a flight surgeon, not always, depending on the mission.

EE:

How much advanced warning did you get of what your cargo was going to be?

BG:

We didn't have any. You just went out there and got what they were giving you.

EE:

Were you ferrying people largely from China back over the hump?

BG:

There were several satellite bases in India, so we had hopped around there to pick up people, and that was what they call grasshoppers or something. So that was one day somebody went to do that. Another day there's a big 20th General Hospital on up from us at Lido [Tickok, India], and we would go up to there and pick up patients and take them across into Karachi [Pakistan]. Then another squadron of flight nurses was stationed in Karachi and they would start them on their way home. So that was another flight.

Then as things perked along and we were able to get into Burma, then we had flights down into Burma to pick up the patients and bring them back to the 20th General Hospital. That's where Dr. Seagrove was.

EE:

How much was the treatment being done at your location?

BG:

Where we lived?

EE:

Right.

BG:

Nothing.

EE:

So that was simply your post from which you went out to get other people.

BG:

Right, exactly.

EE:

So there was no hospital facility or such there. That picture you showed me of Dr. Seagrove, that was—

BG:

That was in Burma.

EE:

How many women are out there at this post? How many women are you working with out there?

BG:

Well, twenty-five of us were in the 803rd, and then six of them went to China, so the rest of us stayed in India.

EE:

Who was your CO [commanding officer]? Was it another woman nurse?

BG:

No, this doctor.

EE:

Dr. Kaplan.

BG:

Yes.

EE:

Who was a major at the time?

BG:

Major Kaplan was our CO. He was flight surgeon, yes.

EE:

Major Morris Kaplan.

BG:

Yes. He lives in San Diego now. He was the flight surgeon in charge.

EE:

I've had some nurses talk about the fact that compared to some of the other women—when we first sent out a brochure about this, we didn't have a lot of stuff about nurses, because we were just dealing with who were our alumni. Most of our alumni were WAVES [Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service—Navy] who were all stateside, a few WACs [Women's Army Corps], some who went to England. But you were right there in the combat area.

BG:

You betcha.

EE:

Was there, within the nurses, any distinction between those airline stewardesses and those who—

BG:

No, we all got along real well.

EE:

No problem? Everybody pulled together

BG:

We were sisters and we still are.

EE:

That's good.

BG:

You bet.

EE:

Major Kaplan would give you your assignment. So you didn't have a CO who was a woman?

BG:

Oh, yes, Audrey. Where's her picture? Audrey was our chief nurse and she's the one that gave us our—

EE:

So Major Kaplan would tell Audrey, “I need so many people doing this,” and Audrey would be the one that—

BG:

Audrey and the Major worked together, yes. She was our chief nurse.

EE:

So Audrey would do the assignments for you.

BG:

Yes, right. Exactly.

EE:

She's the one who'd figured out who would run the grasshoppers, who'd go to Lido.

BG:

And who would go over the hump.

EE:

Now, as mess sergeant, were you part of the rotation as you're doing these trips, as well?

BG:

Yes. Mess officer.

EE:

Mess officer.

BG:

I'm not a sergeant. Heaven's sake. [chuckles]

EE:

A serious lapse of protocol here. It's like calling the brigadier general private. I'm sorry about that.

BG:

Yes, right. Gotta watch it. [chuckles] Now, what was the question?

EE:

Just keep me out of the brig.

BG:

What was the question?

EE:

I've offended your honor. I'm sorry about this. When you say mess officer, of course—when you're out there at the edge of civilization—carrying civilization with you, that's part of your duty.

BG:

Right.

EE:

I'm just trying to understand. Part of your duty is making sure everybody's got stuff to eat and you're going on these procurement trips into the local town to get fresh stuff, but you're also going with people on this trip. So you're doing double duty. You're doing a nurse role, as I see this picture, you're helping people. You're doing a nurse job, but in addition you're making sure people have got to food to eat, or getting the food for people to eat, that's part of it.

BG:

Yes, I helped Sergeant Wagner.

EE:

See, the term “mess” throws me off, because I don't think of mess as doing nurse's work.

BG:

No.

EE:

But that's in addition to the nurse's work.

BG:

Right. Exactly.

EE:

Sorry about the sergeant lapse.

BG:

That's okay. I couldn't let that pass. [chuckles]

EE:

I understand. I needed to be chided for that. After doing this for several months, I should know better, but it just threw me off the idea. You're trained as a nurse, so I figured surely the army will have you doing the nurse stuff. Okay. All right. Well, let me see if I can recover from that now.

BG:

All right. Here we go.

EE:

You're doing this from '44. When did you leave this spot?

BG:

We came home at the end of '44 for Christmas. We had to be home for Christmas, of course, which I didn't really want to come home then, but I had to come, because everybody else was coming.

EE:

Was this because you were limited in the amount of time that they would allow you, like twelve months and out?

BG:

They didn't want us overseas any longer, and they had sent other girls in to the 803rd to replace us, and they were already there when we left.

EE:

That was the theory, I think, is that you couldn't serve on combat area for more than a year.

BG:

Maybe that's it, because they sent us home. Yes, indeed.

EE:

What have you got? Christmas '44 pictures?

BG:

What is this? All the way across the Atlantic.

EE:

So you're making the world tour on your first trip out.

BG:

I've been around the world.

EE:

I know they give you a certificate for crossing the equator. Did you get one for going around the world courtesy of Uncle Sam?

BG:

No, I didn't get anything. We should have gotten one, because we crossed the equator.

EE:

You should have. I think everybody who was on a transport ship is supposed to get one.

BG:

I didn't get anything. I'm going to see about that. [chuckles]

EE:

You ought to. It's a nice certificate.

BG:

What did they used to call—I forget what they called that. That ceremony—

EE:

Ceremony for crossing the equator?

BG:

Yes. Go ahead, ask me some more questions.

EE:

Most of the people you're evacuating, are they Americans or are they the Chinese, the natives?

BG:

I had Chinese and I had Americans. We helped to evacuate Merrill's Marauders. You've heard of them.

EE:

Heard of them. What do they do? World War II has a bizillion theaters of action, you'll have to forgive me.

BG:

Merrill's Marauders, you better watch that movie some night.

EE:

Which movie?

BG:

Merrill's Marauders.

EE:

Oh, okay.

BG:

General Merrill.

EE:

All right.

BG:

They were down in Burma, and I really forget what they were supposed to do, but they were isolated and they were sick and all. We got them out of there, out of Burma. Merrill's Marauders. I wish I could tell you more about them.

EE:

It's okay.

BG:

Everybody knows Merrill's Marauders.

EE:

Everybody who was alive in '44 does. [chuckles]

BG:

No. No, it's in the movies now.

EE:

Okay. Yes, AMC [American Movie Classics TV channel] has been a gold mine for going back and looking at these things.

BG:

Right. We helped bring them out, and then we had Chinese patients. I had a load of psychiatric Chinese patients.

EE:

Yes, that seemed to be an interesting story. The medication wears off and all of a sudden you're there.

BG:

Right. We hit a monsoon and we had to land and stay on the ground, and these guys were getting awake.

EE:

So how much Chinese did you learn when you were over there?

BG:

I didn't learn very much.

EE:

Did y'all have interpreters out there working with you?

BG:

We didn't need them. We didn't need them. In fact, there was a nice guy that taught Chinese. [chuckles]

EE:

There's twenty-five women.

BG:

Right.

EE:

And sixty to seventy men, it looks like, in the middle of wherever. How could y'all get along?

BG:

We were very compatible. No hanky-panky, if that's what you mean.

EE:

Well, I just—

BG:

Yes, you had to ask.

EE:

I had to ask, because one of the concerns about women going in the military is that, “Oh, my goodness, you'll lose your womanhood.”

BG:

Yes, she won't be a virgin anymore.

EE:

That's right.

BG:

No, no, we didn't have any of that. We really didn't.

EE:

What did you do for a social life in the military, or did you even have time for a social life out there? You did some sightseeing, it sounded like.

BG:

That's about it. We had a nice Christmas party. Colonel Flickinger brought us a tree in for that Christmas, and we had a nice Christmas party.

EE:

This is before you flew home? I guess this is your first Christmas, '43.

BG:

First Christmas, yes, right. Yes, we had a nice Christmas.

EE:

What was the hardest thing about that work over there?

BG:

The hardest thing?

EE:

Physically or emotionally?

BG:

I didn't like the humidity. [chuckles] I didn't like getting so wet and hot.

EE:

We complain about the humidity in North Carolina, but it's nothing like jungle humidity, is it?

BG:

No, a lot different.

EE:

Did y'all have problems with jungle illnesses, with disease?

BG:

We took Atabrine for malaria. We took that. We slept under tents, and we wore our boots at night against snakes and mosquitoes. So everybody took care of themselves that way. A couple of girls got dengue fever, they were down in Calcutta. When she was down at Calcutta, my friend [unclear].

EE:

When I read McDermott's book about you going in to secure fresh chickens, the thought occurred to me, that's not something most travelers would do is buy local produce and meat.

BG:

We were hungry. We got tired of that Spam. But Sergeant Wagner and his crew did nice things in the mess hall, so they were safe. They were safe.

EE:

The nurse work itself, had you been prepared for the kind of injuries and the kind of things you were treating, or how much of that was a surprise?

BG:

No, they taught us that at Bowman Field. We all had our own little surgical kits that we carried with us with our supplies, our morphine and dressings and all. But usually everybody had been tended to before we picked them up, so there wasn't too, too much that we had to do en route.

EE:

Right. It was just basically—

BG:

Monitoring them and their reaction to altitude, and how they responded, and just keeping an eye on them and if they needed medication, give them their medicine and so on. I had one patient, he threw a thrombosis in his leg, I think. Well, that was out in the Pacific, so we had to watch him, kept him on oxygen. Or if they needed dressings changed or anything. But they were usually, like when Dr. Seagrove was there, was getting them all fixed up on the tarmac. The flights weren't that long really.

EE:

An hour or so? How long would it take you to get to Karachi, which seemed like to be the longest?

BG:

To Karachi—well, we stopped in Agra on the way, so it was broken up. I don't remember.

EE:

Agra is where the Taj Mahal is.

BG:

Yes, bow your head.

EE:

One day it's a place I'd like to visit.

BG:

I hope you can, if they don't blow it up.

EE:

You talked about the time you jumped in the slit trench the one day that y'all were shot at by Japs. Did you ever feel fear over there?

BG:

Didn't bother me. I wasn't afraid. I can't say I felt fear, no, for some reason.

EE:

Other than that day you didn't fear in physical danger as much? No time for it. [chuckles]

BG:

[unclear] and hit it.

EE:

No time. Or is it a combination of no time and the fact that you're in your twenties, too?

BG:

Yes, you were young.

EE:

I saw a promo for a TV show the other week, they were doing a new show about fire fighters, and they had a woman fire fighter fighting the fire, and she says, “God, this is exciting.” Did you feel that way?

BG:

Did I feel excitement?

EE:

Or was it tempered by the fact that these people were—

BG:

It was pretty routine, except that time we went to Fort Hertz, you know, when we went to Burma the first time, that was kind of exciting.

EE:

Because that was the first trip in there.

BG:

Right.

EE:

You didn't quite know what to expect.

BG:

That's right. The surgeon had to work by—there wasn't any electricity. He did surgery that night. What did we have? A lantern or something. So then we had the Burmese patients to tend to when John walked into the jungle. So that was the most exciting, I guess you could say, besides the Chinese.

EE:

What was the morale like among the people who were doing that work?

BG:

Among us?

EE:

Yes.

BG:

It was sky high.

EE:

A lot of the people I talked to, when I ask them if they feel they contributed to the war effort, some of them, because of what they ended up doing, said, “Well, not as much as I wanted to.” I don't think that was your problem, was it?

BG:

No, I don't think that. I'll tell you—turn that damn thing off.

EE:

Okay. Off the record for a second. Hold on. [Recorder paused]

One of the questions I ask people is: did you meet any interesting characters or people in your time? You mentioned that you had the chance to see Walter Cronkite when he was over there. Did you meet Mr. [Eric] Sevareid when he was there?

BG:

No.

EE:

But you knew the fellow who flew him out.

BG:

Yes, I knew the pilot. He was one of our air evac pilots.

EE:

You showed me the picture of Lord [Louis] Mountbatten.

BG:

I did, yes. Let me see, there was that other little correspondent, I wish I could remember his name. He came and wrote about the presidents.

EE:

It wasn't Theodore White, was it?

BG:

Yes. Teddy White. You got it. That's my little friend.

EE:

My Trivial Pursuit knowledge does come out.

BG:

How did you know that?

EE:

I remember reading The Making of the President, 1964[by Teddy White] about [Lyndon B.] Johnson.

BG:

That's who it was, little Teddy White in his little shorts, and he'd come on the flight, “You suppose if there's room I could bum a ride over here?” He was adorable.

EE:

That's great. You might as well be on an island to some extent; you're cut off from things. What was the most embarrassing or lighthearted moments that you can recall of, I'm sure, an interesting tour of duty? One that we can print. Some of the pictures I've seen, I don't know if we want to print those. [chuckles]

BG:

What was the question? [chuckles]

EE:

I've gotten you sidetracked by remembering the embarrassing lighthearted moments. Can you pick one or two to share with us, the human interest side of things?

BG:

I don't think I'd better tell you. Dorothy and I, we bought a native hog, we brought it home, we called it Pennsylvania, and we fed it and all.

EE:

This was your pet?

BG:

Yes, this was our pet. It was a native hog. So one time we were out in a flight and the natives got the hog, and I came home and Pennsylvania was gone. [chuckles] No more Pennsylvania.

EE:

Oh, oh, oh, okay.

BG:

But anything else I can't tell you.

EE:

Sworn to secrecy, all right.

BG:

I'll tell you, but I won't tell you—

EE:

Okay. You won't tell me officially. Let me get through my official questions.

BG:

All right.

EE:

We were talking about movies a minute ago, Merrill's Marauders, which, obviously, is something that rings home with you, because that's where you were. Are there other movies or songs that you think of? Was there a special song that nurses were singing?

BG:

Oh, I didn't sing. Oh, dear. I don't remember now.

EE:

I've heard more Andrews sisters and Glenn Miller in the last couple of months than I've heard in a while.

BG:

Oh, we just sang those ditties on the truck. I don't know.

EE:

Were you getting Armed Forces Radio? How much contact did you have with what was going on?

[Begin Tape 1, Side 2]

EE:

So that would have been the big song.

BG:

Yes.

EE:

What did you think of the Roosevelts, the President [Franklin D.] and the wife, Mrs. [Eleanor] Roosevelt?

BG:

I think she did a lot of good for womanhood. I think she was, I don't know if “brave” is the word to put up with all his hanky-panky, but what could she do about it? I guess he was a good President.

EE:

When you were working over there y'all really weren't too wrapped up in—

BG:

I got a unit citation. Everybody got one of those. [chuckles]

EE:

One of the questions I ask folks is who were their heroes or heroines. You've already mentioned a couple of doctors; Dr. Seagrove, to you, because you watched his work.

BG:

Yes.

EE:

Any others?

BG:

Who was my hero?

EE:

Yes.

BG:

Charles Lindbergh. I don't care what they say about him, he was my hero. That's what got the flying bug in my system, I guess.

EE:

Do you remember that flight?

BG:

Kind of.

EE:

You would have been, what, about eight, seven or eight?

BG:

Yes, I was a little girl. My baby sister was born about that time and my mother ran out of names for the girls, so she said, “Well, what do we call her?” My grandmother's name was Carolyn, and my mother didn't like Carolyn, so we couldn't call her Carolyn. So I said, “Okay. Let's call her Carol Linda,” for Lindbergh, and that was her name. Carol Linda.

EE:

Did you ever think about flying yourself?

BG:

I'd loved to have, yes.

EE:

Was that just not on the radar screen as a woman?

BG:

No, no, that was impossible. No, [unclear]. In fact, just last night Gene was sitting here and I said to him, “Let's go back to Pittsburgh one of these days.” I have an aviation scrapbook that I kept from when I was in high school and all, about the little old airport in Pittsburgh, Bettis Field. I said, “I think we ought to take that scrapbook back to the big airport now in Pittsburgh and see if they don't want it, because I think there's some good stuff in it.”

EE:

The local library would, I'm sure, or whoever keeps the history records.

BG:

Right.

EE:

You say you came back for Christmas in '44. You came back to your home, visited with your parents, or what did you do?

BG:

Yes. Yes, had a wonderful time.

EE:

You say that convincingly, like, “Yeah, if I had to.”

BG:

Yes, I really didn't—it wasn't any thrill.

EE:

Christmas of '44, that's Battle of the Bulge time. Did you know that was going on? Was that on your radar screen?

BG:

No.

EE:

Did they give you a leave? Were you going to get a reassignment back out?

BG:

I went back down to Miami Beach, to Miami, for reassignment, and that wonderful lady said, “Well, where would you like to go?” I thought, “Oh, where would I like to go for my assignment?”

EE:

That's a good question, yes.

BG:

I thought, I certainly don't want to go back to Wilkinsburg, Pennsylvania, and I'd never been out West. So I said, “I'd like to go to Denver.” [chuckles] “Okay,” she says. And there I went.

EE:

See the Rockies.

BG:

Out to Buckley Field. That's where I met Gene.

EE:

When did you go out there, February of '45, something like that?

BG:

Oh, I guess about that. Sounds good.

EE:

You met him pretty soon after getting there?

BG:

Oh, no, he wasn't even there yet. He was still at OCS [Officer Candidate School] down in Texas.

EE:

So he was just getting started.

BG:

Oh, yes, he went in as a buck private, to lieutenant colonel. He did all right.

EE:

He did.

BG:

You bet he did in those short years. Anyways, he was assigned to Buckley then after he was in OCS.

EE:

What were you doing? Were you working at the hospital there at Buckley?

BG:

Yes, I was in charge of the orthopedic ward. Had a wonderful doctor there, Claude Snead[?] from Chicago.

EE:

I know that different hospitals during the wartime kind of specialized in things, some would be burns, some would be prosthetic. Was that a specialty hospital there, or was that just general?

BG:

It was more or less general, but like I say, I had the orthopedic ward, and then we moved over to Lowry Field in Denver. They closed the hospital at Buckley and we went over to Lowry Field.

EE:

Were you working at Buckley when VE [Victory in Europe] Day came to pass? When Roosevelt passed away?

BG:

I was. I was.

EE:

Do you have any associations with that?

BG:

Just busy working. No wing-dings, nothing. Nobody got drunk.

EE:

Nobody got drunk.

BG:

Nope, no champagne.

EE:

I guess because the war is still going on in the Pacific.

BG:

Right.

EE:

Everybody assumes we're going to have to invade Japan like we invaded Europe, and that's going to take a while. Nobody knew anything about the bomb.

BG:

Somebody knew something about it. [chuckles]

EE:

Yes, but they weren't telling about it. What did you think about that when you heard it?

BG:

About the bomb?

EE:

Yes.

BG:

Well, it's too bad so many people were mutilated, but I guess it was the only way, because a lot more people would have been lost otherwise. That's all I can think about.

EE:

What about VJ [Victory in Japan] Day? Same low-key response from you and your co-workers?

BG:

Sure. Yes, nothing much.

EE:

Even though you were dating this fellow, Gene, by that time? I assume y'all were dating by August.

BG:

Oh, sure. [chuckles] Of course, we were dating.

EE:

He wasn't happy at all that things were going to be different and he wasn't going to be going back? Had he been in front-line work? So he went right from basic training to officers' school?

BG:

Gene worked for a lace mill in Zion that was making camouflage. It was—oh, what's the big store in Chicago?

EE:

Fields?

BG:

Yes, Marshall Fields store. The lace factory sold all their lace to Marshall Fields and also when the war came along, they had to do camouflage. So Gene had to stay there and he wasn't allowed to go in the service when he really wanted to, so he was a late bloomer. So then he enlisted and came up through the ranks.

EE:

You signed up for the duration and with VJ Day, that meant the duration was over. How long did you stay in?

BG:

After that I went back on flying status out to Hickam Field, [Hawaii]. I went back to flying.

EE:

That was something they called you up to do, or you just volunteered?

BG:

I volunteered. I wanted to go. One of my classmates from the 803rd from school, Grace Stakman, was chief nurse in Washington, so I wrote a letter to Gracie. I said, “I'd like to go back on flying status.” The next week I got my orders to go to Hickam. So at Hickam we flew to Manila and to Tokyo and Guam and Kwajalein and Johnson Island, all out through there, then brought patients in to Fairfield [California], which is now Travis [Air Force Base], outside of San Francisco. So I flew that.

EE:

How long were you doing that?

BG:

Let me see, I got out of the service in—we got married in '47. I got out in '48. So I was out there a couple of years, I guess. I can't remember. Anyways, I was stationed out there and Gene was still stationed back in Buckley at Lowry.

EE:

How did you keep a relationship going?

BG:

Oh, I called him up for his birthday from Hickam to wish—in February. So he says, “Would you like to get married?” Just like that, on the trans-Pacific phone. I said, “Okay.” [chuckles]

So I flew from Hickam into San Francisco, and he flew from Denver into San Francisco, and we married in San Francisco. He got back in his airplane and went back to Denver, and I got back in my airplane and went back to Hickam, right after we married.

But then I had another flight back to the States, and I went back to Denver and said hello to everybody now that I was married. I caught up, you know. Then right after that, he got orders to go to Japan. I was still at Hickam, so then he was at Hamilton Field staging area for however long it took, so I had another flight into San Francisco and saw my husband.

EE:

Before going to Japan.

BG:

Right. So he got on the troop ship, and it was a little dinky thing, and it had to land in Honolulu.

EE:

That's how you met him in Honolulu? Did you meet him in Honolulu?

BG:

Oh, certainly. I met the troop ship. I was all decked out in a white outfit and a lei and he was up on the boat. I waved to him, you know. I'd rented a car and a cottage and he stayed a couple of days. They were allowed to stay over. He gets back on the troop ship, and I get back in the airplane, and I think I had a flight to Manila. I must have had a flight come into Guam. The troop ship had come into Guam, so I said, “Hi, Gene.”

EE:

Y'all carried on a trans-Pacific romance here.

BG:

That was our honeymoon, yes.

EE:

That's great.

BG:

So we had dinner.

EE:

You were just catching rides with whatever the next plane was going out?

BG:

Yes, right, right.

EE:

That's funny.

BG:

I had a wonderful chief nurse. So then he gets sent up to Tokyo and they threw us a curve. They said, “Oh, you're going to go to Korea. You're not going to stay in Japan.” Okay. So he goes up to Korea and the young man that was stationed, that he was to replace, by the name of Turnipseed—You know that name here.

EE:

Yes, I do.

BG:

All right. He was a Turnipseed. If Turnipseed stayed there in Korea, he was to go back to Japan and not go home, but if he stayed in Korea, then he could go home a year earlier. So he said, “I'm going to stay here.” So they sent Gene back to Japan. So then we had Christmas leave in Tokyo at a hotel there, then pretty soon at the Exchange Hotel. We stayed at the Exchange Hotel with all the dependents. Oh, my goodness sake.

EE:

Had just tons of military wives and friends.

BG:

Kids.

EE:

So this was Christmas of '47 that you spent in Tokyo.

BG:

Or '48.

EE:

You got out in '48.

BG:

We married in '47.

EE:

So it must have been '47.

BG:

Anyways, I got out right after that in January—I think it was—at Hickam. Then I was a damn dependent. There wasn't any billeting for me, no housing, so I had to stay up in the Ghora Hotel up in Japan outside of Tokyo until the Fourth of July, all that time. But Gene had weekends, so he came up on weekends from Tachikawa. What a time.

EE:

So you stayed there through the birth of your first child?

BG:

Yes, I became pregnant at the Ghora, I guess, then we went to Yokota Air Base and Roberta was born over there. The funny part is, the hospital wasn't right at Yokota, it was down at Johnston Field where I had to go to the hospital to have her. I told you about the nurses that we meet in here. There were twins, the Entrikin twins. I think it's in one of these articles.

EE:

They were at that hospital?

BG:

One of them was the chief nurse at that hospital, and I, of course, didn't know it at the time.

EE:

They come back later. That's wonderful.

BG:

So when we're having lunch one day in Hendersonville, all this came to light. “Oh, yes, you were the chief nurse when I had my baby over at Johnson Field.” Isn't it funny?

EE:

You know the phrase, “It's a small world.”

BG:

It really is.

EE:

Seems very appropriate in your life.

BG:

Yes.

EE:

You've made the world in your life a small world.

BG:

Yes. Well, there's a good example.

EE:

I'm just amazed when I talk to people, how they survive without having an Atlas in their back pocket. [chuckles] Where are we now? Everybody's all different places and where is that, and y'all happen to be sharp just to find out where people are.

BG:

That's right.

EE:

That's great. So how long did Gene stay in the service?

BG:

He stayed twenty-one years. He stayed in.

EE:

So y'all basically had a life going around.

BG:

Yes, right. So then when we came home from Japan. I told you we came down the coast to Tucson and then George was born in Tucson. When he was—how old was he, I think it was his second birthday we went to Madrid. He called up one day, we were stationed—we were up at Riverside at March Field after we were in Tucson.

EE:

So Gene was in the Air Force?

BG:

It had converted to Air Force then.

EE:

You said he was in the medical.

BG:

Medical service.

EE:

MCS.

BG:

Medical Service Corps. So he called up one day, he said, “Would you like to go to Madrid?” [chuckles] He knew damn well I'd like to go to Madrid, he didn't have to ask. He said, “Well, I have a chance to go over there on duty. They're opening a new hospital, Tarahone.” I said, “Okay, let's go.” So we packed up and went to Madrid.

EE:

So were you doing nurse work this time, or had you taken the time to raise a family?

BG:

No, I was being a mother then, but I almost lost Gene in Madrid. We were waiting for housing and we were downtown, and he had to cross France up to the port to get our car. St. Nazaire, I forget where it was, but it was on the north shore of France. He and the sergeant went up to get our car and the colonel's car, and they drove down through France, and they came to the Spanish border. There was a big fiesta going on and there wasn't anyplace to stay. So the two dumb jerks, they said, “Oh, we'll just drive on into Madrid,” which was very foolish. So about dawn, they reached the outskirts of Madrid and Gene plowed into a truck, a Spanish truck without any lights that was parked in the road. Plowed right into it in our convertible, a Pontiac convertible. So like I say, I'm lucky.

EE:

Yes, when somebody in a family has a car wreck, yes, it flashes you back.

BG:

Maybe. Maybe. So they got him out, you know, and like I say, we were staying in this billet in Madrid and I was waiting. We had two kids then, Roberta and George. I was waiting for him to come in, and the early morning hours somebody knocked on the door and I thought it was Gene. Back in those days, remember the—oh, you don't. Maybe you don't know, but the little fancy nightgowns, the little short ones with the panties in it, the little short. Well, that's what I had on. So I went tooling over to the door and I thought it was Gene. Opened the door and there's this big hunk of man standing there. I looked at him. I'd never seen him before. It was Gene's CO telling me about the accident.

Here I had these two kids, and it's custom over there that the spouse stays in the hospital with the patient. So I made arrangements. The people upstairs were from Scandinavian Airlines and she had a couple of kids, so she kept our kids. Yes, it was nice.

EE:

How long was he recovering?

BG:

Oh, he had a full body cast on. His knee, his patella was shattered in three pieces, and the wonderful Spanish doctor wired it together. Today the wires have all deteriorated and the bones are all rattling around in his knee, but he won't go get a new knee. But he still walks eighteen holes of golf.

EE:

So he's still playing golf. He's got his priorities. [chuckles]

BG:

That's right, but I told him—because we thought he'd have a stiff leg, a stiff knee, when he got out of his body cast. So I told him when they took off, I said, “Oh, you can walk. You can play golf anytime you want.” He's taken me up on it. It was my fault. [chuckles]

EE:

Be careful what you say. Well, you know, I think the fellow earned it after getting through that. That's okay.

BG:

Certainly. But still I think he should take care of his knee now. But he says, “Nope, I can't give the recuperative time. I've got to get out there.”

EE:

So you toured around the world. After Madrid you came back stateside?

BG:

Yes, we came back. We went back to Santa Barbara, the best place in the United States. Yes, we did.

EE:

You retired from the military and came here after retirement?

BG:

No.

EE:

You've still been hopping around the country since?

BG:

What was he doing out there in Santa Barbara? Oh, that's when they opened up an air base there, [Vandenberg Air Force Base]. It wasn't Travis; it was the one by Santa Maria. What's the air base down there? I used to know that, but I forget now.

Anyways, he helped open up that hospital there. Then we were sent to Westover in Massachusetts, the Chicopee Falls. And he got out.

EE:

That's where he retired from?

BG:

He retired there in '64, yes. Then the next day he went into Springfield, Massachusetts, and worked in the hospital there. Then he really retired and we went to Florida to live for four years. I got the hell out of there. Well, I never wanted to go in the first place. That was not for me, but his folks lived down there and he's a golfer, so what could I do? Sold our beautiful Victorian home, a lot of my beautiful things; and I still grieve over them today. But we went to Florida. Fortunately, we had a wonderful trailer, big house trailer, we pulled around. He pulled that from Florida up the Alcan Highway, across the United States, and we went up the Alcan pulling this trailer.

Our youngest son was born in Madrid.

EE:

Is that about a 10,000-mile round trip?

BG:

He was born in Madrid. He went in the Air Force and he was stationed up there at Fairbanks. So of course, we had to go see him. [chuckles]

EE:

I'd fly, wouldn't you?

BG:

We pulled the trailer up that Alcan Highway.

EE:

Good gracious.

BG:

Then when we came back, we went all the way across Canada, because he has Canadian relatives up there, and then we came back through New England where we used to live, back to Florida. So we had a nice trip.

EE:

That's about, what, a four-month trip?

BG:

I don't remember how long it was, but we got out of the heat that summer in Florida. [chuckles] So when we pulled the trailer up here to the parkway one day and camped—and some of our buddies from California lived down here on 280. “A beautiful golf course down the road, Gene,” and that's all it took. We came down here. He didn't even get out of the car or walk around the golf course. He looked at it, we went to Florida and sold the house and came back.

EE:

Good gracious.

BG:

I was lucky there. [chuckles]

EE:

You were. My goodness, you've been absolutely sedentary, it sounds like, comparatively.

BG:

Here?

EE:

Yes.

BG:

Oh, no. Where have we gone here? We've taken little trips. This spring we went to Washington to see the memorial.

EE:

I'm being facetious. Compared to your earlier life, though, to stay in one place that long has been nice.

BG:

Like I say, I'm never leaving here. Never.

EE:

That's great.

BG:

Never ever. The ashes are thrown in the perennials.

EE:

How has your life been different because of the military? When somebody's been married—in a sense, because of your spouse, you didn't leave the military at the end of the war.

BG:

No.

EE:

You stayed in it. But how has that experience, for you, being in the service, changed your life?

BG:

Got me out of Wilkinsburg and sitting around that little dinky place. It broadened, gave me an insight into what's going on in the world. I'd hate to think I was still sitting there.

EE:

Do you think it made you more independent?

BG:

You mean being in the service?

EE:

Yes.

BG:

Probably did. Probably did. Had to make some large decisions.

EE:

You weren't freeing a man to fight; you were doing work which military nurses have been doing before. But there have been many changes in the military, the opportunities for women, since World War II. This last December, for the first time, our government sent a female pilot into combat in Iraq.

BG:

That's right.

EE:

What do you think about that? Are there some jobs that a woman shouldn't do?

BG:

Yes, there are. They don't belong in some of these things, the way I think about it.

EE:

This is from the perspective of somebody who was at the combat area.

BG:

I don't blame them for wanting to try, because I tried, see, but I don't think they should be that much combat. I really don't. I mean, there's plenty of men. Just because they want to do it—

EE:

Wanting to do it isn't enough reason to let them do it, then?

BG:

That's right. That's the way I look at it.

EE:

One of the things that also gets talked about is the fact that starting, I guess, with World War II, with Rosie the Riveter and Wanda the WAVE and everybody else, that you had so many women working side by side with men in jobs or in areas that were thought to be men only, that it really was the start of the women's lib movement. Do you think of yourself of terms of a—

BG:

You think I'm a woman libber?

EE:

Yes, do you think that way, or do you think your work led to that kind of stuff?

BG:

Maybe. Maybe. Oh, maybe. Don't you think so?

EE:

I think when one person does it, it's not a trend. When a whole lot of people do it, it becomes a trend, and it's hard to turn back on. I think for most women in World War II they were doing something on a short-term, they weren't looking to change their career to do something with men. Yet their experience made it possible for others to say, “Well, you did it. Why can't we do it for a career?”

BG:

That's right. That's right.

EE:

I think that does change things. You said your youngest son was in the service, Freddie.

BG:

Yes.

EE:

Did your daughter ever have any interest in joining the military?

BG:

No. Our daughter wanted to be a teacher.

EE:

Was she anti-military?

BG:

Patty Hearst. Did you see all this?

EE:

Oh, yes, they just arrested that woman just recently after twenty years.

BG:

I think this is something. They better not let her loose. I don't care if she does have a family and she's a wonderful person now, she wasn't then, and she has to pay for it.

EE:

She has to do her time. Right.

BG:

That's the way I look at it.

EE:

Had she been more inclined to ask you about the service, would you have recommended joining the service to her?

BG:

Oh, sure, I'd have said, “Why not?” Why not?

EE:

I've about exhausted my mandatory questions here. Hard to believe.

BG:

What else do you want to know? [chuckles]

EE:

Now we get to the good stories, now that I've done the mandatory ones. Is there anything you'd like to add about your military service I haven't ask you about that we can legally put on tape without incriminating the U.S. Government?

BG:

No. Oh, I wouldn't do that.

EE:

No, I know.

BG:

No, I think you've heard it all.

EE:

You have more additional materials than some people do, and yet I think, you know, it's important. One of the nice things about this process is you get people's personal reflections, and as time goes by, different things strike you as being significant. That's the nature of life, you look back at different things at different times in your life and say, that was important or that's memorable.

BG:

When I talked to George, I forgot a lot of things to tell him.

Oh, here, I wanted to show you this. Oh, this is very important. This is very, very important. When General Arnold and reviewed us and we marched for General Arnold.

EE:

Oh, wow.

BG:

Yes. Oh, my, I almost forgot that.

EE:

That has to make you feel important.

BG:

Oh, yes, it was wonderful. It was wonderful. He came at Bowman Field to review the troops.

EE:

Yes. Well, let me go make a photocopy of this with this other stuff and then get it back to you. Is this part of you, thirty-year nurse's finished course at evacuation school?

BG:

That's it. That's what he came for. He came for our graduation. I think there is a picture of Donnie leading the troops. I don't know. What is that one?

EE:

That's WACS learning code. This says seven, page seven.

BG:

Maybe I just have a picture of that.

EE:

This is graduation.

BG:

Yes. No, I guess it isn't in there.

EE:

Tell me about Red Berry.

BG:

Red Berry, my friend in Indiana. I had red hair, my maiden was Berry, so she always called me Red Berry.

EE:

Okay. Good enough.

BG:

She's the one we're going to go see in Pennsylvania that has the golfing husband. [chuckles]

EE:

Well, transcriber, thank you for listening in with us today. I'm going to formally turn off this tape now to get the rest of dope.

BG:

Oh, I'm not going to tell you anything more.

[End of interview]