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The Betty H. Carter Women Veterans Historical Project

Oral history interview with Gretchen C. Davis, 1999

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Object ID: WV0098.5.001

Description:

Primarily documents Gretchen Davis’s experiences at the Woman’s College (now the University of North Carolina at Greensboro) and in the Women’s Army Corps (WAC) and U.S. Army from 1973 to 1993.

Summary:

Davis details her parents’ education and careers; her high school activities; her reaction when the Woman’s College (WC) went co-ed in 1964; WC rules and traditions, including house mothers and Rat Day; President John F. Kennedy’s assassination in 1963; the influence of her trips to Germany to visit a friend whose husband was in the military; and concern about the Vietnam War, especially after her brother joined the military.

Much of the interview details Davis' twenty year career in the Army. Topics include her parents’ reactions when she joined the WAC; her original plan to only stay for one tour of duty; quotas for women recruits in the army; classes, discipline, and regulations during basic training; meeting Vietnam veterans at Fort Benning; her opinion of the integration of the WAC into the U.S. Army; her experiences in Korea, as they relate to the TV show M.A.S.H.; duties, recreation, danger, and weather in Korea; and attitudes of Koreans toward military women. Topics related to her last 15 years in the Army include harassment and discrimination toward women; specialties and career advancement in the army; being on medical hold and deciding to stay in the army despite having cancer; her experience in Saudi Arabia during Operation Desert Storm, including her logistics work, wearing chemical protective suits, sightseeing, civilian knowledge of military operations, and medical problems resulting from Desert Storm, including Gulf War Syndrome; her opinion of women in the military and in combat positions; and ways in which the military changed her attitude and personality.

Creator: Gretchen Charlene Davis

Biographical Info: Gretchen Charlene Davis (1943-2013) of Pollocksville, North Carolina, served in logistics in the Women’s Army Corps from 1973 to 1978 and in the U.S. Army from 1978 to 1993. She retired with the rank of major.

Collection: Gretchen C. Davis 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:

Today is June 25, 1999, and I am [at] the—the address says Pollocksville [North Carolina] for this house. It's somewhere in the woods near Pollocksville and Ravenswood. I'm with Gretchen Charlene Davis today. Miss Davis, thank you for having us here. This is an interview for the Women Veterans Historical Project of the University of North Carolina at Greensboro [UNCG].

I ask everybody a variation of the same thirty questions, and the first question I ask everybody is probably not the hardest one. That's where were you born and where did you grow up?

GD:

I was born in Conway, South Carolina, in 1943. I moved to Pollocksville, to this community, about nineteen—it must have been 1947, because my older brother and I started first grade here. My parents have lived here, and this is my mother's home.

EE:

Was this family land? Y'all moved here when it was passed down?

GD:

No. My father and a business partner started this agricultural operation. My father was a hybrid corn breeder, and he and a business partner that he knew at NC [North Carolina] State [University] bought this property.

EE:

So he's been a farmer his whole life long?

GD:

My father is deceased, but yes. He was connected with—he used to work for Coker Seed Company and worked for NC Extension Service and got his master's at NC State, and his undergraduate.

EE:

And your mom, what did she do? She went to Woman's College [of the University of North Carolina (WC), now UNCG], I guess?

GD:

My mother went to East Carolina [Teacher's College], ECTC, and then she also graduated from Woman's College in the class of '39. She worked for the attorney general in Raleigh and she also worked in New York. She met my father when he was at NC State and she was in Raleigh, working. My mother is from Craven County, Vanceboro, North Carolina.

EE:

Do you have any brothers and sisters?

GD:

I have an older brother, Sam, Samuel Dudley Davis, and I have a younger brother, John Legrande Davis.

EE:

Did you stay in this area all through your growing up? You went to elementary and high school in this area?

GD:

I went to Alex H. White Elementary School in Pollocksville, NC, one through eighth grade. Then I went to Jones Central High School for nine through twelve. I graduated from high school in 1961 and went to Woman's College. I graduated from UNCG in 1965.

EE:

Were you somebody who liked school growing up?

GD:

I didn't dislike school. I made good grades. I liked certain subjects.

EE:

What was your favorite subject?

GD:

Well, I won some high school awards in biology and I played basketball. I was a cheerleader and I was active in FHA [Future Homemakers of America] and Future Teachers. I worked on the high school newspaper, and then in the eighth grade I was the salutatorian. I was chief marshal in the seventh grade. I was always active in my Methodist Youth Fellowship and Teenage Club when I was growing up.

EE:

You were a pretty active young person, sounded like.

GD:

Well, that's what everybody did. Then I worked on the farm in the summer times. I de-tasseled corn and worked in tobacco.

EE:

How was it then that of all the places you could have gone, you ended up picking Woman's College?

GD:

My mother went to WC and my aunt went to WC. I wanted to major in home economics, and at that time, that was one of the best schools in North Carolina for that major. At that time, women were not allowed to just go to NC State, where my older brother went.

EE:

If they had been, you might have been a State grad, is that what you're telling me?

GD:

Well, not really. I don't know. I was always a State fan in sports, because WC had no sports teams, and so I grew up cheering for NC State in athletics. And my father went there and my brother went there. But there weren't that many schools. Meredith [College] had a home economics department, but that was more expensive than the state-supported school, and there were two of us in college at the same time.

EE:

What were you looking to do with that degree when you finished with it?

GD:

Well, at that time, there weren't very many options for what you could do with that degree, or any other, for a woman in the sixties, I would say. And I wasn't sure, but I ended up teaching and I also worked for NC Extension Service. Some people worked for the power utility companies like Duke Power at that time. I was always active in 4-H Club, which I won awards in sewing and different activities like that.

EE:

Tell me about your time at WC, which was an interesting time to be at WC because they switched from being all women to coeducational. Was that a hot topic when you first got on campus?

GD:

Not when I first got on campus, but Chancellor [Otis] Singletary was there, and it became a hot topic because it became coed, I believe, my junior year. Of course, being a home economics major, I didn't have any males in my classes because that was my major by that time. I believe eventually there were a few men in the child development-type classes, and more began to come. But at that time I did not have any men in my classes, my particular class. But it was a very hot topic because we felt that WC was an excellent woman's college and we did not want it to lose its standing and to be less of an institution than it was. And, of course, many things were changing at that time, not only in the school, but I guess our society in general, some things.

EE:

Let me ask you a few questions just about your experience at WC. Are there some professors or some administrators at the school that you remember from experiences with them? Not all of them are warm?

GD:

Well, yes, not all of them are good. I definitely have a negative on my Spanish teacher and a few others. In fact, I remember he used to tell me how lucky we were that we were women and would never be in the military. He would go down the row and ask you a question in Spanish, and if you couldn't answer in Spanish, he didn't think you had studied your lesson. And I'm not that good at foreign language, so it took me a minute to answer.

At that time at WC, your food was included in your tuition, you had closed study, you had to have permission—

EE:

Did y'all still have those Sunday dinners where you sat down, formal dinners?

GD:

No, we didn't have the Sunday dinners, but we all went to the cafeteria. Your laundry came back wrapped up in brown paper. You had closed study. You had to have permission from home to ride in a car. I remember when they came out with motorcycle permissions, asking parents. And then when I was a senior, I wanted to go to Fork Union [Virgina] to visit my brother, and I was a senior about to graduate, and I had to get permission from home to stay in a motel. That was the rule. You could have, like two standing permissions, I believe. One was my roommate and I can't remember the other.

EE:

What was your dorm when you were at Woman's College?

GD:

My freshman dorm, I was in Guilford. Then I was in Spencer, and then I was in Reynolds, down in the park, for two years.

EE:

For a place that had done such a good job of protecting and sheltering their students, putting men on the campus was sort of like putting wolves in a henhouse, wasn't it, or were people worried about that?

GD:

I don't think worried so much, because men were around on weekends. We were more concerned that we were an outstanding traditional girls' school. I mean, there were a lot of traditions. We had class jackets. My class jacket was navy. We had Rat Day. I remember room inspections. They might not have been called that, but you couldn't have but a certain number of Coca-Cola bottles. We always had CU Day, where they would bus us over to [The University of North] Carolina [at Chapel Hill] and [NC] State for the first football game. That was a big event.

EE:

Tell me about Rat Day.

GD:

That was when you—if I'm remembering, and that was a long time ago—when you became the status of an upperclassman, and it was like part of the tradition of advancing as a student. Not academically, but—

EE:

Socially.

GD:

You were there.

EE:

Did they have house mothers?

GD:

Oh, yes. We had dorm counselors, house mothers. You could make an error when you signed out, like putting an incorrect date, when you came back at Christmas or something, and back then, we'd also have semester break. I don't believe they have that now. But we had Christmas vacation, and we came back and had exams, then we had semester break. But we had dorm counselors who had to approve your activities, like if you went out on a date or if you were going somewhere for a weekend. We had a sister class, like each freshmen class, the junior class was your sister class. And they were the house president and the assistant house president, and they lived in your dorm and they were like your class, to look after you, you might say. They had red jackets.

EE:

So a little distinction. It sounds like a place that you were taken care of, which you can't say that much about college life anymore: that you're taken care of.

GD:

I don't know that I would say “taken care of,” but you felt that you were part of the activities and that you could participate more or less as you wanted to. But it was traditional that certain things went on. Just like we had meetings, mandatory meetings, over in Aycock [Auditorium], periodically, and it seems like they were usually around lunchtime. And that was just something you did. I think at that time we did what we were supposed to do and didn't question it quite as much. That was not in the nature of the situation, to question to that extent, because that was the rule, and if you wanted to stay there, if you didn't want to get shipped home, then you did, to a great extent, what was expected.

EE:

That was a real threat, then?

GD:

Well, I don't know that it was a threat. It would have been a disgrace to have been sent home for something.

EE:

Were you on campus when President [John F.] Kennedy was shot?

GD:

Yes, yes. I remember hearing about it, because I was fixing to go to a home economics lab and we didn't believe it. I mean, it was like, “Oh, did this really happen?”

EE:

This was like lunchtime, or early afternoon, wasn't it?

GD:

Right. I remember I was going to the Home Ec Building for something. That was Stone Building. I believe that was my junior year.

EE:

Sixty-three. So it would have been fall of your junior year, first half of your junior year.

GD:

And if I'm not mistaken, Ladybird [Johnson] came on the train. Johnson—came campaigning or something, and I remember that. That was during that time frame that I was there. But yes, Kennedy. I remember us not believing it. And, of course, at that time, too, I remember I never wore curlers to class, but some people would go out and wear hair curlers with something covering it to class, and camel coats. I did not have one, but I remember they were popular at that time. Something like a trench coat.

EE:

I've seen them, yes.

GD:

This was an all girls' school, and sometimes people would walk across campus with those coats tight around, and you could see they didn't have their proper clothes on. [Laughter]

EE:

In other words, they were late getting out of bed. They just went ahead with their nightgown and threw on a coat.

GD:

Yes. I didn't have one of those coats, but I remember seeing people.

EE:

You'd be there mornings you wished you had one of those coats.

GD:

No, I wasn't brought up to do that, and I didn't bother with rolling my hair. I attended College Place Methodist Church, which was over near Aycock, and I used to go through campus over to that, because I was active in Methodist Youth Fellowship. You went all over campus, but campus was not as large as it is now.

EE:

You graduated in '65, and then you went to work. Did you get a job through the school, or did you have to find your own first job out?

GD:

I first started to work in Elizabeth City, and I worked for North Carolina Extension Service. I had been active in 4-H and the collegiate 4-H Club, so I really knew the people to get the job. I don't remember if I went to an interview on campus or not, but I worked for Extension Service in Elizabeth City, and then I was promoted and worked in Plymouth, North Carolina.

EE:

How does that work? You were head of an office there in Plymouth?

GD:

Actually, I was an assistant home agent in Elizabeth City, which meant that I worked with 4-H Clubs, and then I was promoted and I was the only female agent in Washington County, in Plymouth. But I was an associate because you have to have a certain number of years before you become a—I had the job but not the title.

EE:

Is this that kind of work, they try to put a Home Ec agent in each of the 4-H offices, the Extension offices, around the state at that time?

GD:

At that time, most of the women that were working in Extension Service had home economics degrees, but that has changed a great deal, and so now you don't have to have that degree because the program has changed a great deal. You can have almost any college degree and work in that, because they have different clubs that are more urbanized and catering more to different interest groups, horse clubs or different things like that.

EE:

How long did you work with the Extension Service?

GD:

For about three years.

EE:

So by '68 you switched. Is this when you went back to school for your master's?

GD:

Yes.

EE:

Where did you get your master's from?

GD:

I have a master's in education, guidance and counseling, from East Carolina University.

EE:

And you got that, thinking that you would continue to work for the 4-H or looking for another education job?

GD:

At that time, not particularly in 4-H, because I was interested in working with young people in guidance and counseling because that's what my degree was in. Before I could finish my degree, I went back full time and I was asked to teach at Southern Nash Senior High in the fall of the year, before I actually completed my degree. One of my classmates' husband was a school principal, and the teacher was pregnant. They needed a teacher, and so after the first quarter I went to teach, and then I went back in the summer and actually finished my degree that summer.

EE:

How long did it take you to get your master's? Two years?

GD:

I went full time about two years, I think. I went in the summer, and by the time it was completed, about that, yes.

EE:

What did you end up doing with that degree then, after you got out in '70?

GD:

I actually taught high school home economics at Southern Nash Senior High for several years.

EE:

That's near, what, Tarboro?

GD:

No. It's Middlesex and Nashville. It's in Nash County. It's a consolidated—

EE:

Tarboro is Edgecombe County, isn't it?

GD:

Tarboro is Edgecombe, yes.

EE:

It's right next door.

GD:

It's right next, because Edgecombe County has Northern Nash. I taught and went back and finished my degree, and then I stopped teaching and went overseas for six months to visit a friend whose husband was in the military.

EE:

Your first discussion about military life was with her?

GD:

Not really, because just before I had gone to get my master's, I went to Europe, to Germany, for three weeks. At that time, I visited a friend that I had been to grammar school and high school with. Her husband was in air defense artillery at Wurzburg, Germany. And then the second time I went, I had already applied to teach in a DOD [Department of Defense] School, but they were cutting back on teachers because they were withdrawing troops. So that time I visited a friend who had been my roommate in Plymouth, and her husband was in an engineer topography unit at Heidelberg, [Germany].

EE:

What was your remembrances or attitude generally toward the war and people's response to it, during the sixties, with Vietnam?

GD:

My brother was in Vietnam, and so I was very concerned. At that time I can remember when he left, talking to him. He went to Fort Eustis [Virginia] and I was back home, working for NC Extension, and I wrote to him. I was very concerned about his welfare, and I donated blood and sent him things. I was just concerned for everybody's safety. It's hard to understand some things that are across the world going on that you don't know the underlying political justifications.

EE:

It's beautiful today. How come it isn't beautiful everywhere in the world?

GD:

Right. And I can say that I don't believe the Vietnam veterans were respected and treated the way they should have. Not that my brother, anybody mistreated him. But as a general rule, so many of them had terrible things happen. It was different when I came back from Saudi Arabia.

EE:

When did he go in? Was it after you were out of WC? He went in when you were doing your master's work in '68?

GD:

I was in Elizabeth City, working.

EE:

So it must have been '65 or '66.

GD:

So it was probably '65. He went to basic at Fort Jackson and then to Fort Eustis, and then he went straight to Vietnam, pretty much. He was there a year and then came back, and then he was in California at Stockton Army Depot. He served the remainder of his time and got back out and went back to college, actually.

EE:

So he went in on the draft.

GD:

He was about to be drafted, so he went in. He had been to college two years.

EE:

You were working at Southern Nash Senior High up till the time that you joined the service?

GD:

I applied to go into the army. At that time the army would only take two or three women from each state per year, because Congress controlled the number of women in the army. It took the army six months to decide that they would let me come in the army.

At that time, direct commission was the only way, pretty much, to come in. They didn't have OCS [Officer Candidate School] and ROTC [Reserve Officers Training Corps]. They were starting a junior cadet program or something. I was a direct commission as a first lieutenant because of my age and education, and I was interviewed. You had to be at least twenty-eight years old. By the time I was accepted to go into the army, I had started work for North Carolina Employment Security Commission as an employment counselor in Asheboro, North Carolina. So I waited until the next WAC [Women's Army Corps] class.

EE:

So you actually applied to go in in '72.

GD:

Yes.

EE:

You had had a family member in service. The war had been going on in Vietnam almost a decade, seven or eight years. What was it that made you decide to join the service, and why the army as opposed to some other branch?

GD:

I was too old for the [U.S] Navy. The [U.S] Air Force required more years than the [U.S] Army. I did not apply to the Marines because I grew up close to the Marines. I think my family at that time would have just been appalled that I was applying to go in the Marines.

EE:

In other words, it's the problem of familiarity. You knew too much about the Marines. [chuckles]

GD:

Well, you know, it's just that they're such a smaller organization. People would tell me, “You're not mean enough or tough enough to go in the [U.S.] Army, much less to go in the Marines.” So the Marines were not considered, although I have nothing against the Marines.

The army actually required three years, and I met the requirements. At that time, because I was really not very knowledgeable about the military—my brother was enlisted—and I was trying to become an officer in the army. I was not knowledgeable of the fact that it was unusual to go in as a first lieutenant, to skip a rank. I mean, I met the requirements, so why not? But there were only two recruiters for women officers, one in Charlotte and one in Raleigh, because there just weren't that many women officers at that time.

EE:

Only two per state you're allowed in, so that doesn't give you a lot of work.

GD:

In fact, I think the article that talked about my going in, I donated a copy of it to the school [UNCG].

So by the time the military would accept me, I had gone to work for Employment Security Commission. I worked for the Employment Security not quite a year. I took a leave of absence from the state and fully expected to go back after one tour of duty.

EE:

So you were not looking to make a career change then.

GD: Oh, no. I just thought—I had not decided, “This is where I'm going to live. This is what I'm going to do.” And I had met some very nice people that were military officers when I was visiting in Germany, and I thought, “Why not? I'll try this a few years and then come back home and do something else.”
EE:

Were you limited in what assignments you could have, or was there a possibility you could be sent directly to Vietnam, say?

GD:

At that time, women could not command men. Women were mainly in the AG administration branch or in the nursing field. There were not as many activities or job assignments available at that time.

EE:

Did you go in to do a specific job assignment that was discussed with you before you signed?

GD:

Well, I assumed, erroneously, that they would use the fact that I had a degree in education, and have me to do something concerning some sort of field that that might apply to, but it did not work out that way. The military feels that if you are an officer, you are capable of doing many different jobs, as long as you have certain basic leadership skills.

EE:

And so your first assignment was?

GD:

After my WAC basic at Fort McClellan, Alabama, I was detailed quartermaster, and was allowed to go to Fort Lee [Virginia] to Quartermaster School. My class was the second class that allowed women. We had about six or eight; I'm not sure how many. I'd have to go back and look at my pictures. And it was very much of a shock to the cadre at Fort Lee, because they just were not accustomed to women.

EE:

Your basic had been with an all-WAC—

GD:

Oh, yes. At Fort McClellan, all my instructors were women. I never saluted anybody because I was a first lieutenant. I never saluted any men, because there was nobody around except just a few cadre that we didn't come in contact with very much, because all our instructors and most of the people that we worked with, our company commander and everybody, were all women.

EE:

But when you took basic, the other people you were taking basic with, were they all going to be made officers at the end of their basic?

GD:

Oh, yes. We stayed on what was called WAC Circle, and we stayed in a building and we were all lieutenants, second or first lieutenants, and we had a lot of class work. We didn't do as much marching as the enlisted personnel, because they were also training at McClellan at the same time. We did not come in contact with them, because we had more classes on military justice and some other things, because we would be the ones who would be in charge of the enlisted personnel, to a great extent.

So we had more class work and more bookwork than we did marching, although we did march sometimes. We marched to and from class, and we had to take different leadership positions, but we had classes that were separate from the enlisted personnel. We had platoons and we had different leadership positions within the platoon.

EE:

That you would rotate off?

GD:

Yes, yes. Of course, we had to keep the barracks clean.

EE:

Did they still have the white-glove test in '73?

GD:

We had to have the cuff of our blanket even and tight. I slept in my bed. I was not going to sleep on the floor. Some of my classmates slept on the floor so they wouldn't have to make up the bed. And you'd have to unplug your lamp and it had to be a certain number of inches from the edge of the top of the bookcase. Your cuff on your bed would have to be seven inches and it would have to be stretched. And your underwear would have to be folded in thirds, and all your things hanging in the closet with the buttons turned a certain way.

EE:

I think everybody ought to go through military training.

GD:

And I remember one time, we were having a formation and our skirts were starched. I noticed I had a run in my hose, so I went upstairs to change my hose and I changed my hose and came down, and I got a demerit for a wrinkled skirt, because when I pushed it up, I got wrinkles in it. But we got demerits. We had to wear lipstick and we were ladies. When we graduated, we had to graduate in dress blues, with calling cards. You did not fire weapons. Your PT [physical training] test was mainly standing in place. You did not wear fatigues at that time.

EE:

So it was still “lady first, WAC second” then?

GD:

Well, you were a lady WAC.

EE:

How did your family feel about you joining the service?

GD:

I think they had some reservations, but I was old enough that they decided that was my choice, so they really didn't say much about it. Later on, at one point in time, when I was interested in getting out, they had decided it was a good thing. Although that was definitely not my father's idea of what I should probably be doing at that point in time. But my parents, particularly my mother, came to visit me a lot of different places.

EE:

That kind of makes it more human, more acceptable. You see the surroundings.

GD:

My mother came to see me even when I was in Korea and in Hawaii.

EE:

I want to get to your Quartermaster Corps training and then what we can do is have you give a survey, sort of, of the stations that you had. Then I'll go back and ask you some questions about some of the specifics of those stations, to blend with our general questions, because what happens is with a twenty-year career in the military as opposed to the two-year career that these are designed for, you've done a lot more things and been a lot more places, and I want to make sure that those are fully covered. But you go immediately from basic, which is about, what, two months? Six, eight weeks, something like that?

GD:

I went in the spring, and then we went to Fort Lee in the summer. I had to stay over a couple of weeks and work at McClellan until the quartermaster school started.

EE:

When you were at McClellan, I think they signed the Paris Peace Accord at the end of January in '73, didn't they? It was early that year.

GD:

I'm not sure.

EE:

That basically signaled the end of American involvement in Vietnam.

GD:

I have a National Defense Ribbon, because when I came in the military, Vietnam was not declared over with, although we always call that an “everybody button” for people like me, because I really didn't do anything to deserve it.

EE:

You just happened to be there.

GD:

I happened to be there at that point in time. But, yes, I have a National Defense.

EE:

You go to quartermaster school, and you're the second class. I guess they have to have a separate barracks facility for y'all?

GD:

They have BOQ [bachelor officer quarters], which, by that time, you were already commissioned and you were more accepted. The women had already been to WAC basic. When we got to Fort Lee, we had already finished one basic, even though it was orienting us to the military, into the Women's Army Corps. We did not have tactical training, we did not sleep out in a tent, or any of that type of thing, at McClellan.

When we got to Fort Lee, they were very concerned. They thought I was going to be the class commander, because the men who were our classmates had just come out of college, many of them, and they had actually had some ROTC.

As it turned out, I was the class XO [executive officer] because there was a Vietnam reservist who had date of rank on me, because it's done by date of rank. There were some cadre concerns about PT uniforms and PT test, because we had physical training uniforms. Men ground their equipment, which means they take off their jacket, their shirt, and they've got on t-shirts underneath. But coming from McClellan, we didn't have those uniforms.

EE:

Your date of rank dated from the time that you finished basic, or the time that you enlisted?

GD:

I was commissioned, I was a direct commission.

EE:

So of course the time of your direct commission is when you got your date of rank. Quartermaster school was six weeks, two months? How long before you left Fort Lee? Late summer?

GD:

Gee, I'm trying to remember, because I went to Fort Benning, Georgia, as my duty assignment.

EE:

Well, you would know if it was hot.

GD:

I do not remember, because I'm sure I went on leave. We were not allowed to—well, we hadn't accumulated any leave, hardly. But I went on leave and then my first duty assignment was at Fort Benning, Georgia, home of the infantry, and at that time there were many people at Benning that were returning from Vietnam. The military was RIF'ing [reduction in force] people, getting rid of people, especially helicopter pilots.

I had many experiences at Benning where someone you knew was a Purple Heart winner, or you'd ask somebody to dance, not knowing they didn't have but one leg. It was Home of the Infantry. One time I was in the officers' club, talking to someone who was going to the advanced course and he was a colonel, and when I asked why, not knowing who he was, he had been in the Hanoi Hilton for seven years. So Fort Benning at that time was a lot of Vietnam veterans.

EE:

You were an older person in training than most of the folks. You were older than most of the folks you were with in Quartermaster Corps. How does it feel? I mean, you've been away. Here you go, in the course of six months, you've gone from independent living woman to being quartered with folks from all over the country you don't know, common showers, no privacy, and here you're talking with people who have spent seven years in the POW [prisoner of war] camp. I would imagine it's got to be kind of a “turning your head around” different kind of world for you.

GD:

I drove my own car, which we called it POV, Privately Owned Vehicle, to Fort McClellan. We did have privacy, because we had a suite with two people in two rooms. You had a roommate and you had suitemates, but it wasn't quite like my brother had at basic training, at real basic training. Although you had not a minute to yourself, and you were always having to stay busy doing things. You were pushed for time and you were stressed intentionally. You tell yourself how you fold your underwear is going to determine what officer material you are, or if they did not find something that you had done wrong, they would do something like put paper clips in the drawers or do something that would be called “unidentified objects.” So if you weren't checking and didn't find those things, they deliberately meant that you would get enough demerits that you would be restricted several weekends.

That was part of the discipline, but at the time when you're going through it, you're just getting so stressed out and not getting any sleep. I mean, you get up super early to clean the common areas. You have to study because you have tests, plus you have such a change. That was a very stressful time. I have some pictures that I look like a ghost and I really looked stressed out because you're having to take care of your uniforms and remember a lot of little things.

Plus to me, the military was new. I did not really come from a military family. Many women who go in the military have parents who have been in the military and they are familiar with rank and different procedures, terminology, which I was not.

EE:

What was your job when you were at Benning?

GD:

When I was at Benning, I was allowed to work in logistics, in quartermaster. I say that because some of my classmates, who were transportation or signal, were not allowed to work in their specialty. I worked in the DIO, which was Directorate of Industrial Operations. I worked with Food Service. I was like the class I officer for troop issue. That was delivering food to the dining facilities. I had warehouses and cold storage. After working for the DIO for about a year and a half, I went out to Harmony Church, another part of the installation, and was the assistant brigade S-4 for 1st AIT [advanced infantry training] Infantry Brigade.

EE:

And what would be your day-to-day duties in that position?

GD:

In AIT Infantry Brigade?

EE:

Yes.

GD:

We were setting up a brigade of advanced infantry training. That's the schooling for young men who had just come out of basic and were going to be infantry. That meant that we were setting up barracks and dining facilities. They were moving it from another post to Fort Benning, and we were ordering equipment.

EE:

This was '75?

GD:

About '75, I think, yes. Seventy-six, because I was there about a year and a half.

EE:

That was about the time that they were having the big discussion about whether or not to keep the WACs as a separate group, and they ended up folding the WACs into the regular army about that time, '76, '77.

[Begin Tape 1, Side B]

EE:

What's important, I guess, if you have any recollections, to talk where you were about what that was doing. I know when I talked to General [Mildred C.] Bailey, she was definitely against the integration of the WACs into the regular service. She thought WACs ought to be separate, and she told Congress as much, but they didn't listen to her. What do you think about that?

GD:

When I was at Benning, there were about a dozen women officers on post, and the highest rank was a colonel. I believe it was a lieutenant colonel, actually. There were more lieutenants than any other rank. In order to get promoted in the military, you have to have certain job assignments, and I do not feel that women had the promotion opportunities, because the only command you could have was the WAC company or the hospital nurse company.

I think there are pros and cons of both, but if women are going to have the opportunities, and certainly I feel there's a place for women in the military. I think there's a great deal of physical difference in their individual differences, but our society has changed. There's no way that you could actually stay a separate branch and expect to be promoted. The opportunities would be so limited.

EE:

And if you are going to have equal pay for equal work, first and foremost, you had to have access to equal work. You had to be doing something of comparable level, I guess.

You were at Benning for how long?

GD:

Three years.

EE:

So you left the AIT Assistant S-4 position. Where were you assigned after Benning?

GD:

I went to my Advanced Class at Fort Lee to school, which is a school that captains go to at some point, either when you're a captain or a senior first lieutenant. By that time, I had been promoted to captain.

EE:

That lasts for what, another two months?

GD:

Oh, no, it's longer than that. I went like in January of '77—'76 or '77. Gee, I should have gotten my numbers together. Because I was at Benning three years and I left there in December of '76.

EE:

Well, it would have probably been '76 December that you left, so '77 would have been about right. [President Jimmy] Carter had already been elected.

GD:

And I went to school. That was my Advanced Class. Then I left there and went to Korea for a year.

EE:

How normal was it for women to get assignments overseas at the time that you got that assignment?

GD:

Oh, it was quite normal at first. The branch assignments officer came down and talked to my class, and he had already decided where he wanted to send us. Well, most of the single people agreed to go to Korea, because the married people wanted to go to Germany because they could take their spouses with them. Korea is an unaccompanied hardship tour, only a one-year tour, whereas Germany is like a three-year. Most of the single people agreed to go ahead and go. I think there were about five of us that went to Korea, out of that class.

EE:

Was it part of the career path that you had to have an overseas assignment after a certain number of years in the service? Was that part of the expectation?

GD:

To a great extent, yes. You had to have some overseas time, and you knew that you were going to have to have that, you might as well go.

EE:

So where were you based in Korea?

GD:

I was at Camp Red Cloud, at I Corps. There really was a Rosie's Bar near there. And the terms that you hear on M*A*S*H on TV, there were some real places. There was a Red Cloud.

EE:

And I guess that show was going on—the first run, probably then still, wasn't it?

GD:

It's not all like on the TV, but there was a MASH [Mobile Army Surgical Hospital] unit near there and there was a Second Infantry Division, which was right next to where I was. I was in I Corps. General Cushman was the general there, and it was a combined ROK [Republic of Korea]-US headquarters. I Corps is now on the West Coast. It is not in Korea now. And it was the Bull's Eye Patch.

EE:

Just on the radio coming over here today, I was listening about the North and South Koreans may get together and talk about signing that peace treaty again in China. They still haven't signed one. What was that tour like?

EE:

Korea was a different world. That was the first time I had been to the Orient. Many people told me that the trees would be so small because they were remembering the time of the Korean War. And of course, I had read stories about the Korean War, the bazookas and the Browning and the lack of clothing for cold weather and some of the really hard times. Korea is the coldest place I think I have ever been. The wind chill factor is terrific. It really gets cold in Korea. They issued us a pile cap and special cold-weather gear.

I had the opportunity to go up and look at the caves, to go up to the DMZ [DeMilitarized Zone] to look, because I was interested. At I Corps, I was the Special Troop I Corps S-4, which I did base support by supporting the corps staff, but I was not on the corps staff. The corps staff, you had to be field grade. They were located at Red Cloud. We had Hawk missile units.

There was a curfew. My curfew was midnight to four o'clock in the morning. It was the Korean curfew, which meant that vehicles were not on the highway unless they were strictly emergency. There were things like black market you were aware of.

EE:

Did you get the sense that we were there because of—

GD:

We obligated ourselves.

EE:

But did you get the sense of imminent danger? Was that a place of danger for you, or was it more paranoia over there than danger, did you sense?

GD:

I think you're always aware of the possibility, and because the Hawk missile unit where I was always had one hot, one amber, and one green, they were always watching. And you knew the Second Infantry Division were on the border. I had a friend up at the DMZ. You knew that the Paul Bunyan incident [two U.S. Army officers killed with axes by North Korean soldiers] happened and there would be little incidents that would go on to harass our troops up at Kitty Hawk and Camp Greaves [in Korea], but you just lived with that. You knew that it existed and you knew the reason we were there was because we obligated ourselves.

At that time there was a big push to put tanks and less troops. A friend of mine was involved with bringing in some tanks that we were going to try to put less personnel and more hardware at that time. You just did your job day to day. And that's when we also had some exercises such as Team Spirit. No one had a car. Korea was considered a hardship tour.

EE:

So you stayed there on the base the whole time?

GD:

Oh, yes. You were on the compound.

EE:

You didn't mingle with the Korean people at all?

GD:

Oh, yes. You could go out in the ville. Yes, you went out in the ville. I took the bus down to Seoul. You could go around in the country. You just couldn't be out late at night. And the trains, you could go on the trains. I would go out in the ville.

They'd bargain for things. The Koreans were not accustomed to round-eyed women in the military. I have two friends, women that were classmates, that went up to 2nd Infantry Division, and they definitely were not used to women up there. They were in the DISCOM, which is the Division Support Command, which is quartermaster logistics, also.

I had Korean drivers. The motor pool came under me, and so I had some civilian Koreans that worked for me. They didn't know why somebody didn't marry me for my money, because in their world, they have the dowry system still, back in that time frame. They thought an army captain—and to them I was powerful because I had the dining facility and some of the supplies supervision. I was also had an additional duty of pay officer. That's something that company grade officers have to do. It's not something you ask to do.

EE:

So you had to carry a weapon as pay officer?

GD:

Yes, and I had an escort with me when I went to pick up the money.

EE:

That's safe, thirty years earlier?

GD:

You pay in Hwan, and you paid the KSCs, which were like civilian paramilitary. They did things on posts. They worked for the U.S. government. In our world, I was not that powerful, but to them, because I was in logistics and supplies—and they were not accustomed to women in the military that much.

EE:

Did you ever feel physically afraid when you were in Korea?

GD:

I never went by myself off post. I can't remember going by myself, unless it was like in the afternoon. I went to a shop to pick up something just off post. But if I was going to be out in the ville at night, or out and around, I always had a friend, some guy was with me.

You have to understand that there I lived in a Quonset hut. My shower was a wooden pallet in the floor, and it was not exactly top accommodations, so you went to the Officers' Club a lot and there were facilities on post. You knew everybody on post. You went in groups, you went together.

EE:

I would imagine your social life basically meant you got to know everybody on post pretty well. That was your social life.

GD:

Red Cloud was small, and our Officers' Club had a band every so often. The Second Infantry Division was not far away. I would go up to see my friends. You could take a Korean cab or go up on the bus that went around to—or you could walk through the ville to one of the maintenance units, the hawk missile unit.

EE:

You were there from '77 to '78. What did you do after Korea?

GD:

Came home on leave, and then I went to Hawaii. Hawaii was my second choice. I was supposed to have first choice coming out of a hardship tour. When I asked for California, for Fort Ord, they said, “No way, Captain.”

I said, “But you told me I could have my choice.” So I asked for Hawaii. So that was an inner-theater transfer, because Hawaii was considered overseas. I was assigned to the 25th Infantry Division at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, and I was a battalion S-4 for 25th S&T [supply and transport] Battalion.

EE:

What were your day-to-day duties in that position?

GD:

In logistics. I was ordering supplies to do with the building facilities and unit support. I was part of the BN [battalion] colonel's staff.

EE:

This is considered overseas, even though Hawaii is a state?

GD:

Right. It was considered overseas duty.

EE:

Is pay higher for overseas duty?

GD:

Not unless you're in combat.

EE:

Korea wasn't considered combat?

GD:

Korea was not combat pay. Korea, you had to live on post, it was a short tour. I didn't get combat pay, but it was a hardship tour. It was a different environment, whereas Hawaii, being single, I was allowed to live off post. They did not have quarters available for single majors or captains.

EE:

In the seventies, there's a lot of transition, stateside, in civilian life, about women in society. You've got the equal rights movement going on, you've got women's lib[eration movement] coming to the fore. The military, what's happening in the military, is taken as an example of everything else, the society changing. How were you treated as a woman in the military by men in the seventies? With respect? Do the people give you your due, or did you have to deal with harassment issues?

GD:

I would say I've been harassed and discriminated in my twenty years in the military. My contemporaries, as they knew you as an individual, accepted, more or less, as long as you do your job and get on with the program, accept the fact that you're there, to a great extent, as long as you pull your weight. I had classmates who were chronic complainers. Well, that was their personality.

I think that the people who had the hardest time dealing with women in some of the new situations were some of the older senior personnel who had not really worked with women that much. When I went to Fort Lee to Officer Quartermaster Basic, I had an instructor who was an infantry colonel, who was not accustomed to dealing with women and would make statements that women should not be around the orderly room. He got booed by my classmates.

I worked for a lieutenant colonel at AIT who was great to work for, but every time I would open the door for him, he just had a difficult time walking ahead of me, because he grew up in Alabama. He was just accustomed to letting women go first.

EE:

Ladies first.

GD:

I think so much you have to deal with the situation. I would not take offense. He and I talked about it, and he was very easy to talk with about things. One time when we had a hurricane down in Florida, we were all trying to work. He was going to send the women home, and I said, “Sir, we didn't ask to go home. My life's no more important than yours.”

“Well,” he said, “that's true. I just hadn't looked at it that way.”

So in some cases, it was a culture type of situation that I think you have to understand. And you have to accept when someone is directing something directly at you, or if it's, in general, their attitude.

EE:

If it's something personal, it means different than if it's a script that they're not even thinking about.

GD:

Right. Because some of that is inborn and some things that we do without even realizing, and there is a distinct difference. Now, when I tried to get a company command in Hawaii, I had one-bird colonel who was the person making those decisions, tell me the only reason women were in the army was to find somebody to marry them. He was divorced and an infantry bird colonel. He did not allow any women commanders. That was his opinion, and his word was the rule. No one outranked him but the general. If he had been made to give me a command, I would have failed. He would have seen to it.

As it was, I went to the IG [Inspector General], because the colonel gave command to lieutenants who had not been to the advanced course, and I was a captain who had been to my advanced course. But I knew that I would not get command and I knew that it would not have worked.

I feel that we were harassed when we'd be running PT in shorts, when you get cat calls and comments. My legs don't look that good. They were just looking at skin, not at how you are as an individual. It's just the way it was done. So some of that you just have to take with a grain of salt. That was not directed so much personally at me. I feel, in some cases, yes, I was not given some opportunities because I was a female.

EE:

Was that experience with the bird colonel in Hawaii, was that the first time you ran across that obstacle in your path?

GD:

No. At Fort Lee the Infantry Colonel was quite blatant in front of my class, and he was booed. More often it would be in an individual situation, where you were not allowed to do something. For example, when I was in Hawaii—see, I was in the Infantry Division.

EE:

You had made the decision. You know, you originally signed on for three years, you told me. So in '76, you decided—

GD:

You don't sign on for three years; that's all you're obligated. You don't reenlist when you're an officer.

EE:

When you're an officer, you're there until you say, “Okay—”

GD:

Can you stop for a minute?

[recorder paused]

EE:

The question I was going to ask you is that sometime in the seventies you had finished your requirement of three years, and I'm just curious when it was that you thought that you might hang around this job a little bit longer. You had been overseas to Korea, you were in Hawaii. How long were you in Hawaii?

GD:

Three years.

EE:

Three years. So you were there through '81?

GD:

That sounds right.

EE:

Were you in Hawaii when [Ronald] Reagan was shot? March, April?

GD:

I don't think so. I went from Hawaii to Fort Jackson, South Carolina. When I was in Hawaii, I was in the 25th Infantry Division the entire time. I was at S&T Battalion as the S-4, the S-1, and then I worked up at Division G4, which is the Division Logistics Office, and then I was the S-4 for 125th Signal Battalion in Helemono, which is out in the pineapple field, before I rotated back to CONUS [Continental U.S.].

EE:

It was in Hawaii you decided—well, I guess you had had the option earlier to leave after three years, but you wanted to go on and stay in the service.

GD:

Officers don't reenlist, so I didn't exactly say, “Okay, I'm going to stay for twenty.” It was more a situation where I liked what I was doing, or I felt that there was nothing better that I wanted to do.

I have two friends that I was in WAC basic with, and we were at Benning together. We used to always celebrate our “Armyversary.” We would always go to the officer's club for our Armyversary celebration.

And I'm not sure I made a conscious decision. More or less it was that I wanted my next assignment or I'd be planning to change jobs or do things. So I don't know that it was a conscious decision till you get more like in the eight to ten-year frame, and you think, “Gee, I've come this many years and I've gotten promoted, of course.” And you think, “Well, you've got a lot of years invested. Maybe you'd better consider what you really do want to do.”

EE:

Your assignments change in their location, your rank changes. You keep working back in the logistics office, so they're not—you know, some stages, I've talked with women who, in their service, it's pretty clear that the military didn't know what to do with them, because they're doing any and everything in different places. The kind of work you're doing stays fairly consistent. Do you feel that way in the service, at that time, that you're getting assignments that build on each other and add to you, as far as a skill level within the expertise that you have?

GD:

I had some assignments that I worked in administration in the S-1, but at one time the army had a program that you had to be qualified in two areas, so I was sent to AG School at Fort Ben Harrison after I came back from Hawaii. Before I went to Fort Jackson, I was sent to Fort Ben Harrison, Fort Benjamin Harrison, Indiana, for AG School, and then actually, I had already been—

EE:

And AG stands for?

GD:

Adjutant General. And I had also been an S-1, which is personnel officer. At that time, the army put more emphasis on having two specialties—I was a 91 and a 92, which is AG and quartermaster. Quartermaster is my 92 specialty. Now I don't believe there's as much emphasis on that.

Once you get a job, like I was in logistics, you learn who the other people in your field are, and after a certain period of time, for example, after I had been in my battalion for a year, you can request or try to get another job that's at a higher level. I went up to G-4 [division logistics staff officer]. Of course, all parties have to agree to it and you have to serve your time in your initial assignment, but if you're watching out for your career progression, you try to make sure that you get diverse jobs in different units and different opportunities.

Sometimes you can't get what you think you need at that point in time. You have to help manage your own career. Sometimes you are told to do things that are not your choice. When I was at Fort Jackson, I was initially the Army Community Service officer, which meant that the family advocacy, the childcare center, the Army Emergency Relief, all came under me. This was a training post, because basic training and AIT are at Fort Jackson. But I was selected for that job partly because the general's wife didn't like my predecessor, and she wanted a female in that job and wanted a captain. Also that fit in a lot with my college background.

EE:

More back into counseling.

GD:

Back into counseling, plus the home economics area. But after I had had that job, I had several other different jobs. While I was at Fort Jackson I had medical problems, also. When I was at Fort Jackson, I had a serious car accident, plus I also had cancer.

EE:

How long were you at Jackson?

GD:

I left Jackson in '85.

EE:

So about four years there.

GD:

I was at Jackson longer—normally you're somewhere about three years, give or take a few months. I was there, but I spent some time in the hospital and actually I had a medical board, after I had cancer. I had Hodgkin's disease and I had radiation treatment. So after I was in the hospital, I was in Medical Hold Company and I had to have a board and I asked to be retained, because at this point in time I had many years and I did want to stay, and I was allowed to stay in the army.

EE:

The car wreck and the cancer are right on the heels of one another?

GD:

I had the car accident one year, in November.

EE:

Was that a personal car accident?

GD:

Yes. My car ran over me, pinned me underneath it, and I was in the hospital twenty-eight days. Then the following year, they found I had cancer. I had gone to the doctor in the spring to check some knots in my neck and he said, “Don't worry about it,” and then in the fall I went to the plastic surgeon to check my arm where I had had skin grafts. They did a biopsy and found that I had the beginning stages of cancer.

When I was at Jackson I was the army community services officer, then I was the S-4 [brigade logistics staff officer] for training brigade, which ran the ranges, and the classes. Then later I was the S-4 for the reception station, just before I left Jackson.

EE:

So the time that you're recovering from the wreck and getting treatment for the cancer, you're actually out of your regular assignments for what, about six months, a year? How long was the recovery process?

GD:

Actually, I was in medical hold officially, but my colonel let me come back to work because he hadn't replaced me. I just was not officially assigned there, but they didn't have a lot of jobs at the medical hold company for a quartermaster major. Normally when you're in medical hold, if you're able, they put you doing something in the hospital or doing something to utilize you.

My boss just let me come back, but I worked, and I had a good warrant officer who did a lot of good work while I was sick. So when I went back, my colonel let me go back and work, even though I was not officially assigned. As it just so happens, he was from North Carolina. He grew up in Craven County. I did not know him before, of course, but it just so happened that way. I said, “Small world.”

EE:

Did you make major when you were down at Jackson then?

GD:

Yes.

EE:

Was that when you were out in medical hold?

GD:

No, I made it—

EE:

Just before?

GD:

Before that. I was working for DPCA [Directorate of Personnel and Community Affairs]. In fact, I was the Army Community Service officer when I made it, because I remember who promoted me. And my mother came.

EE:

That is a lot to go through in a year's time, and I know some employers are not kind and would not keep you around if you'd had health problems. How do you feel about the army keeping you in?

GD:

I went to the medical board and I requested to stay in. During the time that I had cancer, I had lost weight and my hair came out in the back, but by the time they had the board, I didn't look that bad. I had requested to stay in, and the colonel who was the chairman of the board looked at my assignments and saw that I had served a lot of time with troops. And I only had the beginning stages. I had stage 1A of Hodgkin's, and I think that the colonel decided that he was willing to give me the chance.

And let's face it, if I had gotten cancer again, I wouldn't want to be in the army. I guess he may have felt that, “Well, if you got sick again, you'd be an automatic board,” because I'd be back in the hospital, sick. And actually, most people who discover they have cancer are not as fortunate to just have the beginning stages. So many people have a different type of cancer and it's progressed to such a greater extent.

I would be the first to say that, after I got my strength back and everything. It takes a while and I had to eventually be monitored and go back to the doctor to be checked, but I think the colonel was willing to give me the chance. I felt that he was willing to give me the chance because I've had had Fort Benning, an Infantry Division, and I had some assignments that were not considered easy, plush assignments. I wore combat boots a whole lot of times in my time.

EE:

You leave Jackson and go where?

GD:

Fort Bragg.

EE:

What were you doing at Bragg?

GD:

I left Fort Jackson and went to the 1st Corps Support Command [COSCOM], which is the corps logistics for 18th Airborne Corps.

EE:

So it's going back to another line of work that you've done, logistics work.

GD:

It's logistics, yes. That was what I wanted. I had worked at battalion, I had worked at the division, and the next higher level is the COSCOM, the corps. I had also worked installation logistics, so either to go to a depot or go to the corps is the higher level of logistics. So I had requested Bragg. I went to the Material Management Center at Fort Bragg.

EE:

How long were you at Bragg?

GD:

I was at Bragg until I retired.

EE:

So from '85 to '93.

GD:

On paper. Although during the time I was at Bragg, for six months I was at [Operation] Desert Storm, six months I was TDY to Little Creek Naval Base [Virgina] for Solid Shield, an exercise. I was in the control group. And then I went to [Exercise] Gallant Eagle '86 on the Mojave Desert. That was about a month or six weeks, in California.

EE:

But all those were rotations out of Bragg and connected to that?

GD:

Oh, yes, yes. And the military, though, since they knew I was going to retire, decided to let me stay at Bragg because it would be a waste of money. You're supposed to be on station at least a year before you retire.

EE:

And you're at the rank of major from the time of Jackson, and then you retired at the rank of major?

GD:

Yes.

EE:

Was that what you had expected?

GD:

What, to retire as a major?

EE:

Yes.

GD:

I would have like to have retired as a lieutenant colonel, but I never had company command time.

EE:

And that was the key thing? That was what was missing from earlier on, we were talking about.

GD:

I did complete my Command and General Staff College, which I did through correspondence and with the reserves. I did not have command time and because of my physical—medical problems.

EE:

That's what I [am] wondering, if maybe that had factored into it, that they were basically holding to see how that would progress.

GD:

I'm sure it did, because it would have to, to some extent.

EE:

Because I'm going to ask you a few questions about Desert Storm, I'm probably going to get you a tape and ten minutes by the time I get these questions in. What was your job at Bragg with logistics throughout that time from '85 to '93?

GD:

First Corps Support Command, COSCOM. Actually, my last job before I retired, I was the Secretary of General Staff for the one-star general who was the commander of COSCOM. COSCOM was the logistics support for 18th Airborne Corps, but at that time, I was working in an administration, admin-type job, actually, but it was in a logistics type of unit.

EE:

Kuwait's invaded in '90, is that right? And Desert Shield goes up in the fall of '90. What's it like at Bragg and how is it that you get involved from working with 1st Corps Support to being part of Desert Storm?

GD:

My entire unit essentially deployed to Saudi Arabia, because my unit provided the fuel, the POL [petroleum, oil and lubricants], the food, and the ammunition. The COSCOM is entirely military, except the general did have a civilian secretary. Except for a skeleton staff, everybody went. My deployment was in the fall, whereas, actually, people started going in August. So soldiers gradually were going, depending on the priority and what was needed over there.

EE:

Where were y'all stationed in Saudi? Riyadh.

GD:

No, not Riyadh. Gracious, stop the tape. Give me a minute, please.

EE:

Did you have a scud [missile] land near you?

[recorder paused]

EE:

Tell me where you figured out you were stationed. You were at Dammam.

GD:

I was at Dammam.

EE:

Which is near Dhahran.

GD:

Dhahran is the airfield, because we used to go down to the airfield to check supplies and look for equipment. The corps headquarters, we would go there sometime, 18th Airborne Corps headquarters, when we had business there. But the COSCOM mushroomed. We became extremely large because we did the support and we had reserves and National Guard as a part of us.

I worked in the EOC, the Emergency Operations Center, actually where the headquarters for COSCOM was located. I worked helping to get supplies. My unit deployed in increments, depending on what was needed—if you needed transporters or you needed ammunition handlers. We eventually all got over there, and we flew back. The people who had been there first came back first.

EE:

You rotated.

GD:

We rotated back, and theoretically, you weren't supposed to stay—if you stay more than six months in a troop movement or something like that. They try not to keep you more than six months. So I stayed six months.

EE:

So when did you actually go over in the fall? Was it October?

GD:

I'd have to look and see.

EE:

The air war lasted for a while. It was the three-day war by the time they ended up stopping them.

GD:

I did not go forward when some of our people went forward. I was one of the ones that stayed, that still worked in the EOC. We left some people back at the headquarters and some people went forward. At that time, the medical people were part of COSCOM. We really had a large number of people that came under our command. We were still trying to get supplies.

During all that time, of course, we did not see CNN [TV station]. You got a blow by blow back here, whereas we could see the maps that had the security information where the land mines and different things were. We didn't have the photographs that you had, where I was located. We had the radio and we were always cheering for the air force, doing their bombing.

I can remember the first time we had to put on our MOPP [mission oriented protective posture] gear was a Sunday morning. MOPP gear is our chemical protective suits. I can remember going and putting mine on, and my heart beating so fast. You really didn't know at that time if you were going to have a chemical attack or what you would have coming from the sky.

EE:

And this happened because you had a scud that landed nearby?

GD:

We had an alert, a warning system. They alerted us to go put on our NBC [nuclear, biological, chemical] suits, and you ran and did that because you knew that there was a possibility. And then after that, we had many more times when we put those on. They gave us pills and we had already had our supply of a lot of different shots before we left Bragg.

Saudi Arabia gets hot as well as cold. The temperature fluctuates a great deal at different times. Also they have the Muslims. You could hear in the village, you hear the calling to worship or the religious chanting.

EE:

Five times a day.

GD:

You could hear that, yes.

EE:

And that was a situation where there wasn't any time for sightseeing. You were on base.

GD:

After people started redeploying and coming back, we were allowed to go out. We had to be careful, though. We [women] had to have our arms covered, because over there the women did go out with the black garb, covered up, and women were not allowed in certain places. Like they had a Baskin Robbins [ice cream shop]—I think it was Baskin Robbins—that you could go into, but you couldn't sit down.

But after everybody started redeploying, we were allowed to be out more, but we would go in groups. Like they would have a special time that a group could go. By that time, the 82nd had gone home and a lot of people. They just couldn't fly everybody back so fast, and the supplies were having to be taken care of that were still there.

EE:

How surprised were you that you ended up being in Saudi Arabia?

GD:

Not surprised at all, because that was my unit's mission. You do what you have to do, and there was no consideration of not going, because that was part of the job.

EE:

Your mom has been a supporter of you. She visited you in Korea. She traveled to different stations. How did she and your family members feel about you going over?

GD:

Oh, they were very concerned.

[Begin Tape 2, Side A]

EE:

You were talking about your mama, when you got back home, when we stopped the tape.

GD:

I was going to say, after I came back, I went to talk to the fourth grade that my niece had been a part of. I was surprised some of the students asked me questions about night-vision goggles and some of the technical equipment that we had. They had all seen so much on CNN, and it was in the news so much. I was really quite surprised how people here were able to keep up with things and be so knowledgeable. Whereas when you're over there, working, you go in and you work and you work on your paperwork and you make phone calls and you go and do what you have to do. You're in your own little world, doing your little piece of the pie. And I could go in and see the maps and I could see where the troops were and I could see things—

EE:

So they kept you informed that way?

GD:

Well, I had access because I had a secret clearance and I could go in and see. It was a different perspective, and I think more than any other time in the past history of any kind of military exercise. Communications nowadays is such that you are up to date and you see all of this so much more. And many times, the military don't want you to be able to see and know until they've had a chance to do certain things, but CNN so often is right there at Fort Bragg, at Pope [Air Force Base], watching the planes take off.

EE:

They were at [unclear] with Kosovo, and they'll tell you what you hit, whether or not you made your target or not. You talk about putting the gas mask on. I remember the fear that went through our household as we watched the TV reporter put on his gas mask, and I thought, “Oh, my goodness, they're serious over there.” You said that you were close to the military base that was hit by the scud.

GD:

It was not a base. They were in a warehouse building. You have to realize that the U.S. military was located in a variety of types of buildings—warehouses, car dealerships, anything that could hold personnel. COSCOM headquarters was located in an area that had been a place where some workmen that were doing some construction project, I believe, had stayed there before us, that were from some other countries like, I don't know, India or Korea or somewhere. It was not a compound or a base; it was just located at a certain place throughout the area.

EE:

You just found housing where you found housing.

GD:

And oftentimes the military were located in facilities that were just available, and they were not that far as the crow flies, but that just happened that way.

EE:

And it was, because it was so random, it was just an unlucky hit, in a sense, that they were shooting something and if it fell, it fell, and you didn't know what was going to be hit.

GD:

Because we all had different times when we would be alerted. Now sometimes they would be sending scuds and they wouldn't be directed at Saudi. You know, there were other countries that they would be directing, or sometimes maybe they wouldn't know, but we would always react according to what we were told to be. I know that there's been a lot of controversy about the Patriot Missiles and if they really hit like they were supposed to. Well, hey, at that point in time, we didn't know any of this that has come out since then and you don't even know now, or I don't. I don't have access to the documents or whatever, to say if the Patriot Missiles did their job. But as far as we were concerned, we were glad when something hit them, and the scuds were not hitting us as targets.

EE:

Was that time in Saudi Arabia the most difficult time of your military service? Or what was the most difficult, either physically or emotionally?

GD:

I don't think you could compare, because we worked such long hours and it was part of the unknown as to what would happen.

EE:

Nobody would have predicted a three-day-long ground war.

GD:

We were cheering for the air force to do their job because we knew that the more they did, the better it would be for the ground troops, and we would just do the best we could. I think it was a stressful time for everybody, but you can't compare something like that with any other stressful training situation, I don't believe. And I don't believe people have said to me, comparing that to Vietnam or something. You can't compare something. They're total different times and different situations.

EE:

When I mention [Generals] Colin Powell and Norman Schwarzkopf, what do you think of those folks?

GD:

I had no contact with those folks. I know who they were and I would go down to ARCOM [Army Command], to the headquarters occasionally. That was a higher-level headquarters. I had more dealings with the corps headquarters staff. I would listen to the radio accounts. General [Gary E.] Luck was our commander and, of course, 18th Airborne Corps includes the 82nd, the 24th, the 101st, and 10th Mountain Division.

And then, of course, from Bragg, I didn't have so much direct contact with, but the Special Forces and some of those people come out of Bragg. I had some friends that were in those types of units. But the people you're talking about were at the top echelon of command. My headquarters was corps headquarters, General Luck.

EE:

I guess the reason I asked that question is that they have generally received great reviews, if you can give it, for their strategy and the fact that it didn't take as long, that the air war did—it was a different kind of war, that air power did a lot to help win it. I just was wondering, since you were there, how you felt about the job y'all did.

GD:

Well, we mobilized and I think there were a lot of people who—in fact, most people were working as hard as they could to do what—and there were some training accidents, there were some unfortunate things that happened.

EE:

And having such a huge number of reserves and [National] Guard folks, which had not been done before.

GD:

Right. And I think that on this particular time, the whole country was involved. I mean, it was in the media, and units from all over, not just the military bases, but all over, were called up. And I think that we had such a mobilization and it was over that fall, and we had a buildup. We had a lot of supplies in country and we had, of course, different glitches, but they weren't that major. I mean, you took time, and of course, it takes time to get things back home.

But I think we had a lot of support in doing what we did. We went there to push Saddam [Hussein] out of Kuwait. People say, “Well, if you'd only gone one more day, or two days.” Well, we did what we went to do, and hindsight is one thing. Our society, we are not programmed to needlessly slaughter people, I don't feel like. Now you look at it, and if we'd only gone one more day, we would have prevented a lot of problems that have come about since then, but who's to say. We have a lot of people that were in Kuwait, or near those oil wells that were burning, that have had medical problems.

EE:

Do you think that that Gulf War Syndrome was related largely to that?

GD:

I think there are some people who have had legitimate medical problems, who have suffered. I think there are also some people who maybe have had problems that they may have had those problems regardless of if they went to the Gulf. But who's to say? They have parasites there. I think they've proven that there was a parasite that we weren't familiar with.

A lot depended on where you went and what you were near and what you were involved in. That's a big country. When you're out on that desert, that is a desert, and there are some areas that are different from other areas. Some people that were in tanks would definitely have a different experience than others. Some of the infantry and combat arms guys were definitely up closer to the front, and some of our logistics people who were providing the POL, the fuel. Any vehicle that could go forward that was helping went forward, and we had women that went forward.

EE:

So all those were close to different things.

GD:

Depending on where you were. That was not a country that is like our country, in many respects. I mean, the oil and the sand and the government and different things like that were all different from what we are accustomed to. A harsh environment.

EE:

You finished your six-month tour and when you got back to Bragg, did you then immediately retire?

GD:

Oh, no, no.

EE:

How long did it take you?

GD:

I retired in the spring of '93.

EE:

So you were actually back for another two years, I guess, almost.

GD:

When I got back, after I was back was when I was the SGS [Secretary of the General Staff?] of COSCOM. I worked in that job. Of course, when I first got back, I took some leave.

EE:

And then you retired from that SGS position in '93?

GD:

I was in SGS just before I retired, but I had different jobs while I was at COSCOM.

EE:

And then you came back to live in New Bern?

GD:

I sold my house in Fayetteville, and then I moved to Craven County and bought a house there, yes. That's about twelve miles from here, where I live.

EE:

And you've been enjoying retirement since?

GD:

Well, I worked for about a year at Employment Security Commission, part time. Then after that, then I haven't worked anywhere. Sometimes I help my brothers on the farm. My mother has gotten increasingly less able to do things for herself, so I take her to the doctor and shopping and do different things for her.

EE:

I've got two questions that I ask everybody, and I'm going to ask your opinion, and then I'm going to be out of here and say thank you. In December of 1998, women flew combat missions over Iraq for the first time that we've sent women officially into combat. Do you approve of that or do you think that there are some jobs in the service that women should not be allowed to do?

GD:

I think there are some jobs in the service that women probably should not be allowed to do, not because they don't have the ability or they are not capable of doing certain jobs, but I think there are some situations that culturally, perhaps, would not be best for a woman to be in that job.

I do recognize the fact that women do not have the same physical capability as an average general rule. I think it is good that we have military women—as long as we have women in positions, it's good to have a mixture. I believe it's a different viewpoint on things. Because I think that in many cases, maybe people look at it a little bit different, but they work together. For example, oftentimes I find in COSCOM, if we had a female captain, it was good to have a male first sergeant, or if you had a mixture—

EE:

To have a different perspective on it.

GD:

Right. But you work together and you have troops of both types in your unit. I think in some cases in the past, recent years, some of the women have not realized the severity of the situation and what can happen to them, because when we deployed for Saudi Arabia, there were women who didn't really ever dream that they would have to deploy somewhere. Many of them were single parents who had children, who maybe didn't have quite the family plan they should have. They never really seriously—going to the field for a week is one thing, but when you go away for six months, that's a different thing. You can't park your child with somebody quite like that.

I think in recent times, maybe the army has tried to provide equality in some cases, but you can't always have a situation that you can go unless you plan and have the finances to be able to do that. I think there are some women, particularly young, who never thought the reality day would come, and it did come. And there were some problems in some units because of this. I think that I always had the attitude [that] as long as I did my job I don't need to go around looking and asking to go in combat.

With weapons of today, combat will come to you. You don't ask to go. Just like I went to Saudi because that was my job. I was not asking to be on the first plane. My time would come. And I don't go around, and never have, saying, “Yes, I'm ready for combat. Yes, I can do this,” because that won't get you anywhere. You will only be criticized and ostracized, in some cases, by that.

EE:

You taught in high school at some point in your career. You've spent twenty years in service. If a young woman comes to you today and says, “I'm thinking about joining the service. Should I?” what would your answer be?

GD:

I think there's definitely a place for women in the military. In fact, I have recommended to a couple of individuals and I wrote a letter of reference for a friend of mine whose daughter became a pharmacist. But I think you have to learn to accept certain things, and you have to be aware that it is a way of life. You cannot do what you want, when you want. You have to go when they say go, you pull duty, you be on time, you have to do what they say. Just because you want to take the privilege of doing some particular thing, but it's like that in a civilian job to a great extent.

EE:

It's just not formalized.

GD:

Right. But I'm saying that you have to go to certain schools, you have to take certain tests, you have to be on time, you have to salute, you have to wear a uniform. And for women, you can't wear earrings when you want to, you can only wear two rings, you cannot wear an excessive amount of makeup, and you can't wear glaring fingernail polish. There are certain rules. You can't wear a necklace. And it's much more relaxed now than it used to be, but there are certain rules, and you have to go and you PCS [permanent change of station] when they say go, or you change jobs when they say go. And you cannot have insubordination. You cannot fraternize, just because you see some guy that looks good to you.

EE:

That's right.

GD:

Rank has a difference and it's a certain culture and a certain way of life. But, yes, I recommend that if you're willing to accept certain things. And I do believe that in many cases, serving in the military for two or three years would not hurt anybody. If you don't like it, get out and do something else, but it would be of benefit and it would certainly expose a person to a variety of people and situations.

EE:

It is a terrible task that I have to compress your life into ninety, a hundred minutes of tape, and I apologize in advance for it, but I thank you for sitting down to try this attempt.

GD:

Well, see, anybody that's been in the army in this day and time could sit and talk to you for hours. I could tell you some funny experiences of things that happened.

EE:

You've seen more changes in the role of women. I mean, just in my lifetime, from being something unusual to have a woman join the service, now it's like any other job. There's more women in the jobs than men, it seems like. More women are in every job, and there's a lot of interest in that.

GD:

My mother says that the army has made me more aggressive and a few other adjectives like that, and I said, “Mother, you cannot be meek and mild and survive.” Only up to a certain point. But you can still try to be tactful and a few other things like that that I was taught to be, but only up to a certain point. There are times when you need to speak up or you need to be assertive. But my mother says I'm much more direct. I don't have the patience. And with the military, you get on with it. You move out smartly, get the job done, you're goal-directed. You have an objective, and you have a plan to get that done.

[End of Interview]