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The Betty H. Carter Women Veterans Historical Project

Oral history interview with Ann Henning Moore, 1999

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Object ID: WV0102.5.001

Description: Primarily documents Mary Ann Henning Moore’s education at the Woman’s College of the University of North Carolina (now University of North Carolina at Greensboro) from 1941 until 1944 and her service in the U.S. Navy WAVES (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service) from 1944 to 1946.

Summary:

Moore's recollections of Woman's College primarily consist of professors and experiences related to World War II. Topics include dances at the Overseas Replacement Depot in Greensboro; gasoline rationing and using kerosene as fuel; listening to President Roosevelt’s declaration of war during a WC class; weekly lectures on the state of the war; and the influence and encouragement of Katherine Taylor.

Topics related to Moore's WAVES service include her reasons for joining and her parents’ reactions; learning navy rules and regulations, including commands and marching; recreation and social life, including horseback riding; working on watches; men she worked with, including Edes Talman and Jack London; delivering messages around Washington; working in temporary buildings from World War I; and taking trips to Puerto Rico and Bermuda through the Naval Air Transportation Service. Other topics include the mood of the country during the war; losing relatives in combat, including a brother and a cousin; her opinions of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt; the 1947 Bastille Day celebration in Paris; and her opinion of women in combat positions;

Creator:

Biographical Info:

Collection: Ann Henning Moore 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:

JP:

This is Janis Pardue. I'm in the home of Mrs. Ann Henning Moore, Woman's College [now The University of North Carolina at Greensboro] class of 1944, who served in the WAVES [Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service—U.S. Navy]. The date is July 11, 1999. Ms. Moore, would you please begin just by telling me a little bit about your life before you joined the military. Go back to Albemarle days, if you want to, and tell me about those and about your family.

AM:

I was born in Albemarle, North Carolina, and raised there. It was the home of my mother's family. The family name was Hearne, and they gave the land for the town of Albemarle. So I was born in the midst of a bunch of cousins, aunts, and uncles.

World War II came along. My brother was flying in India, flew in the air force. I was in Woman's College [WC], and they were having maneuvers in my back yard in Albemarle. All the excitement started the month I left for college. It was September 19, 1941. I went to WC happily. My sister was there at that time. She was a junior. So that's my life before I got to WC. [chuckles]

JP:

Oh, that was quick. [chuckles] Could you talk a little bit about what Woman's College was like while you were there and what influence you think the war had on your life at WC?

AM:

Well, it had a big influence on my social life because all the boys our age had either volunteered or been enlisted. If they weren't already, they went fairly shortly. And gasoline was rationed, and so it was difficult to get to Chapel Hill or anywhere where there was anything going on particularly. It was nice that we had dances at WC. There was a port of embarkation in Greensboro, I believe, the ORD.

JP:

What's the ORD?

AM:

ORD, the Overseas Replacement Depot, I think, something like that. Anyway, so they did have some dances at WC. I don't remember going to them, except at the very end of my senior year I remember meeting someone that was very nice at one of the dances. However, the war affected us greatly. Gasoline rationing kept our parents from visiting. It limited our traveling a great deal. We found out that cars could go on kerosene, if necessary. [chuckles]

JP:

You had to be resourceful in those days.

AM:

We all waited on tables, because there weren't as many girls on scholarships. Everyone could get a good job, I suppose, in the factories. There was a great demand for labor. So we all took turns waiting on tables.

JP:

In the dining hall?

AM:

In the dining hall.

JP:

Did you live on campus?

AM:

Oh yes.

JP:

The whole time you were there?

AM:

Oh yes.

JP:

What dorm were you in?

AM:

Cotten, and then Weil for two years, Cotten my first year and Weil the last two years.

JP:

You've talked a little bit about [Professor of French] Katherine Taylor and [Dean of Women] Miss [Harriet] Elliott. Did you have much contact with them at WC?

AM:

I had no contact with Miss Elliott. She was a star in the upper universe, as far as I was concerned. But we admired her tremendously, because we knew she'd been appointed by Mr. Franklin D. Roosevelt to some big important job in Washington. As to Miss Taylor, I was lucky enough to sit at her table for dinner every night for the three years that I was there, so I knew her very well. She was a major influence in my joining the WAVES. She'd already gone to become commander of a company at Smith College [Northampton, Massachusetts], in Officers' Candidate School, and actually she did write to me and tell me that I should cut my hair, come on up, that I would like it. If I could get in, I think she meant, which I was lucky enough to do.

JP:

How long was your hair before you had to cut it?

AM:

It was the average length of girls in those days.

JP:

Shoulder-length?

AM:

Yes, short shoulder-length. It certainly didn't stop at the top of my collar.

JP:

But that didn't upset you, cutting your hair, did it?

AM:

No.

JP:

It wasn't a big deal?

AM:

No.

JP:

Can you tell me why you wanted to join the WAVES? Was it strictly because Katherine Taylor—

AM:

Well, I really would have liked to have been a WAC [Woman's Army Corps], because I wanted to go overseas to India, which was where my brother had been for two and a half years. And yet, I don't know, this sounds really ridiculous, but I felt I'd be more at home in the WAVES, and I really liked the uniform a lot better. [chuckles]

JP:

You are not the only one who has said that.

AM:

Isn't that ridiculous?

JP:

A lot of people have said that.

AM:

Actually, I had been to Annapolis [Maryland, home of the U.S. Naval Academy]. I'd always pulled for the Navy in Army-Navy game situations, and I just felt that I would feel more at home in the WAVES, and also, as I say, this suggestion from Miss Taylor. And I knew another WAVE from my hometown, Albemarle, Miss Ellen Huckabee, who was sort of a role model.

JP:

Can you tell me a little bit about your training at Smith College? Did you enjoy it?

AM:

It was certainly a change. The hardest thing to do was to stop saying “Yes, ma'am” and “No, ma'am” when somebody gave me a direct order, like “Pipe down, seaman,” and I would say, “Yes, ma'am.” “Don't say 'Yes, ma'am.' Say 'Yes, Lieutenant,' or 'Yes, Miss So-and-so.'” That was hard to overcome. I finally did.

JP:

Do you think because you were a Southern girl?

AM:

Oh, yes. We all had to take turns in leading the platoon in learning to march, and they all laughed at me because of my Southern accent. I was never going to be a real military type with these clipped commands. They would bark out the orders, which was absolutely contrary to my inclination. Another thing, you had to be terribly neat. You had to be smart, shipshape, and seamanlike.

JP:

The three Ss.

AM:

Yes.

JP:

Smart, shipshape, and seamanlike.

AM:

That was the goal you longed to get as far as grading the room every day. They would rub white gloves over everything, even between the window and the window screen, and I'm talking December. And sometimes snow would be in a little drift on the floor if we'd opened the window. The windows came down to the floor in one dorm.

Anyway, it was very exciting. It was lots of fun. I liked the girls that I was with, and I liked the things we were studying. We had contemporary history on Saturday morning. The instructor was Miss Taft, whose father-in-law had been the senator from Ohio.

JP:

Oh, that Taft.

AM:

Yes. I was there during the Battle of the Bulge. And also I remember when I was at WC, the Battle of Stalingrad was going on, and once a week we would all be in the Aycock Auditorium and we would be brought up to date on the state of the war. This was all during the time of the Blitzkrieg of the Germans into Russia, and the Battle of Stalingrad I remember distinctly.

JP:

So you were very politically aware.

AM:

Oh, we were all very war-conscious. As I say, my brother was in; all our friends were in it. Everybody was involved in World War II during those years.

JP:

Were you a part of the War Service League at WC?

AM:

No, what's that? No.

JP:

Well, I've read a little bit about it. I know they had a campaign for buying bonds going on and that sort of thing.

AM:

Well, we all bought bonds. We didn't have any money. Our parents bought bonds. [chuckles]

JP:

But apparently they raised enough money to help purchase an airplane, just the War Service League at WC. They were proud of that.

AM:

Well, I'm proud of them.

JP:

Well, I digressed back to WC. I didn't mean to do that, because we were at Smith, talking about your training. How long were you there at Smith?

AM:

I went in October [1944]. October, November, graduated in December, and then stayed there for two more months to be in communications school. You were put into some category after you were made an officer, either supply or communications or training recruits. I was in the last class that went through Officers' Candidate School and the last class that went through communications school, so we had to burn all our material when we finished, all the codes and everything.

JP:

Tell me a little bit about your actual work, about your job.

AM:

We were taught at Smith to encode and decode messages. They had machines called ECMs. We called them “Jeeps.” I don't know why. I suppose ECM meant encoding machine. Every ship in the navy has to be accounted for at all times. And so every time any ship in the navy moved from one spot to another, no matter how short the distance, it had to send a message to Washington to the main naval communications office, which was where I was, on Constitution Avenue.

JP:

You had a very important job.

AM:

Well.

JP:

You did. Did you release a man to go overseas when you went in?

AM:

I suppose so, but I don't know who it was.

JP:

Did you mind?

AM:

Oh, heaven's no. That was run by all WAVES, the communications office. We had naval officers, men, directing us, but everybody on all the watches were WAVES.

JP:

I know some of the women we have talked to actually knew the person that they released to go overseas and have actually even kept up with them through the years, which I thought was interesting.

How old were you when you went in?

AM:

Twenty.

JP:

You were twenty. Did your parents have to sign for you to go?

AM:

I suppose so.

JP:

They did?

AM:

I don't know, but I'm sure they were willing or I wouldn't have gone.

JP:

Right. Exactly. How did they feel about you serving in the WAVES?

AM:

I think they were proud. They came up to see me graduate, came up to Northampton. I was supposed to meet the rest of a group that I was going up to Smith with at Pennsylvania Station. Daddy went up with me on the train, and I remember when I got off the train to go over and meet the group, I made him let me carry my suitcase. [chuckles]

JP:

You didn't want your daddy doing that. [chuckles]

AM:

I didn't want him carrying my suitcase.

JP:

I can understand that. An independent woman.

AM:

Well, but, you know, here I was, twenty years old, going off on my own for the first time.

JP:

Talking about releasing a man for service, did that make you feel guilty in any way that you might have sent a man into combat?

AM:

No. No. I figured if he went, he wanted to go or else he needed to go. I never even gave that a thought.

JP:

Tell me about just a typical day's work for you. I know you talked about encoding and decoding messages, but before we turned the tape on, you were talking a little bit about your work schedule and what that was like. Could you go over that again?

AM:

In my office we worked watches, and it was a twenty-four-hour schedule. There was no eight-hour day as far as the navy was concerned on the communications. I worked two days from seven in the morning until three in the afternoon. I'd go to work at three and work until eleven for two days, and then the next day I'd go at eleven at night and work until seven in the morning. And then I would have forty-eight hours off. Then I would go back and do the same routine over and over and over. I wish I could find a copy of my schedule. I had it on a little graph. If different people wanted to know how to get in touch with me, I'd give them a copy of my schedule. Otherwise, it was pretty much a mystery.

JP:

That sounds like a heavy schedule. What did you do during your time off? When you had forty-eight hours off, what did you typically do during your time off?

AM:

Well, I suppose I took my shirts to the laundry, the Chinese laundry. [chuckles] And I rode horseback and I played tennis and I think I had just a general time that any twenty-one-year-old in Washington would do. A lot of fun.

JP:

Did you enjoy horseback riding?

AM:

Yes, in Rock Creek Park.

JP:

You talked a little bit about the fact that it was all WAVES where you were. Can you tell me a little bit about your relationships with any men that you were working with? Did you feel like you were treated equally with them?

AM:

Well, I think that they must have carefully chosen the men who were in charge of the WAVES, because they were very understanding and very gentlemanly. I remember Commander Edes Talman was just a perfect gentleman, and he was head of our watch. I was on Watch No. One, as we called it. Then I remember another one named Jack London, for heaven's sakes, who was the absolute quintessential New Yorker. He “could not have lived anywhere else,” and I think that Southern girls were a new thing to him. The thing I admired most about him was how fast he could do the New York Times crossword puzzle. If there was a slack in the work on Sunday a.m. or Monday a.m. from twelve to six, he could really work those. I was impressed with how smart and quick he was. I was also aware of the fact that the captains came and went. They'd come in from sea and they would be in charge of the naval communications office for, I don't know, six months or so, and then they'd be replaced. It was really run by the non-coms [noncommissioned officer] underneath them. They knew what was going on.

JP:

Did you ever encounter any discrimination because you were a woman while you were in the WAVES?

AM:

None that I didn't like. [chuckles]

JP:

[chuckles] Okay, I see. There might be a story there. Did you receive special treatment, then? That's the next question. Or were you singled out in any way?

AM:

None to speak of.

JP:

She doesn't want to talk about this on tape. Did you ever think about making the military a career?

AM:

No.

JP:

Did anybody ever encourage you to do so?

AM:

No. It was the time. You know, the war was over, had been over.

JP:

You were in, you were out.

AM:

Right. And there were tons and tons of WAVES. I was just an ensign, after all. I was nobody important.

JP:

But you could have been a lieutenant j.g. [junior grade] if you had been willing to sew those stripes on your sleeve. [chuckles]

AM:

That's right.

JP:

What was the hardest thing you had to do, both physically and emotionally?

AM:

The hardest thing I had to do physically was stay awake on those watches that went from eleven at night till seven in the morning. I was all right until about four-thirty or five, and then it was just all I could do to stay awake. That really was sort of a slack time. Then, emotionally—is that what you said, emotionally?

JP:

Emotionally. The hardest thing you had to do emotionally.

AM:

I don't remember having any problems emotionally. Physically, staying awake was hard. It was hard getting used to sitting still in one place for eight hours. The longest I'd ever sat still in my life was in chemistry lab at WC for three hours. I mean, that was the total extent of being at a desk and applying myself.

The hardest thing intellectually was when a message came in, “scrambled,” as we called it, and trying to figure it out?—we knew that someone had made a mistake in sending it, and then we had a list of possibilities that we could go through. If a message came in that didn't fit any of the patterns, we had to try to figure out where it had gone astray. Not astray, but awry or off the track. And it was very difficult for me. I don't know if it was because I hadn't been there long enough. Some of the girls who had been there a lot longer than I would help me sometimes in decoding a message that had been sent in some erroneous form. There were a lot of tricks to the trade, so to speak.

JP:

And you just pick those up with experience, I guess.

AM:

Yes.

JP:

It sounds like really hard work.

AM:

Well, it was meticulous, it was detailed. We had to be careful. And I also was on delivery sometimes and that was nice because I could get out of the office. I delivered messages to the Pentagon and to the White House and sometimes to BuPers, Bureau of Personnel, which was across the Potomac. That enabled me to go and get in a car and drive somewhere, get out of the office for a little bit, and that was always kind of fun.

And then another way we could deliver was on three-wheel bikes. This was a big complex and so we would put a bunch of messages in the basket and go wheeling down through the long corridors of this temporary communications building. It was right on the Mall, overlooking the Reflection Pool. It was a “temporary building” from World War I that we were still using.
JP:

I didn't realize that they used buildings that had been there since World War I.

AM:

They were “temporary” in World War I.

JP:

That's interesting. Now, when you left to go in a car, did you drive yourself or did you have some—

AM:

I drove.

JP:

But it was a Navy Department car at your disposal to deliver?

AM:

Yes. So it really wasn't a highly intellectual job to go deliver things, but it was a little bit of a change.

JP:

I think I'd just as soon do that to get out of the office for a while.

AM:

Yes.

JP:

This is a question some vets have some trouble answering, but what was your most embarrassing moment?

AM:

Oh, I think that's a ridiculous question. [chuckles]

JP:

Well, we won't answer it, then.

AM:

You mean in connection with the WAVES?

JP:

Yes.

AM:

Oh, I remember that. I remember that. It was when, as a squad leader at Smith College, I was supposed to give orders for my three ranks in my squad to become two ranks to march into Wiggins Tavern for a meal. And a Ms. Middlesex, or some company commander, told me in front of everybody else that I was supposed to say, “Squad halt. First squad, mark time. Second squad, first squad, march forward ten steps.” And then she said, “Do you understand?” I lied and said yes, and it was just a scream.

Another time I was marching and giving them orders, and we marched in an armory when it was bad weather, which it usually was. I went in October and was there through March. But anyway, we were going right into a wall and I could not think of anything to say except, “Squad stop!” which I just yelled. Of course, that's not even a word you use. You use “halt.” Whereupon, thank goodness, whoever was in charge burst out laughing, so that saved me.

Another time we were marching down to Wiggins Tavern for dinner and we all wore garter belts to hold up our stockings. Mine came unhooked, and I could just feel everything sliding down around my ankles. So I marched off behind a bush in someone's yard and repaired the damage and then got back in at the end of the platoon, and no one ever said anything. But that was another. It could have been embarrassing. It wasn't.

JP:

It could have been, could have been, if the people had come out of their house and seen you in the yard. [chuckles]

AM:

I had to do something. Highly irregular.

JP:

That's a great story. Were you ever afraid at any time?

AM:

No, but I could have been when I was officer of the watch in this old creepy dorm up at Smith College. I think it was called Capen [House]. I don't know how old that dorm was. It was just huge, and it was wooden, and once an hour we had to walk through the whole dorm, all through the night, to check everything. And I can remember thinking it was awfully big and awfully dark across the top empty floor of that thing at night but I wasn't really afraid. I carried a flashlight.

No, I was never afraid in Washington. I was never afraid on the job. I never had any unpleasant experiences as far as anything of any nature.

JP:

Were you ever in any physical danger in your job?

AM:

No.

JP:

Tell me about your social life and what you did for fun while you were in the WAVES, besides taking your shirts to the Chinese laundry. You mentioned you went horseback riding. Anything else socially? Did you fraternize with military men and go to dances and that sort of thing?

AM:

Well, I think I had the usual social life of most young officers in the WAVES at that time. I had a wonderful time in Washington, and a lot of the men that I met had been flying and they'd been in combat, they'd been on ships that had been kamikazed and had come back on rotation. They didn't talk about it very much, but you knew that they had had a lot of experiences that we didn't understand and never knew about. Washington was filled with very interesting people at that time, and I met a lot of people that I've kept up with all the rest of my life.

JP:

Tell me more about interesting people in Washington. Can you elaborate on that a little bit?

AM:

When we got there, WAVE officers could go to the YWCA for two weeks only, and by that time you had to have found yourself another place to live, which wasn't easy. If you were enlisted you were put in a dorm somewhere, I suppose, but if you were an officer you had to find your own living quarters, and it was very crowded. I was fortunate enough to find a very pleasant family to move in with, and this lady was [Secretary of the Navy James] Forrestal's secretary. Her name was Ermadene Martin. So that was interesting. And then I knew several boys who worked for the Atomic Energy Commission, and I met Mr. [David] Lilienthal and different ones at parties. It was an interesting scene, and I had a lot of good friends.

JP:

What were some of your favorite songs during that time, can you remember?

AM:

Well, we sang Anchors Aweigh. I learned a lot of the songs. I learned a lot of the Yale songs and a lot of Wiffenpoof [Yale a cappella group] songs, just the usual college songs.

It was a very conservative group. I mean, on a Sunday afternoon—for example, six or eight bachelors would live together and have a big house, and the entertainment would either be touch football in the afternoon or else sit in a circle on the living room floor and sing, harmonize, and play stupid games, like “Pinchee-Winchee,” which you've never heard of and you don't want to. It's just pinching somebody's cheek. Did you ever hear of that?

JP:

Well, it sounds very interesting.

AM:

It's just pinch your cheek, but somebody has lipstick on his fingers, and whoever's sitting by that person doesn't realize it and she just gets more and more ridiculous-looking. And then you'd find out whether or not she's a good sport. Sometimes she wasn't.

JP:

Were you a good sport?

AM:

Oh, sure. But I don't know if I would have been if I had been the first one, because I knew what to expect after that.

JP:

Can you remember some of your favorite movies from that time? Did you all go to movies very much?

AM:

Yes. Actually, I used to like to go to the foreign movies. There was a movie house, in Washington called the Hippodrome, I think, and they had foreign movies that were good. We went to concerts. They had the Watergate Series or something, and we'd go in canoes and just sort of waft in the water. On the semi-circular steps, right in front of the Watergate apartment house now, there was a little amphitheater where they would give concerts. I remember going to fireworks that were fabulous on the Fourth of July near the Washington Monument. I get a little mixed up exactly when I did what. I came back in later years and worked for the Marshall Plan in Washington, and what I did in '45 and '46 may get mixed up with what I did in '48 and '49.

JP:

That's okay. Maybe we'll talk a little more about that, then, when we finish talking about the WAVES. I think you'll answer this one positively, but did you feel that you contributed to the war effort in your job?

AM:

I think I did. Well, I hope so. I never felt like I was terribly important. I felt like I was a very small cog in a very big wheel, and I liked the wheel I was in.

JP:

Describe to me your impressions of the mood of the country at the time during World War II.

AM:

The mood of the country was determination to defeat Hitler first and then to defeat Japan. And to do anything you could and no sacrifice was too great, as far as rationing and so forth, and people bought war bonds. I mean, our parents bought war bonds, and they contributed to a hospital in memory of my brother. Everyone did everything possible. Mainly, they donated their sons. I had a first cousin who was also killed on Saipan, and he had just graduated from college. He was a captain in the Second Marine Division, named Charles Hector Triplett. Death just destroyed families. I mean, war is terrible.

JP:

They donated daughters, as well, didn't they?

AM:

Well, I'm not a feminist, I'm afraid. It was mostly the sons in World War II.

JP:

What did you think of Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Mrs. [Eleanor] Roosevelt?

AM:

Well, my feelings about Mrs. Roosevelt have evolved to great admiration. When she came to Salisbury [North Carolina] and stayed in this ratty hotel on the railroad station side of town, I thought that was ridiculous. She was a real icebreaker on the civil rights and it took me a long time to really appreciate her. I think she was a marvelous person.

I don't know what I think of Franklin D. Roosevelt. I thought he was charming. I thought he was brilliant. I never quite trusted him, but then I may be wrong about that, too. I really am too ignorant to have a convinced opinion about him. Most people either hated him or loved him. He certainly made it difficult for manufacturers to produce anything as far as this Wagner Act [of 1935]. If there was a strike, the law was all in favor of the unions. Management had no say-so. So I heard both sides of that question as I was growing up. All of the Roosevelt children were divorced. We didn't have the same priorities as far as what was most important. But then they certainly have a whole lot more to show for their lives than I do. I don't know how to judge them exactly, is all I can say.

JP:

Who were some of your heroes during the war, then, heroes and/or heroines during the war?

AM:

Well, my main heroes were all those guys that flew bombing missions over Germany, and with such terrible attrition. My brother was the finest hero I know of because he kept volunteering to stay in India because he wasn't married. He didn't have a family. So I think he stayed when he didn't need to and was killed. There are so many heroes that we just never know about. I think all the mothers and all the Gold Star mothers are the real heroes.

JP:

Do you remember where you were when you heard about VE [Victory in Europe] Day and VJ [Victory in Japan] Day?

AM:

I was in Washington.

JP:

Do you remember, was there a lot going on in the office when you heard about it? Where you were working at the time?

AM:

I wasn't in the office. The most brilliant celebration I remember being at was in France on the 14th of July [Bastille Day] 1947. It was the first time they had lit the Champs-Élysées and they danced all night, and that was a real jubilant occasion.

JP:

You were there?

AM:

Yes.

JP:

Tell me some more about that. That's interesting. That's a good story.

AM:

That doesn't have anything to do with the WAVES. Actually, I went to Europe after I got out of the WAVES. My father said I could go to college anywhere I wanted to for another year, because I had finished Woman's College in three years with six weeks in Chapel Hill, which any idiot could arrange to do. [chuckles] So anyway, I went to the University of Geneva [Switzerland] and I went to the Sorbonne [Paris, France], and I was in Europe for over a year. I went in '46. I got out of the WAVES in August and went to Europe in September and stayed until October of '47.

JP:

I know that was a wonderful experience.

AM:

Sure was.

JP:

So you weren't really encouraged to return to a traditional female role after the service then, were you? You continued your education at that point.

AM:

I came back and went to Columbia Graduate School to learn German so I could go back and live in Austria. I fell in love with Austria.

JP:

And did you do that?

AM:

Well, I came back and with a first cousin and another friend, lived in New York. I took a year's German and Russian history and international affairs from Dr. Grayson Kirk, who then became president of Columbia, and he was president when they had all those sit-ins at the president's office, you remember, in the sixties. He had been out in San Francisco with the formation of the United Nations charter. He was most brilliant, and that was an interesting course. And I took French because I didn't want to have to study too hard and I could speak a little French.

JP:

Had you already had French at WC?

AM:

No, I took Spanish at WC, and I wouldn't have missed it for anything because I had Dr. Augustine LaRochelle, who was a most wonderful person. In order to learn how to make candy, she took chemistry. I was in her class on the morning, December 8, 1941, when Roosevelt declared war on Japan. Miss LaRochelle had brought her radio to class so that we could all hear that momentous speech, and I've always thought how wise she was to do that. She was an extraordinary person, absolutely wonderful.

JP:

Can you talk a little bit about your adjustment to civilian life? Did you feel like there was a very big adjustment for you?

AM:

No. I'm really not very militarily inclined. It was hard for me to get through that Officers' Candidate School and be on time and have my havelock on correct. The intellectual part wasn't hard.

JP:

What impact do you think that the military had on your life, then, long term?

AM:

Long term, I think it just had an impact of introducing me to a whole lot of people, friends that I kept the rest of my life that I would not ordinarily have met. And also I didn't ever feel left out of World War II. I felt left out the whole time I was in college because so much was going on.

JP:

And you wanted to be a part of it?

AM:

At WC different recruiters came and talked to the whole student body—I mean, they had these real tear-jerkers come. A lot of girls would just drop out and sign up at the talk's end, I'm sure. They really needed WACs and they really needed WAVES. I never wanted to do it until I had my college degree. I was slightly, but not overwhelming, tempted to join something during those years. But college wasn't as much fun as it had been for my brother and sister who were older than I was. I mean, everything kind of dropped off in a hurry in 1941 and '42.

JP:

Totally different experience.

AM:

Yes.

JP:

Do you feel like your life has been different because of the military?

AM:

Yes.

JP:

In what way?

AM:

Mainly just through my friends that I made. It hit very close to home. Dr. Hall was my English teacher, A[lonzo] C. Hall, and his son was a friend of my sister's. In fact, he was a good friend of my sister's, and she had flown with him. And then he was killed leaving an aircraft carrier. His plane just dribbled off the end. And then later his sister Sue was in my class, and she was a history major, too. We're not just talking abstract here; we're talking about people that we knew. We were all deeply affected by all of these deaths.

JP:

Do you consider yourself to be an independent person?

AM:

No. No. I consider myself an appendage to my husband, who died ten years ago, and I think I've been like a ship without a rudder ever since.

JP:

Do you feel like being in the military helped you be more independent than you were?

AM:

No. I don't think I'm the independent type. I really always did what I wanted to do, which was—I had a very wonderful marriage and we raised five wonderful children. I haven't decided what I'm going to do when I grow up yet. [chuckles]

JP:

[chuckles] Good for you. You don't have to decide these things. That's what I keep telling my eighteen-year-old daughter.

AM:

Yes, you do, because my energy kind of slacks off now. [chuckles] One time I came back to WC and gave a little talk on women in the government. Miss Taylor invited me back.

JP:

When did you do that?

AM:

In was in '49.

JP:

Did you talk to a group of students?

AM:

Yes, who didn't know what they wanted to do, and I was supposed to tell them about government work—at that time I was working for the Marshall Plan. So I came down from Washington and I stayed in a dorm for a couple of days. I've forgotten who I talked to, but anyway, I think Miss Taylor asked me to do it.

JP:

Great. That's good that you did that. Do you feel like you made a difference in their lives?

AM:

I have no idea.

JP:

Do you think that you and other women who were in the military were sort of forerunners of the women's movement?

AM:

Well, I wasn't. I don't know about the others.

JP:

Do you think that perhaps you opened doors that previously had been shut to women?

AM:

I never thought that I did. Wrong answers, I know, but sorry about that. [chuckles]

JP:

There are no wrong answers here. You talked some about your family. I know your brother was in the military. How about your children? Were any of them ever in the military?

AM:

Actually, yes. I had two sons that finished at VMI, Virginia Military Institute, when it was only for boys. My husband had gone to Washington and Lee [University], and I thought he was rather sadistic to send these boys to VMI. [chuckles] The youngest one stayed in air force intelligence and was in Korea, but he was never in a battle situation. And I felt particularly fortunate, because my brother had been born in December 1918, and the armistice had been signed in November 1918, and my mother thought the world was safe for democracy and so forth, and I always thought that was rather ironic that he was killed in World War II. I was sorry to have sons because I thought that they would all have to be killed in a war—I mean, every generation seemed to have a war. One son was eighteen and had to draw out of a fishbowl when he was a senior in prep school, but he got a very high number and did not have to go to Vietnam.

JP:

Luckily.

AM:

Yes. The war was over before the other boys became eighteen and they didn't have to draw a number.

JP:

How many daughters do you have?

AM:

I have two daughters and three sons.

JP:

Did any of your daughters ever consider going into the military?

AM:

No, because there was never any reason to.

JP:

Career-wise, I'm thinking.

AM:

No.

JP:

Maybe because of your influence.

AM:

No. The oldest daughter's a lawyer. And the younger daughter has never been in the military.

JP:

How do you feel about women in combat positions?

AM:

I think if they want to be there, that's okay. I certainly wouldn't want to be there. I always felt lucky I was a girl. I felt sorry for the boys my age when I was in college, and I had scorn for the males I knew who, one way or another, were able to be a draft dodger and are still happily living when my brother was killed. I just felt like that was a war we needed to all pull together in, World War II.

JP:

You know, in December of '98, they had women flying combat missions over Iraq. Do you approve of that?

AM:

Well, I admire them if they want to do that. I think it's their privilege. I think it should certainly be voluntary. But then I suppose it's voluntary for everybody. No one's being drafted. And so I think if a gal wants to do it, and can, more power to her.

JP:

Is there anything else you'd like to add about your military service, anything you can think of that maybe my questions have not brought out?

AM:

I'll say this, that I think there's nothing as stirring as a Sousa march, there's nothing as thrilling as being in a group with a lofty purpose.

[Begin Tape 1, Side 2]

AM:

To be a part of a noble cause. I had another wonderful teacher at Woman's College whose name was Jarrell.

JP:

Randall Jarrell?

AM:

Randall Jarrell. I took a course called Greek Tragedy from Mr. Jarrell, and I remember his saying “There's no tragedy without nobility.” I mean, you see where somebody like [John] Dillinger gets shot and you say, “Okay, so what?” And so that's no tragedy, because there was no nobility. But you think of all the tragedy that's connected with wars. To fight a war that is obviously the right thing to do, which World War II must have been, you feel that there was nobility, and it's nice to feel that you were part of it. I never felt that I was really part of the major effort. I did just such a little—and I did it as much for selfish reasons as for noble reasons, I'm afraid, but I'm glad that I did.

JP:

I think you had an important job, and I think you can feel like you were part of the war effort. Help keep up the morale. It's very important.

Okay, now you can tell me something about your life since the military, if you would. I'd love to hear about your work with the Marshall Plan.

AM:

That was just a wonderful cause, too, and I also had a very small—I didn't do very much as far as that was concerned, except that I enjoyed being part of that and I liked being back in Washington. I loved being in Washington.

Then I met my husband and resigned and I was married in 1950. He had been in the Marine Air Corps for five years during the war, and then after the war he wanted to keep flying so he went to China and flew for China National Airways Corporation, which Pan Am really ran for Chiang Kai-shek's Nationalist China. That was from '46 through '49, when the Communists ran them out of China. At the end, he was flying refugees out of Chongqing and Mukden [now Shenyang] and Chenhsien.

Then he came back and went back to his prep school to be the business manager and the treasurer, and that was Woodberry Forest School near Orange, Virginia. We were married and moved to this small prep school out in the country, and that's where we lived and stayed thirty-one years. Then he retired and we moved into Charlottesville, into his mother's house, who had died.

JP:

It's a beautiful house.

AM:

And so that's it.

JP:

Did you continue to work while you were married?

AM:

Yes, but I never got paid.

JP:

For shame.

AM:

If you're at a boys' school—

JP:

Wrong question.

AM:

Well, the day hands ate in my basement, three meals a day. And we had trustee meetings three times a year and dances three times a year and Parents Weekend, and we always had to be there. He ran it all, everything that wasn't academic.

JP:

And with your help.

AM:

Well, I enjoyed it. It was fun. Very nice people, nice place to raise a family.

JP:

Can you recommend other people who may be interested in doing interviews with us? Your friend that you called, for instance.

AM:

You mean other alumnae of WC?

JP:

Other veterans. No, they don't have to be alumnae of Woman's College. That was sort of our starter group because it was easy for us to come up with a list of names. But we've branched out quite a bit since then. We're interested in talking to women veterans of not just World War II, but other wars as well.

AM:

Yes, I can put my mind to it and think of two or three others who were in the service who are in Charlottesville.

JP:

That would be great, and I'll get their names from you before I leave.

AM:

All right.

JP:

Well, that's basically the end of the interview questions. If you don't mind, I'm just going to say this is the end of the formal interview. But I know you had some photographs and maybe some papers we could look at together.

AM:

I'll be happy to show you what I have.

JP:

Sometimes things occur to you. As you're looking at things, you might want to tell little stories. So if you don't mind, I'll just leave the tape running.

AM:

I would just like to say that I do think when I joined the service that it was called the Women's Auxiliary Volunteer Emergency Service, and I cannot find that on any of my papers now that I'm in a hurry. But I do believe that's what it was called in 1944 when I joined.

JP:

We're going to do some more research on that one and see if we can pin that down, and if I get an answer for you, I'll let you know.

AM:

Thank you.

JP:

Now, you did say that I could have—

AM:

Have you turned it off?

JP:

I'm just going to leave it running for now, just in case other things come up while we're talking. Just ignore it. The formal interview is over.

AM:

I was going to tell you some really interesting things I've done. [Tape recorder turned off.]

—on terminal leave, you could fly on—what were the airplanes called? You have to wait. Turn it off a minute until I think about it. You would fly on NATS, Naval Air Transportation Service. They had these big four-engine planes and you could go anywhere on NATS, on terminal leave, if there was room. Okay? So this friend and I, Alice Caroll Parker, who was a class ahead of me, and I think she did sew on her j.g. stripes. Anyway, we went to Puerto Rico and we stayed in San Juan at the naval station in the infirmary, and we had a wonderful time. We went aboard a submarine and had lunch one day and went all through it, this really fine submarine. We came back, and then we went to Bermuda.

JP:

Was that a different trip?

AM:

Yes, came back to Patuxent and washed all our clothes and turned around and went to Bermuda, and we stayed for two weeks at St. George at the White Horse Inn. It was run by somebody named Arthur, and it cost us a dollar and a half a night. He liked WAVES.

JP:

You are kidding me.

AM:

And while we were there, they canceled the AlNav [all navy communication] that said that WAVES could travel, because they were trying to bring back the army personnel who were there. So we were going to have to pay seventy dollars to come back by Pan Am, and I heard there was a ship up at the naval operating base at the other end of the island that was leaving to go to New York, and I heard the captain was from Salisbury, North Carolina. So we took ourselves out there and we met him, and he invited us for lunch, and he invited to go back on his ship if we wanted to. So we had a four-day cruise back to New York. And I'm trying to think of the name of the ship. It was the AKA—I don't know—“Yancy.” It was the one that bumped into the Chesapeake Bay Bridge later on. Anyway, he couldn't have been nicer. And I thought we were going to hit the Brooklyn Bridge when we went under it. I was just sure we were going to and I ran up to the bow of the ship so it wouldn't fall on me.

JP:

It's nice to have connections during the war, wasn't it, someone from Salisbury. You could say, “Well, I was a little Albemarle girl.”

AM:

When we were going to Puerto Rico, we flew into the naval operating base at Norfolk, and we were told we'd have twenty minutes. We ran in and I was writing my parents a card to tell them what I was up to, and when I came back through the waiting room, it was empty and the plane was taxiing down the runway. And so I drew myself up to my full officer's height and gave command to this little seaman on a little jeep that said “Follow me.” I said, “Stop that plane.”

He didn't have any more sense than I did, and he ran out and he went around that airplane wing and got in front of it and waved his arms and the plane came to a stop. He came back and got us, and we climbed up on the jeep and went to the side of the plane. The door opened, and they pulled us up by our arms. I remember my hat flew off in the propeller wash. Anyway, we got on the plane and hunkered down in the back seat.

In a minute, this gal came back, the flight attendant, who was an enlisted WAVE, and she said, “If your name is not on the manifest, you can't go.”

I said, “Well, we were on there. We came from Washington on this plane and our suitcases are on this plane.” She finally found our names at the very bottom.

JP:

You had to stay on the plane.

AM:

Right.

JP:

That's where your suitcases were.

AM:

That just shows you. [chuckles] That was ridiculous. She said the only other time they'd ever stopped a plane after it had been cleared for takeoff was to have an admiral be brought up.

JP:

And you did it and you were an ensign.

AM:

I didn't know any better. The pilot thought something was wrong with the number-four engine, she said. Turn that thing off, will you, please?

JP:

Okay, we're going to turn it off now.

[End of Interview]