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The Betty H. Carter Women Veterans Historical Project

Oral history interview with Beverly Barksdale Sheppe, 1999

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Object ID: WV0103.5.001

Description: Interview primarily documents Sheppe's Red Cross work in New Guinea and the Philippines from 1942 to 1945, but also her later Red Cross service in Europe and civilian career in social work.

Summary:

Sheppe briefly describes her education, noting memorable professors and staff at the Woman’s College of the University of North Carolina (now the University of North Carolina at Greensboro) in the late 1930s, including James Taylor, Katherine Taylor, and Josephine Hege. She then describes her parents’ reactions when she joined the Red Cross; her training; clerical work in hospitals; and dealing emotionally with soldiers’ illnesses and deaths.

Topics related to Sheppe's service in Pacific include traveling on the Clip Fontaine and being hit by another American ship; the staging process at Finschhafen; the invasion of Leyte, Philippines; air raids at Lingayen Gulf; seeing the effects of a recent battle in Manila, Philippines; talking to wounded soldiers in evacuation hospitals; celebrations when the war ended; awful weather in New Guinea; trips to New Britain, Papua New Guinea, and Baguio, Philippines; coping with danger and death; social life overseas; relationships with New Guineans and Filipinos; contracting mononucleosis; and anecdotes involving army chaplains and Jack Benny; and her brother’s experiences during the invasion of the Philippines.

Post-war topics include her experiences while stationed in Germany, including its destruction and German attitudes toward Americans. She also briefly notes her subsequent career as a social worker and family life.

Creator:

Biographical Info:

Collection: Beverly Barksdale Sheppe 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 from UNCG [The University of North Carolina at Greensboro]. I'm in the home of Mrs. Beverly Barksdale Sheppe, who served in the Red Cross during World War II.

Just to begin with, we usually like to ask a few questions about your background, where were you born and where did you grow up and what did your family do, that sort of thing.

BS:

I was born in Hopewell, Virginia, and my family moved about quite a bit. Lived in various small towns in Virginia—they were both from Virginia—then moved to Greensboro at the time I was three years old, so I grew up in Greensboro.

JP:

Where did you go to high school when you were in Greensboro?

BS:

What is now Grimsley [High School]. It used to be Greensboro Senior High.

JP:

My daughter was part of the 100th graduating class this year.

BS:

Oh, my. That's marvelous.

JP:

It's a wonderful school.

BS:

It really—I told someone I didn't go to Grimsley, because they changed the name.

JP:

So when you were at Woman's College [of the University of North Carolina, now UNCG], you were a day student, is that correct?

BS:

Yes.

JP:

So you never actually lived on campus.

BS:

No.

JP:

But you were very involved in activities on campus, weren't you? You seemed to have been relatively athletic.

BS:

I started out in the—they had a very well-developed physical education department, and I started out there, but I ended up in sociology. So I was in things like Orchesis, the dance group, and things like that.

JP:

Did you enjoy that?

BS:

Oh, yes.

JP:

Do you remember any of your favorite professors from WC [Woman's College]?

BS:

Let's see. I remember—it's terrible, but my memory is shot. I can remember especially with high school, but unfortunately I can't remember the English teacher whom I liked very much. Mr. [James W.] Painter. I remember and I liked very much. The others I can't really remember their names, but I liked them all.

JP:

More from when you got into your sociology courses?

BS:

Yeah.

JP:

Can you talk a little bit about your social life while you were at WC? What types of things were you involved in socially?

BS:

At the university?

JP:

At the school.

BS:

Very few.

JP:

Do you remember some of the main administrators there, like Katherine Taylor?

BS:

I remember Katherine Taylor. She taught French. It's just hard for me to name them. Miss [Josephine] Hege [professor of history].

JP:

Josephine Hege.

BS:

Josephine Hege. I'm trying to think of the English teacher. I just can't think of it. Name some others.

JP:

The English teacher was a woman?

BS:

Older woman.

JP:

I'm trying to think who was there during that period.

BS:

Taught freshman English.

JP:

Was Miss Elliott, Harriet Elliott?

BS:

Oh, yes. I remember her quite well. And Miss [Louise] Alexander. You couldn't forget them.

JP:

Right. I think Miss Elliott and Miss Taylor apparently had that impression on a lot of girls there.

BS:

Well, Miss Alexander, also. She taught government. She was such a feisty little woman.

JP:

Was it Grace Alexander? Was that her first name?

BS:

I don't know.

JP:

I'll look that up when I get back. So you finished at WC in 1940, and I believe after that you did some graduate work, didn't you?

BS:

I did a year of graduate work in social work at Tulane [University], and then decided I had enough education at that point. I had a brief job at—I call it a job—in Winston-Salem [North Carolina] with the welfare department. That lasted about nine months, when I was attracted to the Red Cross, and I joined the Eastern Area and the hospital. And because of having one year of graduate work, I would end up invariably, at the tender age of twenty-two, as what they called the assistant field director who was in charge of the hospital group. That could be kind of excruciating, but I was in several places in the United States. When I hit twenty-four, I asked to go overseas, and finally got there.

JP:

There was an age limit to go into the Red Cross, wasn't there?

BS:

What?

JP:

Was there an age limit to go into the Red Cross?

BS:

You mean, under which you could—

JP:

Under which you could not go.

BS:

There was one in which you couldn't go overseas.

JP:

Overseas, okay.

BS:

I said I was twenty-two when I started. I was in there two years before they went to give me an overseas assignment when I was twenty-four.

JP:

They took the girls with a college education, didn't they? I think you had to have a college degree to go in?

BS:

Yes, you had to have a college degree. You were lucky because they were short of people with any graduate social work, and so that helped me along.

JP:

What led you into hospital work? You didn't have a medical background. You didn't take nursing courses, right? You were a sociology major.

BS:

No, no. In the first year of graduate social work, you have classes in medical information and things like that so that you can fit in where you want to. Because they needed social workers in the hospital, that was where I ended up. And I wouldn't be very good at recreation. I had to do it after I got overseas for a period of time, but that wasn't too difficult.

JP:

Where did you enter the Red Cross?

BS:

Alexandria, Virginia, the Eastern Area of Red Cross.

JP:

Eastern Area in Alexandria. What do you remember about your first day?

BS:

It's mind-boggling. There were a large group of people there, and they had housed us in various hotels. I met a very—she was from Greensboro—a very attractive—and I can't remember her name right now—red-haired girl. You know how you are when you're in a place. You think, “Well, I'll see if I can't?” You had to share a room. So we shared a room.

I went through all the various training—not training, but preparation things, and that was through the local, home Red Cross. Later, when I went back for the overseas, it was a little different. You were told who your group was, and you received various orientation things for going overseas. And then you received your assignment. At that point, you were going. And you received the group that you were going with. I was the youngest person in my group, and I had to be the assistant field director, because I was the only one with social work background.

JP:

Do you remember how many were in your group?

BS:

We had a secretary, two recreation workers, and myself.

JP:

And they all ended up at the hospital?

BS:

They were at the hospital, the Red Cross there.

JP:

When you went overseas, did you go back for this orientation at Alexandria again?

BS:

Oh, yes. Now, in this country, they had a huge Red Cross staff. I mean, pretty large in station hospitals. My first one was Camp Lee [Petersburg, Virginia] and I went from there to Ashford General Hospital, which was in the White Sulphur Springs [West Virginia] hotel [The Greenbrier]. And then they insisted I had to take over a small hospital. I tried to get out of this, because I was not very experienced. Anyway, I took over the one at Bowman Field [Louisville, Kentucky] and I was it, I was the Red Cross. At that point, I enjoyed it, because I did everything. I had the recreation and listening to the sad stories and all that. But I still wanted to go overseas, and I kept bedeviling them. I was twenty-four when I was called into Washington, with a whole group of people. They had various training things, and then told who our staff was going to be, and from there we started out.

JP:

Why were you so interested in going overseas?

BS:

Because I had a need to be into whatever was going on.

JP:

When you left to go overseas, was this the first time that you had been away from home for any extended period of time?

BS:

No. Well, I went to graduate school in New Orleans. I guess that was. It was.

JP:

And the longest?

BS:

Not when I went overseas, but when I went into the Red Cross, because then I was stationed at Camp Lee and then at Ashford General Hospital, which was White Sulphur Springs hotel. It was a very nice place that we stayed. And then from there to the single-person station hospital, and from the station hospital I went overseas.

JP:

When you were thinking about Red Cross work, did you ever consider joining one of the other military branches of the service?

BS:

No. It came up in terms of my—I was very [unclear] social work, and it came up in terms of that. The Welfare Department wasn't pleasing me very much, and I needed another year graduate work in order to get into a more complicated setting. So I decided that I would like to be in the midst of things, and they needed social workers, fortunately, or else they probably would have told me to go age a little bit.

JP:

Because you were so young. But it was good experience when you'd been, and a good career move, too.

BS:

Yes.

JP:

How did your parents feel about you joining the Red Cross? Were they supportive?

BS:

Well, they even began having the feelings when I came in one day and said I wasn't going to be a physical education major, I was going to go into sociology and be a social case worker, since I had some hyperchondriasis, I was going to be in hospital work, I said. They became very concerned, because they felt I would have all the diseases—which I did. Then I got over them much more easier than the people who had them. And from there, I went on to the first year of graduate school.

JP:

They knew by then that you were strong-willed and independent.

BS:

Oh, they knew that long before that.

JP:

Do you feel like, not just your parents, but your other family and friends, were supportive of your decision?

BS:

Oh, yes.

JP:

I think there was a real feeling that everyone needed to contribute in some way at that time.

BS:

I think so. It became very strong, I think, as time went on.

JP:

Let's get into your actual job. Could you describe a typical day? Let's start with when you were still in the United States and tell me what your work was like.

BS:

You had one clerical-type job, which was to be sure that all people—there were many discharges, section eights, and physical, health difficulties that came up even in the first training period of soldiers. You'd see them and fill out a form, which assured them that you made a record for them with the Red Cross in case anything came up or they needed help with anything. And then you went about spreading “goodwill and happiness.”

You heard very sad stories and tried to help. There'd be these young men who just came in for their basic training, and there were some very sad situations, like one young man had come from a mining family. He looked like he'd never been in the sun. He became ill, and apparently it took him several days to get attention. He kept saying he had a very sore throat, but he had no fever. That's the way the army was. So they said, “Well, go on back to your work.” And finally, he was just weeping, and a chaplain came by and heard his story and took him in and made them check him over, because he looked sick. He had leukemia, and he had the kind that moves very rapidly. And so with him and his family, you know, just seeing their eighteen-year-old, nineteen-year-old. I met the family on the train. We had a place for people to stay that were visiting a sick relative in the hospital, and so we hooked them up and helped them through the experience.

JP:

It must have taken some strong control over your own emotions to be able to do that type of work and to spread good cheer when things could be so depressing.

BS:

Yes. Well, you primarily had two things—spreading some good cheer, but also in the social work part of it, you needed to handle emotional difficulties and adjustment difficulties, and the thing with this family that they had to come and see their son, and he didn't live. You had to help them get through it. You got them back on the train.

JP:

So they used the Red Cross to perform these functions in hospitals.

BS:

In the hospital. I don't know what the—they called him a field director. It was usually a man on the base. I don't know what their function was. But in the hospital, this was primarily social work.

JP:

Let's hold off talking about your work when you got overseas until we actually reach that point, and then remind me if I don't go back to that. A lot of these questions are geared more towards women in the military, so I'll shift gears a little bit and think whether this could be relevant to you or not. But one of the things that we have been asking our women who were in the military is whether or not they encountered any discrimination and did they feel that they were treated equally in their positions. Did you have men who were working in the Red Cross, as well?

BS:

Yes. In the States, we certainly did. I didn't encounter them overseas, so that wasn't a problem. In the States, their backgrounds were varied and when they thought of supervising a person in social work, they weren't too adequate, but they did the best they could. And overseas, they were very important in units, regiments and things. They served a purpose there for soldiers who needed to talk to somebody, needed help. They had some very good people. Did I answer that question?

JP:

I think you did. I'm assuming you were talking about the men at that point.

You never felt like you received any special treatment because you were a woman in your position?

BS:

No. The only time you felt that is if you were boarding a troop ship or something and you received all this help because you didn't look strong enough to carry a duffle bag or something. Otherwise, no.

JP:

Oh, little did they know. [chuckles]

BS:

Little did they know.

JP:

How long total were you in the Red Cross, and I guess I need to sort of pinpoint dates when you joined?

BS:

Both in this country and overseas?

JP:

Yes. Let's just combine your total service there.

BS:

Nine months in Winston-Salem, that's 1942. From about the spring of 1942, and if you want to carry that, I also continued a post-war in the occupation thing over in Europe. Do you want to include that?

JP:

Let's include that, and let's remember to talk about that, too.

BS:

From '42 to '48.

JP:

Wow. A long time.

BS:

Saw the world.

JP:

I want to get into that, too. I want to hear about that. So you practically did make it a career, didn't you?

BS:

Actually, for me, it was social work as a career. I was interested in what the Red Cross had to offer me, which was moving about in all kinds of places and countries.

JP:

Since your situation is a little different from the other lady I interviewed here, who was mainly stationed in Washington, I guess what I need to do is get a feel for your chronology, where you served, and as we move from place to place, could you just tell me a little bit about your job and what you were doing while you were there. And can we start with when you went overseas.

BS:

When I went overseas, I was the head of a unit of five Red Cross workers. I said what that was involved in. And assigned to a hospital, a general hospital we were assigned to.

JP:

That was at the 120th?

BS:

The 120th General Hospital, which I served very little time with them. But we were shipped out of Washington to Jackson, Mississippi, where it was staging, as they call it, and were there with them for, oh, four or five days, not knowing anybody, and they kind of looked at us as scats because we were this odd group.

We were put on a troop train and ended up in Oakland, California, staging area, and got our first taste of—we had to be included with the nurses to march and learn to march and to learn how to abandon ship. They had ropes going up the side of these tall towers, and you had to go up and come down and all this stuff. We were in with the nurses, and we had one woman doctor, who was very strange. But the women were all in one area.

After that staging, we were given all kinds of shots and physicals and then ready to go into—we were ready to get on ship. We were taken by a convoy to San Francisco, where we were put on board a ship. We drew a ship called the Clip Fontaine, which was a Dutch pleasure cruiser.

JP:

How long did all this take in Oakland?

BS:

In Oakland? Let's see. It didn't take over about two weeks, I guess.

JP:

Okay, back to the Clip Fontaine.

BS:

Well, it was a troop ship, and it carried troops and this hospital unit, which were all the doctors, nurses, and physical therapists and the paramedic people. The ship had been on its first cruise, its maiden voyage, so to speak, when it was caught in the middle of the war situation, and so the United States took it on at a fee to use for transporting troops. And the Dutch insisted on keeping their own staff and crew and everything and dining room, and so we ate very well. We just lived very well on that ship, living on officer's status. The meals were five or six courses and all this business. And they had a crew of Indians from Calcutta who didn't speak any English, and they had to have a ceremony of them killing their goats at all their meals.

JP:

They did this on board ship?

BS:

Yes.

JP:

Did you watch that?

BS:

No. No, I didn't. We just knew that procedure went on. In order to get to our quarters, we had to go through theirs, and they would be cooking goat or whatever. It was twenty-one days, I think, from San Francisco to Oro Bay.

JP:

Did you get seasick at all?

BS:

No, I don't get seasick. One of my staff got seasick. She had the upper bunk and I had the lower, and I said, “I think we'll change.”

JP:

I think that was a good decision. So you landed at Oro?

BS:

We didn't land there. The first land we got to was Oro Bay, New Guinea. We were in the harbor there for several days. We'd been hit by another ship, damaged but not a hole in the side or anything, and they had to have a trial on it, because the ship belonged to the Dutch and it was hit by and American liberty ship. Those were the cargo ships. But they had to settle all that to the Dutchmen's satisfaction. We didn't get off the ship. And from there, we went to Finschhafen, [New Guinea], where we did get off the ship and remained for at least six months, I guess.

Our hospital wasn't in the place it should have been to set up and operate, and it went into a staging process, which meant just they got bored to tears. We didn't. The Red Cross spread us around in the other hospitals. There was one general hospital. I was trying to think of the name of it. Thirteenth comes to mind, General Hospital. We were assigned there for a period of time. We were assigned there to help out in a club, so we had to go and do recreation work for the 33rd Division club, which was also staging. That was an interesting experience. They had a tent for the recreation hall.

We also did some helping at the hospital, where they had already had a staff. This went on for several months, and then I went to a station hospital as a social worker. Our unit was spread out all around everywhere. We were in Finschhafen I think for six months. I know we went through some dry season and some wet season.

Then they began the invasion of Leyte, [Philippines]. I got a letter from, it was an older doctor who kind of took the Red Cross under his wing, I guess. He had decided he had to get into this. He must have been in his fifties. He therefore volunteered his medical services. So he had gone to Leyte. He volunteered himself to be—he wanted to be in the midst of things, I think—to be on one of the ships going into the Leyte Invasion. I had a letter that he wrote to me. He couldn't send it home, because you can't give this information outside. He had to write it down, so he sent it to me. It was very interesting.

JP:

Do you still have it?

BS:

Yes. It was very difficult to read. He gave this description. He was on a ship, and they were hit by kamikaze and so forth and so on. They had to abandon ship and went ashore, and he got jungle rot, which was a terrible ailment over there. But he got over it. He wouldn't go home. They told him they would send him home. He wouldn't go. He was not going to miss anything.

JP:

He felt like he had more to do there.

BS:

He was an interesting guy. I don't know why I was telling you that.

JP:

Was he at the hospital where you were working?

BS:

He was to be with our hospital, which was staging, and that's why he volunteered to go as a medical person on one of these invasion ships. We were in New Guinea, just going from helping out one hospital to helping out another. It was pretty hard on people, and it went on for so long, because the general hospital doesn't set up in an area like that, and they had to wait. It was destined to go to Manila, [Philippines], but they had to wait until they took the Philippines where they were to operate.

But the Red Cross was fortunate because they—and the nurses, who were quickly assigned to various places. We did the club work, and then I was transferred to a station hospital, just temporarily, where I did just the work I do, seeing patients and so forth. And then we went through part of the rainy season and part of the dry season, and then they were beginning to move us. They didn't move the hospital, but they moved all the nurses and Red Cross people up to Leyte, and so we were put aboard ship. We were assigned to something called the 21st Evac[uaction] Hospital, which we didn't know anything about until we got to Leyte. Not Leyte. We had a stopover in Leyte. We got to Leyte and were there for about a week, just parked there.

I had a brother over there. He was in a lab, and he was all gung-ho on gas gangrene. He tried to get in on the first wave, right after the first wave, so he could catch this stuff when it started. And I ran into him in Leyte, and he was busy trying to get himself up to Luzon, [Philippines], the location of Subic Bay and Corregidor, because he knew that they were going to paratroop on to Corregidor and he wanted to get in right away to check these people so he could see the beginning of the gas gangrene. He just went up and told them he had some blood. He saw some blood at the airport getting ready to be sent up to Luzon, and so he attached himself to the blood and he said he was responsible to get it up there. He was with some lab. I don't know how he managed all this, but he could do it. But anyway, he got up there.

When we got up on a hospital ship to Subic Bay, he found out that I was on board ship, so he came over and we had a nice long chat. He was telling about how horrible it was on Corregidor, because they dropped the paratroopers, and it was very rugged and they broke legs and other injuries before they could even un-parachute.

JP:

What was your brother's name?

BS:

Lane Barksdale, W[alter] Lane Barksdale.

JP:

Was he in the military?

BS:

He was in the military. He was with a military laboratory, because he was assigned. He was a botanist at that point, but that's how he ended up. He ended up, later on, being a microbiologist. It was kind of nice. Well, you'd run into people you knew.

JP:

Nice to run into a family member at that point, I'm sure.

BS:

He had told me he was sure of where I was going to end up. I'd gotten a letter from him, but he was already over in New Guinea. I'm going backwards now. And when I arrived, I realized it was the same APO [army post office] number. I told them that I had a brother over there in that area somewhere. You know, they went in and made a city on the edge of the jungle, like a whole village. My brother was just impressed with this, what the army was able to do in a short period. So I found him the first day I got there. That was nice. I had a pretty lucky time in that.

Now where was I? I was going up to Luzon. We came up on the day the army was in Subic Bay when they were invading Corregidor. You could see all the activity and everything. And then they took us up from Subic Bay to something they called Lingayen Gulf, where there was an evacuation hospital. We disembarked there and joined the evac hospital, and that night we had the first air raid that we had come in contact with. The Japanese had few planes left at that point. Just enough to do nuisance raids.

JP:

Nuisance raids?

BS:

Nuisance raids. They hit the ammunition dump. It was quite an experience. Our secretary was just panic-stricken, went into a state of decline. I said that I heard planes, and we went out to look around, and about then, when they hit the ammunition dump, we hit the ground. They just put off. We had just arrived that day, and they put us off, not knowing quite what to do with us, and then we proceeded to be a Red Cross for that little hospital.

From there, at night we were moved from Lingayen Gulf to Tagaytay Ridge. We had to go through Manila to get there, and they were fighting in Manila. We arrived at the outskirts, and it was just like seeing fireworks. The battle was going on in the walled city, which was a terrible battle. They were closed in there, the Japanese and Americans. And so they stopped our convoy outside the city so we could go through in the daytime, and we were there all night.

The next morning, they started out trying to get through Manila, and there were a few soldiers around to re-route them, because they were moving all the hospitals, and they had to go through Manila to get to Tagaytay Ridge, which had been, at some point, a resort or something outside of Manila. We came through that morning. It was pretty awful. You kind of numbed yourself. It was your first experience at seeing bodies all over the place. So we got through there with people directing here and saying, “You can't go that way. They're still fighting in the walled city.”

We got to Tagaytay Ridge, and it had just been evacuated by the Japanese. There was some sort of institution, so it made a good hospital. The Japanese had been using it that way, and it was full of vermin—bedbugs. We were so tired by then, I remember everybody just fell out.

JP:

They didn't care about the vermin at that point.

BS:

No. I worried a little bit, but it didn't take me any time to go to sleep. And so we were there at that hospital for as long as it took to clear out Manila. The Japanese had mined all the big buildings so that they could set them off at one time. They had done that, so it was a real mess.

Our hospital was supposed then to set up in Santo Tomas, which was the University of Santo Tomas in Manila. We stayed with the evac hospital and had things like the young man who was brought in, severely injured. I went to talk to him, and he started telling about his experience. He did this for several days, and then he got it all out of his system. But he just couldn't do anything but talk about it. He kept saying, “I just wanted to live. I just wanted to live.” They believed he was dead when the Japanese went through to get their souvenirs, and they just took his arms and brought them straight up over his head dislocating his shoulders. He said he never said a word because he just wanted to live so bad. They took whatever they could get for souvenirs. He managed to go for miles. He would be on his feet during the day, and at night he managed to get up into a nipa hut, using his rump and just bumping himself along, and this must have gone on for days. He said, “I just knew that I had to live.” He told this story over and over again, and then one day he didn't tell it anymore.

JP:

He just had to.

BS:

He impressed me, and a lot of others impressed me. But the evac hospital was where you got them from the first-aid stations. The next stop was the evacuation hospital. They stayed there for emergency treatment, and then they were moved on to a station hospital, then to a general hospital, and then home. So the evac hospital was where you really met people who had had it.

JP:

The tough cases.

BS:

You didn't have anywhere to sit except on the hospital bed. I remember I went in to this young man and I went to sit down. He wanted a letter written. I went to sit down, and he said, “Oh, you're sitting on my leg.” He didn't have the leg. The leg wasn't there. He said, “Oh, I still feel it. I just knew you were sitting on my leg, it hurt so bad.” It scared me to death.

I went from there to Santo Tomas to the general hospital, our hospital, for the first time after a year. Our Red Cross unit was in a nipa hut across from the main university building. It was a very lovely university.

JP:

So your accommodations were fairly good there?

BS:

For the Red Cross activities? Yes.

JP:

And your living situation.

BS:

We were in the barracks with the nurses and doctors.

JP:

During some of this moving around, did you have to live in tents?

BS:

We were in a tent up at Lingayen Gulf, when they were bombing things. We heard them all getting into their little foxholes, and we didn't have any foxholes. So we just watched. It was the only thing we could do. They forgot to tell us what to do and where were the foxholes.

JP:

I didn't mean to interrupt there, but I did want to ask about your living conditions.

BS:

They were right along with the rest of the personnel of the hospital. We stayed in the nurses—no, we were in a tent in Lingayen Gulf. They didn't know what to do with us. We went around and saw patients and made ourselves useful. We had to do a lot of that. But when we got to Tagaytay Ridge, that was our hospital. That was the first time we operated. We stayed there until the end of the war.

JP:

You were at Santo Tomas?

BS:

The University of Santo Tomas. The hospital was in one of the main buildings.

JP:

And that was the 120th?

BS:

The 120th.

JP:

You were there until the end of the war?

BS:

Yes.

JP:

Tell me about that, about the end. Do you remember where you were when you heard about it?

BS:

Yes. I was in the barracks that I was occupying, getting ready to go to sleep. Guns went off and shooting started and all this going on. What's going on? I thought we were being attacked. They were celebrating the dropping of the horrible atomic bomb to end the war.

JP:

I just want to ask a few questions about—

[End Tape 1, Side A—Begin Tape 1, Side B]

JP:

The emotional aspects of your work, and have told some stories that would have been very difficult. Can you think back to what the hardest thing you had to do emotionally was?

BS:

That one with the young man.

JP:

When you thought you were sitting on his leg?

BS:

No, the one that had such a time trying to live and went through all the pain. I was highly impressed because he kept repeating that he “just wanted to live,” that was all, “just wanted to live.” It brings it home to you. Primarily, these were the sort of [unclear].

One funny one I had. A young man, he saw me writing letters for everybody else, and his injuries came from being careless with a machine gun. It got loose, and he was just around in the area. He was very young, and it ended up he ends up being wounded. And so he saw me writing letters, and he wanted to write a letter to his mother. He started out, “Dear Mom. I have fifteen bullet holes in my chest.” I said, “Let's start over.” I couldn't get him away from those fifteen. I said, “She'll think your air-conditioned if you write that. You don't want to do that to your mother. You're in good shape. You're just lucky.” But no, I couldn't get around it to save my life. He was going to have it go or else. That one impressed me.

Most of them were terrific, these people. They were wounded, they were hurt, but they were terrific. They didn't want to worry their parents. So this was a red-letter day when I had this one.

JP:

What was one of the hardest things you had to do physically?

BS:

Physically? Well, as I said, it was difficult to do anything hard physically. We were being shipped from—if you were small, the soldiers were sure that you couldn't lift your duffel bag or other gear. You'd have to say, “No, I can do it myself.” But sometimes you didn't have a chance. I guess the traveling, you know, and the convoy and moving all night and things like that. But otherwise, I don't think physically we had too much.

Heat was the worst thing in New Guinea. Then when the dry season came, it wasn't like any other dry. It was dry. There was no rain for six months. And then when it started raining, you molded. It would just rain for six months. That was painful.

We did have some breaks. Some Australians wanted to give us a trip over to a place called New Britain [Papua New Guinea] on our day off, a couple of us. We didn't handle it very well. We were supposed to be back in our barracks at a very reasonable time, and they had this little thirty-five-foot motor launch. It had a stove in the middle of the deck, and they had a man running the boat and two other fellows for crew. There were two of us. One of my recreation workers was stationed at a hospital down below where I was. We decided to take a chance on it, and we wanted to go see something native. So we went to New Britain and traded with the natives. They would meet us with “Me, mission boy,” meaning he had learned English from the missionaries. They were just delightful people. They were just great. But they wanted only talcum powder, and we didn't have any talcum powder.

JP:

I was wondering, what did you trade.

BS:

We had other things, like lipsticks and all kind of stuff, but they wanted powder. But we managed to trade a few things for shells and hair combs made out of bamboo, etc.

But on the way back, we got into a huge storm with this little thirty-five-foot thing. The waves were coming up on all sides, and the stove went off into the ocean. The man on the back of the boat where we were said to man—I think he'd been drinking beer all day, I don't know—the man who was running the boat said “Take it through the trough. Take it through the trough.” The man said, “There ain't no trough,” because the waves were just fierce and choppy. Finally he yells, “Abandon ship,” and we just burst out laughing, you know. We thought that was the funniest thing we'd ever heard of. It was a milling sea out there. So we just laughed.

JP:

You refused to abandon.

BS:

We just laughed. We got back, and then we were restricted because we got back so late, after our curfew time. But it was an interesting experience.

Manila was quite different. This same doctor that wrote me about his experience at Leyte managed to get the nicest assignments, and he got himself assigned as the doctor at Baguio, [Philippines], which was the resort area, and cool, up high in the mountains. He said, “I want you to see Baguio.” He was a father figure. He just took over when we got on board that ship. There were two others that were with him. One was named Gallagher. I've forgotten the other one's name. They were practicing at Santo Tomas, and they had a nun who had broken her hip and they wanted to get her up to her order near Baguio.

This was wheeling-dealing. It happened all the time. But he told them to let me come. I said, “But I can't do that. I'm not a nurse.”

“She doesn't need a nurse, just somebody to hold her hand.”

So we took this trip to Baguio. We got trips like that.

When I came home and I couldn't settle down, I went to Europe, the occupation.

JP:

Had a taste of wanderlust.

BS:

Yes. It took a while to unwind.

JP:

Can you tell me what your most embarrassing moment was?

BS:

Oh, dear.

JP:

Did you have any of those?

BS:

What would you call embarrassing?

JP:

Something that made you feel uneasy or—

BS:

Silly.

JP:

Silly.

BS:

I'm sure I had many of them, but I can't really—I would hardly dwell on them. I can't think of any.

JP:

These next two questions are related, and you've already touched a little bit on your experiences in actually going through a battle. Were you ever afraid?

BS:

It was really very strange. I kept saying you develop a numbness or distanced yourself from it. We watched all this. No, I didn't feel afraid, because I guess I was somewhere else. I mean, you know, I just—I can't describe it. But you get to the point where you've seen enough damage and enough injuries and sadness that you're numb, in a sense, and you just don't feel it's going to get that close to you. It's that invulnerability.

JP:

So even though you were at times in physical danger, were you not?

BS:

Yes, I guess you would say that, but not—you weren't by yourself.

JP:

No, right.

BS:

When you're with a group, you can stand a lot more than if you're just by yourself.

JP:

I guess when you have a military escort, you feel a little safer, too.

BS:

That's right.

JP:

That was a wonderful story about the boat trip to New Britain.

BS:

Australians are interesting. They were so interesting. They were different. I don't know what they were over there for. They kept a little harbor patrol group there.

JP:

Were there other things that you did when you had free time? What was your social life like?

BS:

In New Guinea, they would have dances. You'd go to the dance and jitterbug and do all kinds of dancing at some staging area. We had a regiment, the 33rd Division was two miles one way from us, and then I've forgotten what the one was down the other way. In fact, we did the club work at the 33rd Division. So they would get together and have a dance and try to find as many women as they could to dance with. It was very sad, as far as being so few women and so many men.

JP:

You were very in demand at dances.

BS:

Too much in demand.

JP:

So maybe that was one of the hardest things you did physically was jitterbug all night.

BS:

Probably. [chuckles] We went to a native—I have pictures of a native village way back in the jungle. That was at the point where the natives were being paid by the military a shilling with a hole in it for every Japanese scalp they brought in, because the Japanese were back in the hills hiding. They were doing a lot of sniping from trees and things around in the jungle. And so they encouraged the natives to bring these scalps in, and they would give them their money. They would not take the scalps, so the islanders would come back two days later with the same scalp. They were very smart.

And they were sweet people. The women weren't anywhere near the village. Maybe one day they would come in to collect coconuts. We were along the shore, black beaches. They would come with their little children, and they had on just the lap-lap, nothing else, and they had these bosoms that hung down their waists.

They had a little boy one day with them, and he was so cute. He had on his lap-lap. And we had a very prim, very proper nurse in the group, and they came out and we greeted them and gave them stuff. They started on down the shore to the coconut trees, and this little boy had his lap-lap on, and as he started out he—no, he came in naked, and this woman said, “Here,” and she ran to her footlocker and got a piece of cloth and tied it around. So he took it, and she tied it around for him. And he started out and took it off, waving it behind him as he ran down the beach. That was a delightful moment.

They were as interested in us as we were in them. I have some—we went way back in the jungle one day. Let me see if I where they are, my pictures of New Guinea. That's on the shore. That's New Guinea. We went to an island with these three doctors—Gallagher, and I can't remember the middle man's name, and Robinson was the one who wrote the letter. We had a great time climbing the coconut tree.

Here we go. Now, this was a village ceremony. That's what we had to go see and visit. We took soldiers, hospital patients, to this little island for something different to do. We got over there, and all of a sudden we see, “Off limits to all troops,” a sign coming out of this strange little island. It was apparently infested with elephantiasis. We got out of there in a hurry.

We did that sort of thing for entertainment. Of all things, I ran into—we loved to go to Ocracoke [Island, North Carolina]. Do you know Ocracoke, Outer Banks?

JP:

Yes. And you were at Ocracoke when I called.

BS:

Recreation worker made a papier-mâché snowman, it was very clever. Christmastime is their summer. Everybody, all the soldiers came to have their picture taken by the snowman.

I don't know whether I'm doing this properly or not.

JP:

No, this is fine.

BS:

This is, as you can tell, is the brewery which we went to.

JP:

Pilsen, yes, pale pilsen.

BS:

This is a community. That's my group, minus me.

JP:

You were taking the picture, weren't you?

BS:

No, there I am. There's the girl that they confused with me all the time. This is a recreation worker, and this is the secretary. She was the funniest little girl.

JP:

You know, a lot of people suffered from diseases, and you mentioned earlier that you were sick when you were [unclear].

BS:

I had mononucleosis. They put me in the hospital. Terrible being in the hospital. I had walked around with a fever for days, for I did not want to be hospitalized.

They were lovely people. They were sweet. They were very enamored of Americans. I think they also were enamored of the Japanese. But when we came in, they greeted us with open arms. You had these talks, little accented voice would say, “Oh, Miss Barksdale, I dreamed about you last night.” They were just amazing, childlike. She said, “And in technicolor.”

In New Guinea, it was not much to do except to go to one of their dances.

JP:

Did you ever get movies? Did they ever show movies?

BS:

They got movies. They had Gaslight, I can remember, and I'd seen it three times. I could tell everything that was going on in the barracks. They had it outside.

In the Philippines, we had Oklahoma live, and it rained on the cast and the mike, but they stayed right there through the rain and everything.

JP:

So the Filipinos would watch your movies, as well, when movies were being shown. Do you remember what some of your favorite songs were from that time?

BS:

The one that they played—we came up from New Guinea to the Philippines on a hospital ship, and every day they would play—now I can't even think of it. Oh, isn't that awful?

JP:

It'll come to you. That'll come out later. Do you feel that you contributed to the war effort?

BS:

Yes. Yes, I do. Well, wounded soldiers would deal with all the time, and all that we could give them.

JP:

You certainly did.

BS:

And that was important, we individualized them, and this was something they needed very badly.

JP:

Yes.

BS:

We got some very interesting things. I had one that, when I was at Santo Tomas and we were all hospital, and he came, you know, somewhere, and he had asked to see the social worker. And so they brought him back, and he said, “I want to see the head social worker.”

I said, “Well, you're seeing her right now.”

He said, “Oh?”

I said, “That's right.”

So he sat down, and he said, “All right, Miss Anthony,” and off he went. [chuckles] He had problems.

JP:

Do you think that sort of took them aback when they realized that—

BS:

Well, he just didn't know that he could tell this tale to a person who—well, at that point I was an ordinary woman. But I managed to keep a straight face and hear it through. He wanted a gray-haired lady.

JP:

He wanted a gray-haired lady. He thought you were too young.

BS:

It was quite a story. He wanted someone who seemed a little more experienced.

JP:

I have a few general questions here about the times that you lived through, not necessarily specifically about your time in the Red Cross. Could you talk a little bit about the climate of the country?

BS:

Well, I did a little bit about New Guinea.

JP:

No, not there, but the United States during the war years.

BS:

You mean the climate, the actual weather?

JP:

No, the actual mood or feelings of the people. I didn't phrase that very well.

BS:

No, that was all right. I suddenly thought, “She means something else.”

JP:

I jumped.

BS:

I'm not sure what you're looking for.

JP:

Do you feel that most people in the United States were patriotic?

BS:

Oh, yes.

JP:

That people sort of joined together in the war effort?

BS:

I don't think there's any question about that. I think they really pitched in. And that's what was so sad about the Vietnam thing, those poor fellows. It was very sad. It was a terrible war, World War II, but they had the support of the entire country, and they knew it. And that makes the difference.

JP:

They were heroes.

BS:

Yes.

JP:

Of course, all the women who served were heroes, as well. I mean, Red Cross and everything.

BS:

Well, as I told someone, I volunteered. Some of those poor people were picked up and shipped. And that's why I didn't consider myself a veteran, because I figured a veteran was somebody who was made to go, and I wasn't made to go.

JP:

Can you tell me about some interesting people you met while you were in the Red Cross.

BS:

We met, or saw, on board our ship in Oro Bay, we'd just come in and there was Jack Benny. He came over. He was making a tour, and he came over to the ship to give us a little, you know, a little fun. He was telling about, “We had this captain [who was a woman doctor who had volunteered and was in our hospital unit].” I shouldn't have said that. Jack Benny was saying he had something, he had ice cream—I'll have to make this up—and something else in Oro Bay, and diarrhea in Finschhafen. And she said, “I can take care of it. I will take care.” He didn't know what to do. She wouldn't stop.

JP:

She didn't realize he was telling a joke.

BS:

No, I don't think so. She had to go back to the United States. She just couldn't make it. Strange. Met a lot of strange people there.

There was Wallace Beery. I can't even think of the people, because they had them coming, you know, all the time with the USO [United Service Organizations] shows. And they brought over a cast for Oklahoma. It was very well done. And other things like that.

I can remember they had movies outdoors in New Guinea. The nurses' quarters, where we were living, was right near there, and I can remember seeing Gaslight so many times and always having to listen to the lines from Gaslight from my barracks. They tried to entertain them. They tried to do things.

And the Red Cross did. When we were in—well, all you had to do was stand there—that sounds silly—in those clubs, you know. You'd get somebody started on, “I could do that from my one-man stand in the States,” those little plaiting things and all that they did. You could get them doing that, and they weren't the least bit interested.

If you were by yourself, they made you stay up in this little cage in New Guinea, and you would get the strange person every now and then. I remember having one that just sat and stared the whole time I was working. Sad [unclear] and things like that. Painful, very painful. Not physically painful, but emotionally painful. And I'm not a person that was geared to be a recreation worker. I function one-on-one.

JP:

I can see that.

BS:

So you had your share of coffee and donuts.

BS:

Oh, yes. We even, in our hospital in Santo Tomas, the recreation worker—she was something else again—bummed a coffee machine from the [U.S. Navy] Seabees, and so we were noted as the Red Cross unit with whom you could get a cup of coffee. And so people drifted in from all over the place.

They were good people—one recreation worker. The other was a little inhibited.

JP:

I heard the Seabees were quite handy to have around for building things.

BS:

Oh, my, yes. They were just very popular. And navy ships coming in were very popular. They wanted to have a nice dinner with several women there.

I met people all the time from home. In fact, the most amazing was this square dance thing. I love Ocracoke, and I went there years ago first, when you had to go by mail boat and it wasn't messed up. It was just very quaint. And so we knew a lot of the natives of Ocracoke. And one day, just as I was coming into the mono period, I had gone into the barracks and had said, “Don't let anybody disturb me. Anybody.” And this girl finally came back and she said, “I'm sorry, but this man says all I have to do is tell you who it is and you will see him.”

I said, “Who?”

“Chris Gaskell.”

I said, “Oh, my goodness.”

He was there with another islander. He was a real wheeler-dealer. He had managed to get himself on harbor patrol, and all he did during the war was operate a little boat and help unload ships. They would take off three cases of beer and throw them to the trucks, and one would go in the boat. So he was doing fine, and he was the one that I talked into getting a square dance for the ambulatory patients in the Red Cross building. He got the band and he got the caller.

JP:

Oh, and you have pictures.

BS:

They came in there. There's one of them. Those are able-bodied.

JP:

I like this mural on the wall.

BS:

Well, that mural caused me a great deal of trouble. That was a fellow that was a commercial artist out of somewhere in California, and he offered to do the mural. I said, “That would be great.” He did all these pictures. He had taken me around and taken pictures of everything that I wanted to take home with me. I don't know why he was living there at the hospital. He found himself a little place to live. So he did the mural. There was a Catholic chaplain, and he said, “That mural has to go.” I said, “No, it doesn't.” I was naïve. I couldn't see what he was seeing in it.

JP:

What he was offended by.

BS:

What he was offended by. After I became more experienced, I did.

JP:

I see a woman over there midriff.

BS:

No, that wasn't it. Right there was it. He came and he said, “You have to get that down.

I said, “No. The artist did that, and we asked him to do it, and I can't understand what's wrong with it.”

He said, “It's mental fornication, that's what it is.”

I hate to tell you, but I had to look up the word fornication, and I was furious, just furious. He was a chaplain who was an alcoholic, and he just was practically in tears, you know, about it having to come down. I said, “I just can't take it down.” I just couldn't believe that he thought that, because I don't think in those terms. So anyway, it stayed. The chaplains were great. No criticism. Except this man, he was sick.

We had one, his name was Father—I'll never forget his name. Anyway, he was with our hospital, the staging one, on board the ship we came over on, and he just became very attached to this Red Cross unit. When we landed and we were working in different places, different war zones, he said, “If you want anything, you just let me know.” That was cigarettes or coffee or anything we wanted for the soldiers, he could get it, and believe me, he could get it. He'd go to every ship and get supplies for them. When I got back home, and I was ending up my work release and closing out hospitals over here, I had to take a Red Cross car back to Washington. I was traveling along that superhighway coming into Washington, and I heard somebody say, “Beverly, Beverly.” I looked out, and there he was driving down the highway. He was a great and generous person.

JP:

Let's talk a little bit about what happened to you after the war was over, because you remained with the Red Cross until 1948. I guess we ought to cover those years, too.

BS:

Well, that was during the occupation. I couldn't simmer down. I couldn't unwind. I don't know whether it was post-stress syndrome, but I had difficulty settling into just everyday existence. And so I took a long vacation. I can remember the Eastern Area was calling and calling. I was on Ocracoke, and at that time there were no telephones. They wanted to know where in the United States I was that they couldn't reach me by telephone. They finally got through to me through the Coast Guard. They wanted to give me an assignment, and I said that I would go overseas again, but I wanted to go in the other direction. And so they had an opening, and I went to Germany and was over there from '46 to '48.

JP:

Were you with a hospital there, as well?

BS:

Oh, yes, always with a hospital. I went over to relieve the person that came home. It was a station hospital in Augsburg and I took that one over. And then I was transferred to a hospital in Berlin and I took that one over. From there, I asked for transfer. I wanted to move around. So I had one in Bremerhaven, and from there I came home.

JP:

While you were in Germany, did you take advantage of the time to travel to other countries, as well?

BS:

Germany was a devastating experience, because it was just bombed to death. I remember the first trip to Munich and I was trying to find the Red Cross headquarters in Munich. I don't have a good sense of direction, but I check landmarks. Every landmark, there was no landmark that didn't look like the next one. It was just simply bombed to death, just a bunch of rubble. Every now and then there'd be a building here, a building there.

And in Berlin, they were still digging out when we went there. They were still digging bodies out in the pile of rubble. It was a mess, and it smelled bad. That's what makes you know war is a poor solution for countries' differences. You shouldn't have these things.

The Bavarians were very, very bitter towards Americans. They called you an “Amerikanisches Schwein” [American pig]. You'd be driving along and some civilian would call “Amerikanisches Schwein!” I found it very difficult to handle that kind of hostility. But others were friendly, and they were glad to see you. Bavaria, it's more rustic, and they were the most rabid supporters of the Hitler regime. They were just rabid. There was a—he had a house. He had the Eagle's Nest, he called it.

JP:

Eagle's Nest, yes.

BS:

We went there. I was in Bavaria for about almost a year, I guess. I started out in Munich and then took over the hospital in Augsburg. And then it was great going to Berlin, because that was kind of exciting, although we had trouble there, too, because it was in rubble. Heidelberg was the only untouched place. I had to stop over there a couple of days, and it was just lovely.

JP:

Beautiful.

BS:

Yes. We didn't touch it. Nobody touched it.

They let you go on leave every four months, that's what I started to say, because they wanted to get you out of there to keep you sane.

JP:

You needed that R&R [rest and recuperation] at that point.

BS:

That's enough.

JP:

Is it? Are you tired of talking? We've talked a long time.

BS:

Well, I just talked your ears off.

JP:

Well, let me see if there's anything else that's—one more question, then we'll stop. Well, maybe just a couple more. These are all related. Do you feel that your life has been different because of your experience in the Red Cross?

BS:

Oh, I think definitely.

JP:

In what ways?

BS:

Well, I think, especially with the experience in the Red Cross and the experience in the war situation, I think many people felt that you grow up during a time like that, and you become more sophisticated and more tolerant, more caring. I can't think of any other adjectives.

JP:

I don't think I even need to ask you this question. We already established that you were an independent person.

BS:

How did you establish that?

JP:

Well, we talked about your decision-making process when you went into the Red Cross, and even your decision to study sociology when you were at WC. I think we can probably safely say that the Red Cross didn't make you any more independent, or do you think it did?

BS:

Well, I think what it did was open up for me experiences that made me much more adequate to deal with situations, because I'd been in a fairly typical Southern family, overprotective and had me fight for—my family decided what I would go into and when I went to the university, because I was so active and climbed trees and did things like that. And so they thought the physical education, they had such a good department, and that should be it. And I was able to wiggle myself out of there by degrees. It just gave you a means of growing up, and you had to do it very quickly.

JP:

You certainly did. You had a lot of responsibility on your shoulders.

BS:

That was another thing. I told someone, if I hadn't been so stupid, I probably would have been horrified at what I was doing at that age. But I felt very confident.

JP:

Well, there were a lot of other women who were at a young and tender age doing the same things, too.

BS:

Well, I don't know how many just blatantly took on the—they said, “You'll have to be acting assistant field director,” when the one that was there left, and then they just left me with it. I just thought, “I can handle it,” which was pretty—

JP:

Pretty gutsy.

BS:

Egotistical.

JP:

Very gutsy.

BS:

It offered me something that I probably wouldn't have gotten for years in the way of coming to grips with the world and coming to grips with all kinds of situations. You had to deal with it. I feel it gave me a great deal.

JP:

We haven't talked about your family very much. I see a child's picture on the end table there. Did you have children, you and your husband have children?

BS:

I have two daughters.

JP:

Did either one of them ever consider joining the military?

BS:

No. No, not now. I don't know what they would do under different circumstances.

JP:

I'm trying to determine if your experience during the war maybe influenced them.

BS:

Well, they found it very great to listen to my stories. One would pop up every now and then. As my daughter said, I said, “This is ridiculous. I'm just not a veteran,” and I ignored you all for a while.

But she said, “I know, but you've got some stories to tell.”

I said, “That's not the point.”

JP:

Exactly so. Well, we realize that—

BS:

This is my grandchild. This is not my child.

JP:

I thought so. We realize that the women who served in the Red Cross had some very interesting stories to tell, and I don't think that anyone else has really concentrated on the Red Cross. We'd like to hear more and to gather more materials about these women's experiences for research purposes.

BS:

Have you had many out of the European Theater? You know, they had a different—

JP:

I think at this point we've only interviewed maybe four women who were in the Red Cross, and I haven't listened to all the other interviews, and I wasn't doing the interviews myself. One of the other women was also in the Philippines. That's the only one I've heard so far. I'm not sure about the work there.

BS:

Was she a club worker?

JP:

She was a club worker.

BS:

May I ask her name?

JP:

I don't remember it off the top of my head. I think I may have her tape with me, though. Ann Henning Moore. She was a WAVE [Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service—Navy]. Do you know of other women who were in the Red Cross that are in the area that we might be able to talk to?

BS:

That are from Woman's College?

JP:

Well, not necessarily from Woman's College.

BS:

The only one—no, she's no longer. See, I'm old, so those people, some of them aren't around anymore.

JP:

I know that.

BS:

Let's see. I knew one. She's married to a doctor here. The others kind of—because I worked at the University of Virginia in the social work department. That's how I ended up in Charlottesville [Virginia]. I got my master's from New York School of Social Work. I finished when I got back home. And then I worked a while at the Veterans Administration, and I came up here, because I wanted to be in a teaching hospital.

Anyway, there was a Joan Hashagen. I don't know what happened to her. Is that familiar?

JP:

No. We always ask that question because that's how we get leads on other people that we can contact.

BS:

No. I would have come upon them, I think, if they'd been from UNCG.

JP:

Okay.

[End of Interview]