1. LIBRARY CATALOG
  2. DATABASES
  3. JOURNAL A-Z List
  4. SUBJECT GUIDES
  5. LIBRARY SERVICES

The Betty H. Carter Women Veterans Historical Project

Oral history interview with Jane Brister, 1999

Search the Collection


AND   OR   EXACT PHRASE

Object ID: WV0115.5.001

Description: Documents Brister’s experiences in the Women’s Army Corps during World War II and her work in army intelligence in the 1950s and 1960s.

Summary:

Brister details her father’s experiences in World War I and in the engineering field; the Great Depression; working at H.W. Butterworth and Sons; hearing a radio announcement about Pearl Harbor; and her awareness of the war in Europe.

Discussion of Brister's service in the WAC during World War II includes details of her living conditions at Fort Oglethorpe and Germany; saving and returning belongings of the German family who had previously lived in her house in Frankfurt am Main; chaperoning dances in Germany; having a Christmas party for displaced children; meeting Marshall Zhukov and General Dwight D. Eisenhower in Germany; security precautions and danger in Germany; working to process Soviet defectors in Oberursel; Henry Kissinger’s work at the ETIS in denazification and anti-Sovietization; traveling back to the United States on a ship with French war brides; and then driving to California with a friend of Marlene Dietrich.

Brister also describes her recruitment back into the WAC in 1948, men’s reactions to her assignment at West Point; women receiving promotions to lieutenant colonel; trying to get into the Foreign Area Specialist Training (FAST) program; the downsizing of the military after World War II; and enjoying her time as a recruiter in the mid-fifties.

Much of the interview describes American intelligence during the Cold War. Related topics include details of her intelligence training, her jobs and social life while stationed in Germany, and working as a "trash officer" at the Defense Intelligence Agency. Other military topics include Brister’s admiration of WAC director Colonel Mary Hallaren; her opinion of women in combat positions; and patriotism.

Creator: Jane Gail Brister

Biographical Info: Jane G. Brister (b. 1921), of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, served in the Women’s Army Corps (WAC) from May 1943 to December 1946 and from December 1948 to June 1965.

Collection: Jane Gail Brister Papers

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

Full Text:

EE:

Okay. My name is Eric Elliott and this is an interview for the University of North Carolina at Greensboro Women Veterans Historical Project. Today is November 5, 1999, and I'm in Wilmington, North Carolina, at the home of Jane Brister today.

Ms. Brister, thank you for agreeing to sit down and do this exercise in going over your career. It should be a fairly painless operation, and after a while we won't even notice this tape recorder's here anyway. But I ask everybody the same question to start off with, and I hope it will not be the most difficult one I will ask you today, and that is, where were you born and where'd you grow up?

JB:

Baltimore, Maryland. I grew up outside of the—well, started out in Baltimore to New Jersey, where my father was working as a chemical engineer. Then we moved to Pennsylvania, I'd say, around the middle 1920s and I grew up there, then, all the way through college.

EE:

You said before we started this interview you were near Philadelphia?

JB:

Yes, suburban Philadelphia. We lived first in Ardmore, which is one suburb area, and then in the Montgomery County town of Wyncote.

EE:

Isn't Montgomery County north of Philadelphia?

JB:

Yes, just about ten miles. You can almost see Billy Penn [statue of William Penn] down Broad Street.

EE:

That's true. Your dad was a chemical engineer you say. Did you have any brothers and sisters?

JB:

Yes, two sisters and a brother, brother's younger, sisters flanked me, older and younger.

EE:

What about your mom, what did she do?

JB:

She had graduated from—which was kind of unusual for women in her day—from Mount Holyoke College [in South Hadley, Massachusetts], having grown up both in Ohio and Germantown, Pennsylvania. She met and married my father during World War I, got caught in the flu epidemic late in the war—scared Daddy to death, much more than combat ever did. When I said unfortunately, I meant that she really was not suited to go through the Depression or to struggle with it. She wanted good things for her family from day one, and they weren't to be had for a long time.

EE:

She was not the only person who had that problem.

JB:

That's right. She certainly was not.

EE:

Your dad was overseas during World War I?

JB:

No. They'd actually gone out to sea. They'd actually been loaded onto ships when the armistice came and he came back in. He served with the Coast Artillery for about a year, I guess, before he was set to go over. He, himself, raised a company and then a battalion, from nothing, in the National Guard for Maryland. He was a graduate of VMI [Virginia Military Institute], therefore was made a sergeant first and then they commissioned him. Of course, they needed all the trainers that they could get at that time.

EE:

So he was a chemical engineer and then was activated and called up when the war started?

JB:

Well, having been a graduate of VMI, he probably joined the Guard wherever he was. As a chemical engineer, that was just his work there in Baltimore Copper Works, but his basic degree was civil engineer from VMI and then he went to the graduate school of Columbia [University in New York, New York] for a mining engineering degree. His first jobs, as a matter of fact, were in the coal mines of Pennsylvania. He really took to anything in the engineering field, is what it amounts to.

EE:

I would say it sounds like a natural talent.

JB:

Yes, it helped a lot, having to make soles for our shoes during the Depression, too. He could do that. He could do about anything, fix the car if we had a car. The Depression hit us just when the family needed not to be in depression most. My brother, the youngest, was born in '27, and we were all in school and needing clothing and trying to keep up with our peers.

EE:

Did you go to public school?

JB:

Township schools in Montgomery County.

EE:

What was the name of the township?

JB:

Cheltenham. “Chelt'n'm,” as we say around home.

EE:

Yes.

JB:

You knew that. I figured you would.

EE:

I'm familiar with it. My aunt lives in Lafayette Hill, [Pennsylvania], which isn't too far from there.

JB:

That's right.

EE:

You were born in the early twenties?

JB:

Twenty-one.

EE:

So you graduated from school? What was the name of the high school you graduated from?

JB:

Cheltenham High School.

EE:

Easy enough. Given the family history in your household, were you somebody who liked school?

JB:

Yes, I loved it. I liked the sports. I wasn't any basketball star, but I loved field hockey. I was interested in the journalism part of the extracurricular activities. I loved school. I guess partly it was getting away from home and having to do jobs.

EE:

Right. What did you do after you graduated? I guess Pennsylvania had eleven-year or twelve-year high school?

JB:

Twelve-year. I graduated from high school in 1938.

EE:

And what did you do after graduation?

JB:

Well, I was awarded a scholarship to a local college there, the Presbyterian College for Young Women, once of Beaver, Pennsylvania, and then of Jenkintown, Pennsylvania. It also had a Glenside campus. I got a full four-year scholarship given by the county, I believe, which was lucky. I felt deprived because I wanted to go away to a campus, as all my friends were, to a university, but I was just lucky, as is obvious, to be able to get to college. I walked to school.

EE:

In Pennsylvania, then, during the Depression, did your dad have his own business there at the time?

JB:

No. He sold vacuum cleaners and retail consumer products, anything he could do, and during the Depression he finally was taken on with the WPA [Works Progress Administration], highway engineer, and he stayed with that, and that helped a lot. Then when the war came along, he went down to Cramp Shipyard and worked down there as a foreman with shipbuilding.

JB:

You're the second person I've talked to who had somebody at Cramp Shipyard. One I interviewed last week in—

JB:

In shipbuilding, thousands of men they needed and—

EE:

And that's different from the navy. Has that become a navy yard? Was it taken over by the navy, or was that a—

JB:

I don't know what became of it. It wasn't the navy yard, I know, but certainly contiguous to it.

EE:

I had a woman I interviewed in Carswell last week whose dad worked at that same shipyard at the same time.

JB:

Is that right? They probably knew each other. I don't know that I've ever seen any—

EE:

She graduated from Olney High School.

JB:

From Olney? That was downtown, more in toward the city.

EE:

How long did you stay at Presbyterian?

JB:

Presbyterian College for Young Women, Beaver College it was. How long? Well, this is not a very complimentary phase of my life. I made dean's list for the first two years, was very active, and then I started moving off, evidently. Oh, yes, I know I did, especially in my senior year, and I didn't graduate. In fact, they asked me—they were very pleased to have me leave to take a job in a defense factory, H.W. Butterworth and Sons Company, that was downtown, had been making textile machinery—sounds familiar in North Carolina?

EE:

It does.

JB:

—and had a war contract, sub-contract, for anti-aircraft machine gun parts. So I left college and they were glad to see me go, I think. It was very unfortunate, you know, no way to act as somebody who had been awarded a rather generous scholarship. I've since tried to make it up to those school systems, but I don't think you ever make something like that up.

EE:

Well, and you never know in advance in your life how it's going to go, and everybody has stages that are tougher than others.

JB:

That's my least favorite page.

EE:

When you started working at H. W. Butterworth, did you move into the city?

JB:

No. We had a wonderful transit system in Philadelphia.

EE:

So you stayed home.

JB:

Contrary to what we have here in Wilmington.

EE:

Tell me about it.

JB:

Yes. And I took—let's see, what did I do? I took either the bus or a trolley to the subway and the subway to work, to the factory.

EE:

So you were on the shop floor with a lot of other women, I guess?

JB:

No. Actually, first I was what they call a production control clerk. My boss there was Abe Valentine. We kept very important records on where we were with fulfilling the contract and what kind of spoilage there was, that kind of thing. Then our office, where we worked with all those big charts and everything on the wall, was right where the president of the corporation, of the company, came down the steps every day and was very actively engaged in the supervision of the plant. He, himself, was a mechanical engineer, a businessman, and he'd stop in with us every now and then. Long story short, what he finally did was say, “I want you as my assistant,” and I was then at his elbow until, as I've said before—no, I guess I didn't say it on tape. Let's see. I would have started there in January of '42, and the Women's Army Corps [WAC]—Women's Army Auxiliary Corps [WAAC]—was formed in May of 1942, May 14, and I said immediately I would like to join that, but the plant, for good reasons of its own, put me on a year's hold, which they could do with any employees that were working on defense contracts, for a year. So I didn't join till the following May.

EE:

Was that plant—you say it was making textile machinery?

JB:

That's what the basic work was, but they converted, then, to using their machinery and expertise for making—well, the biggest contract they had while I was there was those racks that—you know, you see pictures in the movies and so forth of anti-aircraft machine guns. You pull them down. These racks had teeth that fit into gears in a long piece of metal, and we made the part—

EE:

Sort of like a picker apron for doing cotton, and you just changed it to doing something else.

JB:

Something like that probably. Yes. Which is probably one reason they got the contract. Then one of my extra jobs with—Harry W. Butterworth, Jr., was the owner of the company and also the president, and he's the one I accompanied around as he checked on all the work. He also put me then in charge of—when women started to come in to work at the plant, we had almost all women in what we called the Grinding and Finishing Department, and they'd get these teeth in these racks smooth and sure that they wouldn't hang up when you tried to put the gun up at the right angle for a fifty-caliber AA gun.

EE:

Do you remember where you were when you heard about Pearl Harbor?

JB:

Yes, I do. I was in the day room, the lounge, as we call it, at Beaver College. It was a Sunday morning. I'd gone up there on the pretense, I suppose, more than anything, to study but really to probably play bridge with some of the other people who spent time in the lounge and who were really good bridge players. I wanted to learn to be better. We had a little radio sitting in the corner, and just sort of sub voca, really, you could hardly hear it, but we heard it, and everybody left the lounge, some to call home. I went home.

EE:

Everybody knew what that meant.

JB:

Well, we didn't like it. I don't know if we were all that aware of all the ramifications of it. Of course, we knew that we had been doing lend-leasing and something, I suppose, of the fuss with the Japanese ambassador before the actual bombing raid.

EE:

Yes. Teenagers aren't wont to think much about the world, other than what's immediately theirs anyway. Do you remember being concerned about the war before, the war in Europe before Pearl Harbor?

JB:

Yes. Yes. We had a number of Jewish girls, for one thing, in our school. We had a couple of what I call “brains” who were very vocal and very active, what you would call proactive, in any kind of political-social context. I remember I was one of the juniors helping them oust the president of the college, who we found out was acting illegally and criminally. A leader's name was Mahler, and there were Nell Kelly and Lois Levy. But anyway, partly because, I'm sure, of the percentage of Jewish girls in the group, we were very aware of what was going on in Germany and very, very much in admiration of England, with what they had been through and what they suffered.

EE:

That's right. I guess the Battle of Britain was '40? When did they first have air raids?

JB:

They started, I think, in '40, because '39 was when they really declared war.

EE:

What was it about joining the service that attracted you? Was it the fact that your dad had been in the service or just—

JB:

Well, yes. I tended toward being a tomboy, you know, just kind of—I liked outdoor activities, I liked sports. A big shot, I guess, kind of thing, too. You know, well, there's no men in the family to—my brother was too young and my daddy couldn't go back in with a full family like he had and also his job. So I said, yes, I'm interested, I'd like to go. My parents approved, but I was disapproved of, kind of, kind of a look-down-the-nose kind of thing in conservative Philadelphia, to go right up to when we got on the troop train in North Broad Street Station, the people there, when they realized that we were a bunch of recruits going down to Fort Oglethorpe, [Georgia].

EE:

It was not—

JB:

Not exactly what the young lady of eighteen or nineteen was—oh, no. I guess you had to be twenty-one. I forget.

EE:

I think twenty or twenty-one.

JB:

Twenty-one I believe, yes.

EE:

And you actually joined in '43?

JB:

Yes. So I'd have been twenty-two.

EE:

Springtime of '43?

JB:

May.

EE:

Which by that time, as we talked about before the tape started, that the rumor mill had been circulating. And we later found out that some of the people, actually, in the army were helping to contribute those rumors.

JB:

That's right, that is, of sexual behavior, that kind of thing, and homosexual tendencies. That's the kind of thing that we were—or misfits, this kind of thing, However, I'll tell you, the caliber of women that I found in basic training and all throughout my service was top class, top grade.

EE:

When you joined, did you have a particular kind of work that you requested to do or location that you requested to be at?

JB:

No. No, I didn't.

EE:

Did they give you some idea of the kind of work you might be doing?

JB:

Well, at that time, the most common assignments were cooks and bakers, clerks, administrative clerks, or motor transport, drivers. I didn't particularly want to go into cooks and bakers! I really wanted to try to go to OCS [Officer Candidate School], and that's what I did.

EE:

Did you have to take tests?

JB:

I took tests.

EE:

Was that before going to basic?

JB:

No. This is—

EE:

So you went to Oglethorpe for basic. Then you took some tests to go to OCS immediately?

JB:

Yes. Right. Basic was only six weeks long.

EE:

Were most of your instructors at basic men or women?

JB:

By the time I got there they were mostly women. We still had battalion commanders and higher that were men, but the cadre, training sergeants and corporals and lieutenants—they were called second officers then instead of—it wasn't until September of that year that we were—

EE:

It was auxiliary at that time until September.

JB:

Right. It still was WAAC. September of that year it became the WAC.

EE:

So you didn't know anybody else from your area before getting on that troop train?

JB:

No. No, I didn't. But I sure knew the group I was with before we got off—they made me an acting corporal, and I was in charge of the group, then, going down to Oglethorpe. That's another story.

EE:

That's kind of a long train ride.

JB:

It was a long train ride. Two days or so it took.

EE:

I guess it's station-to-station. Everybody on the line gets to hop on and hop off or whatever.

JB:

I think we only got one meal in a cardboard box.

EE:

At least it wasn't July. You can be grateful for some things.

JB:

Yes. That's right.

EE:

What was a typical day like for you in basic?

JB:

Classes and marching and clean up the barracks.

EE:

Any of that—of course, you had a dormitory—well, you didn't have a dormitory like this, your first time living with other women. How was that for you?

JB:

Oh, that was fun. Good buddies there, and I had two particular ones. We raised a lot of commotion sometimes, but we cooperated. We had a good floor. We had a good platoon. The age range there was all the way up into the forties, and there were married women, mothers there, all the way from people like me—

EE:

So you were one of the younger ones, I guess.

JB:

Yes.

EE:

Was that the first extended period away from home for you, or had you—

JB:

Yes. No, I never went away to camp or vacations.

EE:

You were there for six weeks.

JB:

As a matter of fact, OCS then had—well, I guess it was still at [Fort] Des Moines, [Iowa]. So I shipped up there for the first couple of weeks of OCS. Then they opened an officers' school down at Fort Oglethorpe.

EE:

So you went back to Oglethorpe?

JB:

No. You know, I think I did all the OCS up at Des Moines and then came back for what—all of a sudden there was a glut of second lieutenants which happened. They were putting them out too fast, or they were graduating too fast for there to be enough assignments. So they opened what they called the Intermediate Officers School, and that was at Fort Oglethorpe. So I went there for two weeks, I believe, and then was assigned to a basic training company right at Fort Oglethorpe.

EE:

Where your job was overseeing recruits coming in, or what—?

JB:

Training officers, everything that goes with it, all the way through: marching and drill. I taught—what did I teach? Map reading, I think, and maybe legal.

EE:

At that time, I know that the WAVES [Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service—Navy] and most all of the other services were restricted to stateside duty. Had they opened up overseas positions for you?

JB:

Yes. Yes, as of, I think, '43. I'm not positive on that, but anyway, the first group went over to Africa in [General Dwight D.] Eisenhower's forward unit and then from—in fact, I guess the real danger for women in service, army women anyway, happened traveling from Africa up to England, where their next main concentration was, and then from England over to France as the war proceeded.

EE:

Following the European theatre—

JB:

Right.

EE:

—behind a line or two.

JB:

Right. And these were largely signal—

EE:

Signal corps?

JB:

Yes. And that's another thing that I didn't mention as far as what was available in Eisenhower's basic unit. They needed telephone operators and communications specialists.

EE:

Did they have an official name for the group of women who were doing what you were doing with training officers?

JB:

Just training officer.

EE:

Just company staff and that? So how long were you at Oglethorpe doing that kind of work?

JB:

Well, I wanted to go overseas as soon as I could so I started applying for it from my first assignment on. I was there for a year, though. But then in '44—let's see, '44—no, it must have been 1945 before I think they let me go. Yes, because they said, “You can either be promoted to first lieutenant or you can go on overseas assignment.” So this was in April of '45. It was before the war was over.

EE:

Had Roosevelt passed away yet?

JB:

No, not when I applied, but I was in a parade in honor of his death at Oglethorpe before I—

EE:

Before you went overseas?

JB:

Yes.

EE:

So it would have been early May before you shipped out, probably.

JB:

Yes. Yes. Almost to the day, the anniversary of when I came in.

EE:

Had VE [Victory in Europe] Day happened?

JB:

No. I went over in convoy, and as I recall, the war was over as we were in the middle of the ocean. Maybe that's a story I've been telling so long I—

EE:

It would make sense, though. It ended, I think—May 12 was VE Day.

JB:

Yes.

EE:

And Roosevelt died on the twenty-eighth of April. So it would have been pretty close.

JB:

It was certainly pretty close. I know that. And we had to go in a convoy all the way. We landed in Camp Lucky Strike.

EE:

Did you know where you were going?

JB:

No.

EE:

Camp Lucky Strike was where?

JB:

It was in Le Havre, France. That's where the GIs went, too. You had tents, and you had wash in your helmet, and we were all issued combat and gas mask gear before we got off the ship even. In fact, there was one reason the war had to be over in the middle of the ocean. That's because there was a troop ship with the first GIs with high points parked right next to—parked, moored—moored right next to where our ship came in, and here are these WACs getting off with all this combat gear, wearing gas masks, backpacks, pistol belts, canteens, overcoats, and it's May, you know, all the—

EE:

Troops shipping out?

JB:

Oh, they just stood on the—they lined the rails up there and jeered at us and said, “You'll be sorry,” for one thing and whatever else they said. We had to plod along and just take it. We couldn't break ranks.

EE:

That's when you feel like blaming your superiors for getting you dressed up in all that stuff.

JB:

It's so funny. It was a beautiful day. We were ever so happy for them, of course, the first group to be going home.

EE:

They had the highest points. You know they'd been through the worst.

JB:

That's right. Yes, they were, Italy and all of that.

EE:

On the trip coming over, was it women and men on that ship?

JB:

Yes. Yes.

EE:

How many were in a room or in a cabin?

JB:

Well, they didn't have cabins, the troops didn't. I guess I was in with about five or six other lieutenants, officers, but the troops had stacked bunks. The enlisted personnel had stacked bunks and had to sleep in those down—

EE:

Down in the hold of the ship?

JB:

Yes. So we spent as much time as we could on deck.

EE:

Right. But you were still zig-zagging across.

JB:

This was the George Washington. This is the ship that was captured by the Americans in World War I from the Germans and was built in 1912, the USS George Washington. But it was a wonderful ship, and the food, of course, you had times—they'd serve food twenty-four hours a day practically, just about. But we got in trouble with the women and men part because the—not just the male population but the crew. The crew got upset with us, the WACs particularly, because we were singing the song that was called The Great Ship Titanic and about how it went down, and they finally complained to their captain and the captain asked us not to sing it because it was making them nervous. I mean, it was just bad luck, you know. Come to think of it, it wasn't too smart to do, but it's such a fun song, you know, with these wonderful choruses like “It was sad, the captain tried the wire and the wires were all on fire.” Terrible.

EE:

Yes. There's no sense of humor when it might actually happen, I guess.

JB:

We had some nice romances on board, too. Of course, what would a ship be, I guess, without it, and I remember—

EE:

How long was the trip over, a month?

JB:

Three weeks, maybe two to get there. Yes. It was coming home that took so long, back to the States.

EE:

When you got to Le Havre, where did you go from there?

JB:

To Versailles, which had been the headquarters of Eisenhower before he went from there to Frankfurt am Main in Germany and where the bulk of women who were assigned to the European theater were assigned, in and around Versailles. Then gradually the whole effort and the whole main military population was shifted on into Germany. So I didn't stay in Versailles much longer than, oh, two or three days, I think. They loaded us into C-47s and landed on meadows or something outside the city. There was no Frankfurt am Main airport.

EE:

They were pretty bombed to pieces, I guess, by then.

JB:

They did have an airstrip, but anyway, I remember getting out right onto grass, and that's what the plane landed on, and trucks would come along and pick us up and take us into Frankfurt, where we were assigned billets. I was lucky enough to get with two good other WAC officers into Number 17 Duisberg Strasse, which is a line of two-story—three-story really, two-story with a basement—billets, connected houses for the employees of the I.G. Farben operation.

EE:

Duisberg was home for the company, yes.

JB:

The WAC barracks were huge dormitories right across from us, but we had just three officers in this one Number 17. The paste was still wet on the doors where the posters had been put on telling the occupants to leave with what they could carry. The paste, I remember, was sticky glue, and there was no lock or anything on the door. You just pushed the door open. And the light was still on in the basement. Down there was a sewing machine with something still under it and a man's—a storm trooper—not storm trooper but a home guard's uniform tossed down the stairs, a Hitler Jungend [Hitler Youth] uniform from one of the younger boys in the family, and a case of “Most” in the kitchen, which came in—that's the early—

EE:

Early pressings.

JB:

—early wine, yes, May wine.

EE:

So these people probably had just left a day or two before you got there, or hours before, maybe. Who knows?

JB:

Yes. Yes. I mean, this was a whole line—there was a whole block of these, and they're attached, I guess. They were attached.

EE:

It was company housing, really, wasn't it?

JB:

Yes, really. Sort of amounted to a company village. In the basement we found out later on, exploring through the house, the occupants had broken through the walls into each other's basements so they could get to the safest place during any kind of raids and so forth. And obviously, the only men left in the area were either the old ones or the young ones, and both of the men in this outfit—their name was—this is eluding me. I'll think of it before we're through. They also had to leave a lot of personal documents and things. I remember getting very upset with one of my fellow officers, as a matter of fact, who took some of them, and especially the first thing—

EE:

Souvenirs.

JB:

The first thing she got was a Mein Kampf, a coup, but I found—and this wasn't just an isolated case—what happened was that there was a housekeeping force of men from Eisenhower's area there who would come through the billets and be sure that the junk, stuff, was cleared out so that you could live in the places. Some of them, I guess, still had so many belongings in them you didn't have room for your—didn't have a bed. There was trash and debris from the war itself. I came home one day and it was raining, drizzling, as is most of the winter in Frankfurt, and our trash can out front was loaded with stuff, but I saw on the top these photo albums and the ration books and the kinds of things that this man, who must have been a meticulous record keeper, must have been awful to live with. He had every ration book, used, now, and stacks of them.

What we had at home was nothing compared to them—and he had kept a copy of every letter, piece of correspondence, he'd sent to his three sons. He had three sons in the German army or the air force—a copy of every letter he'd sent to them and all of their letters and photographs from the war front. I remember seeing one of the boys standing by a downed Russian plane, because they were on the eastern front, and that's where two of them got killed. Anyway, you gleaned this. This didn't all happen, of course, the first day, but the point I want to make is that the family—it's almost coming to me. It wasn't Leisister, Leister—

EE:

Leister maybe?

JB:

I don't remember. It doesn't really—it isn't really—[family name was Melster].

EE:

But you got to know a family, which is interesting, a fresh way of—rather than immediately—here's your first view of the Germans, the enemy.

JB:

Yes. Yes. And then immediately your sympathy is—because you realize the suffering that they'd been through. They kept a nice house. But anyway, I rescued those things off the garbage dump, and two years—no, more than that. After I was released from the army the first time—I don't know exactly the time, but anyway, within two or three—it must have been more than that, four or five years, because the German government had time to get itself back together in the various places—

EE:

After '48?

JB:

Yes. And I wrote to see if I could locate this family because I said I had some of their personal papers, and I think if there's any of them still around, that they would appreciate having. And sure enough, they traced it for me and I sent them over. So at least the man was still living and his wife was still living, and they got some of their stuff back.

EE:

That's nice.

JB:

He's down in Stuttgart, [Germany]. I guess that's where he'd gone.

EE:

The immediate personalization of the enemy is a different thing than what you expect.

JB:

Yes.

EE:

You've been fighting a war against “them,” and suddenly “them” becomes who I'm living with, this one family. How long were you there in Frankfurt? Were you there until the end of your first year of duty?

JB:

Let's see. I arrived in September. I was a Special Service officer, and there were so many parties going on. As the soldiers and GIs were getting points and being ZI'd, being able to go back home, the combat units, armored, artillery, infantry, all of them, would pretty much have to come through Frankfurt to be airlifted out or get on through to the ports, up to Bremerhaven, [Germany], where a lot of it was happening, too. So as they neared the area—they'd had to kind of stagger coming in because Frankfurt couldn't house all of them, couldn't take care of them, and they came in kind of stages.

Anyway, as they realized there were two thousand women, American and English-speaking women, because we had Brits there, too, and some French in the headquarter region there, they said, “Well, why couldn't we invite them over, and have maybe a dance and stuff?” So this happened so much that my battalion commander finally took me off the duty roster and said, “That's your job. You have to go to the parties. You have to go chaperon.”

EE:

It happened almost every day so you have to be the chaperon.

JB:

Right. So meantime, the whole detachment had made friends with the 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment that was stationed there as honor guard for Eisenhower, and between them and us, we did all right, I'll tell you. We built ourselves a snack bar and a refreshment room, we made Christmas for two thousand displaced children. Remember the DPs [displaced persons]? That's what they called them.

EE:

Yes, coming in from all over.

JB:

As they were freed from the factories and whatever else where they were slave labor, they were housed in various barracks. Around us there were two or three such camps, as they called them, DP camps, and there were children as well as the adults there. So we tried to get the GIs—we started a whole drive to gather up our candy rations, any food rations we got. The mess hall threw in a two-and-a-half-ton truck of grapefruit juice in No. 10 cans, which we knew would be valuable just for health reasons.

We had a whole lot of Polish and Lithuanian women who had come from some of these camps but who worked on sewing machines in the Haus der Jugend, which was where I worked, where my office was, a special office for the WAC Battalion, Special Services office. Anyway, these women worked on whatever sewing they did for our troops. Our local paratroopers and combat outfits would give us captured parachutes and captured German officers' clothing and some of these fur-lined coats, and of course, they brought cameras and film and reichsmarks, which you could use.

Anyway, we gave the cloth to the seamstresses, and they made little Christmas stockings, two thousand Christmas stockings, for one thing. We took the old coats—not old, some of them were brand new. One officer's coat I saw was brand new—and make warm clothing for the children for their Christmas. Then we all [WACs and GIs] loaded into two-and-a-half-ton trucks and took this stuff. It was absolutely incredible. We even found some Christmas decorations that hadn't been broken in the bombing because the same group of—the labor battalion, I don't know what you'd call them, that was taking the trash out of the billets, were cleaning out the stores. They cleaned out the streets, the wrecked streets. They just tried to get things in good condition so they could use them.

EE:

Get the rubble out of the way.

JB:

Rubble, right. And they found a drugstore, a big drugstore, that had all of these Christmas decorations, brand new, stored, and they had not been damaged. So we even got to decorate a tree for Eisenhower, you know, at the I.G. Farben building. And that was where it could be seen by all—

EE:

Was Eisenhower staying at the I.G. Farben complex?

JB:

Yes. Yes. In fact, he had a party there for—a reception for Russian officers, which was my beginning, my start, in interest in Soviet affairs. I met Marshall [Georgy Konstantinovich] Zhukov and Eisenhower at the reception. And—let's see, where's my train of thought taking me there?

EE:

Well, as far as the kind of work you're doing, it seems like for six months at least you're doing humanitarian work. That's what you're doing. You're welcoming folks back, but you're also working with the kids. It's a different kind of work than what I would expect, you probably expected to do in the military.

JB:

Yes, it was. Certainly.

EE:

But enriching, it sounds like.

JB:

Yes. And as far as meeting all the combat troops coming back, which was really something, because that's what we joined for. You know, you were supposed to have released these men for—

EE:

That's right, freed a man to fight and now you were freeing them to go home.

JB:

Yes. Here they come. They would tease us and say, “How come—well, gee whiz, we could have been out of here. What kept you?”

EE:

“How about freeing us from fighting rather than to fight?”

JB:

Right. We had some big gifts and wonderful parties. They'd give the girls—the women I'm supposed to say—they'd give the women souvenirs.

EE:

Zhukov headed the Red Army coming from the East? Was that what he—?

JB:

He was supreme commander. He was commander, you know, just the big top man like General [George C.] Marshall.

EE:

So he was Eisenhower's equivalent for the Red Army?

JB:

Yes.

EE:

And they, of course, had to implement the division of Germany which was taking place into four zones?

JB:

Well, the political part of it was done—it was not—I'm sure they had plenty to say, both of them.

EE:

You came back in '46, is that right?

JB:

Yes. Yes.

EE:

So you were doing this kind of work. When did you come back in '46?

JB:

Oh, I just—now, Eisenhower left in September, and SHAEF turned into USFET, came from the Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Forces to the United States Forces in the European Theatre, and another less-starred general came in and took over for USFET, but then things started to get kind of routine, and housekeeping and—for some of the things, you know, how we made ice cream. You know, we mounted—take the Jeeps, and they'd use their Jeeps', running motors to run some kind of an outfit that they found under the Bahnhofplatz to make ice cream.

EE:

So it would be like a generator. They'd run the ice cream machine.

JB:

Yes. Really. Then I learned about an intelligence school down in Oberammergau. So I said I would like to—and I was thinking to do something more interesting for the rest of my time. There was a lot of interesting in what I had, certainly, but it wasn't very weighty, you know, the kind of work I'd been doing.

EE:

You were still first lieutenant—no, second lieutenant.

JB:

First.

EE:

You'd been promoted to first.

JB:

Yes, after I got overseas.

EE:

Okay. So you really didn't have to choose between the two. They were just—

JB:

Yes. No, no, no. Well—

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

EE:

You know, the problem is you and I know too much about Germans, so you're telling me all these good—but this is the kind of excellent detail that we're looking for.

JB:

Oh, yes, what we can—that's right, what we can recall. I'm speaking of the things I'm leaving out, like the telephone we “requisitioned” for our officer's billet.

[Recording Interrupted]

EE:

You were there in—

JB:

—interested in Oberammergau and that kind of thing, tried to get myself an assignment there and I did, as adjutant.

EE:

You were an adjutant at the intelligence school?

JB:

ETIS 7707. ETIS, European Theatre Intelligence School, later European Command. “Theatre” only applies to wartime, as you know.

EE:

Right. How long were you at Oberammergau?

JB:

Till next December, and then I—

EE:

December of 46?

JB:

—went home, was demobilized. Oh, a very interesting thing happened. Corporal Henry Kissinger showed up, his mentor being Dr. Fritz Kramer, who had discovered him and knew his abilities and his background somewhat and said, “We need him on our faculty here at the school.” We were then concentrating on denazification procedures, which, after General Seibert, the G-2 [ranking intellegence officer] of USEF found out, “Hey, we're going to drop that and go into anti-Sovietization here.” So anyway, they took Corporal T5 Kissinger from that status to the status of a P4, civilian employee with the U.S. Civil Service. They put him on faculty, where he was not long for us, but he spent maybe about a year on the faculty training both counter-intelligence and intelligence officers in denazification procedures and starting to get them indoctrinated on what the Soviet threat was.

EE:

So your intention at the end of '46, were you then—

JB:

I wanted to go, get back and finish—see, I left college.

EE:

So you were anxious—around all these people, you wanted to go back and—

JB:

Well, yes. I wanted to go make up for it, for one thing, and I didn't have my degree, for another, and I was seeing that—well, what my ambition had been was to go into medical school out of college. Of course, that got shortened—I forgot about that with the war on. But then I knew I wanted to get back to school and preferably to a university. I met a USO [United Service Organizations] troupe on the darned ship. There's a Liberty ship that took—

EE:

Took forever?

JB:

Yes. It went up and down instead of forward. It was loaded with French war brides.

EE:

So you had to stop at every little port around the coastline from Bremerhaven?

JB:

No! No! They let them all out at one place [New York], but it was just that they were not good travelers and all of them certainly weren't trained in hygiene and courtesy and so forth. They got sick a lot. Besides, they were women, and we were used to being the only women with the men around. Not only were they women, they were married to the fellows. We weren't real buddy-buddies. Anyway, then I was demobilized at Fort Dix, [New Jersey], and got a ride out in Marlene Dietrich's Packard convertible to Los Angeles, [California], because one of the members of the USO troop on board the same troop ship was a friend of Marlene's, and Marlene asked her to pick up her car in New York and bring it on out to her where she was out in Hollywood.

So I rode out there. I told Mother, I said, “Oh, you can't get a chance to get in school anywhere. The GIs have everything loaded.” I said, “But this girl, this one I met on the ship, has a friend who is the registrar at the University of Southern California,” and Dorothea Towne was her name, and “She probably can get you in,” she said. So we called up before I left Philadelphia. She said, “Yes, I can get you in if you get here in time for the February,” January, or whatever it was, second semester. So we did.

EE:

Excellent. What was your undergraduate degree going to be in, then?

JB:

Well, then I decided to take journalism once I got there instead of psychology, as I was majoring in at Beaver. I knew I didn't want to see psychology again. Well, I didn't do too well. I wanted to write in the worst way. I deeply wanted to write, but I did not do it to my satisfaction or anybody else's, really. It was not good. Prolific, but not topnotch.

EE:

So did you finish at Southern Cal, your degree?

JB:

Yes. I did not get a degree, no, no. I left. That's right. I developed some eye trouble from the sun out there. I had floating—something. I forget what it was called.

EE:

Those little black spots that float or whatever they—

JB:

Yes. I forget. There's some name for it. It wasn't a detached retina, but it just kept me away from books and I left short of getting a degree. So I still don't have a bachelor's degree. I did some art importing and I stayed in California. Then the move was on for the Women's Army Corps to become part of the regular army.

EE:

This was in '48?

JB:

Yes. And as such, there was a need for some experienced officers to come back in, and I was written to by our career branch, I guess, whatever the branch, personnel, out of the director's office along with many others who were written to and encouraged to come back. So I did, finally, in December—oh, I know. I certainly did come back because I was offered an assignment to be the first WAC officer up at [United States Military Academy at] West Point, [New York]. I thought, well, that's pretty good. Well, actually not the first one, “the first troop officer” because there was a dietician up there, as well as nurses, and one day a very small, elite, enlisted detachment there to break the Point in, because when you first went on they had never seen—they had seen the nurses, who never wore a uniform except their whites in the little station hospital, but they did not have any female troops assigned at all during the war, at this time.

The 1802nd Regiment, the men, had been caretakers forever, of course, of historical significance. So I was assigned as adjutant to the station hospital with additional duties with the WAC detachment—we had about twenty carefully selected women doing administrative jobs.

EE:

All of them with the hospital operations?

JB:

Yes. Yes. Not assigned anywhere else on the base at first. Of course, it's always kind of a shock at first but it really doesn't take very long to get used to it and know that it's coming.

EE:

Let me ask you a couple of questions as you're starting this second tour about some issues that I've tried to touch base on with other folks who were in during the war years. Because women in the service was a new thing when you joined—we talked about Philadelphians weren't excited about the idea of women in the service and a lot of the people in the military were not. When you joined, your work, it sounds like, was a lot more around other women than most WACs I've talked with. Most WACs were assigned someplace with men.

JB:

Integrated right away with the male forces. Right.

EE:

But you were, because you were working with basic training and then in the special services, the WAC battalion, you really didn't encounter or didn't have the opportunity to encounter the discrimination or the possible resentment that some folks did.

JB:

No. No. No. West Point would be the first time I was really in a—

EE:

Did you have problems at West Point?

JB:

No. Well, shock. The cadets—in other words, they had the time of the famous duo, the football players, the names are going to elude me right now [Blanchard and Davis]. At one time they had to come into my office for some reason, and they actually trembled. Then one said, “Good morning, sir, or ma'am, as the case may be.” They just didn't know—they weren't sure that they were—they were uncomfortable, and the enlisted men of the 1802nd were uncomfortable around post. They had to put me up in the hotel, actually. I stayed there in their guest hotel, one room and bath. There were no quarters. The enlisted women stayed in the hospital.

EE:

How long were you at West Point?

JB:

I started very soon after return to active duty, trying to get into the FAST program, the Foreign Area Specialist Training program, with Russian as my goal; the commander of the hospital was fairly pleased with me as his adjutant, and helped me, you know, to make recommendations and so forth. So I started applying for it, and after maybe, the second or third application, I was accepted for the language school out at Monterey, [California].

EE:

And this would have been in '49 or '50? When did you go to Monterey?

JB:

Yes. I think I reported out to Monterey at the end of '49 or the—it couldn't be, with school starting.

EE:

The Korean War hadn't started yet, had it?

JB:

It either had or it was while I was in school because that's where I was initially assigned after graduation.

EE:

Okay. June of '50 would have started the Korean War. So it was '50, probably, when you were at Monterey.

JB:

Yes. Yes. That's right. It was a year language course, solid—

EE:

Intense for a year.

JB:

Right. No English spoken when we were training. Among the air force people there you had officers and enlisted, you had civilians, all taking instruction from native—indigenous professors, teachers. We spoke nothing but Russian in class.

EE:

You've posed some interviewing challenges to me, perhaps because I've tried to make sure I ask most of the questions that I ask folks if they just had a few months in World War II, but you have so many other things that are interesting in your story. In your World War II days, it does not sound like you were in a position, stateside at least, where you were in physical danger. Did you ever feel physical danger being in Frankfurt there? Was there fear of hostility from locals? Were you kept under armed escort, that kind of thing?

JB:

Yes. You were cautioned as the time went on. First, you were not allowed to go unaccompanied by armed men into the city itself out of the compound. We had barbed wire around the compound area, which was very large. That, before I left, had kind of relaxed because I remember walking down some of the bombed streets and seeing little children pick up one piece of coal that a GI truck going by had dropped. I remember taking, somehow, pats of butter to give out to children if you saw them and going up to the third floor of a bombed building where maybe seven people were living in one room and it was so cold and unroofed and there was always a way for rain and air to get in. You'd see moisture frozen on the walls inside where the—

EE:

Where people were living.

JB:

Yes, where people were living. No. No. I never felt endangered there, really, though just—I was careful, maybe, on the most—anything near fear, maybe, would have been on convoy. We were cautioned that we'd had a couple of Jeep accidents with telephone wire strung across the highways and some of the parties—

EE:

Sabotage?

JB:

Yes.

EE:

Where you couldn't see it, you were driving in the traffic—

JB:

Right. Some people were hurt and killed that way. Otherwise, no. It was eerie sometimes, like even moving into that quarters where the human occupants were still so much in evidence.

EE:

But you, yourself, you weren't afraid as much as you just—

JB:

No. No. The earlier people who went over were at risk. Well, one of them—I think that one of the ships did get bombed, torpedoed or something, coming up from Africa to England with the signal WAAC—

EE:

You remember with such clarity those times. I would imagine that had to have been a difficult thing to see emotionally for you, some of that stuff.

JB:

The destruction and the desperation of the people was. It was terrible. This was true even in France. In France there was not all that friendly an atmosphere either.

EE:

I think that persists to this day, as I recall. So you were in Frankfurt on VJ [Victory in Japan] Day?

JB:

Yes.

EE:

I imagine there might have been a good party that day.

JB:

There was a lot of celebration. In fact, I think it was shortly after that—yes, it was, about three or four weeks, when Eisenhower had the reception for Zhukov.

EE:

So that was, I guess, part of the end of the war celebration.

JB:

Yes, part of it. Yes. And then Eisenhower being relieved. You know, he could turn it over.

EE:

You're at Monterey, I guess, what, '50 to '51? Did you finish before Christmas that year, the Army Language School?

JB:

No. No. It was a whole year. June.

EE:

Till June the following year?

JB:

Right.

EE:

And that's people who are taking that training, and they may be many years into—they could be civil servants, diplomatic corps people—

JB:

Right. No doubt there were some State Department there—well, not so many there as in the later stages of the FAST program.

EE:

How many women were there?

JB:

I was the only one in the Russian class. I graduated number one, I made sure, because I was the first one able to go through that language training. There was a Major Gray Springfield on the staff as the staff judge advocate at the Presidio of Monterey, and she and I roomed together for a while, but that arrangement was interfering with my studies. I bought a pillow speaker, I put it under my pillow at night. I had a “Webcor” wire recorder that I listened to Russian on. I just was determined to come out of there number one, and I did.

EE:

Did you learn to dream in Russian? That's when you know it's getting to you.

JB:

Yes. Finally it could happen. Right. And then, let's see, from there I'd hoped, of course, to go on to the rest, but I applied for the rest of the program, which involves intensive schooling—either schooling or actual on-the-ground work at—well, first, one year at a university studying the geopolitics and everything else about the given country, because this FAST program is worked for many countries where we're going to send either military attaches or diplomatic personnel. I wanted that, but I was not accepted for that.

So I was assigned instead to Korea, but en route to the port of embarkation—because this is when the need over there was just for bodies, I suppose, maybe some Russian, but I was hoping for an intelligence assignment in the intelligence field—and on our way to the port of embarkation the orders were canceled and I was sent back to Europe to the European Command Intelligence Center, where interrogation of former Nazi officers and so forth had been taking place.

EE:

The Nuremberg trials had already happened.

JB:

Yes. Well, they were in progress when I was over there.

EE:

This was back at Oberammergau?

JB:

No. Now I'm back in Oberursel, which is outside of Frankfurt. That was the intelligence school, down at Oberammergau. This is the intelligence center, which eventually then also spun off the CIA [Central Intelligence Agency] field agency there.

EE:

Was this OSS [Office of Strategic Services]?

JB:

Former OSS people, who became a lot of the CIA. No, the Center was positive intelligence, the gathering and training of—they had a lot of technical teams there, specialists on ordinance, quartermaster—

EE:

Trying to learn whatever else the enemy had all those years that took us so long to just absorb it all.

JB:

And we also, then, were a reception area for defectors when the wave of defection started in '52, right around in there, from the Soviet-occupied zones. For instance, our biggest plum was the assistant chief of staff for rntelligence of the Soviet Air Force, who I'm still in contact with. I learned a lot of Russian from him. I got to practice my Russian! Also what to eat: “kvas,” the drink that they make out of clabbered milk, and the little meat rolls, “piroshki.” He had defected and brought with him a Polish woman, and they had one of the safe houses there. We processed all of the defectors and resettled them in various countries, not always ours, in fact, ours only as a last resort and usually only with intelligence value.

EE:

And your work there, was it translation? Was it debriefing?

JB:

No, administrative again, but I at least felt I was somewhere nearer what I was—my goal was still to get into the operations part of it. I was the assistant adjutant and then the adjutant, and I organized a WAC detachment while I was there, a small WAC detachment, maybe twenty-five people.

EE:

What's your rank at this time?

JB:

I'm getting to be a major, I think, here.

EE:

When you came back in at West Point, were you given—you exited your first tour as a first lieutenant?

JB:

No. I got a pocket promotion when I went out to captain, reserve, in the reserve. And then I didn't get it on active duty, so maybe a year or a year and a half later, I forget which one, and—

EE:

So you were a captain at West Point. By the time you got to Oberursel you were still a captain or had you just become major then?

JB:

I was captain. But I don't know when I went major. It was important, too, because going to field grade was a big step, but I'm not sure when it was.

EE:

There were not that many WACs at that high rank, I would guess.

JB:

No. Well, there were a few lieutenant colonels and there was one bird colonel who was director of the Corps, and that prevailed until—

EE:

It wasn't until the late sixties, I think, they could be—

JB:

Yes.

EE:

I remember General [M. Inez] Bailey was talking about that, that it was so exciting when that recognition came through.

JB:

Yes. It was the first time any WAC but the director was promoted to bird colonel. Bird colonel! I was a major when that happened, and additional LTC [lieutenant colonel] promotions were also authorized. I was at the Pentagon, but it just—it's a step way ahead there, but I really wanted it but I was not chosen. I didn't make it until the second list to lieutenant colonel. So they were just enlarging the lieutenant colonel thing, from which then they did have five or six birds.

EE:

How long were you doing this work in—

JB:

Oberursel? Fifty-one to fifty-four. And then I wanted to get out of the army again because I couldn't get the FAST program I wanted. I started the process.

EE:

You wanted to get out because you couldn't—

JB:

Because I couldn't get the FAST program. I didn't want to do any more administrative work. I figured anybody could do this or I could do it anywhere or whatever.

EE:

You weren't really using what you'd been trained in to the degree that you wanted.

JB:

Right. No, what I wanted to do. I wanted something that took a little more—

EE:

More challenge for you.

JB:

Yes. I wanted something like that, or more intellectual requirement, intelligence or something that I could get my teeth into. I didn't want to be an administrator for the rest of my working life. I made and lost a fiancé in here somewhere.

EE:

In the service?

JB:

Yes. Where am I now? So I was getting out, made all the steps for it. I really got prevailed upon, really arm twisted, to please just stay one more tour because they desperately needed recruiting officers, which was not a favorite assignment in the WAC at all or I guess in any of them. Nobody likes to go on recruiting. Well, it turned out I loved it. I did say, “Okay, I'll do it, if I can get FAST after this.” I went to Fort Hayes, Columbus, [Ohio], and I had a wonderful assignment. It was very receptive there. I worked closely with the university, raised a platoon of recruits that we called our “Ohio platoon,” had a lot of fanfare. The town was very good to us.

EE:

So you got a lot of PR [public relations]. I think in the mid-fifties it was a very—I mean, the numbers went down across the board of the services.

JB:

I think that's right.

EE:

It was a very intentional choice after the Korean conflict just to—

JB:

Yes.

EE:

“We don't need these people in the service.” And the numbers stayed down through Vietnam.

JB:

Yes, you're right. You see, you had that perspective. I was sort of on top of it too much. Except I was aware that the WAC was desperate and the women's services were; they needed people, and they were raising the standards and so forth.

EE:

Well, you think that was part of it, is that they were trying to raise the standards and that affected how many you could—

JB:

No. I think it was more of what you just mentioned, that there was a kind of a turning away from the military service.

EE:

“Had enough. Thank you.”

JB:

Or the requirement isn't there, we shouldn't be fooling around with these other things, you know, that kind of attitude.

EE:

Right. It was fine for during an emergency, in the war time. War time is not on now so we don't have that—

JB:

I think that's the whole difference from World War II to every war we've had to send men to since then. Everybody believed and didn't have any problem with this dichotomy and almost always after that.

EE:

How long were you at Fort Hayes?

JB:

The least I could do.

EE:

Fifty-six? Two-year tour?

JB:

Yes. And so I tried again for FAST and I got it.

EE:

You got in in '56?

JB:

Yes.

EE:

So you did not leave?

JB:

No, I didn't leave. I went to Columbia University for the first year of training then back to Oberammergau for two years on the ground. We could not still go to the—we traveled to the Soviet Union and to all of the Balkans and all of the so-called Iron Countries, Iron Curtain, and toured the countries, but we still could not—but the relations—[Nikita] Khrushchev was there—were not such that we could be in country to take the year of training that, if you were going to India or Pakistan, Brazil, you would be able to have that year in the country so you could really polish up your language, get a feeling for the country. So the next best thing, we had all native Soviet and Russian instructors, and we were taught in Russian and so forth. It was intensive.

EE:

Were you told the—

JB:

And the State Department, CIA, all the services—

EE:

Mid-fifties is prime time for it.

JB:

—were in this Detachment R, they call it, which I guess means Russian.

EE:

How many women?

JB:

Three.

EE:

Out of what, a hundred?

JB:

No. There was a small group, maybe thirty of us.

EE:

Three out of thirty.

JB:

There had only been one WAC officer in an earlier class, but Major Georgia Hill was the other WAC officer with me. There was also a female Civil Service in our class.

EE:

What were you told that you would be doing after this, or what did you envision?

JB:

It was possible that we could actually get into the attache service by then. I mean, by then it was possible that you could dream about being a—but short of that, there was the liaison group that was up there in Berlin that was—they weren't really the attaches but they worked with the Soviets and they toured the Soviet zone and so forth.

EE:

I guess in the fifties regular patrols of the zones in Berlin were part of the deal.

JB:

Yes. Yes. Yes. You're right. I'm glad to keep it in perspective. Or the other thing you knew pretty well that you would be doing would be going to one of the intelligence branches in Department of the Army or another agency. And as it was, both Georgia and I were assigned to ACSI [Assistant Chief of Staff for Intelligence] at Department of the Army, Pentagon, for a year and a half and then they formed DIA, Defense Intelligence Agency, and we both went over there, not as a team.

EE:

Just you were both assigned there.

JB:

Yes. She had a different desk. I was on the order of battle, Soviet, first, and she was on one of the Balkan countries. But these assignments used our training.

EE:

Right. Right. Which is nice to have. When the military uses your training, it's always appreciated.

JB:

My first assignment, though, was as a—what they called me for six months, a trash officer, because they had—there was a tunnel, as you probably know, that went from West Berlin to East Berlin, which was used to smuggle intelligence, or information, as it's known when it's still in the raw form, from the East to the West. We ran it for quite a while before anybody tumbled to it. Well, one of the things that were collected—I suppose most of them were East Germans who collected this stuff, they'd go around to the mess halls and latrines, anywhere where trash was in the Soviet camps and brought it over because they definitely were told by our operatives, “Well, we can use anything. You never know when something's going to be thrown away that's still—just bring any paper.” So I heard, “We're going to make you the trash officer first.” They showed me, opened up a wall safe, and there were black plastic garbage bags lining the walls—I don't know how many there were—all full of paper from this tunnel operation, and I had to go through it all to see whether there was any—I found two pieces in three months.

EE:

So you were told sort of like a hit list, these are the topics of interest. The rest you can mess with.

JB:

Right.

EE:

But that—it's like being a prospector, isn't it? You go out there, there's a chance you might find something.

JB:

Well, all we were told is to just get the piece of information and then—

EE:

Put it together.

JB:

Yes. And that's the whole story of the missile crisis, when the missile gap was revealed.

EE:

And I guess the interest in Russian probably, I would think, ratcheted up considerably after the blockade of Berlin, when it became much more confrontational.

JB:

That was something.

EE:

Were you in Germany then?

JB:

With the blockade? Part of the time, yes.

EE:

You finished this school—I want to make sure I've got my dates right. FAST, you were at Columbia, which takes you to '57 then two years in Oberammergau, '59 is when you're finishing at Oberammergau, and then you're assigned in '59?

JB:

Well, see, now we have a year slippage there. I reported to the Pentagon in June of 1961.

EE:

I'm just trying to make sure I've got your career covered.

JB:

So it would be '59 to '61 I was at Detachment R.

EE:

Detachment R—

JB:

—is the Soviet school in Oberammergau, I mean the training school, strategic intelligence, and that was my MOS [military occupational specialty], then I was a Strategic Intelligence Officer.

EE:

Okay. That was your title?

JB:

Yes.

EE:

Well, I appreciate your sharing with me—

JB:

You see, we [unclear]. You got such beautiful training. It's like a master's in—

EE:

Well, that's right.

JB:

I still didn't have my college degree, see? So they had to get me into Columbia, where I took a master's without the degree. Columbia said, “Well, we'll try and see if she makes it.”

EE:

So you have a master's?

JB:

I have no bachelor's degree, except that while I was on recruiting I took a correspondence course in law, American law and procedure, from LaSalle University, and I got an LLD [Doctor of Laws] from that. I loved that assignment. I got into the television stations and the radio stations and the university and then it was high-caliber women, too.

EE:

It's exciting. Obviously, you and I share some concerns and some interests beyond the professional ones here, but what's exciting is to see you getting excited about work that obviously is intellectually satisfying for you to bring to work.

JB:

Oh, yes. That makes all the difference, I think.

EE:

And I think that makes a difference in wanting to stay in the service as a career, too, when it can do that for you. The wall goes up in '61 in Berlin, does it not, or '62? When does the Berlin wall go up?

JB:

It's up in '61. It's going up. And then [President John F.] Kennedy's assassination—

EE:

Was '63.

JB:

Right.

EE:

You were in D.C. then?

JB:

I was in the Pentagon.

EE:

So in '61 you came back stateside?

JB:

Yes. Did I? Yes. Because '59 to '61 in Oberammergau. You should see the other family I have in Oberammergau. You probably saw this [photo displayed]. This is nothing to do with my training.

EE:

Oh, yes, beautiful Bavaria.

JB:

The sergeant just sent that to me.

EE:

You're trained in Russian, but I assume all this time—where did you pick up the German?

JB:

Bahnhofen and the stubes.

EE:

So enough to get around.

JB:

Oh, yes, and lived in the—see, the WACs, when you first went over, right after the war, you had to live in a German billet, in a German home.

EE:

So you picked it up.

JB:

Yes.

EE:

Did you always have a facility for languages?

JB:

No. I flunked German in school, in college, but that was part of my—

EE:

Maturation process.

JB:

No. No. Part of when I was starting to say, oh, I'd rather work on doing something else than this. I felt—to tell you the truth, which is unforgivable, I felt not mentally challenged in that college.

EE:

Well, you wanted to be someplace else in the beginning. You said that.

JB:

I wanted to be in the university, where everybody was at least better than I.

EE:

Well, you got to go to Columbia. I'd say that's pretty good.

JB:

Hey, that did it.

EE:

[Unclear] [laughter]

JB:

On the other hand, ask Dr. Hazzard, head of the Russian Institute. He'd put me in my place!

EE:

In '61 you came back and you were in the Office of the Assistant Chief of Staff for the Department of Intelligence in the Pentagon [Intelligence Department of Army, Pentagon].

JB:

Right. The USSR [United Soviet Socialist Republics] branch.

EE:

You were assigned, and you were one of how many women in that office?

JB:

As intelligence officers, not counting secretaries and so forth?

EE:

Right.

JB:

Two.

EE:

Two out of how many intelligence officers?

JB:

Thirty, forty.

EE:

You told me you were trash officer.

JB:

At first. That was my first assignment. Get that done. Then, after that, I just did regular order of battle and working for intelligence, put out intelligence summaries.

EE:

What people had gathered?

JB:

Back then I also was assistant to the chief of the branch, much more administrative than, you know, than analysis.

EE:

Than actual working with the documents, analysis. So you were only really doing analysis for a brief period of time, then?

JB:

Yes.

EE:

Sounds like you'd rather have been in front of analysis, maybe.

JB:

Yes. But again I had this—that I'm deficient in trying to couch it in the right kind of language.

EE:

This assistant chief of staff office, did it become the Defense Intelligence Agency, or were you transferred to it?

JB:

Well, no. The army still has its own intelligence, as does the air force, the navy, and so forth, their own intelligence departments at departmental level: Department of the Air Force, Department of the Army, and so forth. But Defense Intelligence Agency took over—as you know, is the primary agency for positive intelligence gathering in our setup, as CIA is the positive force of—what do you call it, not subversive but undercover. We were positive, not spies.

EE:

You didn't have to hide your sources, then?

JB:

Well, and we didn't go in country. We took the information that was gathered by the field agencies and tried to make sense of it for the Chief of Staff, the Congress, the President.

EE:

I'm asking similar questions and yet you're taking me, of course, to all different new places. When you're stateside, back in Washington, I assume, would you have your own apartment or home?

JB:

First one at Arlington, [Virginia]. The secretary to the chief of our operations branch at Oberursel, which is where I was immediately before, had married and bought a house on Patrick Henry Drive in Arlington, and they were going to move, and she and her husband knew that I was going to be assigned to the Pentagon. She said, “I can sell you this. We can do it by mail.” So I went to a house I owned. It's the first time I've ever owned a house and not lived in a barracks.

EE:

That's great.

JB:

That was nice.

EE:

How long were you at DIA?

JB:

It was just almost split in half, '61 to '63 with ACSI, and then the last two years with DIA. I retired in June of '65.

EE:

When did you make lieutenant colonel?

JB:

I was at ACSI still so it would be '63 or so. My serial number was L-289, but before that it was A311090. Isn't that something? Name, rank, and serial number, that's all you tell the enemy. At least, that's what we taught from the platform.

EE:

You retired and you say you had your twenty years' worth of service?

JB:

Then I went to work for a think tank out in California. They recruited me while I was still with DIA.

EE:

I would think so, experience.

JB:

Yes, but see, here I go again. I haven't even told my family this but I know it now. I know why I never came up to my expectations of myself. It's either because in my time they weren't sending WAC officers to Command General Staff or to Fort Leavenworth or to even any of the advanced schools, just the sheer lack of language hold on what—the army's real mission is to fight, it's combat, it's guns, and it's troop movements. It's either sheer—I knew about it, of course, but to have a comprehension of what's involved with armor and support of infantry and so forth. Anyway, the language, it would seem stilted when I would write up a proposal, which is what the think tank did, doing the same kind of work, really.

EE:

And going back to the government.

JB:

Right. And I'd sit down at the typewriter and start writing this thing, I'd show it to part of the team I was working with, and they'd clear their throat. So I didn't stay there long because I knew I wasn't making my way.

EE:

You didn't have the buzzwords down, the lingo.

JB:

Yes. Of course, there's a language for everything. I couldn't—if I went to work in Seattle, [Washington], tomorrow, you know, I'd have to learn it to go in with it.

EE:

Think tank, California. Was that Hoover? Where were you at?

JB:

No, I was at the Sylvania Electronics, Incorporated, in Sunnyvale. Then we called it “electronics valley,” which is now Silicon Valley. I lived right off the freeway, in fact, [Bill] Gates was down the road working in his garage on Bernard Avenue. He was just over the bridge from where I lived.

EE:

How long did you stay out there, then? Did you get another job out in California?

JB:

Two years. Two years. This was when I said I'm not cutting it. So then I started—I did some—we don't need to go into civilian life, do we? That's the end, really, of anything that's Soviet connected. I really worked on my own for a while and did some remedial work with children who needed it in elementary school, arithmetic and language.

EE:

So it became more teaching?

JB:

Yes, I guess. Mother was a teacher.

EE:

You came here in '90, you said, to North Carolina—Ninety-five, rather, ninety-five in Wilmington?

JB:

Ninety-five, yes.

[End Tape 1, Side B—Begin Tape 2, Side A]

EE:

They do not remember their lives in chronological order. Most people remember what was important to them.

JB:

The events.

EE:

And they remember a moment, an image, a person, and they do not remember their life in resume form, da-da-da. And the questions I ask, to some extent, and yours, probably because your military career was so long, have become more resume form.

JB:

Yes.

EE:

I tried to get you through just so I can follow because we have very few women that we've interviewed who started in the World War II generation and made a career of it. That's why, I think, for people who are coming back, it would be interesting to follow the career path of a woman who did that. That's why just following your career is interesting and different. So I appreciate you being patient to let me get through that part of your life.

JB:

Well, it was so eventful and so much fun and just so exciting and worthwhile, everything. I always felt we were doing something that made a difference.

EE:

And that's important, because I know you were frustrated that you did not get to FAST earlier, but you did find the work rewarding. I don't think you would have stayed in for twenty years if you didn't find something that was rewarding in it.

JB:

Yes. Well, I certainly never thought my—I remember my father saying to me the second time General [Leonard Townsend] Gerow wanted me to come up to be his—General Gerow was a classmate of my father at VMI, and when the push came to come back in, he was up in Maryland at Camp—I'm not going to be able to remember which—Fort Meade. He was head of the Second Army in the continental division of the way the military was divided and the army was divided, and he wanted me to come up and be his PRO [public relations officer]. But see, I didn't want to go back for that. Daddy said—you know, and this is the first time in my-thirty-two or something like this now, thirty-whatever—

EE:

Forty-eight, so it would have been twenty—

JB:

Late twenties, I guess, because, you know, I'd just broken up with Luigi. He said, “You know, you're going to retire. You've already spent—you're not going to get into medical school now, probably.” Now it's part of the regular army, and I was taken into the regular army. You know, before you were still just considered a reserve officer. And, you know, this didn't make any—and I didn't have any—I said, “I don't think they have retirement in the army. I don't think there is such a thing.”

EE:

It certainly wasn't thought of for women to retire from it, was it? They were still trying to get in.

JB:

Well, it worked out that—then, of course, after I was back in and when I ran into the difficulties I was having in Washington, then I knew I wanted to get out as soon as I could. Also, I felt I owed the army, and I did, probably, by fiat, owe a certain amount of duty time back for the training I'd had with the FAST program. As soon as I was eligible I did want to leave because I didn't want to go back to the women's services and I wanted to stay in a substantive field. I was afraid of administration and I didn't think that I could cut it in the intelligence community.

EE:

Well, most people that I interview with, one of the questions I ask them is, in your military stay, because you meet people from all over, I'm sure there were some memorable characters. Can you think of any? You've had a twenty-year military career. Let me change it a little different for you. Who was the most memorable woman you met in your service?

JB:

Colonel Mary Hallaren.

EE:

Did she eventually become the head of the WACs?

JB:

She was director—yes, and she was the last director, I think, before—

EE:

Brigadier general status.

JB:

Right. Yes. She was diminutive physically. I think she hardly stood five foot, and she had—she was a lady. She was very—with a wonderful Irish sense of humor but a quickness and acuity that is just unusual in anybody. She was very fair-minded as director.

EE:

Did you get to know her when you were in Washington?

JB:

I met her first in Frankfurt, Germany, where she was visiting. When we first went into the war billets in Frankfurt, she came to see how we were being housed and to check on welfare from that angle. She was a lively, wonderful person, and I think she did a lot for the Women's Army Corps, probably to have it established as a permanent part of the army.

EE:

Is there a particularly funny or embarrassing moment in your military career that comes to mind?

JB:

I lost a platoon in the woods, a platoon of trainees, on Mother's Day, brand new recruits, still crying, some of them, from feeling morose, because it was Mother's Day and there they were, half in uniform, didn't have their uniforms yet, straggling around. I took them for a walk. I said, “Would you like to go for a walk and get your minds off all this?” Chickamauga Park runs right by Fort Oglethorpe. I said, “We'll go for a walk, and we'll take a—” I didn't call it a hike or a march. So there was about twelve or thirteen of them, dressed in—let's just say somebody had—some of them had their fatigue dresses on, which was the GI issue, some wore shorts, whatever they came to camp in. I had just been assigned there. It was my first assignment, anyway, Company 10, 21st Regiment. I had some money with me. We bought a soda pop at this country store. I said, “Well, do you want to go back? Should we go a little—”

“Well, let's go a little—let's keep on a little while.”

We did, and then I misjudged. I got into those brambles, blackberry vines. We had the company dog with us and the darned dog wouldn't go home. You'd think he'd know. And pretty soon it's getting dark. I said, “Well, I've got to say I don't know how to get out of here so we're going to have to stay here. There's no use getting more—” because people were starting to get scratched up, and they were afraid of poison ivy and things like that, or bugs. So we had come to a stream and I was trying to follow that. I said, “Maybe this goes somewhere.” There's this clearing, kind of, around it. We said, “This is it. We'll stay here.” We gathered branches and things like this and gathered wood for a fire.

This one girl who was very heavyset and kind of a dope—I shouldn't say that, but she was not as sharp as, say, the others and she already had a reputation for snacking. Well, she brought from the mess hall this sandwich I know was that thick. It was made of pimento cheese—it was thick white bread—it was grated carrots and raisins, the most horrible combination. She had that sandwich with her. She had taken a couple of bites when we had the soda, but she put it back in her—whatever we were carrying—we didn't have any backpacks or anything. We only had our clothes. But she had that sandwich. Well, we broke that sandwich into thirteen—and one for the dog, and we drank water out of the stream, and that's it.

We put two people on guard to keep the fire going and to watch out for—to be sure that nobody got too near or anything, made a kind of semi-circle around, the kids would huddle up against each other's backs and then you'd rotate so you could be near the heat, two hours, two shifts, till dawn. I don't think I slept. I don't know. I must have, though. But we got up as it was even starting to crack light and again told the dog, “Now, come on, now. We've really got to go home.” He just played. But for however way, we—after we'd been walking for ten or fifteen minutes I could hear motor traffic somewhere. So okay, well, let's head toward that, because at least it's a road. A road's going to go somewhere.

We went in that direction and were just getting out onto the shoulder there. We looked up through this kind of misty fog—it was damp. It was only May. Here comes a military “convoy”—trucks, staff cars coming down the highway.

EE:

Looking for you?

JB:

Looking for us. That was by far the most embarrassing—from then on, I got guides to go to the PX [post exchange]. They gave me a map of the post, didn't trust me to go anywhere from then on. We got back, and they took us—wrapped blankets around the trainees, put me in a staff car with the Provost Marshall. It turns out that two of my friends who had taught me to horseback ride—and took me, spent several weekends with me playing around in the park—they said, “We think we can find her.”

EE:

I guess that brought to a close, then, the end of your career leading other troops, is that right?

JB:

It did for a while. It sure did.

[Recording Interrupted]

EE:

Until your recruiting assignment at Fort Hayes, and the enlistment of the Ohio platoon.

JB:

Yes. Thank goodness it was a little different. I didn't lose that one.

EE:

I've just got a few short questions. Do you think the military made you more of an independent person than you were beforehand?

JB:

It certainly honed it. I was very independent before. It made me more people-aware, more interactive with humanity.

EE:

You certainly learn to appreciate different personalities, don't you?

JB:

Yes. Yes.

EE:

You have to learn to get along with people.

JB:

Yes, you do.

EE:

Do you feel like you made a contribution in the service?

JB:

Yes. I think that first assignment in Frankfurt and then Camp King in Oberursel, even Oberammergau, because we were able to have small units of WAC enlisted personnel where they made a real impact in the respect level and appreciation level for women and their ability to do various jobs.

EE:

You know, when—you have books like this that are out there, and many people, when they look back at—there's somebody at the door. We're going to take a break.

[Recording Interrupted]

EE:

—talk about books and things, a lot of people, when they look back at the role of women in our society, how it's changed over the last half century, they say one of the big reasons was because of women in the service. Do you think of yourself as a trail blazer in that regard, opening up things for women?

JB:

That and the defense factories, no. I don't think of myself, as an individual, no, but I just believe I was part of a sea change in the way our country and probably some of the rest of the world views what women can do.

EE:

You made a career out of being in the service, and some people, I think especially since the integration of women into the regular army in the seventies, have been critical that we integrated the women into the service. In fact, General Bailey was against it at the time. She felt that women should be separate, structurally there's certain parts of the service that women should not enter into. Yet more and more, women are involved in different kinds of jobs. Do you think there's a part of military work that should not be open to women?

JB:

Yes, I sure do. I'm solid in the camp of no women in combat. I think that it's harmful to the mission. There are things that women cannot do. There's just no doubt about it and whose personal needs will interfere with what fighting units are supposed to be. I do not agree with that tendency. I know it's going on, and I—

EE:

I think we had our first woman fighter pilot even back in December that was in combat in Iraq, when we were bombing Iraq.

JB:

Right. In fact, one was taken prisoner.

EE:

Would you recommend a military career to a women today?

JB:

Yes. Yes. Not above all others, but given any interest and/or with some of the people who may not have the advantage of being able to go to college on their own, I would suggest it just as an educational benefit as well as an feeling that they're doing something for their country.

EE:

Again, this is a question that has a different tone because you spent twenty years in the service, but how do you think your life has changed because of your time in the military? What's been the biggest change in you as a person?

JB:

My outlook is, I think, more directed toward political and socioeconomic factors in life, if you will, in one's progression through life, than it might have been otherwise.

EE:

In other words, it's broadened your horizon, your view of how things operate?

JB:

Yes. Yes. And how important that is to me as an individual and to anybody as a individual, not just something that you read in the newspapers or study in school. And the other thing would be ability to speak at ease with large groups and just be a public person more.

EE:

Are you active in alumni groups? You knew Ms. Morey, or do you actively—

JB:

No. No, I'm not. She made me feel very welcome if I was actively interested in being part of their group, which is [U.S.] Navy and I guess they have some Marines.

EE:

How did she find out about you, then?

JB:

I don't know. When I moved here on this street, people knew my church and I'm not sure how they got to know about the military background but it became known. I know, of course, it does come up somewhere along the line. Then one of the women, a neighbor down the street, is the daughter of Jane Morey, and she told her mother, and her mother said, “Well, let me see if she's interested in joining our group.”

[Recording interrupted]

JB:

—my plan to let the machine answer until we finish your interview.

EE:

That's all right. I've only got one official question and one unofficial one. Do you think the country is—well, I know it's gone through ebbs and flows of patriotism. About patriotism, how do you think about—

JB:

Well, it goes a little bit with what we were just talking about. I feel there isn't a sense of country among us, certainly as we knew it, and for obvious reasons. We were in a time of crisis, both with the Depression and the war. Since then, with the general well-being of the country, you just don't look beyond your own spheres as much. There isn't the need for it.

EE:

We're a bunch of interest groups but we're not all together on things.

JB:

Right. Mutuality isn't all that evident. You see a lot of interest in things that maybe aren't germane to your own life, as we see a tremendous amount of volunteerism in this country for social causes. But as far as, “Hey, I'm an American and we need to do this and we need to do that,” it's more fragmented, it seems to me.

The communities can be very kind of dedicated and focused on certain aspects of what they want their life to be like and for their children, whether it's education or community values, you know. And I suppose, something you said earlier, that without imminent danger or threat, the cohesion is not felt all that much. You're interested in your college, your school, your university, your football team, your favorite state, your next vacation plan, the national parks, your children's education, but as far as putting all this together and saying, hey, it's the United States of America or thinking how lucky you are—you only have to go to most other countries—

EE:

That's right. Everyone should live overseas for a little while, I believe.

JB:

I think—I really think—and that's another reason to join the army for at least a period of service.

EE:

Well, the other thing I was going to say was, you know, when I lived in Europe I was impressed that everybody there had to do a year of either military or civil service.

JB:

Yes. I think that would help in our country—national, some kind of service to the nation.

EE:

I think it would.

JB:

Something like Switzerland has, or even the Germans have a—you know, they have a very civilized type of requirement on their male citizens. I could see it on women and men, some kind of—do something for—and perhaps just a modicum, not so much—you don't have to have a whole lot of emphasis on the military part of it, but—

EE:

Right. Something beyond you.

JB:

That's right. Yes.

EE:

If we could get everybody thinking for at least a minute beyond themselves, we'd be all right.

There's a lot of things that you and I could have talked about. We were a little light on social life today. You had so much career-wise. I imagine you found a way for a social life somewhere in there.

JB:

Yes, indeed, a wonderful social life.

EE:

I talked with a woman one time. She was very sweet about it. She said, “Well, as a woman in the service, there were more opportunities than you knew what to do with.”

JB:

Yes. That's an understatement, maybe.

EE:

But then she said, “Maybe that's not the right way I should say it.” [laughter] But I know that's part of the fun of being in there, being young and being in the service.

JB:

Yes. It gives you a distinction right away, that you haven't probably earned, but—

EE:

But you'll take.

JB:

Yes. Absolutely.

EE:

I certainly appreciate the thoroughness and the patience with which you have done this with me this morning, and we'll perhaps turn off the tape recorder now and make sure that I've got most everything spelled. You know, if I hadn't known German, this would have been a really rough interview. You've spared me from going through Russian things. So that's good. But again, on behalf of the school, I just want to say thank you very much.

[End of Interview]