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The Betty H. Carter Women Veterans Historical Project

Oral history interview with Audrey Fisher, 2000

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Object ID: WV0153.5.001

Description: Documents Audrey Ann Fisher’s twenty-seven year career in the military, with an emphasis on attitudes and changes in the Women’s Army Corps and the U.S. Army.

Summary:

Fisher discusses her childhood in Oregon and Washington; her social life after high school, including socializing with men from a navy base; her reaction to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor; prejudice against Indians and Japanese; her employment with Pacific Telephone & Telegraph and the Bell System, and choosing between the army and the air force.

Fisher primarily talks about her military service, discussing all twenty-seven years of her career in detail. Topics include basic training, including cold showers and KP duty; her assigment to the clerk typist school; teaching men and women at Camp Breckinridge in the late 1940s; recruiting strategies; OCS instruction in stewardship, fraternization, and army structure; work in the adjutant general’s office in San Antonio and Fort Benning; assignment to the officers club at Fort Lawton, Washington; changes when men on the bases went to Korea in the early 1950s; the stigma against returning Korean prisoners of war; volunteering to serve in Korea to advance her career; commanding WAc units at Fort McClellan, Oakland Army Base, and Fort Jackson; isolation from civilians; mentoring new recruits; career course instruction, including logistics and a staff study; anxiety about the Cuban missile crisis; earning a college degree; conflict and danger in Vietnam; and the United States’ mistakes and ambivalence in Vietnam; her personnel work at Fort Riley and the Pentagon; and the U.S. Army War College.

Fisher also comments on issues related to women in the military. She talks about having to take the initiative to advance her career; racial integration in the army; being an opinionated woman in the army; women in combat positions; changing military policies; career paths for women in the military; integrating the WAC into the regular army; her advice to women interested in a military career; femininity in the military; and the advantages of her military service.

Creator: Audrey Ann Fisher

Biographical Info: Audrey Ann Fisher of Portland, Oregon, and Spokane, Washington, served in the Women’s Army Corps (WAC) and the U.S. Army from 1949 to 1976.

Collection: Audrey Ann Fisher 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:

This is an interview for the Women Veterans Historical Project at the University [of North Carolina at Greensboro, UNCG]. Today is December the 18th, in the year 2000. I am in or near Hendersonville, North Carolina, at the home this afternoon of Ann Fisher. Thank you for allowing us to be in your home today, Ms. Fisher, to talk about your service in the military.

AF:

Delighted.

EE:

Where were you born, and where did you grow up?

AF:

I was born in Portland, Oregon. We moved to Spokane when I was ten. That's Spokane, Washington. I entered the army from Spokane.

EE:

So you were a two-town girl. What did your folks do when you were young?

AF:

Oh, gosh. During the Depression, my poor father must have had whatever work he could get.

EE:

You were born in '26, so you were just a little kid when the Depression hit.

AF:

Yes, I certainly was.

EE:

So he was just taking odd jobs at that time?

AF:

As much as he could, yes. I even think he went with the WPA [Works Projects Administration] projects when he could. He lost his job. You know, he was fired because they couldn't afford him.

EE:

Did he have a skilled trade at the time?

AF:

He was a meat cutter.

EE:

What about your mom? What did she do?

AF:

Well, she stayed at home, but she was a graduate of a local office—what do they call them?

EE:

Business schools?

AF:

Business school. That's right. There you go.

EE:

So did she do any of that work outside the home?

AF:

She did later on. My parents divorced. She stayed in Portland and worked for Portland General Electric for years, until she retired.

EE:

Did you have any brothers and sisters?

AF:

I have two half sisters. Well, I should say I had two. The oldest of the two half sisters died when she was eighteen. We were pretty sorry about that.

EE:

So you were close to them.

AF:

Yes. Yes. They were babies when I was living with my father and my stepmother.

EE:

You say you were about ten when you moved to Spokane?

AF:

Yes.

EE:

Were you somebody who liked school growing up?

AF:

No, hated it.

EE:

[Laughs] An honest answer.

AF:

I liked certain subjects.

EE:

Okay. What was your favorite subject?

AF:

History, geography, English.

EE:

You know, I've discovered that people who have long careers in the military, it helps to have a knowledge of geography, doesn't it?

AF:

I can't believe how people don't know—I know someone from South Carolina that doesn't know anything other than—I know her state better than she does. [laughter]

EE:

You're forced to learn.

AF:

I'll say. [laughs]

EE:

Did you have an inkling when you were younger what you wanted to be when you grew up?

AF:

My stepmother had been in nurse's training, so you kind of say, “Well, I'd like to be a nurse.” I graduated from high school when I was still sixteen, and they wouldn't take you in nurse's training. So I went to work for Pacific Telephone & Telegraph Company and worked for them for five and a half years during the war. I traveled all over during that time in Washington State. That was in 1943.

EE:

High school in Washington State, was that a twelve-year—we were slow in North Carolina. We didn't have twelve-year school till late.

AF:

Yes, it was twelve years.

EE:

So you were just a fast learner.

AF:

I skipped some grades in grade school, so that brought me into that age.

EE:

You probably could read early on, then.

AF:

Yes, I did. As a matter of fact, I read very early.

EE:

What kind of work were you doing at Pacific Tel?

AF:

I was teaching other young women how to be telephone operators. Then I was a supervisor.

But the fun of it was to be eighteen years old and I went down to Pasco, Washington. It was a time when the Hanford Engineer Works was going full steam, so we were having to handle all their telephone traffic. Here's this little tiny, tiny, wheat country town with direct circuits to New York, Chicago, wherever.

EE:

All the big places.

AF:

Oh, yes.

EE:

And it was built out in the middle of no place for fear of contamination or whatnot.

AF:

That's right, and there was a naval air station just up the road. So you can imagine, eighteen years old with a naval air station. I mean, that was fun.

EE:

There was a social life. Is that what you're saying?

AF:

You're saying it. [laughs]

EE:

In other words, you want to incriminate yourself, obviously.

AF:

Oh, it was. We had a great—you know, as far as socially. As we got a little more serious, it crept in more and more. These boys would leave, and then you would realize, my goodness, what they're going off to.

EE:

What they're going into.

AF:

Yes, they're going off to the Pacific.

EE:

I guess you were at home and in high school when Pearl Harbor Day happened.

AF:

Yes, I was.

EE:

What do you remember about that?

AF:

Funny, I can remember vividly. I had been to my grandmother's, who lived not too far away from my parents. She had let me go to the movies. I saw Hold Back the Dawn, and I think it was something like Charles Boyer and Paulette Goddard. When I got out, it was in late evening and I got the bus to go home. There were newsboys running around yelling that Pearl Harbor had been bombed.

I remember I ran home and ran in the house, woke my little sister up, and told them that I'd heard this. They said yes, so had they. We knew this was war.

EE:

Being on the West Coast, was there concern about blackouts and worrying about the Japanese?

AF:

We were far enough inland that we didn't have that problem. On the coast, of course, they were doing all kinds of things, but over where we were—we're just twenty-five miles from the Idaho border in Spokane, but we still had a lot of anti-war feeling, a lot of worry about Japanese, you know, the silliness that we went through at that time.

EE:

You were stateside, and although this doesn't directly relate to your career, it does help me understand the attitude that you might have had about the military. Were people afraid during the war, in your recollection, that we might not win?

AF:

No. No. I never heard that. As far as we were concerned in Washington State, we had the best public schools in the country. We were probably the best educated. We were proud of the fact that we were accent-free. Really, this is the kind of thing that we went—and we were very prejudiced against Indians and Japanese, because we have a big Indian reservation there. Very prejudiced. It was terrible.

EE:

Something you don't really recognize until you leave the area.

AF:

We had no prejudice against blacks because we didn't have any.

EE:

Didn't have any, yes. By that same token, we wouldn't have had any Japanese over here, so we wouldn't know what the problem was. [laughs]

AF:

That's correct. Yes. That's exactly right.

EE:

That's pretty early to be away from home. How did your folks feel about you—

AF:

Tickled to death to see me go. [laughs] No, really. They couldn't afford to send me to college, and I had to go to work. It was a good job. It was fun. When I left after five and a half years, they were nice enough to keep me on leave, on military leave, for eleven years, which I thought was hilarious.

EE:

So you left in '48?

AF:

No. I left in '49. February 1949 is when I enlisted and left.

EE:

So you went right from Pac Tel to the service.

AF:

That's correct.

EE:

What was it that got you thinking about joining the service as an option?

AF:

During the war years, of course, we would see women in uniform. I couldn't enlist. I was too young. You had to be twenty-one. Of course, by the time the war was over, they weren't recruiting that much because they didn't know what was going to happen to the women anyway. They didn't know whether it was going to just completely be dissolved or what, so there was no recruiting. But, you know, you were caught up in the war. You wanted so much to join. You were so sorry that you weren't old enough. You really had that patriotic urge. Besides, I had an itchy foot. Even when I was with Bell, I was lucky enough, they'd send me wherever we had a real shortage of operators because of the war. So I think with my, oh, just wanting to move around, wanting to see what was going on, what's the world like, that was one motivation. The other, there was that lingering patriotism.

EE:

And besides, you were all of twenty-three.

AF:

I was twenty-two when I enlisted, yes.

EE:

Ready to see the world, in the biggest sense.

AF:

Yes. Yes. Really. It was three years. So what?

EE:

So you were looking at it when you went in as a three-year commitment to see all of the world that you could.

AF:

Then I could go back to Bell if I wanted, or I could—I wanted to go to college.

EE:

Was the GI Bill into your thinking?

AF:

No, because it wasn't—

EE:

It wasn't really developed at that time.

AF:

I wouldn't have been entitled to it, so it really wasn't in my thinking.

EE:

I assume that you go to a recruiting officer there in Spokane to sign up?

AF:

That's right.

EE:

What made you pick the WAC [Women's Army Corps] as opposed to another branch of service?

AF:

I really don't like to tell this, but I asked for the air force and was accepted, except that they wanted [me] to go to San Antonio, Texas. At the time that I wanted to get away from Bell to go, because I didn't want to leave them in the lurch because they needed me, the air force could not take me at that point. The army could. They said it's at Fort Lee, Virginia. Virginia sounded a heck of a lot more interesting to me than Texas, and it does to this day. So I said, “Oh, okay. I'll go in the army.”

EE:

And you left post haste, right?

AF:

That's right. I went when I wanted to go.

EE:

What did your half sister and your friends think of you joining the service?

AF:

Well, they were little girls and oh, proud, very proud of me. Oh, yes, they thought that was great. Then my sister that's alive now, Rosalee, she'd visit me, and we'd have a great time. If I had a command position with a WAC detachment or something like, I'd throw her aboard the bus and off we'd go to a ball game or something, and she had a grand time.

EE:

When you signed up, was this your first trip outside of Washington State since you all moved?

AF:

I had been in Oregon, of course. Yes, I guess it was.

EE:

So this was the big trip.

AF:

Yes. Yes.

EE:

And you went as big as you could go and still be in the U.S. You went all the way across the country.

AF:

That's right. They just had this big train, and we just kept gathering more women and gathering more women.

EE:

How long did it take to get across?

AF:

Good grief, in those days about four days. We went to Cincinnati, and then they changed trains there and went on down to Fort Lee. But we had a Pullman and ate in the diner.

EE:

So you all had your own car at the beginning of this trip and just added? They kept you all together?

AF:

I don't think we had our own car, but eventually we almost did because they just kept picking people up as they'd go across the country.

EE:

Four days to get to Fort Lee.

AF:

Four or five days. It was a long trip.

EE:

I guess basic's eight weeks?

AF:

Yes.

EE:

What are your memories of basic training, which is always an experience for people?

AF:

Well, unfortunately, I didn't like it because I really like to be in charge. On the other hand, it was interesting. But I never could march very well, so they used to pull me out of the parades when they'd have some dignitary, I remember. So there I'd be. For some reason or other, they would just pull me out because I never kept in step. And when Omar Bradley came to review the troops, they hid me. [laughter]

Grease traps and KP [kitchen patrol duty] I remember vividly, cold-water showers, but it was an experience.

EE:

Your family is small compared to a lot of the ones I've talked to. You're thrown in with a lot of people right off the bat at basic training.

AF:

Yes. Yes.

EE:

What was that like, being surrounded by that many strangers from all over the place?

AF:

It was really interesting.

EE:

It didn't scare you then?

AF:

No, it didn't, because I had traveled.

EE:

You didn't get homesick?

AF:

Oh, heavens, no. Remember, I had five and a half years with Ma Bell [American Telephone & Telegraph], had traveled with them.

EE:

That was sort of like your dorm experience meeting new faces already.

AF:

Yes. And we did. That was the dorm experience all the time that I was with Bell if I wasn't at home.

EE:

So they did provide your housing at Bell.

AF:

Oh, yes.

EE:

So in a sense, you had had the social experience of being in the service, sort of, when you were with Pac Tel, didn't you?

AF:

Plus the discipline. The telephone company was a hard taskmaster in those days. You did what you were told, and you didn't talk.

EE:

Okay. Well, that's interesting, that you had that pre-discipline training, I guess.

AF:

Really. I hadn't thought about it like that, but yes, you're right.

EE:

Did they ask you or did you express a preference for a kind of work you'd be doing in the service?

AF:

Well, I did. You had no preference in those days. It's not like it was later. But I said, well, gee, I thought the Signal Corps would be fine. After all, here I'd been this great person working for Pacific Telephone & Telegraph.

EE:

You sound like a communication expert already.

AF:

So consequently, they sent me to clerk typist school. [laughs] It was at Fort Lee.

EE:

So that was your first stop out of basic, was there at Fort Lee.

AF:

Right.

EE:

How long was clerk typist school?

AF:

Two months.

EE:

How many words a minute did you do?

AF:

Oh, I never really typed.

EE:

It was just form typing. It wasn't speed typing or anything like that.

AF:

Yes. But they kept me on as an instructor, and I liked that. Really, all that we were trying to do is to orient these people that would probably go into administrative fields in all of the type of records.

So what you would do is you'd describe a service record and what it did. You'd just talk about the duty roster. You would talk about a morning report and all of the things that would go into it and policies that would apply to the administration. It was a lot of fun. I had a lot of classes.

EE:

SASLAC[?], knowing what I know from our talk before the interview of your future career, from the very beginning, in teaching about policies, you're in a sense thinking about policies from the very beginning in your service.

AF:

I think so. And I liked it because you learned how to stop and look at a policy and think, “Why do they have this?” and why they don't.

EE:

Why is that form there.

AF:

And I think that is when I formed the fact that when I really got into some policy that was important, I would say, “Well, this is stupid. You can't enforce it,” or, “Hey, now, we can do this and make it work.” Yes, I think that was a good foundation.

EE:

When you were at Fort Lee, both as basic and at clerk typist school, were all of your instructors women?

AF:

Yes. We were self-contained down there.

EE:

I guess because it was the only training facility, there was enough women where you were just sort of in your part of the base.

AF:

We were. We were down at one end. That's right.

EE:

And no fraternization with the men down there.

AF:

Not unless you can get a date.

EE:

Oh, okay. [laughter] And you may not have had the time or energy to get that.

AF:

Well, you'd have a hard time finding any way, I'll tell you.

EE:

You were at Fort Lee. How long were you there as an instructor?

AF:

I guess it must have been about a year after I got out of admin school. Then they closed the school because they needed the room to add another training battalion. So where we had been and our school became the third basic training battalion at Fort Lee, and they sent me down to a little place called Camp Breckinridge, Kentucky, that had been a World War II base that had been closed. They set up an admin school there, and I went there and taught. There I taught men and women. Most of the instructors were men, and my commander was a man. So this was my first experience, then, getting in the army, if you will.

EE:

I'm curious. Knowing what's going on in the world, you're there for a year, the Korean Conflict starts in June of '50, are they expanding a third class at Fort Lee because of the need for more women to take over jobs for men, perhaps?

AF:

We had that much recruiting. We had that much success at recruiting that they needed more room. And we did.

Those were the days, too, when we had an awful lot of enlisted men who—they weren't the best or the brightest, but they could put them in the service jobs that civilians hold now. I remember the firemen in our building were all men, and one day, they all left to go to Korea. So we used to have to pull shifts firing the furnaces. I can remember I had that a lot.

EE:

You are there at Breckenridge for about how long, about a year?

AF:

Not quite a year, and I was pulled for recruiting.

EE:

Did you sign up for a second tour of duty at Breckenridge or while you were recruiting?

AF:

Well—

EE:

You said your first three years was running out pretty soon.

AF:

Well, I was on recruiting when I was accepted for OCS [Officer Candidate School], but they kept deferring the class. So it came to the time where I had to reenlist. So then I took another giant step, and I said, “Okay. I'll reenlist for six years,” because I got a reenlistment bonus and I needed the money so I could go home and visit my family, but they didn't make anything. Then I got to OCS, and I thought, “My God, what have I done? What in the world have I done?”

EE:

You've turned this little adventure into your life's work right here, haven't you?

AF:

“Six years. You dummy, you can't get out.” Well, fortunately, I graduated.

EE:

Tell me about this stint in Breckenridge for a second, because it is your first interaction with men.

AF:

Yes.

EE:

How was that professionally? Were you treated professionally?

AF:

Yes, I was. It was a delightful experience. It was nice to get into that environment. They were very complimentary about my ability to instruct.

I was terrified for my first class. We were in these old World War II barracks. We had an old stove in the back, and we had to have the fellows fill it. But they were great. They weren't smart. They treated me very well. By then I was a sergeant, and I had no problem. I liked it very, very much.

EE:

It doesn't seem like there were a lot of WACs at Breckenridge at that time.

AF:

We started a detachment there. There were some, and they were all just mingled in the classes together.

EE:

Where did you go when you were assigned to recruiting? Western Pennsylvania?

AF:

I went to Philadelphia for orientation, then I was at Harrisburg.

EE:

During the Korean Conflict, what's the work of a recruiter? How does that job differ? I've heard people who were recruiting during World War II and the stump speeches they had to make and different places they were. Were you assigned to just one recruiting station there in Harrisburg, or how did your thing go?

AF:

That's what you call the main station, where we processed all our people. But I had a territory. For example, I would—it was WAC/WAF [Women in the Air Force] recruiting in those days, so we were either for the army or the air force. I worked closely with an air force woman officer, and we would travel together a lot. We would go from towns to Chambersburg to Williamsport, York, that whole area in that part of Pennsylvania.

EE:

What was the most effective, during this time, recruiting tool, did you think, for getting women to join?

AF:

I think an awful lot like I was. You know, that's such a populated state. These young women would be out of high school, and they kind of think, “I don't want to work in the local factory,” or, “I'm up here in Shamokin,” or up in the coal-cracking country, “and I'd like to see what's going on in the world.”

So really, you would come, and you would say, “We're going to give you some good training.” We looked good. We were young. Our uniforms were okay. That was the period of when they were doing a change. I guess you would just talk to them. They still had that feeling of patriotism because World War II had influenced their parents.

EE:

The slogan wasn't “Free a Man To Fight,” was it?

AF:

No. We shied away from that.

EE:

You didn't want to mention war.

AF:

You didn't. You said, “We need people.” And remember, too, we were terribly proud, because in 1948, when recruiting started again, we were made part of the regular army. I was very proud of that, because I recognized the difference between that and the reserve status.

EE:

Did you rely on literature, posters?

AF:

Literature, posters.

EE:

Did you do speeches to high school kids?

AF:

Oh, heavens, yes. I talked to so many high schools that I was just—yes. Yes.

EE:

One thing that I was surprised is that in World War II, how important it was for women recruiters to talk to men's clubs because they had to convince daddies that it was okay to let their daughters join the service. Was that still a problem?

AF:

Oh, yes. They had to have parental consent, of course, and you would sometimes end up going to the homes and talking to them. And at least what I did, you tried to tell them that it was not particularly easy. I used to try to point out some of the things that they might encounter. So many times, too, they'd be fearful that their daughter would meet unsavory companions, and I said, “That's probably very true, but I've also found that if you have your own set of standards and you stick to those, you will end up by being with those people that share those standards.”

EE:

That would be the case whether you were civilian or military, wouldn't it?

AF:

Absolutely. So you really and truly—you could not always avoid unpleasantness, but by and large, I never had any problems.

EE:

You were doing that work, and as the OCS opportunity came and was delayed, you went to OCS in '53, is that right?

AF:

'52.

EE:

'52, and it was a six-month class?

AF:

Six months.

EE:

So you came out of there in '53. Was that just for women officers?

AF:

Yes.

EE:

What was that experience like?

AF:

Oh, it was rough, really. There was a lot of academic. I had to learn how to march. I had to learn how to teach a PT [physical training] class, something I never had. So I did that, and learned how to command, developed a command voice, and more importantly, try to talk about ethics and learn more about your responsibilities.

EE:

We were talking beforehand, and your career will go back and forth between administrative and command post, in a sense. Is this the structure that was sort of outlined for you there at the initial OCS, that here's what you can expect in the years ahead? Had they developed a career path for women at this time?

AF:

They hadn't. They hadn't. I look back on it now, and even when I was first with troops, we were really very, very maternalistic. We really and truly cared.

It was hammered into us, you never eat before your troops. You look out for them first and foremost. That is what your job is. It was hammered into us. I wish they would have more of that in some ways because now I see some officer behavior that I think is just absolutely—you know, I [unclear] it.

EE:

It's more like a class division, rather than a stewardship position.

AF:

Nicely put, because that's what the emphasis was. Now, there was some class distinction, I suppose, and they did dwell long about fraternization, things of this nature. Some of it I thought was sort of silly. I understood it and observed it, but there are situations when that doesn't always have to apply. But they were strong on ethics. Of course, we had a lot of classes just plain on army, you know, structure.

EE:

Were all your instructors women?

AF:

Yes.

EE:

You left Fort Lee, and you went to Stoneman, which was a jumping-off spot for a number of women I interviewed during World War II.

AF:

That's right.

EE:

And it was still in use as such, I guess, during Korea.

AF:

It was. It was a large staging area, and then they were taken by ferry from a little town called Martinez, California, down to Fort Mason, you know, there at San Francisco, and then shipped over. Then they also brought them back from Korea.

EE:

What was your work there at Stoneman?

AF:

It was administrative. The whole post was administrative, really.

EE:

Processing paperwork to get everybody in and out.

AF:

Processing to get everyone in and everyone out. They were bringing back people who had been prisoners in Korea, and I can remember being very sad about that, because there was also this pointing the finger that they had capitulated during interrogation from the Chinese. Of course, as you know, that's been disproven. I would have told them anything. We didn't have any great secrets, any GI that was over there. I would have told them anything, probably, to avoid some of the punishments.

EE:

I remember, myself, a feeling of joy when the Vietnamese POWs [prisoners of war] were released, but you're saying when the Korean POWs came home, there was much more stigma about—

AF:

There was.

EE:

—what have you given up, what have you told?

AF:

That's correct, and it was too bad because there was really no secret that they would have unless they'd been a higher rank. The thing was, after that, they developed this Code of Conduct. This was during my—I can remember they developed this whole thing. We had to read this, and we also had to sign oaths, or take oaths, I think, about the code. So these were times when—then the Cold War was starting.

EE:

As part of OCS or at any point in your military stations, were they, at any one place, more concerned about spying and the potential for secrets being found out?

AF:

No. No.

EE:

You weren't in that kind of operation then, where you didn't have to have a lecture on—

AF:

No. If anybody wanted to interrogate me, I could have just given them all kinds of things about administration, and they would have wanted to shut me up. No. No. I didn't encounter that. You know, we didn't have the access to information that we do nowadays. But I do remember that vividly, and I can remember feeling sorry. And then, as I would talk to some people and when I would find out about it, I thought these men are heroes. It was the same way after Vietnam. Vietnam disturbed me very much.

EE:

You were at Stoneman, and then they closed that facility.

AF:

They did. What they did is they divvied up responsibilities. They sent some to Oakland Army Base, where I went, some to Seattle. So those two bases handled all of the shipments in and out of the Far East.

EE:

So Oakland basically took over what Stoneman had been doing.

AF:

Some of it, and Seattle did some.

EE:

Good gracious, they've just now, fifty years later may be resolving that conflict between the Koreas.

AF:

Isn't that something?

EE:

Amazing. You talked about the prisoners. What was the sense in the society about the conflict coming to an end in '53?

AF:

You know, we led such an insular life. We never talked to civilians. I can't remember talking to a civilian in all the time I was at Camp Stoneman. We were kind of out there. It wasn't close to much, and I never got any reaction. It's kind of too bad. We really and truly lived in our own little world. You'd go to a post, and that was your world.

EE:

I would imagine that may be a function of your age and stage of career, whether you're in the military or whatnot. Your social connections may be tied to work or whatnot.

AF:

I think that's probably true. But it really was. You worked, and that was it. I didn't see civilians.

EE:

You made first lieutenant at Oakland. And you were doing similar administrative work at Oakland.

AF:

No. No, I had a WAC detachment there.

EE:

That was your first command?

AF:

My first command, yes.

EE:

What's it like being in charge, putting this training to use?

AF:

I really felt the weight of responsibility. I really wanted them to do right and to be comfortable and looked out for. In other words, I probably worried about them more than they really wish I had not.

Bu then it was a small detachment, so I had another job over in the administrative field, too. I had a good first sergeant, and they didn't need me all that much, I don't think, now that I look back on it. But I was a commander.

EE:

And this was maybe what, twenty women? How many all together?

AF:

Oh, we had around fifty, sixty, something like that.

EE:

A good size. No traumas then. No personal counseling late at night?

AF:

Oh, heavens, yes.

EE:

I a lot of times ask of people, were there particular characters or incidents they remember, and that's easy to ask it in that form when you have a one-year stint in the service. Maybe this is a good time, as your first role as a commander, were there any memorable incidents from that first command?

AF:

Well, I had a young group, about six or seven young women from Hawaii. They were some Hawaiian, some Japanese Hawaiian. They were homesick. Some were just more fun and cheerful and adjusted, and others didn't. It was really kind of a big adjustment for them to come to the mainland.

Then I had some discipline problems. I didn't know anything about drugs in those days. We'd never heard about them, but she was on something, and she threatened to kill me. I could see myself, people trying to hold her back while I'm getting out of her way, things that were very unpleasant of this nature. You had to try to figure out how do you handle this and what can you do for this person.

EE:

It's one thing dealing with other people as private. It's another thing dealing with people when they're looking to you for a decision, isn't it?

AF:

It is. It is. And it wasn't anything too stressful in those days because the scope of responsibility wasn't that big.

The thing that I found with troops, though, we always had separate detachments. The men would forget about us, “You handle it.”

If, by any chance, then, your higher command, something went wrong or you couldn't do it, they let bad situations with bad commanders continue on much longer than they should have. In other words, there were times when the commander should have been replaced because she wasn't any good. Some people can't do it.

EE:

So you think the command structure was not as closely monitored among the WACs as it was—

AF:

It was not because they just wanted to put us out of their minds. Many times, when he should be handling a situation with a woman who worked for him, he expected you to do it, and I would say, “You do it.” So I wasn't what you would call particularly liked.

But I thought I knew what my role was, and when he was supposed to do it in the line of work, he could do it. If it had something to do with—where it was my responsibility, I would do it.

EE:

Any notions creeping into people's minds about equal pay for equal work at this point?

AF:

No. No. No, there wasn't. The thing is, we had a role and that was that we were, within our little percentage that we were allowed—and many of them were very valuable. Some of the women, wherever they worked along with the men, their supervisors really, really appreciated how hard they worked. We had those who didn't work as hard, and I wouldn't let them reenlist and things of this nature. They were well received. Enlisted women were well received. I think the officers had a little harder time because we offered more of a—

EE:

More of a threat to advancement there.

AF:

Perhaps, although we had our own promotion structure.

EE:

You were head of the WAC detachment at Oakland, and then you were also a troop officer at McClellan, is that right?

AF:

Yes.

EE:

And that's where you went in '54.

AF:

Yes.

EE:

A similar situation as in Oakland?

AF:

There I was training basic trainees. I was exec[utive] officer of a company, of a basic training company, and then I was also a platoon officer, I had the first platoon. Let's see. What was a platoon in those days? It was fifty, sixty—I can't even remember the structure anymore. Isn't that awful?

EE:

Tell me the distinction, because I know there's a—I guess there's an orderly post where you've got the commanding officer and executive officer. What's the difference in those responsibilities?

AF:

The exec would mostly sort out the paperwork and then give the finished product to the commanding officer. We always had a good first sergeant and you had a company clerk. So you kind of sorted things out.

Also, you rated the other junior officers. I was a senior junior officer, which, by the way, I didn't happen to agree with because I thought that the execs so many times were too junior to rate the others. I know when I became a commander, I did away with that.

EE:

You did that work for—was it a year or two?

AF:

It was almost two years.

EE:

How did you like working at a training facility? You'd been in, at this point, six years. Actually, the variety of work you had done those six years, I must say, from talking to other people, is quite a lot.

You had seen a lot of different avenues. Your training, obviously, is a repeating theme these first six years. By being out there working with the public and the recruiting and handling personnel issues as an officer, you've seen quite a lot. What's it like to have the experience of training the women?

AF:

Oh, you could get tired of it after a while. I'll tell you what I enjoyed the most, and of course, I had a good sergeant working for me. You'd see these kids come in, scared to death, and you would end up, if you could do your job right—and I can remember so many of these, the little shy ones who would all of a sudden find out they could do things.

You would see those who couldn't iron a lick all of a sudden have to do all this and make themselves look—and the pride. We would have them so proud of being in the army. And you'd have them marching to precision, and you'd have them looking good, and they'd cry every time they'd have reveille. That sounds a little overboard—but I mean, really—

EE:

It meant something to them.

AF:

Young kinds, eighteen-year-olds, are sentimental anyway. I used to worry, though, because I knew what they were getting into and that when you went out into the big world there, it was going to be reality-ville. I tried hard to do that a lot of times.

I used to sit around sometimes—I wasn't intimately working in their barracks. That's what the sergeant did—but I would try to talk to them and try to say to them, “Look, these are the situations you might get into, and here's what you've got to do. You're a WAC, and you're proud of it, and you ignore this.”

EE:

After McClellan, you're at Fort Benning for just a short stay.

AF:

A short time because then I went back to Washington State because of my family problems.

EE:

Were you also leading a detachment at Benning?

AF:

No. I was strictly administrative again.

EE:

This was G-1 work, or what was it?

AF:

No. This was when they sent me to the adjutant general's office, and it was scut work. I was going to get out of it because I wasn't needed, in my opinion, when my sister died, and my mother was bad off. So they felt if I could be near by, at least to go over and kind of break—

EE:

This was a sudden accident?

AF:

She had a cerebral hemorrhage at eighteen, just before she graduated from school.

EE:

So you went back. You just got a reason for a transfer.

AF:

A compassionate transfer.

EE:

What did they call it?

AF:

Compassionate is what they called it, and I went to Fort Lawton, Washington.

EE:

How close—

AF:

That's Seattle, and my family's in Spokane, but it was easy to get home.

EE:

You were at Fort Lawton for a year and a half, something like that?

AF:

Something like that.

EE:

What was your work at that station?

AF:

I was the officer in charge of the Officers' Club.

EE:

Now, if I was just listening to what you'd done before, in some sense, why not? You've done all these other things. But that does sound like something that's a little bit out of left field.

AF:

Well, I just about died, but of course, I'd gone on compassionate transfer.

EE:

So basically, they were looking to make you a job is what it was.

AF:

So they just kind of said, “Okay, now, you've done this and that. You can run the club.”

Fort Lawton is in one of the most exclusive districts in the City of Seattle, it's in Magnolia, and it had this enormous Officers' Club, a beautiful old building, gorgeous. It had a restaurant that was very, very active, with a permanent chef who had [unclear]. Plus we had banquets every time you turned around. So I was running a catering service, a restaurant—

EE:

So this wasn't an Officers' Club where there's a bunch of beer around the tables. This is an officers' Officers' Club.

AF:

No. It was quite elegant. And we had this great bar. But I got to do all the decorating.

I oversaw all the bar—now, I had a general manager and a secretary. They'd send me a second lieutenant every so often when they didn't know what to do with them, you know, “Have him do something.” But I bought the liquor. So in a way—I gained too much weight because I was eating all the—we had a great chef. But all in all, we had a—I didn't want to stay in it because it's dead end.

EE:

When you're enjoying yourself too much, you get worried, don't you?

AF:

But you figure out what you need to do and what the career—if you didn't, in those days—and many of them didn't, and I think that was too bad. Fortunately, I did, and I knew that I couldn't stay too long. So I volunteered for Korea and went.

EE:

Let me get this point underlined. Because you knew that, to some extent, career advancement was up to you—

AF:

Absolutely.

EE:

You could not depend on the army wanting to advance your career.

AF:

No, especially—

EE:

So you were trying to get a set of experiences that would take you to the next level.

AF:

Now, WAC branch I can't speak too well because I didn't know too much about it, but they wanted to keep their WAC detachments filled and they had some career planning, but I wasn't one of them that they were planning for.

EE:

I have read, and Jeanne Holm [author of Women in the Military] talks about this, that in the fifties generally, not just in the army but in all the branches, if you look at enrollment, it's all been declining because although in '48 integrated women fully into the services, there really wasn't a game plan on what to do with them. What you're saying is that they just wanted to keep things status quo. They really weren't looking to grow anything, didn't have any plans. So you had to do what you did. So you volunteered for Korea because I guess that an overseas tour is part of most people's—if they're in the army for a career, that's part of the process.

AF:

Well, part of it was that it was new, kind of new, and I thought, “Well, shoot, I might as well go over there,” but I knew that—now, club work didn't hurt me at all. I learned a whole bunch. I really did. I feel this way, if you're going to have a job, see what you can learn from it. I remember I had a very, very [unclear] job one time when I first went to Stoneman, so I volunteered for every board that they had as to be the recorder. Man, I learned a lot, and I learned a lot from the senior officers.

EE:

In other words, make the most of where you are when you are. Sometime the work will be so overwhelming, you don't have to go look to do that.

AF:

Because if you didn't do something like that, peacetime army can be absolutely the most boring, deadly existence alive, in my opinion, while you're waiting to try to advance and if you want to advance. If you don't want to advance, then why don't you go to a civilian job?

EE:

You were at Korea. I know the WAC is one of the few branches that, I guess, had the opportunity to go overseas during World War II. Most of them were restricted to stateside. Was there a requirement that you be in service a certain length of time before they let you go overseas?

AF:

I don't know. I really don't.

EE:

You volunteered to go to Korea. What was the kind of work you did there?

AF:

I was in what they called the S-1. That, again, would be personnel. This is where I sort of—I acquired that MOS [military occupational specialty], and it's one I liked. It's one I became better and better at as I went through the years.

EE:

The name of the base your were stationed at in Korea?

AF:

I was at the Seoul Area Command, and that was at Yongsan[?], which is outside of Seoul.

EE:

You were there for about fifteen months, I think you said?

AF:

Fifteen or sixteen months. It was year tour, and I just was kept on for a little while longer.

EE:

When did you come back from Korea? Would that have been '59, '60, somewhere like that?

AF:

Around in there.

EE:

In '61, you came back to Fort Jackson, was your next stop after.

AF:

That was from Korea, right.

EE:

Korea. So it would have been '61, I guess, you came back.

AF:

Yes. It's hard to remember.

EE:

Where were you when Kennedy was elected president?

AF:

Eisenhower was president in Korea.

EE:

That's right. He was president through '60.

AF:

Because he came. I have a whole bunch of pictures of him.

EE:

U-2 [American spy plane] was shot down. Do you remember that?

AF:

Yes, I do. But Eisenhower came to Korea, as matter of fact, while I was there. I went and saw him, because he came through on a motorcade. He was a great friend to the women in the army. I don't think we would have made it if he hadn't really spoke out for us.

EE:

I guess the WAC had gone through two or three directors by this point, had they not. The first woman left after a short period of time, I believe. Who was the director while you were in Korea?

AF:

It's probably Emily Gorman.

[Begin Tape 1, Side B]

EE:

You were at Fort Jackson when you returned back from Korea.

AF:

Yes.

EE:

And you did another shift from administrative work back to commanding officer. You were in charge of Company C?

AF:

Company C WAC, yes.

EE:

“Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy of—.” I guess that won't work.

AF:

Charlie.

EE:

How many women were in this company?

AF:

Oh, we had a couple hundred, I guess.

EE:

What was your experience up to this point with integration? I know that some WAC detachments are beginning to be integrated. Fort Jackson probably wouldn't have been the place it would have happened by '61.

AF:

No. Integration really started back in '49 and '50, when President Truman—because we had always had separate WAC training companies at Fort Lee. Then it was stopped. I can remember that we started then—so my first experience with that would be when I was still teaching at the ad[ministrative] school.

EE:

So as early as that, in the early fifties, they had dissolved—

AF:

Yes, as early as that. Of course, I had a number of black women in the detachment at Fort Jackson.

EE:

In that extent, the military certainly was ahead of the curve on most of the rest of society, on integration. Was that a problem as a CO [commanding officer]?

AF:

Yes. It wasn't so much a problem of blacks and whites not getting—now, it would happen. There's other WAC detachments that I could—we had horror stories. Where I was, I had problems with women, some black, some white.

I found the women that were black were terribly sensitive to small things. Like I had one woman say, “You speak to all the white girls when they come back from lunch, but you never say hello to me.”

I said, “Did I see you?”

“Well, yes, you did.”

I said, “Was I talking to someone else?”

“Well, yes.”

“Well, then,” I said, “that's probably why.”

So it was these little things. And I found that when I'd lean over backwards—and sometimes you wanted to because you wanted them so much to feel accepted. On the other hand, I wasn't going to put up with a whole bunch of prickliness, either. I didn't want to be put on the defensive, and they were very adept at doing this, through their own securities, I'm sure. But by and large, it was not a problem.

EE:

How long were you at Jackson? One of the cooler places you could be in the summertime, I might add, Columbia, South Carolina.

AF:

Isn't that something? That's a big old base.

EE:

It's a big base, and it's Humidity Central in July.

AF:

Actually, they pulled me from the detachment just a few months before I left because there was a WAC officer in S-1, and they knew I had the experience, and she wanted to keep that position open for a woman. So they pulled me up and brought somebody else in to command the company. But I was slated to advanced course, and they wanted to hold me—they wanted to say, “Well, you wait a year to go.” I said, “No. It's time for me to go now.” I called branch and said, “I really feel that at this point in my career, you should be sending me to the career course.”

EE:

That's how you got switched to that?

AF:

Yes, and I won. I went.

EE:

You were just reminding me that in this S-1 at Fort Jackson and then I assume in Korea as well, this administrative post were coed, men and women together?

AF:

Oh, yes. Oh, yes. I was the only woman in the office there in Korea.

EE:

You never had a problem with your coworkers?

AF:

No. Oh, I had rating officers that would—as you can probably even tell from this interview, I was rather opinionated, and I really and truly—as a woman, sometimes you would really be put down, and I wasn't always that nice.

EE:

Not always subtly? Is that what you're saying?

AF:

And I wasn't always that subtle about my responses. So consequently, yes, I could have prickly relationships with them, and some I would have very good relationships. Like I had one supervisor, though, who told me this. As we aired our differences, he was my best friend. I really admired him because let's not beat around the bush.

EE:

A straight answer is worth a lot when you don't feel like you can get one.

AF:

I'm not doing this. You don't like this. Or I'd say, “My gosh, I didn't realize that. I will change it.” And I would change.

EE:

The McClellan career course, that's six months.

AF:

Yes.

EE:

And that is on a competitive basis or how is that—what's the criteria? You were lobbying for it. Is there a criteria?

AF:

Well, I was a captain, and it was about that time to—

EE:

When did you make captain, by the way?

AF:

I made captain at Fort Lawton. And it was about that time in my career. Really, what they had done—I liked the course in retrospect, because they took so many of the courses and some of the things they taught from the Leavenworth curriculum, and they were good, and they were hard. So by the time I went to Leavenworth—

EE:

You felt you had a preview of what was to come.

AF:

I did, and it helped me.

EE:

How is the career course different from OCS? Is it a higher level of the same material, or are you getting new material?

AF:

Oh, new material and a much higher level. You are then supposedly the professionals, and you are taught—you know, you had everything from logistics to signal to nuclear to—gosh, I can't even remember all the courses that we had.

We had to write a lot of staff papers, and we had to do a big staff study, which was good because you needed that in your career. If you can't write as an officer, you're not going to get along as a staff officer.

EE:

Sounds like this is an invitation, really, to make you, as officers, a much more broad part of the decision-making process of how the service develops.

AF:

It recognizes the fact that you're now going to be in that middle-management level and treats you accordingly. They did emphasize writing and speaking. Those are two things that an army or any officer must have, that ability.

EE:

You've got to be able to be effective in your communication.

AF:

Absolutely, not only how you look and, of course, in your conduct, but also, you've got to be able to communicate.

EE:

This is six months, and this is a career course that is just for WACs?

AF:

It was then, yes. I'm sure they don't have it now because the women are all integrated. But they had it for each branch.

EE:

In '63, you had been in for fourteen years. You must have had another reenlistment somewhere along the line, because you were at three then added six, which would have taken you to '58.

AF:

Well, see, when I reenlisted, it was for six years, and I would have had to serve that as an enlisted woman if I had flunked OCS. And I was enlisted, all of us were enlisted, during OCS. So I actually ended up with four years, about four years, of enlisted service. But if I hadn't made it, I would have been on longer. I would have been another—

EE:

You're at McClellan for six months in '63, and then you go to Fort Riley?

AF:

Fort Riley, Kansas.

EE:

Is that near Topeka, near Kansas City?

AF:

It's near Manhattan, Kansas. The closest little town is Junction City, and it was a big armor—the Big Red One [U.S. Army 1st Infrantry Division] was there.

EE:

What were WACs doing there?

AF:

Staff.

EE:

That's where you were writing, you told me before, policy papers. You were starting to do policy papers, personnel policy.

AF:

Well, there, of course, you had all of the personnel actions that had to do with the post. And it was a joint staff, so you had the joint staff for not only what they call the garrison but also for the division. So you'd have all different types of problems and procedures.

You had a variety of things that would affect the individuals in that entire post. It was a good job. We were commanded by a general officer, a two-star general, I believe, and we had a lot of work. It was good.

EE:

At most of your administration stops up to this point, is your ultimate CO a man?

AF:

Oh, yes. Oh, yes.

EE:

Including there?

AF:

All my rating officers were men.

EE:

When you're in charge of detachments or companies, your CO's a woman?

AF:

Well, I was a CO. My next—your chain of command—

EE:

Let's say, Jackson, your supervisor would have been a man or a woman?

AF:

It would have been a man.

EE:

You were just in charge of the WAC detachment at Jackson.

AF:

Actually, what they had was a headquarters company. The headquarters company is at every garrison and postcap station, where you would have, again, all the men that were in the headquarters company. Now the women weren't, because they were women, so they'd be in the WAC company. But we'd have the same general boss, and that would be the garrison commander.

EE:

This is a time when—Gulf of Tonkin is when, '63? How is Vietnam coming into the decision-making, personnel-planning process for you and the discussion?

AF:

I didn't think much about—or didn't hear much about it. What we were really more worried about was what was happening with Cuba, President Kennedy and the standoff in Cuba. I can remember, I was due to go on leave not too long before I was going to go on to the career course.

EE:

You would have been at Fort Jackson.

AF:

I was at Fort Jackson, and we were really worried about that. I can remember, we were all quivering, hoping and praying that—

EE:

You would have been in missile range, wouldn't you?

AF:

Well, you didn't want that to occur. I mean, you were worried. You were very worried about what was going to occur.

The first time Vietnam crossed my path, I was still stationed in Korea and I was slated to go on R&R in Japan. It was canceled because they had to use all the planes down in Southeast Asia. I was hearing for the first time “Vietnam” and sending over—and I guess it was, at that time, probably mostly the Green Berets, Rangers.

EE:

Would that have been '65?

AF:

Oh, no. It was much earlier than that.

AF:

This was like '61 when you—

AF:

Yes. This is just early, very early. It was my first—I knew we had a treaty.

EE:

But you didn't realize what kind of commitment that meant.

AF:

Not at that time, I didn't. All of us who were around, and this was all men, we didn't talk about that.

EE:

You say you made your majority at Fort Riley. That's the term you used.

AF:

Yes. I made major.

EE:

You were at Riley. Was it your idea or your CO's to say, “Let's go finish up at Park College”?

AF:

Well, mine, because first of all, I had always regretted that I only had the two years of college, which I got by just working away at it.

EE:

Where did you get those first two years at?

AF:

All over. Wherever I was, I would pick up a course here, pick up a course here. Plus, you had a two-year college equivalency, which I had had years ago when I went RA, but then I kept working on it to get the actual credits.

So I had gotten to the point where I could—and what they did, they called it “Bootstrap,” and the nice thing about it, you got your pay and allowances. You paid your own way, but you got your pay and allowances.

[Tape recorder paused]

EE:

You actually left. Was it an educational leave? Is that how they style it, when you took from the fall of '64 to '65?

AF:

Actually, you're on active duty attending a civilian college.

EE:

So you're excused from wearing your uniform to class.

AF:

Yes.

EE:

But they could call you up at any time if they need you for a situation.

AF:

Yes.

EE:

And you finished your degree in history in the spring of '65. An excellent choice, I might commend you with.

AF:

Oh, I loved it. I could have stayed there forever.

EE:

You did not go back to Riley, though. You were assigned to 4th Army Headquarters in San Antonio.

AF:

Right.

EE:

What was the work down there?

AF:

There I really and truly did not luck out. They sent me to the adjutant general's department. It was my own fault because I'd said I'd kind of like to go down—

EE:

This is the same place you had been at at Benning. You had had a similar experience?

AF:

Yes, but that was—

EE:

That wasn't long enough to get you deciding one way or another if you liked it.

AF:

No, but the thing about it is, I don't know why in the world I got that job, because I was replacing a male warrant officer who was highly knowledgeable in a rather specialized field, and I wasn't. So I'd have to try to learn it. While I was trying to learn it, I realized that did not—there was no writing involved.

EE:

What is the work of the adjutant general there? What's that division?

AF:

The adjutant general [AG] actually implements the—let's see, how do you describe it? They have a whole lot of functions, but they actually are the implementers of the policies that come from the S-1 or the G-1 or the deputy chief of staff personnel, and if an AG officer hears this, they'll die because it's probably not the right answer, but it's kind of in the ballpark. They get down to the nitty gritty in the doing.

EE:

It sounds like it does with personnel sort of what a quartermaster does with supplies in a sense, implement the orders.

AF:

In a lot of ways. Now, they have a lot of—and of course, if you get at a high level, they have a lot of influence on policy, but they're the ones that you would send a policy paper down to, say, “This is what we plan to do. What would you like to say about this?”

EE:

You're there for how long?

AF:

Oh, gosh. It was not very long, maybe six or seven months. Vietnam was then really heating up. I can remember I worked in an area where they were just, “Where are we going to get these people? We've got to get people over there.” They were just going into their units and all over their area of responsibility. I can remember saying to a WAC officer that was stationed there, and she had the role called WAC staff advisor for 4th Army, and I said, “Why in the world aren't they sending women to Vietnam?”

She said, “That's a good question, Ann. I'll ask them.” She said, “Do you want to go?”

I said, “Yes.” And they sent me.

EE:

It's interesting, given the success that happened a generation earlier, when you had more women coming into the military to help get men over to where they were needed, that that wasn't thought of sooner. Why was that?

AF:

Well, it was such a contained field. It was really dangerous in a lot of ways, and it was so contained. All the emphasis was on getting fighting forces.

But there was an awful lot of noncombatant jobs. Many, many men over there were not in combat. They were there for the express reason that they have to be there in a support unit. So naturally, I went over in a support role.

EE:

But there was a fluidity to a front line in Vietnam. I mean, Tet [Offensive] surprised everybody. You never knew when you might have a Viet Cong attack.

AF:

Well, you know, they would put plastique in the billets where I was. Fortunately, it was found. And right across the street, at the Thanh Son Nhut Air Force Base, they blew up all the oil tanks.

This is when the monks, the Buddhists, were burning themselves and there was big marches by the Catholics. It was very, very troubled times. Now, I was there in '66, when it was early enough that I could still be in the jeep and go downtown to the MACV [Military Assistance Command, Vietnam] headquarters.

EE:

One of the questions that I ask of everybody is, were you ever in a situation where you were in danger or afraid? Were you afraid when you were in Vietnam?

AF:

I was never afraid, but we were all in danger. Yes, we were. Afraid? No.

EE:

You are there for the whole of '66. You come back that year. You were telling me beforehand that you were actually the first WAC assigned to Vietnam. Others had been there—

AF:

No. I was the first assigned to U.S. Army, Vietnam.

EE:

Of course, a number of people—we've interviewed one or two women who served as nurses over there. It seemed that they had a lot more nurses who served in Vietnam, I think, than regular WAC.

AF:

Oh, absolutely. As a matter of fact, right across the street from us was the 3rd Field Hospital. I spent a stint in that hospital because I had to have a fast operation, and they just finally found a little cubicle kind of thing.

It was an old schoolhouse where we had had all the mission, our U.S. mission kids were going. It had been like a chemistry lab. So I was back in the back. I was awake mostly at night because that's the only time that the nurses could even give me too much attention.

I saw a lot, because this was a ward where boys had lost their legs and were told that they were going to have to have them amputated. It was sorrowful. I don't know how the nurses did it. I do not know how they did it. Triage would be going on.

EE:

You had been in a peace-time army. I mean, you had joined during Korea, but your experience had been peacetime up until this year.

AF:

All peace. That's correct.

EE:

How did that affect your view of the military in general and of your service?

AF:

I was deeply affected by that hospital stay. Of course, I had also had occasion—now, in '66, I remember I was staff officer, but I had gone up—some of the officers from the Big Red One, when they came over, I still knew them, and they came down in a helicopter and got me, and I went up there and saw what they had there.

Then I went on R&R [rest and recuperation leave] at one point, and I was with some of the troops that were on the plane, and we would talk. You didn't really have, as you said, an actual front line. Of course, I would see, when the planes would come back, when they were defoliating—is that the correct word?

EE:

Right. Putting the Agent Orange.

AF:

That's right. They'd come back with these pipes dripping. I could see them over there.

EE:

At the time, it may not have struck, but later you think, “My goodness, what were we breathing in?”

AF:

But the answer to your question is, I hope our politicians and everyone else thinks twice before they send us to something that we can't win.

EE:

Did you have that feeling, though, being there, that it was a can't-win situation, or did that only come up afterwards?

AF:

I did. I thought army policy was bad, because I don't think a year is—sometimes they put a year on it. I didn't feel it was a good policy to rotate their commanders every six months because I would see a lot of the men who had been rotated back.

EE:

In other words, they didn't do anything deliberately.

AF:

It was a bad scene because of the fact—and of course, let's face it. This is the only war we had, and many of the men had not had any action. This is the way you get promoted. You're there because that's what you're trained to do.

But the thing is that we also knew—and they were made to take down a sign about win in Vietnam, we had to take that down, the politicians, the embassy people downtown. So you didn't have a clear feeling that we're going to go over there and win this thing.

EE:

The goal stopped being winning.

AF:

I don't know if it was containment. I don't know what it was. But you'd hear about all these people getting killed.

Then you'd have this feeling, too, of too much posturing on some of the higher command. I felt it was a terrible policy to keep rotating the battalion commanders because of the fact that you really and truly have to have some stability of command.

I think, too, that the army had gotten away a lot from caring for the troops like they should. I think the officers were too self-centered. Now, I'm talking in broad generalities. Because I can tell you story after story of very valiant people, but there was this overall feeling, and I think I'm not the only one that felt this.

And then when we started having a body count, for goodness sake. And all of this I was aware of because I was at a high enough command level at that point that these things would come and we were talking more and I was more sophisticated, I was older, I was better educated.

EE:

You were perhaps aware more than you maybe wanted to be of the ambivalence in things. The policies weren't clearly enunciated and followed through.

AF:

I was shocked by the whole experience.

EE:

You came back after that year, and you came back fresh out of a wartime experience to Leavenworth.

AF:

Back to school.

EE:

Back to school, where classes, I assume, had a new real-world immediacy for you.

AF:

Well, almost everybody—not everyone, but most of us had had Vietnam experience, a lot of them. A lot of them, they came back from combat.

EE:

This was men and women in this course.

AF:

I was—

EE:

You were the only woman?

AF:

No, I wasn't the only woman. Was I the only woman? There were two of us, two of us selected for that particular course.

EE:

Two out of thirty or so?

AF:

Oh, no. That was a big class, big class. But two of us made it, yes. But I do remember that some of the men I had known from Vietnam, a couple of them—one man had been a paratrooper, and he came in. He said, “Ann,” and he was just joyous. He said, “We had a jump. We had a jump.”

I said, “You had a jump in Vietnam?”

“Yes. They jumped on this mountainside.”

Well, of course, it later turned out that most of them were killed, too. Joyous. “What in the world is the matter with you?”

EE:

Very frustrating. Very frustrating.

AF:

Especially when you're a noncombatant. You don't have a lot of credence.

EE:

In some sense, you are there—and this is a question generally, and perhaps it's a good time to jump to it, because in your career path, here's where the rubber meets the road on the question for you of should women be allowed in combat.

You were there. You saw this. You saw the attitude among the—two years ago, we sent the first combat pilot into action bombing Baghdad. Are there certain jobs that should be off limits to women, or should women be open to all of them?

AF:

That's a hard question, but I think basically it would be very hard for me to see—I'm not saying that some women couldn't do this—to have women in the infantry, because there's so many societal questions. In the same way, though, they said that about women aboard ship, and that has, in some cases, worked. I'm sure they've had problems, but at the same time, it's such a difficult mission.

Now, helicopter pilots, why not? So I think, personally, if I was still working in staff and had to look into that, I would, of course, have to do what you're doing. I'd have to interview. I'd have to try to see what kind of recommendation to make to someone.

EE:

But you think the speed with which they are integrating women from support positions to at least battlefield transport or, in the cases of combat pilots, where they're not directly engaged—

AF:

Well, I can see them going up very close to the front lines now, I really can, where before they were held back. I don't think that women, if they're going to join the army, should—they're going to be in harm's way. They're going to have to be if they want to have the jobs and fill the MOSs that are required, and they should understand that from the beginning. I think their training is probably reflecting that now.

EE:

It wasn't reflecting that when you went in.

AF:

Not when I went in, but it was while I was still on active duty, when they were expanding training at Fort McClellan and set up, had more battalions after I left.

EE:

When you were the CO at Fort Jackson, would it have been part of the training to say, “You might be in harm's way”?

AF:

At where?

EE:

When you were the CO of Company C at Fort Jackson.

AF:

Well, not for the women. They were all in staff positions and working in the hospital and things like that. I have no idea what they did in basic training.

EE:

At Leavenworth, the second part of this class, is it again, more logistics?

AF:

Well, you're supposed to be knowing that you're going eventually into high level positions, and it's to help prepare you for this.

EE:

So this would be, I guess, looking at colonel and up?

AF:

Well, at least you're supposed to have some—you're usually a major in there.

EE:

Most everybody had been made major level who was in there?

AF:

Oh, yeah. I can't remember. There were some lieutenant colonels there, I guess, but mostly majors. But they recognize now that you're the professionals. You're going to get a lot of lectures and so forth on the political scene.

EE:

At the time this course finished, in May of '67, when you went to the Pentagon, at the end of that tour of duty at the Pentagon, you had your twenty years, I assume you could have taken retirement then, could you not?

AF:

I suppose. I never thought of it.

EE:

Your job at the Pentagon, you were deputy chief of staff of personnel?

AF:

No. I worked in the Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff for Personnel.

EE:

You were personnel procurement, was what you were doing.

AF:

Our particular branch was personnel procurement. That's recruiting, reenlistment, the draft, ROTC [Reserve Officers' Training Corps].

EE:

Answer me this. I can't remember. Did we have the draft throughout? I think we instituted the draft for Vietnam for men.

AF:

Oh, yes. We had the draft throughout all the time that—

EE:

That you were in the service. Was there ever a thought to drafting women?

AF:

Oh, yes, I think so. I always felt that maybe we ought to have this selective two years after high school.

EE:

Sort of like the European system, where you have civil service or military service required of everybody.

AF:

Yes. I've always thought that had—it would never work in this country, not the way—

EE:

Yes. We're too free-spirited, but I think societally, it's not a bad idea.

AF:

Yes, it's not a bad idea. That's right.

EE:

Did you ever see a position paper on whether or not women should be drafted or help write one?

AF:

No, I didn't. No. I never did.

EE:

It didn't get to that level of seriousness.

AF:

No, I didn't see that. I saw a lot of different things. We were deeply involved, too, in calling up reserves, positions for the national guard, what do we do with college graduates. This is when we were letting all our young men go to college and get a deferment. That was another policy that was stupid.

EE:

Or young men and future politicians.

AF:

And I absolutely was against it. I thought that was the most unfair thing that I had ever seen.

EE:

Again, that put the level of class distinction—

AF:

That had nothing to do with me, but I was told at one point, “Pick out MOSs that we can put college graduates into.” Well, the MOS structure was that there was probably only two enlisted MOS structures that would really require a degree. And here, we'd have to cull all these and say, “Well, now, this would have to be for a college graduate.” That was another exercise that—you know, we were told to do it, and I went down to the adjutant general's department and said, “This is what we have to do. Help me find some MOS.” I thought that was unfair.

EE:

What did they think?

AF:

I don't know. We did it. We knew it was political. We kept wondering why they wouldn't call up the reserves, but I found a position paper in the files where there had been so much dissent about the Berlin call-up, you know, when they had the Berlin airlift, that they were really reluctant to call them up because they didn't want them to say “We won't go.”

EE:

You're there during a time, I guess, that the women's rights agitation is starting. You leave this position in '70, and it's probably there and at McClellan, where you go back to the WAC training battalion for two years, that that issue really comes to the forefront.

ERA, I think, is passed in '71. It doesn't eventually get passed by the state legislatures, but at least it's out there as an issue. What does the ERA mean for the military, the Equal Rights Amendment? Tell me how those issues came across your path.

AF:

They were trying at this time, and especially after I got down to Fort Monroe [Virginia], of “We've got to have more women,” and they would bend over backwards because of the fact that they did have this movement going on. For example, we never allowed women to have dependents under eighteen unless, of course, a mother or grandmother or someone like that, and they had to sign responsibility for the child. So then eventually, the policy came up that women could have children because it wasn't fair. The men had children. Why couldn't the women have children?

I thought that was the worst policy mistake we ever made, was to allow women to stay on active duty with children, because I don't care what you say, the woman is the nurturer. They said, “Well, after all, there's a husband there. He can take care of them.” Not the way you can when you have a mother and a father, and the father should be there too. I thought it was a stupid idea, but they did it. I think this was a direct influence on the fact that we had to be so careful not to have—

EE:

So there was a clear case where some pressure outside of the military influenced military policy, in your opinion, to a bad way.

AF:

That's correct. We should have stuck with it. A woman got married, fine. She got pregnant, she left.

EE:

Again, one time earlier, I guess, when you got married, you were out. But they had let that go. But you're saying, clearly the responsibilities are different once you have a child.

AF:

Well, I always felt—so I differed a lot. Am I for women's rights? Absolutely. But I also think that there's a clear difference, obviously, between the sexes and how women behave toward children and how men behave toward them and how a child should be nurtured and raised. I don't care what you say, I think I'm right, that a mother should be with her child. My gosh, I go to the commissary and the PX [post exchange] now, and here's women walking in with three kids trailing behind her. She's subject to being sent.

EE:

That's right. Those words, “You're going to be in harm's way,”—

AF:

That's correct.

EE:

And especially in today's army that's the case.

AF:

They're so busy trying to nurture these kids, they won't—because the army and the air force, any of us, we are not an eight-to-five job, and that's the way they're treating it.

EE:

You didn't have child care facilities that would be watching children for six months on a tour then.

AF:

No. Now they're doing it. Is it good for the services? I can't believe it is. I can't believe that if you have—and I know we had some serious business in those days worrying about if you had that many people in your unit and she's out for the time that's required for her to have her child and you cover, if you're called up or even to get that job done, who's going to fill it? Many of the commanders voiced that objection.

EE:

I think it is a dilemma of our society that expresses itself in various venues, whether it's the services or business, education. What's good for an institution versus what's good for a group, whether that's on issues of race or gender or orientation. It has been sort of the battle for the last twenty or thirty, probably since Brown v. Board of Education brought it clearly up to the front, this balancing act between—if you just were looking at the interests of an institution versus just the interests of a group, and oftentimes those clash. Clearly, in that issue, it does for women in the military.

AF:

It was one that I was really and truly—I wasn't that involved because by then I had gone down to Fort McClellan and was training, but it did seem to me that we were—I would have to go to meetings and things, and they had this big WAC study, so to speak, and they were having to come to grips with the fact that we were going to really expand. Women in the army were going to—you know, there's thousands now. I haven't seen any statistics in a while.

EE:

What do you think caused that expansion, stronger recruiting?

AF:

The draft was done away with.

EE:

And by making it volunteer and increasing the incentives, that—

AF:

You had that, and as the economy got better, you're not going to have as many people. In those days, too, you needed to fill your positions. It's always been this way. They put a lot of positions—they would call it changing them to civilian positions. You would do that. Then you call on the women. I'm sure that the women have responded to the call. It's been exciting times. I've always been kind of sorry that I couldn't have been part of it, but by then, I was fifty and decided that I should get out because it was time.

EE:

Just before turning fifty, you were the only one in your class at the war college, when you graduated in '73, you were the fifth woman to attend.

AF:

Right, the fifth WAC.

EE:

What was that experience like for you?

AF:

Now, I should also say, we had reserve WAC officers that would also be there, but I was the fifth, I suppose, regular army, regular active duty.

EE:

What was that experience like for you?

AF:

Oh, that was something. It's a marvelous, marvelous school, and you get all the—you really are at the highest levels. You get the political speakers. You had world class speakers come to talk about the things that go on in the world. You had policy decisions discussed. You had to do a long mono[graph?]. So I was really having to—

EE:

It was serious school, emphasis on college there.

AF:

Of course, I don't think anybody's ever read it since. I did it in the military history field. So you had a lot of research you had to do, which is great. Like General [Norman] Schwarzkopf was one of my classmates. Our class of '73 was the generals class. We had so many of those men make general officer. It was high level, and it was absolutely outstanding. I had a civilian professor in my military history seminar.

EE:

Do you get to choose a focus for your studies there?

AF:

Yes.

EE:

So military history was your—

AF:

There were certain things that you could elect to attend.

EE:

So in a sense, this was not—I guess, because it's selective, it was simply a bonus for your career track.

AF:

It was very similar in some ways to graduate school, but in some ways it wasn't, because you had a lot of lectures, and everything was mandatory.

EE:

This is at West Point?

AF:

No. The [U.S. Army] War College is at Carlisle, Pennsylvania.

EE:

That's where the military [unclear] offices are.

AF:

Absolutely. They have a wonderful—oh, their archives, are they wonderful.

EE:

I'm sure.

AF:

Get over there. Oh, you've got to.

EE:

At some point, I'm sure this project will make the necessary connections. You left there in '73, and I should mention, because we talked about it briefly earlier, that while you were at McClellan is where you had a chance to work with who would become Brigadier General Mildred Bailey. We talked about the issues of women being more integrated into the services. In fact, one of the things I was reading somewhere—maybe it was General Bailey who was telling me about it, says they assumed you were talking about—first you changed the job to civilian then you called in the women. They assumed that the women would be less skilled than the men, and they come to find out that the women doing the work had better skills, better attention spans, and were doing the jobs better than the men.

AF:

Well, I think we use a lot of rhetoric, and we like to brag. I do think that we have such smart kids nowadays, and we did then, too, but they're even better now. I honestly don't think American education is—

EE:

You mean, it gets bad word of mouth, but we do all right.

AF:

I think so. Oh, I read the paper about what these kids here are doing in the local high schools, and I'm envious.

Basically, I think what General Bailey is, she's very proud of this, and I think she's right in a lot of cases, because we always had the desire to want to do—there is still this business of acceptance, so we always want to do what we can to show that we can do it. I guess it's a very simplistic way of saying it, but there is that underlying thing. Are we fully accepted by the men in the army? Of course not. But by many, we are.

EE:

The ultimate in acceptance in some's eyes happened in '75 [1978], when the WAC was fully brought in and dissolved and people became regular, all U.S. Army.

AF:

Right. In my opinion, that was wonderful. There's many people that just hated to leave the corps, but I personally felt that that was the only way we could go, because you've got to be career-minded, and you can't be career-minded when you're held into—like, for example, we finally broke through and could be promoted. You know, for years, the highest rank you could attain was lieutenant colonel with our director being a colonel.

EE:

So for you, and you're someone who, early on, knew that in order to have a career, and you made a twenty-seven-year career—

AF:

Twenty-seven and a half years, yes.

EE:

You had to be a self-starter finding those skills that would move you on. This, for you, was a validation that in the future women may not have to work so hard to have a career.

AF:

I think that's correct. I really do. And remember, they're going into any branch now except the three combat arms. I guess, the artillery, there is the branch of that that they can be in and are in. They've already had clearly defined career patterns.

Now, mine kind of followed a pattern, if you see that my own always ended up in personnel and, by and large, if I didn't get one of those jobs, I would go over and get one, see about it and beg people to let me go so I could go somewhere else. But by and large, it was not as structured.

We were new, too. We had our fiftieth anniversary Friday, I guess, or something like that, 1940-something. Anyway, I think it's great, because then they went into branches that were already clearly defined.

EE:

You finished your career at Fort Monroe. Tell me about what the work was at [U.S. Army] Training and Doctrine Command [TRADOC].

AF:

Well, of course, it was responsible for the training and the establishment of doctrine throughout the army. We had a four-star general as our commander, three star as the deputy, which gives you the idea of the company's—

EE:

So here, in advance of the integration of the WAC into the army, you as WAC and other WAC officers were working together with U.S. Army personnel to try to develop uniform training procedures.

AF:

Well, this would be what TRADOC would do, yes. Of course, remember, it varies because you had every kind of branch training going on. You had all these schools. You had the ordinance school, the MP [military police] school, the chemical school, the AG school, etc.

Training in the doctrine part was very important, too, because you had to have the doctrine. How are you going to fight? What's the future going to look like? What are we going to train for? If we're going to train, we've got to know what we're training for.

Are we going to have large land mass armies? Are we going to do more of this business of jumping into small fights, that whole thing there? And of course, they've got think tanks throughout the army doing this kind of thing.

When I got there, of course, I went to deputy chief of staff personnel, and I had a division. But I was also tapped as WAC staff advisor, which meant that I was there during this part when we were integrating and we were going from a few thousand to many thousand.

It was going out and saying to commanders, “They're coming.” We were doing great work in, “What MOSs are they going to fill? You tell us where you can put women in your installation, in what MOSs. Can you add MOSs where you can use women to what are already authorized?”

EE:

When you go and make that request, how receptive are they to the idea of having women get an expansion in the job—

AF:

It depended on the commanders.

EE:

So you still have pockets of resistance.

AF:

Oh, heavens, yes.

EE:

Even though they're facing a number shortage which they can't fill any other way.

AF:

But I've worked for some great generals, and they'd said, “That's nuts. That isn't going to cut it. Go back and look again.” I'd come back, “Go back and look again.”

So when we got that established, as to how they could use them, then we had to figure out, now, they're going to get there. If you can't have a WAC detachment any more, where you group together one hundred or a couple hundred and throw a captain in there as a CO, you're going to have to integrate them. So we had to integrate barracks. Of course, you can imagine the trauma on this one. How are you going to do that?

“I'm going to have women. How do I handle them?” some commander would say.

I'd say, “Well, first of all, fairly.”

“What if she cries?”

“Send her out of the room until she regains [control], and leave your door open. Never take a woman, for anything, in a closed room. Protect yourself. These gals are not all Miss Sunshine and sweetness and light.” You know, just little common sense things like this.

Then we'd have to talk about uniforms. They needed fatigues because of the kind of work they did. We didn't have fatigues in our clothing bag, so we had to figure out how—and they didn't have the budget funds at their post caps and stations to buy fatigues and—

[Begin Tape 2, Side A]

EE:

—take basic together. What would you say to those women?

AF:

They might as well be thrown into the proximity of men in the army from the beginning. They might just as well. All-women training is like all-women colleges. In some ways, it's a heck of a lot better. You don't have the distractions. But they might just as well.

Now, there's always—of course, there was a lot of push-pull about, well, you're lowering our standards because we've got women here now, and they can't jump as high or run as fast and we have to change our PT status. So there's huge studies done about what could a woman do physically. Well, it's been marvelous for the women. Now, did it lower the male standards? If you wanted to let it, it could, but it didn't have to.

And see, you have to remember, too, I left about this time, but my reaction was, training together is probably—why not?

EE:

If you're going to be serving side by side, get used to that presence. If you start out separately, you might be breeding—

AF:

I think if I had gone on and was privy to information that it was really hurting male training, I'd say let's back away and then go on to the next step and then them go out and mingle with the men. So I'm really kind of—I can't answer that as directly as I would like because then I don't have any knowledge.

EE:

But for you and for many at this time, it was definitely a time of great excitement to see those tenuous steps from thirty years earlier be confirmed, not just with a side role for women but a full embrace of women as an integral—

AF:

I like the way you said that because, yes, I do feel that we kind of had a side role. I hadn't thought of it that way. You could become disillusioned very easily. I think we lost some good officers because of that, or I think we saw some good officers become bad officers, lazy and indolent, because of this effect.

EE:

Did you finish your career at Fort Monroe?

AF:

Yes. I retired from there.

EE:

I have, for some reason, McPherson down here.

AF:

No. Fort McPherson is where [U.S. Army] Forces Command was. We were talking about how they divided up, didn't have the old armies anymore.

EE:

Right. Was that a new thing when you went to Fort Monroe? Had they just made that switch?

AF:

TRADOC was fairly new, yes, and so was Forces Command. So many interesting things happened, all the great things that were going on. Women were allowed into ROTC. That was something I dearly wanted for the army, because we were taking college women from civilian life, direct commissioning them, and sending them through training at Fort McClellan. Now these women could go to ROTC with the men.

AF:

That's right. And my experience going through, when they had that, is that it was as popular or more for women to take the ROTC courses as the men.

AF:

I think there's probably more now, which is kind of frightening.

EE:

You left in '76. Tell me a little bit about your life after the service. How did you get from Fort Monroe to Hendersonville, North Carolina, and what were the main stops along that road?

AF:

Well, actually, I retired and stayed in the area because I had a home there. About that time, a friend of mine and I decided to share a house. There's many of us who were not married who were friends and did this, and it allowed us to combine a couple of incomes.

This friend of mine was very close to her family, and her father died. So we went to Cincinnati, Ohio, and lived there for sixteen years near her mother's. I love Cincinnati. That's a great city.

Her mother died, and I have a vacation place in South Carolina. We kept coming through Hendersonville all the time. I said, “Wow, this is a gorgeous area.” So we decided then that it might be nice to be closer to South Carolina and still not live in South Carolina. I had a dear friend from Murphy, a graduate of your college, who always bragged about North Carolina, and that helped.

EE:

To put a few names with it, this was Dot that you moved to Cincinnati with?

AF:

Yes.

EE:

Did you just meet her on your last tour there at—

AF:

Yes, at Fort Monroe.

EE:

That was neat.

AF:

It was. We were both neat and tidy and good to our mothers.

EE:

And you both had about the same length of service.

AF:

I think she has twenty-four. Yes.

EE:

Very close. So you all met and then went back and—I agree with you. Cincinnati, I've enjoyed that area. I've been there a couple of times. Then it was what, '92, I guess, when her mom passed on? Then you came here.

AF:

Yes. Came on down here. Been here over five years now.

EE:

[UNCG University Archivist] Betty Carter will be pleased to know who that WAC from North Carolina was. Your friend from Murphy, what was her name?

AF:

Okay. Her name was Ruth Payne. She was one I told you was pre-med, and then, when she got out, she went teaching math in the high school in Murphy. Her uncle was [NC Senator] Sam Ervin, and her mother had gone to be his hostess for a while when he was in Washington.

So Ruth went over there, was with her mother when she was living there. She saw all these WAC officers, and she thought, “Now, that doesn't seem so bad.” So she enlisted. Of course, when they found out she's a graduate of the University of North Carolina, they wanted to give her a commission.

She said, “I think maybe I'd better see what this is all about first.” She went to OCS, which she didn't need to do, but she did. We've been friends for well over forty years. She just lost her husband, so I'm trying to talk her into coming back down to this area.

EE:

She's still living in—

AF:

She's living up in Maryland. Her husband was in the military, and they retired there. I told her one time, I said, “Here, I've been going back to your old school.” I said, “I was at your alumni house.”

EE:

That's right. She would, I think, enjoy this project, the fact that we're having it.

AF:

She would. Somebody really ought to contact her because she had so many interesting experiences.

EE:

I might get her address from you, then, at some point.

AF:

Yes. I'll give it to you before you leave.

EE:

You were in the service for twenty-seven years. Did you stay connected with veterans groups after you left?

AF:

No.

EE:

Do you do any reunions or keep up with buddies that you made there?

AF:

Of course, we have friends all over, but no, not really. I'm not a joiner, I'm afraid. They had some reunion every year for the WAC anniversary at Fort McClellan. That's closed now.

EE:

Someone was telling me it's going to be at Fort Lee next spring.

AF:

It is. They had a very, very fine museum down there, and a lot of women who really did some great work with it with the WAC Foundation, Betty Morgan, you know, who wrote—

EE:

Yes, and they're reopening that, supposedly, next spring. I guess that's the reason they're probably moving it to there.

AF:

Yes, they are, and I'm glad, because there again, there is another movement where we are back in the army, not down in Fort McClellan, which I must say, is not the best place in the world to be stationed.

EE:

Right. And I do think that's in an area which gets a lot of people interested in military history anyway, with Civil War battlefields and the quartermaster museum.

AF:

Well, you're not—it's a little off the beaten path down there, although Anniston is nice, is growing.

EE:

But it might get lost if it were in D.C., say.

AF:

Yes. Yes. I think it's perfect there. And they've done such a lot of work. It's great. And WIMSA [Women In Military Service For America] , my gosh, what a wonderful project that is.

EE:

I assume you're registered with your data there.

AF:

Yes. Yes. I haven't been up there or anything, but probably the next time I'm in that area, I'm going to stop by.

EE:

Today, with the volunteer service and the fact that we've been, for the most part, [Operation] Desert Storm excepted, peacetime for the last thirty years, there are fewer and fewer families that have a connection to the military. For those folks, what would you say is the biggest misconception about people in the military?

AF:

Can't get a job elsewise. I don't think they think we're losers, but I don't think they hold us in the regard that they should, because it's a lot of spirit of adventure, and there's a lot of people that their children can—it's a wonderful advantage. The thing I really loved the most about the army was that they did give you, even in the restricted way that they handled the women, as much as you were willing to take. I had responsibilities on occasion as a very young woman that I would never have had in civilian life, I don't think. And as you get more senior, if you've got a brain or two, they'll let you use it, unless you work for a boss who's absolutely a [unclear], and that happens. [laughter]

EE:

[Unclear] and sell these things once a year, and you get [unclear] it out anyway.

AF:

That's all they've got. But no, really and truly, I've never regretted staying. Once I got involved, I thought, why not? Now, there's a lot of down side on you're lonesome a lot, you're lonely, and believe it or not, sometimes, unless you, to be blunt about it, marry the first person that you meet, it's hard to meet eligible men, and you cannot be one of the boys.

EE:

Some people have expressed regret that when the WAC integrated with the army, what they lost was their femininity. Was it hard to have a sense of your femininity and be professionally military?

AF:

No. I don't think so. I think they overly worried about this because they didn't want women in—”Well, they're going to make them wear those fatigues all the time.” Sure. They wear them all the time now. Would you like to see them back in the other uniform? Yes, really.

I do think that they should try to, with all the army, when they can, at least have one or two days a week or a few months where they're all dressed up in their—just so they'll fit. Now, fitness is a great consideration, and I hope that they—I know they're emphasizing this.

EE:

In a sense, fatigues for the military is sort of like the corporate world's concept of business casual. It's less formal dress for all of society, but in the military—

AF:

The feminine angle I don't—women—femininity takes on a different angle now. Look at all the women in sports, and they're out there just sweating and carrying on. Are they feminine? Oh, many of them, of course they are. So let them out there. Let them have their fun. I think femininity, I don't know, I can't even define it anymore. We all wear slacks now. Before, I can remember when I was at Fort McClellan as a junior officer, that if we wanted to go out and get a bite to eat at night, we would roll up our slacks under our raincoats and go out and beat the system. Were we feminine? Of course we were. Then I think, also, that the term “femininity” also, I think, there was a hidden meaning behind it of how one behaved.

EE:

In other words, there was a set of stereotypes and preconceptions behind that notion.

AF:

The word itself, I think, is—yes.

EE:

Sort of like—well, masculinity has similar pitfalls.

AF:

Yes. And they were so worried about your sexual orientation, overly worried, I think. There were these things that I thought.

EE:

If a young woman came up to you today and said, “I'm thinking about joining the service,” what would you tell her?

AF:

Yes. But I'd certainly warn her.

EE:

Warn her about?

AF:

I would warn her that she's not going to be fully accepted, that her standard of behavior is going to have to be upstanding. I'd also tell her that it's a great experience, a great adventure, great training. Now, you hear all kinds of stories, and granted, remember, I've been retired a long time, of assaults, battery, rape. I'm sure those things are occurring or have occurred. But remember, they occur in society. So I'm not close enough to it anymore to—and even with your question, I probably would have to really stop and think about who the girl was before I would tell her that.

EE:

Because your answer might vary with the girl?

AF:

I think so.

EE:

You'd have to know something about her to be able to give her the right advice?

AF:

I really would prefer to.

EE:

Because your own experience says that the service demands a certain kind of attitude, I guess, about it.

AF:

Yes. Oh, you can't be prickly. I was probably more than I should have been. But I think you have to be pretty wary, and reputation was important.

EE:

You served at a time, the Cold War, Vietnam, Korea, women fully integrating the service, of a lot of societal changes. One of the things that, even when I was growing up, I think largely because of Vietnam, people were concerned about was our patriotism in this country.

You have seen, from the perspective of someone in uniform—I know you have your own impressions of patriotism, what it means to you personally and what it means or should mean to our country. How do you feel about where we are in terms of patriotism today?

AF:

You know, I think it's kind of taken a different form, but this election, I think, people are all of a sudden saying, why are people overseas so worried about us rioting? We're going to do what's lawful.

Now, we all had our opinions about that business in Florida. I personally thought it was great that it happened. What a civics lesson for people who don't have civics in school anymore. Electoral College, and they go, “Duh, what's that?” Now they know.

EE:

That's right. They were voting today. I don't know. I hope they all—no shenanigans.

AF:

Oh, I was praying that somebody win.

EE:

Just two people. That's all you really need.

AF:

Just two, all we need. Please change your vote. But it was just the idea that—and everything around in this area. Of course, we've got a lot of retired and my age and older, but I think, underlying, people are as patriotic as they were in any peacetime. I really do.

I think this election kind of made—because they're saying, “Why? Don't let those Europeans worry about us. We're not going to riot.” And no matter whether you like having the current man that's going to be the president or not, we're going to rally behind him.

EE:

Sure. In a sense, patriotism displays itself when it's tested.

AF:

I love a democracy. And I don't have to—you know. Imagine living somewhere else.

EE:

We have covered a lot of ground in a short period of time.

AF:

I guess we have.

EE:

I know there's no way we can do justice, but I certainly appreciate you sharing your career path and these influences on you with folks who'll come along and want to learn what it was that made women want to join the service and stay in it.

I've asked a number of questions. Is there anything about your service time or about the service experience that we haven't asked about that you'd like to share?

AF:

No. I think I really—you know, I told you about being able to exercise as much—you could be aggressive about what you wanted to do, and they would give you responsibility, and you could take it and enlarge upon that responsibility if you wanted to.

EE:

What about you as a person, do you think, changed the most? Do you remember how you were as an individual before you went in the service? What changed the most in you as a result of being in the service?

AF:

Confidence. I was a child of divorce.

EE:

It was not as common. It was more traumatic in those days.

AF:

And I didn't have an awful lot of self-esteem, and I gained that. Pride, intense pride. I was proud of what I was doing. Loved—wanted my uniform right, liked wearing it, with some variations. Like the [Hattie] Carnegie outfit would have killed me, but—

EE:

[Laughs] Well, I can feel the pride in your talking about your career, because it's obviously something that, even in the retelling of it, you enjoy it.

AF:

But you pay a price, and I think you have to be willing to pay that price.

EE:

If you had to do it over again, which of course you don't have that option, none of us do—

AF:

No, not at seventy-four, you don't.

EE:

But if you had that option, would you choose that path again?

AF:

I probably would not have if I'd had the opportunity to go to college because I know what I wanted to do. Again, one of the big turning points in my career was, when I left Vietnam, I was slated to go back to Trinity University in San Antonio to get my master's degree, and I also was selected for the army command staff college at Fort Leavenworth.

I was advised that it was probably better career-wise to take Leavenworth. I regret not having that masters now. Nothing stopped me from ever doing it after I retired or anything else, but I got too lazy.

EE:

It's inertia that happens with all of us after a certain amount of time.

AF:

You bet.

EE:

An object at rest stays at rest.

Well, on behalf of the school, let me say, and personally, thank you for doing this. I know our country is grateful for your service, and we're certainly grateful that you took the time out today to reminisce with us for an hour or two.

AF:

Well, I've enjoyed it. You know, it isn't often that old ladies get asked anything anymore. [laughs]

EE:

Well, I tell you, all these people who may have had me beaten on chronology, I have a feeling that I'd have a hard time keeping up with most of the women I interview. I believe you're in the category.

AF:

Well, thank you.

EE:

Thank you very much.

[End of the Interview]