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The Betty H. Carter Women Veterans Historical Project

Oral history interview with Margaret Wyatte Glennon, circa 2000

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Object ID: WV0165.5.001

Description: Primarily document’s Margaret Wyatte Glennon’s education at the Woman’s College of the University of North Carolina in the 1930s, her service in the U.S. Navy WAVES (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service) during World War II, and her personal life after the war.

Summary:

Glennon discusses her time at Woman’s College (WC)in the late 1930s, including classes, faculty members, and housing. She describes her decision to pursue a master's degree in chemistry at Smith College and then returning to WC as an instructor.

Glennon also remembers her duty in the WAVES, including a recruiter friend contacting her; basic training at Smith College and the working relationship between the WAVES and enlisted men; her activities at the Indian Head Naval Base in Maryland; meeting and courting the base commander's son; buying her wedding dress on VJ Day; and her husband’s experiences in the Marine Corps at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on the battleship New Mexico.

Other topics include Glennon’s time in graduate school; her husband's military career; her life as a military wife raising their four children; her opinion of women in combat today; and the impact of her service in the WAVES on the rest of her life.

Creator: Margaret Wyatte Glennon

Biographical Info: Margaret Wyatte Glennon (1919-2010) of Mebane, North Carolina, served as a supervisor of an X-ray and rocket propellant program in the U.S. Navy WAVES (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service) from August 1944 to October 1945.

Collection: Margaret Wyatte Glennon Oral History

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:

My name is Eric Elliott, and I am with the University of North Carolina at Greensboro [UNCG]. This is an interview for the Women Veterans Historical Project at the university. Today I am in the university's Jackson Library here on campus interviewing Margaret Glennon this morning. Miss Glennon, thank you for taking time out of reunion weekend to sit down with us and talk about your time in the WAVES [Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service—U.S. Navy]. I ask everybody the same question to start out with, and that is a simple one, which is where were you born and where did you grow up?

MG:

I was born in Mebane, North Carolina, and lived there all my life, went to the same building for school, grades one through eleven. We had eleven grades then, and we came to what was then Woman's College [WC, now UNCG].

EE:

Let's see, what did they call that? Mebane Uniform School? Or what? Just Mebane School?

MG:

No, just Mebane School.

EE:

Mebane School. Mebane has about what? Not many folks in it now. How many folks were in that town when you were there?

MG:

Oh, about—

EE:

Twenty-five hundred?

MG:

Twenty-five hundred, I guess, then.

EE:

So you might have had what, two hundred and fifty kids in the school?

MG:

Well, we had only nineteen in our graduating class.

EE:

Did you have any brothers and sisters?

MG:

No.

EE:

What about your folks? What did they do?

MG:

My father was in the automobile business. My mother normally did good community works, but she did sometimes work at the department store at various times.

EE:

So were they from Mebane?

MG:

Well, my father was from Mebane. Grew up in the country outside of Burlington, and my mother grew up in Graham in Burlington.

EE:

Now, is Glennon your married name?

MG:

Yes.

EE:

That's Wyatte.

MG:

My name is Margaret Wyatte.

EE:

Were you somebody who liked school growing up?

MG:

Yes.

EE:

Did you have a favorite subject?

MG:

I can't think that I did. I liked it. I did well. I worked hard but I liked it.

EE:

Some people tend to like sciences more than humanities. Just talking to you beforehand, it sounded like you sort of liked them both.

MG:

I liked them. I really liked them all. I liked them all. It's so long ago I don't remember particularly. But we did not have lab sciences as such back then. Now, you have to remember this is the Depression. As I remember it, North Carolina, the state, required eight months of school a year and eleven grades. Then the larger towns, I suppose, supplemented it on their own. But I know that some did have nine months, and I'm not sure, but I think twelve years. I'm not sure of that.

EE:

Sometime late in the thirties North Carolina finally added that twelfth year. You must have graduated '35-'36?

MG:

I graduated in '36, and we definitely had eight months and the eleven years. Then when I came to college, we had not had any kind of exams beforehand about coming. You were accepted on the basis of your grades and recommendation, I suppose. But in the first few days that we got here we had tests. I can't remember now, but it seemed to me it was, maybe, three days all day, and then those tests were used for placement. People who needed some remedial work, say, in English or math or something, were placed in certain sections. People who got the highest grades on, I remember particularly, English and the foreign language of their choice, they were put in one. There was one high English, freshman English, and one high freshman French, but probably in Spanish and the others, too. But I landed in both the English and the French. That wasn't all good, because I was competing with people who had a lot more than I had.

EE:

So you got the privilege of being in the highly competitive group.

MG:

I certainly did. I certainly did.

EE:

Was WC the only place you had in mind for going to college? Had your folks gone to college?

MG:

I never thought of going anywhere else. My aunt had graduated here in 1919, and she had liked it very much. I just never thought of going anywhere else, never considered it.

EE:

I know the Depression affected a lot of folks' ability to come to school.

MG:

Well, I was thinking the other day, and I think that maybe out of my high school classes, I said nineteen people, I don't think more than three or four went to college right away. Now, some went later after they earned a little money.

EE:

On the GI Bill, maybe, later on, right?

MG:

Oh, yes, they did after the war. But some of them went, you know, stayed out and worked a couple of years and got at least part college before they went into the army or navy or whatever. But, oh, yes, there were several of them. But I think right offhand three of the boys, they were then, or young men, when they came out of the service went to State, NC State [University], at the same time and became engineers on the GI Bill.

EE:

So you were coming to Greensboro. Other than the fact that your aunt had been here, you really didn't know anything about the place, and you didn't have any close friends who were coming up here with you then?

MG:

No. Of course, living in Mebane I knew something about Greensboro itself. But I, of course, heard my aunt talk about things about the college and all that. And really there were people here, some faculty members were here in '36. So they'd been here when she graduated in 1919.

EE:

What are some faculty members that stand out in your recollection?

MG:

I remember Mr. A.C. Hall, who taught English. He had taught her when he had come here. There was a teacher in chemistry, Miss [Elva E.] Barrow, who had taught her, and she was still here. She did not teach me, but she was still teaching here when I came back to teach.

I remember the first time coming to the campus formally, she brought me over, and we went to the alumni house to see Miss Byrd. Miss Byrd was a friend of hers, Miss Clara Byrd. I remember that she, my aunt, said to her, “Do you know some of my friends who have a daughter coming, maybe might room with her?” Well, she said she didn't right offhand, but she'd keep in mind. The very next day this lady, Mrs. Moss, from Wilson, came over with her daughter, and so Miss Byrd put us together and we roomed together four years. [laughs]

EE:

What was her—

MG:

Lynette Moss. She died some years ago. I was trying to recall and didn't look up before I left home. But she went on and majored in chemistry, too. When I went to Smith [College in Northampton, Massachusetts], she went to Tulane [University in New Orleans, Louisiana] to then a woman's college.

EE:

They had a separate woman's college, right.

MG:

But she got a master's degree in chemistry there. She married somebody she met there. I was in the wedding. I guess it must have been in about 1942. But she died in, I'm guessing, probably around 1980 or so.

EE:

What was your aunt's name?

MG:

Margaret Hayes. H-a-y-e-s.

EE:

Is that where you get your name?

MG:

No, we were both named for her mother. My mother was her sister, and we're both named for that.

EE:

For their mom?

MG:

Yes. Very early on she went down to teach in eastern North Carolina, and then she pursued getting a master's degree and became supervisor of rural schools in Craven County, New Bern. She and a friend wrote a book that was accepted all over for a textbook in college for elementary school teachers. The book caught the attention, and so her state supervisor introduced her to the education personnel in the State Department of Education in New York. In 1930 she went to Albany and rose to a merit professor five, a top one, and wrote various things. She was one of the first people teaching courses in guidance counseling and all that. She died January 1, 1997 at age ninety-eight and a half.

She lived the last twenty-some years in Alexandria, Virginia. She came back there and moved to a retirement residence there. She did very careful research. This was when those places were just kind of getting started, what we think of now as a retirement residence, not an old-folks' home. So she came there when she was seventy-three or so, mainly having found that she liked the facility, studied it careful, because we were there. I was her nearest relative. We live in Arlington, [Virginia].

EE:

Just right across, yes.

MG:

But she came equipped with twelve looms and taught weaving. Then after age eighty, sometime after eighty, I can't remember just when it was, she took up ceramics, making figures, and had those on display at various places. She's had, I guess you say, one-woman art shows for her paintings. She was the toastmaster at a banquet, which I think was for the fiftieth anniversary of the college, some big thing.

EE:

Right, '42.

MG:

I wasn't here. I was somewhere. I mean, I couldn't come. And she got one of those alumnus service awards. I can't remember when.

EE:

Sounds like a life-long role model.

MG:

Yes.

EE:

Wonderful.

MG:

I forget that year that was. I brought her down for it. I think it was maybe around '70 or sometime. I don't know.

EE:

While you were at the college, did you go in having a clear plan of study in mind? Did you know what you wanted to study?

MG:

Not really. I mean, I thought I wanted to keep history. But, as I say, I really became interested in chemistry, and I didn't feel I could let the history go. But I took more chemistry.

EE:

And who was your instructor in chemistry?

MG:

Miss [Florence] Shaeffer. She was head of the department then, and she stayed on for quite some time as head. Actually, I had her for that course. The way they did it then, I have no idea how they do it now, but they didn't have big lecture sections. They had something like freshmen chemistry would be divided up in, say, maybe thirty. I don't know. Practically all the faculty members taught at least one section of that. Same way they did that when we all had to take a certain history and some sort of mixture of history, social studies courses.

EE:

Western civilization kind of.

MG:

Yes. That was a four-hour course then, I mean, four hours each semester and that was offset by a two-hour course in health and hygiene that everybody had to take. I never had, while I was here, any course where you had a big lecture with a hundred people or so. It was all sections like that.

EE:

It's a great way to learn.

MG:

Yes. And it didn't matter how important a professor was. I mean, not every professor taught a section like that, but practically all. I mean, top professors taught at least one of these freshmen sections.

EE:

You were on campus '36 to '40. The world is changing quite a lot. Of course, it's a function, I guess, of being in college that your mind probably isn't on the newspaper. First choice, your social life and your studies. But were you all conscious as a class of what was going on in the world?

MG:

Of course, I was somewhat, as I remember now in this. I took a course in history that was called “Europe Since 1870,” and whatever date the book stopped, I don't remember where it stopped, maybe the book did say. I took that, I guess it was, probably '38-'39. Well, the book, even thought it was a current textbook, probably stopped in '34, say, you know, something like that. Then I remember our term paper that we each had to take a country and bring it up to date from the last thing about it in there. I know I did Spain, and, of course, the Spanish Civil War was going on.

I doubt very much, unless you happened to be taking a course that focused—and also I took political science. I was keeping on with this history and that kind of major. But I worked so hard on that and so many hours and all, that I can't say that I did a lot of newspaper reading. We had the radio. But, of course, there was no TV. We had radio. We listened to the news on the radio. But as far as being terribly aware—but even to go into that, during the war you didn't really know. I mean, an intelligent person doing whatever was a job but trying to keep up, we didn't really know whether we were winning the war or not.

EE:

Didn't have the kind of detail to make that—

MG:

No. You heard the news on the radio, but it would just be a news program, maybe fifteen minutes, a half hour at the most, and it wasn't a lot of different ones. There weren't the, as they call them, talking heads now. And, of course, if you live around Washington, there are. And there wasn't anything like CNN or anything. But I often say I honestly thought, when I left here to go in the WAVES, that we might very well be losing the war. Now, this was '44. I made the decision in January to February of '44. I had already really felt that what I wanted to do was be a college teacher, and here I was with this job, which I got at age twenty-two. And I liked it. I was working very, very hard.

I remember there was another person who came down from Smith that we hadn't known each other at Smith, but we'd both gotten master's degrees. She got one in bacteriology, and she came here to teach, just pure happenstance, and we became close friends. What we each did was we had a faculty member's house where you had a room and what was called breakfast privileges. We really felt that if we took off either Sunday afternoon or Saturday afternoon or one of those evenings, that was about as much time as we could take off during the week, because we had lab preparations, papers to grade, and, you know, just charge all the time.

But I really thought it was in doubt, and I'm sure I wasn't the only person, whether we would win the war or not. I decided that I would either go to graduate school and get a PhD, which, of course, you needed if you're going to be a college teacher, or go in the WAVES. I contacted a friend who was a recruiting officer for North Carolina, and she said, “Well, I don't think you want to do that now, because what they really want are personnel officers, and you better use your science where you are than do this.” Then she gave me a call at the end of February, and she said, “Help, I've been told to recruit some science people. In fact, they told me to get thirty from North Carolina.” She said, “I don't know one except you.” [laughs]

But, anyway, this person I was talking about had gone to teach at Goucher [College, Maryland]. She was here the first year with me when we came back. She heard about a teaching fellowship open at Johns Hopkins for a PhD and arranged for me to go up and interview. So they offered me that. So I had to decide whether I was going to do the WAVES or go do that. [laughs]

EE:

Let me get on tape some of the things you told me beforehand just so I can get folks from here, because you're here as a student and graduated in '40.

MG:

That's right.

EE:

Did Miss Shaeffer help get you into Smith or route you toward Smith?

MG:

She insisted, and Miss Shaeffer insists. [laughter] She insisted that my roommate and me—I don't know whether other chemistry majors, I just don't remember—apply. She had me apply to Smith, Wellesley [College, Massachusetts], Mount Holyoke [College, Massachusetts], and Vassar [College, New York]. Lynnette wanted to go south, and I don't remember where besides Tulane. But, anyway, she insisted that we do this, which we did. Then it didn't hurt that I won Real[?] Fellowship, which at that point was the thing. And that gave me six hundred dollars. The six hundred dollars was supposed to provide for a year's graduate study. But then I didn't. I was accepted.

EE:

So you were at Smith from '40 to '42?

MG:

I was there '40-'41 and '41-'42. So I was there when the war started in December of '41.

EE:

And that chemistry degree was in general chemistry or a particular kind of chemistry?

MG:

Actually, it was called an MA [master of arts degree]. There were no arts courses, but that's what they gave in science, an MA in chemistry. It was mainly toward the physical chemistry. It doesn't say that on it, but you could go either toward biological chemistry or toward physical chemistry. I did the physical and analytical.

EE:

When you were at Smith, December of '41, the second year you were there is Pearl Harbor. Do you remember anything about Pearl Harbor day?

MG:

Yes, I remember perfectly well. We were walking home from Sunday dinner. We lived in a house, which is what, as I said before, they called them at Smith. I think there were probably about twenty graduate students. It was a big house, nice house, but probably looked something like you might think a fraternity or sorority house looked, and we ate at one of the undergraduate houses. So we were just coming back from that meal when we heard that on the radio. I don't remember. I'm not exactly sure what I remember, whether we listened to the radio and heard the president, or whether I've heard it so many times since then. I'm not sure. I'm not sure.

EE:

I don't know if the president had gone on the radio that day. I know he spoke to Congress the next day.

MG:

It might have been the next day. As I say, I've heard it so many times over the years.

EE:

Did that affect your decision to continue in grad school? What were you thinking after?

MG:

Oh, well, nothing like that changed right away. Of course, that was a job. See, the teaching fellowship was a job, and actually I was doing the work of two assistants, because one didn't come. So, there again was one of those very demanding things. I was getting the labs ready and teach. Now, there they had a big lecture section that they had. Then that was divided up into smaller groups for labs. Well, they call them recitation. They didn't recite. But that's where you talked informally and helped people learn about it. I mean, you signed a contract. They would have been very upset if you decided—

EE:

Where is Smith physically located?

MG:

Northampton, Massachusetts. It's, oh, guessing, I think about twenty miles from Springfield.

EE:

So was this the first big trip for you out of state going to Smith for grad school?

MG:

Oh, no. I'd been to New York various times. See, my aunt lived there. Then I went to the Chicago World's Fair. I guess that was for, what was it, '34, I guess. She took me to that.

EE:

So compared to a number of folks who you went to school with, you had seen the world a little bit more than others had.

MG:

Yes. I certainly hadn't been across the ocean, but I'd been to New York, I don't know, at least six or eight times.

EE:

When you were at Smith, I guess you left in '42. Tell me again. You told me before our interview how you got back down to Woman's College.

MG:

Well, Miss Shaeffer wrote to me—I'm sure writing was what you did then—sometime in the spring of '42 and told me that the teacher that I had had and was Kate Walkens[?], who had graduated in '35 here and had gone to Mount Holyoke for a master's degree, was leaving to get married that summer and would I come and take the job, which was teaching general chemistry and qualitative and quantitative analysis. She knew perfectly well that that's what I had been assisting in at Smith under just a master teacher. So she said, “You know, we can use the same book,” which were the most modern ones then. I had all of the plans and had done it for two years. So, I mean, I'm sure she wouldn't have given me that job if she needed somebody to teach something I hadn't been assisting in. She wrote to me and asked me to do it, and I came and worked some during that summer. I forgot what. But I helped out. I helped out some in the summer school and sort of got back used to it.

We had moved into that science building which is featured in the alumni thing. I think I am correct in saying that we moved into that building at the break, semester break. See, we used to go till way into January for first semester, and we moved over there, I am pretty sure, at that semester break of January 1940. I know, when I say help move, we did take over, you know, some of it, and I know that part of my senior year at least I was in the new building. It's possible we went over in January of my junior year. I'm just not real sure about that.

EE:

Most people have tactile memories of moving boxes. [laughter]

MG:

Yes. But I can remember that I had a course that I had in my junior year. We were in McIver [Building] then over there, and I remember I had senior courses in what was then the new building. But I don't think it was the whole year, but I don't really remember.

EE:

Did you know or have an opinion or memory about Dean [Harriet] Elliott when she was here?

MG:

Oh, yes. Yes, definitely.

EE:

When you came back here, had she already been called up to Washington to work with the Consumer Board?

MG:

I simply don't remember. I think she probably had, because, you see, my—well, no, maybe not. She probably left while I was back here. See, I came back in '42 and stayed till '44. It's sort of hard for me to remember what, you know, when I as a student and what fitted just into those two years. I remember that she went, but I don't know when she went.

EE:

Your decision to join the WAVES as opposed to another branch of service was simply due to somebody calling and specifically asking then, it sounds like.

MG:

I don't know. I think I made a study of it, I think. But I have laughed often as to how my life has turned out with the military that I don't think I'd actually ever seen in person a naval officer or a Marine officer in Mebane. Why would I have? [laughs] I don't know. And I can't tell you exactly why I decided on the WAVES now, but I know I didn't think of doing another one. I think the uniform had something to do with it.

EE:

And your family and friends were they—

MG:

No, no.

EE:

What did they think of you joining the service?

MG:

Oh, they thought it was fine. My mother and father always seemed to think what I wanted to do was—and I guess I was fairly level headed. I know I've said to my children, and we talk about it, I never rebelled. There wasn't anything to rebel against. If I had wanted to do something that wasn't pretty much the right thing, I would have been stopped from doing it.

EE:

The boundaries were there for you.

MG:

Yes. And then, you see, when I left, I left, as I said, and actually, I signed up in March of '44, but that was with the understanding that we'd go in when school was out. My class at Northampton had lots of school teachers and recent college graduates, because it started in late June. So we had signed up with the provision that we go in June when school was out.

EE:

I'm going to ask you one other question about the WC days, before we get into the WAVES questions, because you're in a unique position having been here as a student and then coming back as a faculty. At a time you go back and you look at Pine Needles [WC yearbook] from '41 and '42.

MG:

You know, I had that laid on my sofa to bring, and my granddaughter, who's a senior at Wake Forest [University], came in just a little while before we were going, because I was giving her some things to put in her apartment, and then we realized we were late getting started. So 1940 Pine Needles is still lying there.

EE:

Then there's a shift there for those couple of years where the world comes into WC and changes things. What was it like different being on the faculty? What was the campus like different in those two war years you were here?

MG:

Well, I lived the first year over on—of course, as you realize, there are loads more buildings—but I lived on Forest Street or whatever. There was Miss [Jessie C.] Laird, who taught French, was there, and she rented a room to a faculty member. I lived there, and I spent my time those two years either pretty much there or in the science building. Anything you might think of making a complaint about was, “Don't you know there's a war on?”

Now, the science building was supposed to be air conditioned, but it didn't work very well. You can imagine how hot it got, you know, in the fall. So Miss Schaffer took cards just like you have there, in very distinctive Spenserian handwriting, wrote out by hand, “This window will not be opened.” And took scotch tape and put one of those cards on every window. And heaven help us if we opened a window when the air conditioning wasn't working and it was hot.

The other thing, the second year I had an apartment with a friend who was teaching chemistry. She had gone to Mount Holyoke and then had gone on to Yale and got a PhD and she was here teaching chemistry. So we had an apartment over on Tate Street. Miss Schaffer put me in charge of a huge still that was up on the top floor of that, which furnished the distilled water for the whole building, you know, bacteriology, everything. It didn't work right half the time. I did not know anything except the theory of distillation about this monster thing.

EE:

You weren't in the right part of North Carolina growing up. [laughs]

MG:

Yes. I had to be there at 7:30 in the morning to check that thing to try to make sure it was working for that day. I know when I asked her a time or two if they could possibly get a serviceman or whoever had installed it, because actually it wasn't too old, to come and check it, and always we couldn't do it because there was a war on. But that's the main thing. And then they had blackouts at night, you know, air raids.

EE:

Practice, I guess.

MG:

My husband has always thought it was so funny that anybody thought anything was going to be bombed. Oh, Smith was sure they were going to come over and get Northampton.

EE:

Oh, yes. Now, you go back and you get on the train to go back to Smith, which is where you're from?

MG:

I went back there, but we were there in the summer, seven to eight weeks. They spent some time trying to decide how long they would keep us there.

EE:

And you were telling me beforehand that you and Katherine Taylor planned and schemed to room together and, in fact, the plan and scheme worked.

MG:

Yes, we met in New York. We met in New York so that we would get off the train in Northampton at the same time and be assigned to room together.

EE:

What do you remember about basic training?

MG:

The main thing, well, not the main thing, I do remember it was terribly hot. Northampton, you'd be surprised how hot it can be. It's hot and humid in the summertime, and this was July and August. It was a tremendous amount of memorizing the classes.

EE:

Now, that's something for a chemistry person to say, because chemistry has a tremendous amount of memorizing.

MG:

Well, a tremendous amount of stuff with which we were totally unfamiliar like the organization of the navy, you know, the various bureaus and actually the names of the people who had these offices in Washington, people you never heard of, not like—and then we had one in naval history, of course, which was very interesting. But then naval organization, naval history, well, I guess probably etiquette, all that kind of thing.

EE:

Protocols for how to—

MG:

All that sort of thing. We had to be able to recognize visually all the various emblems of rank or, I can't think what you call it now, but that would show how long enlisted people, the number of stripes and the insignia that would say what they did, you know, what their specialty was, and then you had to recognize all the ranks, various emblems and things of rank. Then you had to be able to coordinate them. See, that gets very confusing because a captain in the navy and a captain in the army are very different. Then they'd give us these tricky things like which one is higher up than the other.I remember they gave us this one part of the discussion was what you would do. And we never answered questions. It was all lecture. No participation. It wasn't like teaching you ever heard of. It was all just put at you.

EE:

It was indoctrination of ranks.

MG:

And you had to write it down. We did not have real textbooks. They probably gave us some kind of sheets. I don't remember. But one tricky thing was, I remember, what should an ensign do, which is what most of were going to be, if you were in an elevator or you got on an elevator with an admiral. Now, you see, I'm never going to be on. [laughs]

EE:

What's the answer?

MG:

Well, after I finished that course, my aunt and I, the one from Albany, met in Washington for a couple of days before we went our separate ways. Anyway, we got a hotel late at night. The next morning, me, with my new shiny ensign gold bars on an elevator in a hotel and a five-star admiral got on! There were only about, I think, maybe three five-stars in the navy at that point. [laughs] He was just like your nicest next-door neighbor or your nice uncle or something, “Good morning, ladies.” And I was so flustered. They also said you were supposed to get out of the elevator first and stand aside. But he rushed out and held the door open for us. That was Admiral Reid, Admiral Joseph Reid. I always had a soft spot in my heart for him. I never saw him again. [laughs]

EE:

That's great. You were at Smith, I guess, for about eight weeks, probably?

MG:

Yes, in the summer eight weeks. There was some discussion about, I don't know why, but shorter.

EE:

You went in knowing, because you were recruited for this science position. Did you have a sense of why they were looking for people with science background? Did you know where you were headed?

MG:

Well, actually, why they were looking at the time she had to recruit us was they wanted to have a special class. As I remember, it was to do with radar, which was quite new then. It was going to be at Harvard. But then, by the time we went in, they had cancelled it. I mean, somewhere along the line that got cancelled. I suspect they found out they didn't need that many more people. They knew more than we did that the war was winding down. But they didn't do. They didn't do it.

No, you had no idea where you were going when you got out. And what they did, oh, maybe two or three days, I can't remember, before we graduated, they posted a big poster, posted everybody's name and where they were going, and you went and looked at the poster. Mine said Indian Head, Maryland, and this—well, I say girl, because we said girls then—who was in my company but not my platoon—I mean her face was familiar, but I didn't know her. She didn't know me. But, anyway, she looked me up. She said, “Well, I thought you might be interested. My father's the commanding officer at Indian Head, and he's a navy captain. He and my mother are coming up to take me home when it's over. Meet me here and I'll introduce you.” They'd be in the lobby of the Hotel Northampton after graduation and before lunch or something like that. Anyway, so fine.

We had graduation in the auditorium. Plus, you couldn't run. You had to walk very fast, I mean, people in uniform. Got back to the Hotel Northampton, which is a good hike, I don't know, three-quarters of a mile, maybe. Got there. And it seems funny to talk about now, but we had to eat lunch. You couldn't skip lunch. You had to eat lunch. And if you would go on, I mean, you had to be on the train that left at a certain time. Well, I get there in the lobby, and she and her mother are there but this man isn't there, so I have to wait for him. And then he came in and I met him, which was fine, and just managed to get my suitcase. There was no such thing as a taxi or a bus. You had to then haul your suitcase to the train station, walking, and get on and make the train.

But, anyway, a week later I get to Indian Head. You know, I had been so brainwashed—it seems funny now—that I was surprised when Captain Glennon recognized me. See, he had met me one week before in Northampton. I went home for, maybe, a week. And I remember thinking, “Gee, isn't it nice? He remembered me.” [laughs]

EE:

It's only been a week. It just seems like a long time. There's so many things going on differently. His last name was Glennon?

MG:

Glennon.

EE:

Any future to that story?

MG:

My father-in-law. [laughter]

EE:

I thought there was something to that story, yes.

MG:

Yes. Yes. Well, what happened was that my husband was a Marine. Once a Marine, always a Marine. He graduated from the Naval Academy in 1939. The twenty-five top graduates who wanted to be Marine officers went in the Marines. That's the way it was then. They went to Philadelphia then, to the Marine basic school, where they were joined by people that had graduated from college, like an NROTC [Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps] or something like that. And they were there.

Then he went to Guantanamo in 1940, and he never got back until 1945. I'm glad I didn't know him. But he went from Guantanamo, and he was at Pearl Harbor December the seventh. Then he was in the Pacific until February of '45, when he was wounded with a kamikaze attack on the battleship New Mexico. People around him were killed and wounded severely. He was wounded not too badly. And that's when he came. He came to Indian Head then for recuperative leave, and that's where I was. His mother invited me to dinner, and that's how it all started.

EE:

What's his first name?

MG:

James. James Blair Glennon, Jr. So then we were married six months later.

EE:

When you got down to Indian Head, you were assigned to do what?

MG:

To supervise. This program was, as I say, X-ray and rocket propellant, and they had set it up in shifts composed of enlisted WAVES and enlisted men.

EE:

Not working together, just in shifts they'd rotate?

MG:

No, no. Each shift had some of both. I can't remember the exact thing now. I'm guessing, but I think it was about fifteen people, say, five sailors and ten WAVES or something of that nature and with a WAVE ensign in charge of these fifteen people. We worked eight-hour shifts. That's the rocket propellant, and it was manufactured. This stuff was manufactured at Indian Head. Indian Head for a long, long time has been a manufacturing place for explosives. It was manufactured, it was tested, the whole works, and then sent out from there to the fleet. This obviously was for the ships to use.

EE:

You were telling me this propellant has a consistency like rubber.

MG:

Like rubber. Very much like tires.

EE:

And you're X-raying it for impurities?

MG:

We were X-raying it for impurities or cracks.

EE:

You were replacing another WAVE ensign at this time?

MG:

No, it was started. The program was just starting or got into full swing that summer of '44. I think it had started, maybe, just a couple of months before we got there, and then it just went full tilt. It stopped only for twenty-four hours.

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

EE:

It's different from most WAVES.

MG:

Oh, yes.

EE:

It's actually the function, I think, of a lot of military things that with some joy people get to do things they were actually trained in, and you're one of those people who did get to train.

MG:

Well, actually, I have to tell you the truth. I was disappointed I didn't get to go to the chemistry lab, because I was the only WAVE there who had a master's degree in chemistry. But there were senior people. See, Indian Head operated, and I suppose still does, with a combination of service people and civilians. Some civilians had been there many, many years, and I never quite understood just how the mix was. But we didn't have any civilians in the X-ray.

EE:

But you were in the supervisory capacity of all three shifts?

MG:

No, no. Of one shift.

EE:

Each shift, okay.

MG:

One shift. Each shift had a WAVE ensign, and then we had above us, the navy person in charge, immediately in charge of the X-ray. There where we were was a WAVE, who was a lieutenant, and she had had X-ray experience in a hospital. She was a hospital X-ray person.

EE:

Because we were just starting this program, did you get to help develop these safety procedures you're talking about?

MG:

Yes, we tried to do it. Well, I take that back. We, at least, gave some input when they built a new facility, how much they may have thought of all these things themselves, but we were at least asked. But when we went, you had the impression that this thing had been put together, well, fairly quickly. There again, everybody, “Remember, there's a war on.” So it had been set up just in a building, which was made of galvanized metal, like a barn might be. I suspect it had been an old storage building of some kind, had no insulation. It was very cold and very hot. They had some ineffectual heat. But I remember one night at 2:00 a.m. it was thirty-eight degrees in there. And it opened. It had a porch, and the railroad track went right by the porch, so the stuff was being loaded. But the train shot out sparks, and there could be powder piled up there waiting to come in and go out, and that was one of our constant things. We had to wear the shoes which wouldn't make a spark, but you could see the train throw out some sparks.

They did build a new building. I was there from August of '44 till October of '45, and I think that we got into the new building maybe May of '45, sometime like that. I mean, we had all the winter, I remember, in this other place. They had then much more in the way of safety, safety methods or whatever, but we were more concerned about the danger from constant exposure to X-ray, although we didn't know as much about it as we know now. But that was something, because we X-rayed all the time.

EE:

Was there any kind of protection for you from X-rays like we have? Like we have with dental, you know, the dental technicians stand behind the wall and have the vest on you.

MG:

We had the place where the powder was X-rayed was like a counter and then it set back in the wall, if you visualize, and it had a door that pulled down. We put the powder in, pulled the door down, then they X-ray. That door, that enclosure, was lined with lead. But the fact of doing it, and I mean, I wasn't—

EE:

Twenty-four hours a day.

MG:

Well, eight hours a day a person would be doing it, and I was most concerned about the young men who had to be putting it in and taking it out. Of course, they had to close the door before doing it, but they were more likely to be close to it then the WAVES were. A lot of those trays would be very hard to handle, so that was the sailors' job. The WAVES were more involved in developing and reading the film, and they weren't as much around the X-ray, although we were all in the same room with it.

EE:

One of those things that, I think, probably the fact that you're young and don't know as much, maybe is—

MG:

Well, we knew. We knew. I mean, we had to keep adamant to make sure that they pulled the door down. But I mean, there was no, I'm sure they did not—

EE:

Radiation is something you don't necessarily notice that you've had anything happen to you.

MG:

No, I don't think they were concerned about it.

EE:

You're in a different kind of working relationship with men on the job than a lot of women I talk to, in a supervisory role, and it seemed like a crew that was pretty evenly mixed with WAVES and enlisted men.

MG:

I think, if I remember correctly, I know there were more WAVES. My best guess now is that there were probably five sailors and ten WAVES on the group. I know fifteen sticks in my mind.

EE:

How was the working relationship? Was it a good one?

MG:

Very good most of the time. Except, well, you know, you get personalities to deal with. Most people really had a very really patriotic face. They were all volunteers. They didn't particularly liked being at the powder factory. Two girls that I really felt for had been working in an explosives factory in, I think it was, Kansas. But I'm not sure. There had been a very bad explosion and some people had been killed, and they left that to go into the WAVES, and then they got there. But they were very good sports about it all. They didn't complain about it, and they knew about precautions and all. The sailors were a mixed bag. Some of them were just finished their schooling, you know, had just come in very young guys. One place they went to was Great Lakes.

EE:

Training Center. [Great Lakes Naval Training Center, Illinois]

MG:

Yes. Then some of them were ones that had been at sea and had been shot at. [laughs]

EE:

Well, you know, there's this slogan that everybody, women were attracted to the freeing men to fight idea. Were you freeing men to fight doing that work?

MG:

Oh, yes, that would have. That would have classified. I mean, this was something entirely new. They'd never done it. Never done it before. We all, I would say, were in that. I remember that usually the guys who'd been in a while were quite appreciative of being there. This was easy compared to being—

EE:

Compared to being out on the front or something.

MG:

Yes. I remember we were having one youngster, young one who was complaining. He was complaining, not to us, but I mean not to me, I mean, they wouldn't do it. But it was getting around and he was rather sullen. And he was saying, “He didn't join the navy to have a woman tell him what to do.” We'd have a head sailor, whoever happened to be the senior one. I remember he came and talked to me about this young fellow. He said, “Now, I'll take care of him.” He said, “I'll tell him how lucky he is to be here.” He said, “I've just come from the Mediterranean, and I'm a very thankful to be here.” And he did. He talked to him. I don't mean being mean to him, but saying, “Well, look, this is the way this is and so forth.”

We did have some tense moments. We tried to deal with some of the civilian people who were, in our case, the trouble came sometimes between the sailors and the truck drivers, the civilian truck drivers, because they were mainly—when I say truck drivers I'm not talking about people entrusted with an eighteen wheeler. I mean people just hauling in. They were getting a lot more money for their job than the sailors were, but in general they were people with less education.

EE:

Less education?

MG:

Less education, yes. And so sometimes they were ready to mix it up, you know.

EE:

You all lived there on the base? You had your own WAVES housing?

MG:

Yes. We lived in a funny kind of, I guess you could say, well, the long building that had one hall down the middle, rooms on each side like an old-fashioned, what do you say? A dormitory a long time ago, with one bathroom down the hall, one wire hanging down with a bulb on it. [laughter] Incidentally, it was the building where my husband—

EE:

It's a lot different from Northampton anyway?

MG:

Yes, right. But then we went and they were in the process of building a new building, and we went over there for a while, all of us, somehow. I don't remember how this all worked, but we all went over there for a while. So we doubled up, and they did refurbish the one we had lived in so it was better. But it was pretty grim when we first got there.

EE:

What was the hardest thing you had to do while you were in the service, either physically or emotionally?

MG:

When I think of it, besides being concerned about how the war was going and an awful lot of casualties and ships being sunk, things like that, was adjusting there when we went into the WAVES, I mean, at Indian Head, because it was extremely hot and humid. It's on the river, right on the Potomac. August and September is very hot and humid.

They couldn't work out what they thought was the best way to divide up these shifts, I mean, to make a schedule. So sometimes we were doing three days on each shifts, and your whole system was just—I mean, you'd do three days you worked seven to four, whatever it was, seven to three, I guess. But then the next three days you worked three till midnight and then three. Then you'd start over again.

EE:

Never got into a routine.

MG:

And, you see, if you had to try to sleep during the daytime, it was very hot and very noisy, I mean, because the rest of the world was going on. I think the adjustment to that, and we did, unfortunately, have the senior officer of the WAVES, who was there at that time, was not somebody who personally you would look up to. She had no real feeling for, I suppose, how many of us were doing that. There was another section called Firing Bay, which did the same sort of thing. So there were probably, maybe, ten to fifteen, WAVE officers who were trying to cope with this, and she had absolutely no understanding or care about what we were doing, because she lived in a nice house and worked regular office hours, and she had been a buyer for an important department store chain, which was a very good job, but she had not the slightest notion of what we were trying to sort out and keep going.

EE:

She was what we call today a hands-off manager.

MG:

She was, except she wasn't entirely hands off. She would interfere at first, like if you had duty, and you had to drive the Jeep around and check on various things, she didn't hesitate to call you on the phone and say, “Go to the drugstore and get her so-and-so.”

EE:

So your knowledge of Captain Glennon didn't affect your day-to-day job then?

MG:

No. Oh, no. I mean, I just met him that time, and it was all extremely formal.

EE:

How far is Indian Head from Washington?

MG:

Well, I've never been down there since they have apparently this big highway now called Indian Head Highway that goes not just to Indian Head but, you know, all the development. Do you know where Quantico, [Virginia], is?

EE:

Yes, it's a pretty far ways down.

MG:

It's not as far down as Quantico. Do you happen to know if you are going on [Interstate] 95, have you ever noticed Woodbridge?

EE:

Yes. Right across from Woodbridge?

MG:

It's just about across. You can see the smokestacks of Indian Head. It used to be before 95 was there U.S. 1 went right through the little town of Woodbridge and right on down to Quantico, the town of Quantico, out on the highway's triangle, a little place there. From the bridge, a bridge at Woodbridge, which goes over the Occoquan [Bay], you look across and you see the smokestacks of Indianhead.

EE:

Was there a particularly embarrassing moment in your military career that you'd like to share with us?

MG:

As far as embarrassing, I don't. I can think of funny things. I can't think of anything particularly embarrassing.

EE:

What's a funny story that you recall?

MG:

Well, when I got on the bus at the Union Station in that hot August morning, I had taken the train up from Greensboro to Washington, Union Station. The Indian Head bus, a navy bus, would schedule to go from Union Station down to Indian Head. I don't know at certain times. Anyway, I remember the sun, well, the sun was up, but it was already steamy hot when we got on that bus.I remember I sat down on a seat behind a WAVE. She looked very unhappy, very unhappy, and there were very few people on the bus. This was like an old school bus that was painted gray, that kind of bus. So we started off toward Indian Head, and after a while she turned around and after we got out of Washington.

She said to me, “Are you going to Indian Head?” Of course, it was the only place the bus was going. [laughter]

And I said, “Yes.”

She said, “You'll hate it.” [laughter]

She was an enlisted WAVE, and they were having to live in the schoolhouse then. School was going to start very shortly, because their place was being whatever, was being fixed up. So she says, “It's terrible. You'll hate it.”

EE:

I was trying to imagine social life for you all in Indian Head. You'd have to almost go into D.C. to go to someplace where entertainment was.

MG:

Well, what we had was, you see, the way those shifts worked, every now and then we'd have a day off in between shifts, and then sometimes once in a long time we had a seventy-two hour. That's the most we ever had off, seventy-two. But you'd be surprised how far people went on seventy-two.

EE:

You could come home.

MG:

The train service was very good then. There were lots of passenger trains. I mean, you might be delayed and the trains were dilapidated, but by dilapidated I mean they are not like—

EE:

Right, not Amtrak.

MG:

Yes. Back at that time, there were about maybe five passenger trains through Mebane a day. See, you could change in Greensboro. You'd come to Washington to Greensboro on the Southern. You change here and take the one that goes to Raleigh, went to Raleigh-Durham. So you could get the overnight train. I think they didn't give us seventy-two more than maybe once in three months. But I'm guessing. I don't remember. But I went up to Albany.

EE:

Didn't sound like there were enough people there to have an officers' club there. Was there an officers' club?

MG:

Oh, yes. The trouble with that, the officers' club, all there was, was a big room in the basement of the bachelor officers' quarters. So we didn't particularly like going down there, because we always felt somehow they figured we were coming down to see them. We didn't go down there much. [laughter]

But we did go out on a rowboat on the Potomac some, and we had a little [unclear]. We come to Washington. They did have a bus, navy bus, from Indianhead come to Washington at appropriate hours that would get you back for a certain shift, that kind of thing. The navy bus used to pick you up in a little park down in Southeast, pick you up about quarter of eleven at night, and I remember we'd go down there and sit by ourselves. I'd no more go sit in a park in Southeast.

EE:

That's right, D.C.

MG:

Yes.

EE:

It's just a different time.

MG:

Yes.

EE:

Even in my lifetime I remember that. That attitude has changed just in my lifetime.

MG:

Yes, I would no more do that.

EE:

Were you ever were afraid? If you thought about it, you probably were in some physical danger on that job with those.

MG:

Yes, you were from explosives.

EE:

Were you afraid of that, of both the X-ray and the—

MG:

No, it was what you were doing. There was a war on. I mean, it was really a thing that people were extremely patriotic. I mean, they really were. To back up, I was at a club meeting two or three years ago, Delta Kappa Gamma, which is a teachers' organization, and we had a sort of get-acquainted thing what about most changed your life or affected your lives. And everybody anywhere near my age said the war, because that changed, I mean, so many ways.

For example, good friends of ours, actually our son-in-law's parents, she graduated from college, grew up, graduated from college in South Carolina. He grew up and graduated from college in Wyoming. She went to Washington to work. He was stationed in Washington, and they got married.

EE:

You never would have had Wyoming and South Carolina meet, would you?

MG:

You wouldn't have had things like that. And, of course, the dreadful thing of people killed or terribly wounded. But I mean, without that, the way that people, you know, met each other, or a lot of people came to Washington, and many did, stayed on there, or liked it and came back. When I say Washington, the whole metropolitan area. David Brinkley's book, whatever, about going to war is very good, about descriptive of that. It came out several years ago. I can't think of just hat the name was [Washington Goes to War]. It's got war in it. I've got it at home, but I forget what it was.

EE:

When you think about that time, are there any favorite songs or movies that take you back to either there at the base or thinking about James?

MG:

Well, of course, now, I can't remember, think about the songs and all that. I don't remember which ones were then. It was kind of ground at Indianhead, really. I mean, a lot of that time work, and actually all lot of time you didn't feel too good physically with this mixed-up schedule. I mean, that was the hardest thing, the hardest thing. But I don't remember particularly what was there and what was in, you know, might have been, say, '45 to '50 or something like that.

EE:

Had you met your future husband? When did he come back?

MG:

Forty-five.

EE:

What time in '45?

MG:

He arrived in Indian Head in March of '45.

EE:

So Roosevelt had not passed away at that time?

MG:

No. I think he died, I believe it was, in April.

EE:

End of April. Do you remember that day?

MG:

I remember. There again, I've seen so many pictures and all I do not remember that making any great impact on me. He came back toward the end of March of '45, and was there first of the month. Then he was slated to go back to the Pacific, because that's where the Marine action was then.

EE:

Sure. And nobody knew about the A-bomb.

MG:

In the next six months, I mean, I thought he'd be going back in six months. But, anyway, we saw each other a great deal. He had a month's leave after almost five years overseas, and then he was assigned to Camp Lejeune. So we saw a great deal of each other that month. His mother invited us to dinner, invited me and another WAVE to dinner. That's how I met him.

Anyway, I guess we got engaged in June and then planned to get married in September before he went back overseas. I went to New York in August to get my wedding dress, and that turned out the next morning it was VJ [Victory in Japan] Day and the doors were closed. But that night, the night before, and I had met my aunt who'd come down from Albany, the night before we had walked to our favorite French restaurant we liked from the station. We'd walked and we'd seen a bridal shop there that had dresses in the window. So then the next day when all the big stores were closed we said, “Well, let's go back to that shop.” Sure enough, they were open, and I had liked the one I saw in the window. So they did the measurements and made me the dress.

EE:

You bought your wedding dress on VJ Day.

MG:

Yes. Actually, I mean, I did the measurements and all for it on VJ Day. But then the war was over, and we were married September the fifteenth. He had two weeks leave, and he was going to go back to another assignment at Camp Lejeune then. But then the orders were changed while we were on our honeymoon, and he went to Quantico instead, to senior school in Quantico. Then we got on track of moving twelve times in seventeen years.

EE:

So he stayed in and made it a military career?

MG:

Yes.

EE:

How long did you stay in the service?

MG:

I got out in October. Actually, the first thing they did to make an orderly—

EE:

Transition out?

MG:

Out of the WAVES, the job.

EE:

Well, probably two things impacted you, the end of the war, which they were decommissioning everybody, and, plus, when you get married weren't you encouraged to get out?

MG:

Yes. Well, most of the jobs, I mean, jobs like ours, really just about folded up. There was no more to do. So the first way they did was people, WAVES, who were already married, who were married to or had been married for some time to officers or personnel, not necessarily officers, personnel, they were out first, and then people who recently married or were getting married or whatever. Anyway, I was in the second. I actually was out. I got out by the time his—because they gave him some more leave because the school didn't start for another week or two. I was out in October of '45.

EE:

When you married in September, he then set for the next seventeen years—

MG:

The next twenty-six years. [laughs]

EE:

Twenty-six years he stayed in the service?

MG:

Yes.

EE:

What did you do? Did you go back to teaching? Did you start raising a family?

MG:

No, I moved around. Moved around and we had four children. Moved around. As I say, a little while we were moving every year. I mean, it was going all the time. As I say, we had commercial movers twelve times in seventeen years. We were moving all the time and bringing up children.

EE:

All over stateside? All over the world? Where were you?

MG:

Well, he went various places we couldn't go. But back when we went, we went to Hawaii, and then Hawaii was a territory, not a state, in 1950 to '52. It was hard to realize that was only five years after the war was over. But we were there for two years, '50 to '52. He had tours in Okinawa for fourteen months. We couldn't go. He was in Lebanon and the Mediterranean.

EE:

Overseas I know they usually try to keep them about a year's length of time if you've got to be separated.

MG:

Yes. Well, the tour in Okinawa at that time for Marines was fourteen months. The other services could take their families but not the Marines, because they had to be ready to go. I mean, the battalion or whatever it was had to be ready to move out. I mean, they were on a very, what do you say, active.

EE:

Right. They were on alert.

MG:

They were ready to go, yes.

EE:

Readiness state.

MG:

Yes. I started teaching not until 1963. His last tour of active duty was at the Pentagon, and we came to Arlington in 1962. Then we decided to stay on there. He decided to get out of the Marine Corps. He had twenty-six years. He was a colonel and decided to get out now. We had four children to get through school and into college, and Arlington has an excellent school system. Then a year after we're there, I had done some substituting. The principle asked me about taking on two periods of chemistry, because they needed two more periods, but they did not have enough for another full-time teacher. So I said I'd try it for a year. It's just about three blocks from our house, the high school. And I did it for eighteen. I went to full time the next year, because one of the teachers left.

EE:

So you taught from what? '64 to?

MG:

To '81.

EE:

This was in a high school there?

MG:

Yes. Yorktown. It was called then a senior high school. About a year before we left they started it. They put the ninth grade in, and they changed it to just calling it high school.

EE:

Well, having been in a chemistry class in high school, I have great admiration for your patience. [laughter]

MG:

I taught chem study, which is a very carefully planned chemistry course, plus our answer to Sputnik. Then I taught advanced placement [AP] chemistry. I had a very good career as a high school teacher. I wouldn't have chosen high school teaching, because I don't like discipline problems, but we didn't have any to speak of. It's a very good high school.

EE:

That advanced placement class kind of weeds out the discipline problems.

MG:

Yes. The whole school then was, well, I'm sure there were problems, but I mean, it was more like a college atmosphere than most high schools.

EE:

Your husband, in '45, when you married, what rank was he?

MG:

He was, at one time, the youngest lieutenant colonel in the Marine Corps. He was a lieutenant colonel then. But then that was in '45. Then they reorganized, as they often do after a war, and his group went back to major. But then they put them back up, and then he retired as a colonel. So he was a lieutenant or a colonel all the time except for, I think, about three or four, maybe six months he was a major.

EE:

When you left the service, what was your rank?

MG:

Ensign. I think our class was probably promoted in a few months, because my sister-in-law, his sister, was in my class, and she stayed on until March and she had become a JG [lieutenant, junior grade] . I think the class went up.

EE:

I know of only one or two couples, who were in the service, that both of them decided to stay in the service for a length of time. Did you ever think about staying in the military?

MG:

No. No. Well, actually no, because, I mean, if you decide to be involved with the Marine Corps, the Marine Corps, that's that. I mean, it would have never have crossed my mind to stay in. I mean, if I decided to get married, I was going to be married.

EE:

Do you feel that in your work and your time there that you contributed to the war effort?

MG:

Well, some. I don't know, exactly how valuable, but I really think that since they put in the program they must have really considered it valuable, and we were certainly told that this was valuable. We were certainly told, and my husband substantiated, if faulty rocket propellant is put in, it can blow up.

EE:

That's right. They appreciate everybody who makes it.

MG:

So, I mean, it's pretty tangible, but somebody else could have done it just as well. I don't mean at all that I had any great insights. [laughs]

EE:

I think it would be clear that your job does. I know some women were in the kinds of work that they didn't really feel a connection to the war effort.

MG:

Oh, I think so. Well, you see, I don't know a thing except what I had to pick up over the years about anything secretarial or office or something like that, but I've seen enough paperwork of different kinds that I think had I been assigned to some place, and don't misunderstand me, I'm not cutting down the importance of necessary paperwork, but I've had some friends tell me that they got very, very tired of working very hard on some thing and then it gets filed away. I mean, I think, actually doing the stuff that was going out there to the ships somehow gave you a feeling, at least, that—and I have no reason not to believe that it was a valuable thing. But somebody else could have done it just as well.

EE:

I have a series of little questions just that I ask everybody. There are different responses, I think, for someone who married a military person. And especially in your case, I mean, your husband was there at Pearl Harbor on December seventh and there for five years.

MG:

He was in the Pacific on battleships mainly. See, having graduated from the Naval Academy, he was very often assigned jobs, the Marine with the [U.S.] Navy, you know, he was the Marine on the staff of the battleship division, I mean, the top Marine like that plane gunnery, you know, whatever a Marine would be doing with the Navy. He got jobs like that. He got stationed at the Naval Academy. He was a senior Marine there. We were there for three years. But when the navy had arranged with him, he got that kind of a job very often because he graduated from the Naval Academy.

EE:

When you think of a war, who are your heroes or heroines?

MG:

Some of them I've heard things about since. [laughter]

EE:

Yes, I know what you mean. I always ask people what they think about President Roosevelt.

MG:

I was one of those people who I did not really have any strong feelings one way or the other except the fact that I always, up till recently, respected the presidency. I thought he did a good job at that. I was not one of those people who was really into whatever he did domestically was great or not. I don't know, and I've never studied it. I have no really strong feelings. But I thought he did a good job during the war effort, inspirational and all that kind of thing.

EE:

What about Mrs. Roosevelt?

MG:

I admired her, but I didn't know a great deal about her. There again, I was not at all somebody who criticized her, but I didn't make a study of her. I viewed her much more as eyes and ears of the president than some other way. But in later years, of course, I realized she was a real leader in her own right.

EE:

I ask a lot of folks how their adjustment was to life after the service. And, of course, when you marry the service, you don't really get to have that.

MG:

And really in the service. My husband, you see, both his grandfathers were in the service, so he had grown up, moved. He went to twenty schools before he got out of high school.

EE:

Do you think your time in the service helped prepare you for what it was like being a military wife?

MG:

Oh, sure. Definitely. Definitely.

EE:

You were able to be more understanding?

MG:

Oh, yes.

EE:

And I ask people what they think the impact of their time in the service was on their life. Most folks, they were only in for a year or two, because of the war, and yet in your case your in for—

MG:

It impacted it. I mean, then the fact I met him. It was a good training for everything that somebody else is often saying what you're going to do. I mean, somebody above both of you saying you're going to move, you're going to do this, you're going to do that. And to the WAVES of the service, coming from living all my life in a little town, and I saw people's lives many times over the years were very, very unhappy with the service. But I didn't have a lot of patience. I mean, I tried to understand people at the time, but I figured, “Okay, he was a Marine when you married him.”

EE:

You knew.

MG:

Yes, you knew. So it wasn't as thought he suddenly decided or that a war came up and he left some good settled job.

EE:

Do you think the military made you more of an independent person than you would have been?

MG:

Oh, yes, definitely. Well, I don't know. If I'd gone to be a college teacher, I might have been pretty independent. But on the other hand, I mean, it was the kind of thing that you were running a household and, maybe, moving and doing all the things for the kids and when your husband is maybe being shot at, you know, a long way away. I mean, you definitely ran things. I know he said early on, soon after we were married, he had most of his pay allotted to my banking account. We always kept separate checking accounts so that if he had to go tomorrow I could carry on just the way I was.

EE:

Right. You wouldn't have to have the conversation.

MG:

He'd seen various people who, you know, men who were worried because they didn't know how they were going to get money back. To this day we have separate checking accounts.

EE:

You have four children.

MG:

Four children.

EE:

Boys? Girls?

MG:

Two boys, two girls.

EE:

Any of them in the service?

MG:

No, our oldest son was in the Marine Corps Reserve during the Vietnam War, but he didn't have to go, which was good. But our second son really wanted to go to the Naval Academy, but he found out when he was like nine years old he was too nearsighted. He couldn't do it. But our daughter, our older daughter, is married to a retired—I mean, he's retired now—captain in the navy, who was graduated from Duke and Duke Medical School. He was a surgeon in the navy. He rose to being chief of plastic and reconstructive surgery at Bethesda, and he's in private practice now. He got out after twenty years. So they haven't moved much, though. They kept him at Bethesda most of his career. He went to Desert Storm and a few assignments like that, but he's stayed pretty much there.

EE:

Had your daughters ever expressed any interest in joining the service?

MG:

No.

EE:

What would you have told them had they done so?

MG:

Well, I think it's very different with a war. I mean, I wouldn't have just chosen the service as a career—this sounds corny— but except that there was a war on. I mean, I would have stayed.

EE:

It was an unusual circumstance.

MG:

I would have stayed here. I mean, I really, honestly felt that I could make a contribution, and I would have stayed on here for the time being, or I would have gone to get a PhD.

EE:

We have, I guess, just in the last couple of years, for the first time as a country, sent women into combat. There were some fighter pilots in Iraq a few years ago. How do you feel about women in combat? Is that something that you say more power to them?

MG:

Well, I have a very mixed feeling about it. I think, knowing the service, you're not going to get to top promotions unless you have combat duty. I mean, you're not likely to. I think it would be highly unlikely now. And so, therefore, there is what you might call a glass ceiling if you don't have it. But on the other hand, from the pure practically of it I can't say that I think it's a real good idea. I mean, I'm torn. I don't know. I know a couple of young women who are ships, and I don't think it's—

EE:

They just had the proposal for submarine service—

MG:

I don't know about putting women on submarines.

EE:

I don't think there are yet, but I think that's a proposal.

MG:

I don't think they are. But I can tell you this retired submarine captain, we have several friends, are very much against it, because they think it's hard enough to have a cohesive unit of fighting men in that kind of environment. These are very thoughtful people, not rabid, but very thoughtful people who have daughters and granddaughters and who fought the war in the submarine.

My husband's class at the Naval Academy has a luncheon the first Wednesday. They gather for lunch the first Wednesday of every month in Arlington at Fort Myer. So everybody that can come comes. Some of them come from farther away, and they have one for the wives two times a year and we go. I would say, we must know six or eight of them quite well, and they're very much concerned about it. I don't think they exactly know what you're going to do so that the women will get adequate promotions. But they feel very strongly.

EE:

You either have the two-track system or you say everybody's on the same track.

MG:

They feel very strongly about women in submarines.

EE:

I think part of the pressure is that people look at women of your generation, and they say, you know, if you want to look at the start of the women's movement, it was when women of your generation went and did jobs that heretofore had only been done by men.

MG:

Yes.

EE:

I mean, do you think of yourself as a pioneer in doing that kind of work?

MG:

No. No, I can't say I did. But, you see, I didn't really do what you'd say hard physical labor, as some people did, and going to munitions factories. No, I mean, I didn't do that kind of—no I didn't think of it as being a pioneer.

EE:

Well, I have exhausted all my little cards, and I asked a few more questions than what was on the cards, because you have a very interesting story and I appreciate you sitting down with us today and talking about it. And sounds like not just your personal service but you've made a whole family and careers that have been service to our country.

MG:

Well, one very interesting thing was, I think very interesting, as I said, both my husband's grandfathers were in the service. His Grandfather Glennon was an admiral in the navy and was in the Spanish-American War. And his other grandfather was General Lejeune of the Marine Corps.

[End of Interview]