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The Betty H. Carter Women Veterans Historical Project

Oral history interview with Millie Dunn Veasey, 2000

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Object ID: WV0176.5.001

Description: Interview primarily documents Millie Dunn Veasey’s service in the WAAC [Women’s Auxiliary Army Corps] and the WAC [Women’s Army Corps] during World War II, and her subsequent education and career at St. Augustine's College.

Summary:

Veasey discusses her family’s concerns about her enlistment because of her low weight and health problems, as well as the black community’s negative response to female enlistment. She provides details concerning basic training, including the difficulty finding a uniform that fit, segregation in the military, and her thoughts on essentially freeing her brother to fight. She also describes her social life, job duties, and racial attitudes while stationed at Camp Maxey and Fort Clark in Texas.

Most of the interview focuses on Veasy's time spent overseas. Topics include overseas training; treatment for a nosebleed before boarding the Queen Elizabeth; seasickness; a fellow WAC suffering from tuberculosis; buzz bombs; social activities and dating; and celebrations in London on VE Day and VJ Day. Other service topics include MPs requiring passes to visit WACs; the changes in women’s role in the service; and adjusting to civilian life.

Personal topics discussed by Veasy include meeting and marrying her husband; her thoughts on women serving in combat positions; attending school as a veteran; opinions of President Franklin D. Roosevelt and Eleanor Roosevelt; summary of her education and work at Saint Augustine’s College; and her time as the president of the Raleigh NAACP.

Creator: Millie Louise Dunn Veasey

Biographical Info: Millie Dunn Veasey (b. 1918) of Raleigh, North Carolina, served in the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC) and the Women’s Army Corps (WAC) from 1942 to 1945. She went on to have a long career at Saint Augustine’s College in Raleigh, North Carolina.

Collection: Millie Dunn Veasey 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:

HERMANN TROJANOWSKI:

This is June 25, 2000. My name is Hermann Trojanowski. I'm at the home of Mrs. Millie Dunn Veasey in Raleigh, North Carolina, to conduct an interview for the Women Veterans Historical Project at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.

Mrs. Veasey, could you please tell me a few biographical facts about yourself? Where were you born and when?

MILLIE VEASEY:

I was born here in Raleigh, North Carolina, Wake County, on January 31, 1918.

HT:

Where did you live before you enlisted in the army?

MV:

I lived here right in Raleigh. What's the number of the street? 521 South Bloodworth Street here in Raleigh. Yes.

HT:

Can you tell me a little bit about your family life before you went into the military?

MV:

Yes. I am one of six children. My mother and my father are both Raleigh, North Carolina, persons. They're both from Wake County. My mother's lived most of her life in Raleigh.

During our bringing up, my mother was left to raise the six children because my father became ill. He was ill for seven years, and then he passed away at the age of sixty-three. At that time, when he became ill, there were really five of us because my brother was born—my father became ill in January of 1932, and McKeever, my younger brother, was born in July. He lived after that off and on.

At that time, our older brother was—I'm not sure about that. I haven't thought about this in so long. James must have been, at that time, about twelve. Anyway, that's about that. I went to the Washington High School here in Raleigh.

HT:

Did you work outside the house before you went into the military, or did you go right after high school?

MV:

I worked right after high school. It was right after high school that I had a little job working with the county extension agent. That's who I was working with at that time, right after high school. I worked with them during the time after school and then I went on into the army after that.

HT:

What was Raleigh like in the late 1930s when you were growing up? I'm sure it was much smaller than it is today, and it was still the state capital. Do you recall anything special about Raleigh in those days, the late 1930s, which of course would have been the end of the Depression?

MV:

Yes. I guess that that is what everyone—because I can remember President Roosevelt. They had what they called—the youth worked on certain kinds of projects and this kind of a thing. I think that it was after school that I had started working with this, that it was one of those projects through that kind of a thing.

HT:

What was your maiden name, by the way?

MV:

Dunn, Millie Louise Dunn.

HT:

Do you recall why you joined the service? Do you recall seeing posters, or did you have family members in the military? What was the reasoning for joining, for you wanting to join?

MV:

The reason was that, actually, I talked about these three girls, and just two of us really went down. Mary Alston is now up in Chicago, but she's working for North Carolina Mutual [Life Insurance Company]. I think it was because my brother was in the army; however he did not care for me to come into the army.

I joined because they really were asking, and that changed. When I got to Fort Clark, Texas, they were saying that the women were releasing a man for active duty. Of course, they said, “She came in, and she released her own brother to go overseas, to get into combat,” but that was the whole thing. When I went in, I was doing clerical work, and I really went in as a clerk typist. That is just about all I did.

Most of the women, of course, a number of them—you were put into various units according to the experience one had had. A goodly number of black women were on the hospital wards, or they helped and that kind of a thing as assistant nurses. A whole number of people that I come in contact with now, most of the women or a goodly number of them in World War II, were actually in the nursing corps.

HT:

Yes. I've spoken to a couple of ladies who were in the nursing corps.

MV:

They were in the nursing corps.

HT:

You said your brother was not in favor of your going in. What about your other siblings and your mother? How did they feel?

MV:

Well, my mother did not feel at all, really, actually. She actually agreed to let me go take the exam because she didn't think that I was going to pass. I had always been what was said grossly underweight—not grossly underweight, as I was saying, but about nine pounds at that time. If it was raining or all these kinds of things, I had a lot of trouble with my throat.

My mother said as a youngster they had thought that they were going to lose me because of maybe some medical kind of thing, and she didn't know whether I was subject to pneumonia and diphtheria and that kind of a thing. She really didn't think I was going to pass. That was the reason why they decided to let me go and take the test. However, also, as far as the weight is concerned, as I said, I understand that I made a pretty good mark on the exam.

Then when we were selected to go overseas, there were six hundred of us, and of course, the units of your battalion, the first, second and third, and fourth. The girl who was selected to be the clerk for the first battalion was a college graduate. I was selected for cutting the beat[?], and I only had a high school education.

HT:

Do you recall where and when you enlisted, which year and month it was, and where you actually enlisted?

MV:

I enlisted here in Raleigh in the December of 1942. Then I got the message in January to come for examinations in January.

HT:

Where did you have to go to take the tests?

MV:

We took the tests in Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

HT:

Then you were sent to boot camp, I would imagine.

MV:

Yes.

HT:

Can you tell me about that? What was your first day like and that sort of thing?

MV:

It was in Fort Denver, Colorado, in April of 1943. Of course, it was still very cold up there, the winter, and we were outfitted with uniforms, the very snazzy thing. At that time, we were the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps. We were WAACs. W-A-A-C.

I remember what happened. Because of the slenderness of my feet—see, I was wearing a triple-A, and they did not have those, I was always fitted with shoes that were a different kind. My first time, I think I remember, calling for reveille, it was pouring down rain, and we had to go down and be fitted for galoshes. Of course, these galoshes were just so big for me, and, of course, I weighed less than a hundred pounds at that time, that they just overdrafted me. The next morning, when we called for reveille, the person came in and said, “Reveille.”

I said, “Well, it's just raining. We can't be going out today.”

She said, “It does not rain in the army. It rains on the army.”

I remember that kind of day. [laughs]

HT:

When you traveled from North Carolina to Denver, Colorado, I'm assuming you went on a train of some sort.

MV:

We went on a train.

HT:

Was this considered a troop train, or was this with civilians? What type of train was this?

MV:

We left from the old train station. At that time, it was located on the corner of Martin and Dawson Streets in Raleigh, North Carolina. There were four of us that had been summoned to go to Fort Denver. It was really a civilian train, because I remember that was the first time that it was my first time in a sleeper. We were in a sleeper, yes.

HT:

Was this the first time you'd been away from home for any length of time?

MV:

That was the first time I had been away from home, period.

HT:

Were you excited, or how did you feel, do you recall?

MV:

That was my first time away from home, and I was really—I don't know whether I was excited. I really asked to come back home, because I think my money was stolen that first week, but I made it.

You bond very quickly with certain persons. I had the upper booth, and the girl that lived down from me, I believe she was from—I have tried several times, and I'm going to really try to look her up and see if she's still living. I know that we were there for six weeks. Then what you would do is to—as I said before, at that time, they told me, really, when I got ready to be shipped out as to whatever you were going to do—see, we were only trained for six weeks, and then certain people they had—I can't remember now how many was in that, but just a group of women that came.

We had all white cadre, which was fine. There were no black officers at that time in there. Of course, when we were getting ready to be—they called it the holy part. You train in this part of Fort Denver. Fort Denver is something like Fort Bragg, one of the old camps, army camps. So when they called out names as to what they were supposed to be, where you were going, I remember very distinctly that they had thirty-three girls that were going to go to the hospital to train to be those assistants in the hospital. There were around twelve or so that went down to Fort Benton.

The lady told me this, the lieutenant who was in charge of us at that time, because I was not assigned to anything. They trained some girls to go to—these women were trained to drive, went down to what they called the motor pool or something to be trained to drive the officers, the army officers. Then there was that other little group who the lady told me—because I had not been assigned to go anyplace, even though one of the girls was selected to go to what they called the army clerks school or whatever it was. I just went to pieces.

That afternoon, the officers called me in. They said, “Millie, we have noticed you. We understand that you come from a small place, and this is your first time from home, and you bond very quickly with people and all of this kind of thing. But in the army, with all these women from all over, they base your place on the experiences that you've had and the best that they felt that after six weeks they would be able to train you. You're going to be sent to—.”

I was assigned to go to Fort Clark, Texas. She said, “When you get there, what is going to happen to you, you have enough training that you did not need for the army to keep you for six weeks to go into these things. You can pick up from where you are.” So that is really what happened.

HT:

So you didn't spend six weeks in basic training?

MV:

Yes, I spent the six weeks.

HT:

You did. Okay.

MV:

But I did not go to what they call the army clerks school or whatever. That's what I'm trying to talk about. Yes.

HT:

Okay. Fine.

MV:

So that's the beginning of why I said that I was always in an administrative [unclear].

HT:

Right. What was basic training like, do you recall? What was a typical day for you? Did you do a lot of marching and that sort of thing?

MV:

Yes. Six o'clock in the morning you had reveille. You went to breakfast and dressed. My bunk mate had to show me how to tie my tie. I didn't know how to tie a tie and all these kinds of things. We did a lot of marching and this kind of thing.

HT:

Do you recall any unusual situations in basic training? Did anything funny happen to you?

MV:

I recall that what happened to me, I couldn't remember, and today, really, when you say right or left. The person told me, “Now, you have to hold this hand. This is your left. If they say go left, you go this way, right, left, or whatever.”

I remember getting ready, as I said to you, getting ready to go overseas. After that, I went at four o'clock. At four o'clock, I was assigned to the army cooks and bakers school. I relieved a young man who was the clerk there. It was a Sergeant Properjack[?], who had been in the army that time around—I can't spell his name. He had been in the army for, I guess, almost twenty-five years or thirty. At cooks and bakers school, the cooks were there for six weeks and bakers were there another four or eight weeks or something like that. My duties were to keep their records, and then when they got ready to be shipped out, to send them to the proper places.

HT:

This was at Fort Clark, Texas?

MV:

That's at Fort Clark, Texas. Yes.

HT:

How long did you stay at Fort Clark, do you recall?

MV:

At Fort Clark, let's see. I went in in April. I came home in December. I remember that time I got—as I said, I was always kind of sickly or whatever it was they used to say. When I got home at Christmas, I had got this terrible cold. I decided I didn't need to go back or whatever it was. Anyway, I went to the doctor. My mother sent me to the doctor, and I went to the doctor. He gave me some medicine for this cold and everything, but he said, “I can't say that you can stay. You have to go on sick call when you get back to the place.” So I remember the whole time that I left.

I met a girl who was from South Carolina, Betty Ellison, and I met her. We were going back the same time. We were both at Fort Clark. She got on the train because we were both on leave, and she got on the train in Columbia, South Carolina, and went on down to Atlanta. I could not talk above a whisper the whole time that we were going.

When I got back to Fort Clark, Texas, that Monday morning when I was supposed to go to the infirmary, I was talking just as clear as anybody. I don't know what in the world, whether it was a psychological kind of a thing or what, but I was there. Then I think that during that—that was at Christmastime. Then at that, we were about in the middle of April, so I stayed there.

Of course, I went to Fort Clark in September of '43. We left Fort Clark in maybe the spring of '44 and went to Camp Maxey, Texas. At Camp Maxey, I was the company clerk at Camp Maxey.

HT:

If we could just backtrack a minute, I think you actually mentioned this in passing earlier in our conversation. Many recruiting posters at that time, when you first went in, mentioned that women who joined could free a man for combat.

MV:

Yes.

HT:

Did you view your enlistment in this way at all, that you might free a man to go to combat?

MV:

No, I did not. When I got to Fort Clark, in the PX [post exchange] or whatever you would be going into, these men were saying, “There's the girl who is going to free a man for combat. She freed her own brother,” you know, one of those kinds of things. But no, we didn't. I really did not view it as that at all.

HT:

Do you recall what people in general thought about women joining the military? Were they in favor of women joining the military or not in favor?

MV:

They were not in favor. Nobody was in favor. It was just a taboo, maybe, in the black community. However, another thing, I guess, that I would say now, that I didn't think that I was going in to free a man to go overseas or to free one for combat duty. I did feel, though, as early as that, and you know, as you think back over these kinds of things, that if the army was selecting women, women were going in, and if there were black soldiers in the army, then why not black women in the army?

HT:

Well, you mentioned something just a few seconds ago. Was there a strong feeling in the black community against black women joining the military?

MV:

Yes, indeed.

HT:

More so than the white community, do you think?

MV:

I imagine. Yes, I think so.

HT:

Do you know why this might have been the case?

MV:

I don't know, because, you know, there was a segregated army at that time.

HT:

I'm assuming that all of your duties at Fort Clark and at Camp Maxey and in Denver were in segregated facilities, as they were segregated at that time.

MV:

Because white women—just as the black soldiers, they were trained separately.

HT:

Now, when you worked at the cooks and bakers school, was that integrated at all, or was it all segregated?

MV:

No, they had black and white people. I mean, they were there. They were training for cooks and bakers, but the cadre was white. It was a man who was in charge, a Captain Properjack, who had been in the army over twenty-five years at that time. And didn't this young, little young—he actually was a first—Sergeant Properjack was a staff sergeant, I believe, and I'm not sure but I believe that this little fellow must have been a sergeant, white fellow, that I relieved to go.

HT:

In general, do you recall what the mood of the country was like in those days, during World War II? When I say mood, I mean, was it fear, patriotism? That's what I mean by mood.

MV:

Yes. I think there was a lot of patriotism. Of course, for men, it was the draft, so there was no—you could not do that. Now, my experience have been that I was never on a camp where we had a black unit and a white unit, that the men were separated. There were white soldiers and black soldiers.

When we went to Fort Clark, it was a black women's unit who had gone. There was not a white unit, because at the time, I think, they had closed out—they sent these men away. I think for the last two or three months that I was at Fort Clark, I was secretary for the post chaplain, who was white. But the women's area was all in there.

When I went to Camp Maxey, that was in Texas down near the border that goes into Mexico. There, we took the quarters where there was a unit of white women, but they were moved out. Where they left, I don't know.

I never had the kinds of segregations and kinds of things that a goodly number of the people can recall. I did not. Looking back on it now, I did not witness it. See, when we went to Fort Clark—went to Camp Maxey, they had moved the white WAC unit from that group, and we went in there.

Of course, your units were guarded by soldiers. Up at Fort Clark, our unit was guarded by white people in the military.

HT:

Can you tell me, what do you mean by guarded? I've never heard anyone mention that before. Do you mean there were people, I mean MPs [military police], posted outside the doors?

MV:

Yes. MPs were posted outside of the premises that did not let anybody come into that unit that did not have a pass or what have you. That's what I'm talking about.

HT:

You were free to come and go as you please, but you had to show a pass to get in, that sort of thing.

MV:

No. I mean the women who lived there. But the men who came to visit had to have a pass to come into the area. That's why they had someone that they posted. You had the military police.

HT:

When you ladies went on dates and things like that, did the fellows have to have passes to bring you home?

MV:

The fellows had to have a pass to come to there, to even go, yes. You know, in the old days, it was a different kind of thing. Now, when we were overseas, you did not have that. At the first place that we went overseas, from our unit, they got some women to be the post, you know, who guarded that kind of thing.

Then I worked at Camp Maxey. I worked down in the hospital—a hospital just like our place over in Durham—that had outpatient clinics and people in the hospital. I worked in the admissions office, but I worked with the psychiatrist people.

Down at Camp Maxey, the persons, they were seeing that these women were coming in to release these—were taking the jobs of civilians. So when I was sent from the office to go down to work in the hospital, they did not have any place. I guess about three weeks later, a month later, I didn't go in. They didn't send me in the hospital because it was a unit that most of these people—most of them worked under women in that unit where it went to the hospital.

The personnel manager said, “Well, your training has been in the clerical area, and we will find some place for you to go.” I remember for three or four weeks, I could just dress. You would have to do your drilling and whatever you would have to do. Everybody else went to their work. I wasn't in the cadre at that time, so they would always tell, “Ha, there's Millie. She's not doing nothing.”

Finally, there was a job in the outpatient thing at this hospital in Camp Maxey. They were psychiatrists, and they would interview the people who would go in and out, supposed to be coming out of the army because they were, you know, when you've got a discharge. A lot of folks were coming in trying to get a discharge.

This girl's mother had passed, and when I went down there, they sent me down there to fill in, to help, and I sat at her desk. Well, she was out for about two weeks. I remember that morning when she came back. You know, you talk about where you have this segregation and the old kinds of things like that. The girl, when she came back, she sat at the desk when she came back. I didn't notice her.

There was two little white girls who worked there. One was married, and one was unmarried. So this unmarried girl had lost her mother, and she had gone down someplace to bury her mother. She came back after two weeks, fourteen days or twenty-one days or something. So she sat at the desk. Neither one of them sat at the desk.

When the head psychiatrist came in who was in charge of the clinic, he said, “Well, why are you [unclear], Colonel So-and-so?”

She said, “Well, I don't know. Do you want me to go back down to Personnel?”

He said, “Oh, no. Don't go down to Personnel.” He said, “What I'm going to do, we're just going to order another desk for Millie.”

So they ordered another desk, and the three of us worked there.

I would have to take papers back down. Section Eight is what I was talking about. They used to [unclear] that they would go, because these men had to be seen before they would be in and out the army, you know, get out the army. Some of them had gotten into trouble, and then they had to see the psychiatrist, whatever. I remember that one doctor gave something or other that would put you under, that they would ask you questions and you would tell the truth, whatever it was.

When I would have to take these papers, I remember going down to Admissions one time, and they said, “Millie, I don't know why—come down here and work with me.”

I said, “Well, no. I was down here one time.” I said, “But I'm down at the psychiatrist clinic now, and I'm going to stay down there.”

They said, “Well, we need you. You're such a good worker. We need you.”

I said, “But you didn't when I came to be interviewed before.” They didn't want a black person in there.

She said, “Well, we didn't know how you were.”

I said, “What do you mean how you were?” one of those kinds of things. You get along with folks. So that's the basis of that.

HT:

It sounds like you enjoyed your work, for the most part.

MV:

I enjoyed it, yes, for the most part. I can say I really did not have any travel experiences, though.

HT:

That sort of leads me to my next question. Do you think you were treated equally as a black woman, since you worked with white officers and that sort of thing?

MV:

But you see, the thing about it, what I am saying, actually, even the cadre, in the early parts of the thing, they were white cadre. They were not black. There were no persons who had gone up that they could train these for. So they were all white. Of course, they were very—I didn't even have any trouble there.

Now, I understand that on the camps where they had a white unit and a black unit, that maybe they had some trouble similar to the white men and black men, you know, but I didn't ever witness that. I guess it's unique in that, because as I read, in some of the units, what they say now that with the [WIMSA—Women in Military Service for America] memorial has put out, some of the women were saying that even at the army hospitals, they felt that they were mistreated or whatever.

HT:

But you never experienced anything personally like that?

MV:

No, because I was in Durham at the Durham Vet[erans Administration] Hospital.

HT:

Do you recall what was the hardest thing you ever had to do physically while you were in the military?

MV:

Let's see. I guess it was the push-ups were about the hardest thing that I had to do, and I think in overseas training. When you had overseas training, you had this extensive kind of a thing that you must go through, because you were outfitted with the garments of camouflage kind of things. The units at that time, the units were trained so—I mean, you were training for overseas duty as if you were in combat or whatever it is.

The troops are divided so that you're four abreast, two over here and two over here, which means that actually you had to vary—you go through actually—you had to be fitted for gas masks and all of these kinds—and you're trained that if gas is dropped, you have to put on your gas mask. Then if a plane is coming over, they show you how you go into the trenches. That was rough, the hardest thing.

HT:

I imagine it was rather rough. Where did you undergo overseas training, which camp?

MV:

Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia.

HT:

How long did that last, that type of training?

MV:

That was about two weeks' training. Of course, you had the abandon ship thing, where you come down your—

HT:

You mean ropes?

MV:

The ropes. You learn how to come down that rope. Instead of grabbing over it, you have to come down the one string. You know, you can do that kind of stuff.

HT:

After your training at Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia, you were shipped overseas at that time?

MV:

Yes.

HT:

I guess you had to go by ship.

MV:

We went by ship.

HT:

What was that like, on one of those troop carriers?

MV:

That's really an experience. I remember the night. All of this is really training. I know and feel and know why they have the band, because you can be so—you really feel like, when you're marching and coming to go—they moved you at night, really, just about.

Now, my last day, another kind of a thing was that that day of that coming down, I developed nose bleeds. They took me to the infirmary. I went to the infirmary, and it took a long time for them to try to pack the nose and pack all this stuff and put ice things and all of that. I remember about eight o'clock, when the doctor came around again, about eight-thirty or something like that, this nosebleed had stopped. It went for about two hours after. They took me off the field, took me in the ambulance, and took me to the hospital. Anyway, I told the doctor, having worked and knowing that your records and everything has to go along with you and that you can get separated from them, having worked at cooks and bakers, I told the man to please call over to the unit to tell them that I was in the hospital because we were going to be shipping out—

[Begin Tape 1, Side B]

MV:

We'd been talking about this business of the night that I would be shipped out for overseas duty. The doctor said, “I'm going to send you back.” So they sent the ambulance and took me back over there. I must have gotten back over there about ten-something.

The girls had already packed my stuff and everything in the duffel bags and all that kind of stuff because we were getting ready to go. They said, “Well, lord, Millie.” By the time we got ready to go out—as I told you, I was the clerk of Company B at that time going overseas. So when they got called and things, they said, “You have to say, 'So-and-so ready,' when they call for Company B.”

I said, “Company B, such-and-such a thing, ready.”

Everybody said, “Where did she come from?” because I had no voice. [laughs] I had no voice for giving commands or whatever. [laughs]

Anyway, then we marched down with these things and had these helmets on. You had a half of a tent for if you had to be out in your unit, along with your mess kit and all this kind of stuff, and it was just heavy. I'll tell you, that stuff was heavy. We were marching down there, and way down the line, you were trying to go up and down to get ready to go, for them to take us to the train to go to Fort Shanks to go to New York. We left from Camp Shanks in New York. That's how we went. So this was at Camp Shanks.

Now, this was at Fort Oglethorpe, when they told me what I'm telling you now. So as you get up on this hill, then you hear this banging, you know, down [unclear] that music, and that really picks you up. [laughs] I can't stand reveille now. I really can't. I really can't. What happens, in the morning or whatever, the men over there been pulling trees down for two or three days. My neighbor had all these pines in here, and one day he's been—I guess they had, and they pounds it all in the ground with a [unclear] send out that other day, I really—because when they would sound that boom out, I would know it was coming.

The captain would say, “Millie, now, you know it's kind of still,” is that I would always have to, “Ooh.” It just gets me to no end, I'll tell you. [laughs] I cannot stand it. Anyway, as I look back over it now, I guess it was a good experience, honest to god.

You asked me about that ship. God, on that ship, I was sick from—it took us five days to get to—we got to Scotland. We got in Scotland. The ship, we went by the hollows or whatever you call it, from I guess the army kinds of things on your trucks or whatever it is, but we landed in Scotland.

HT:

You say it took five days to cross the ocean?

MV:

It took us five days to cross the ocean.

HT:

Do you remember what the name of the ship was by any chance? I know they used some of the luxury liners in those days.

MV:

Yes, they were luxury liners. Let's see what it was. I can't remember now. Yes, I will remember in a minute, because they re-rigged that luxury liner.

HT:

I know they redid the Queen Mary.

MV:

It wasn't the Queen Mary.

HT:

The Queen Elizabeth?

MV:

The Queen Elizabeth, and what was the other one? It must have been Queen Elizabeth. We went on the Queen Elizabeth.

HT:

And there were thousands and thousands of men and women aboard those ships, I understand, every time they crossed.

MV:

Yes. I remember coming, because I'll tell you, about the last day. I know when I went up, because they were giving stuff that you would take so that you would not lose all your food.

HT:

So you were seasick quite a bit?

MV:

I was seasick the whole time. I think on that Friday, when they went in the mess hall or whatever it was where they went for food, the fellow said to me, “How did you get on this ship?” [laughs] They hadn't seen me the whole time. “How did you get on this ship?”

I was a sick mess. I guess it's amusing and funny now, but it was not funny then. When I left England to go over to France—we left England the day after VE [Victory in Europe] Day in Europe, two days after. You cross the—what is it, not the Dover-whatever-it-is, because it turns or whatever it is. We crossed there.

I think, at that time, when they got ready to go down to their thing, they had to take me—I told you that pack really was too much, and I rode. They took me on one of them little jeeps. [laughs] The girls all said, “Millie, what—?” [laughs] But I was sitting up in this jeep, because I could not stand in that pack of mine. [laughs] I tell you, it was awful.

Then I was company clerk. I went over as company clerk. I was Company B clerk when I went there. When we were shipped over to France, we left England and crossed this Dover thing going into France. I was the supply sergeant for Company B, and I remember, when we went into this place, we did not have any mattresses, and you had to have—what they did, they had put this straw or whatever it was, into your bags or whatever thing. That's what we slept on. I remember the streets were cobbled. They were brick, you know, ride over those bricks or whatever it is. I remember I had gotten mattresses for all of my people in Company B.

In England, we lived in an old school, and there was water outside, you know, under the step. Under there, it was just water all the time because it was real foggy. England is foggy. Of course, that is where we had this business going on.

As I told you before, in that unit, they selected some people who were—and that girl, I don't know where Katherine is. She went into the army later on, after. There were two girls went into the army from Raleigh, black women who went into the army after the four of us that went together. Now one, Jessie Mebane, has passed. Katherine, I don't know where Katherine Hinton is. I promised those people the other day that I was going to try to find her. She did the guarding outside of our units. As I was telling you, we did have girls—

HT:

They were MPs.

MV:

They were MPs, yes. They were MPs.

HT:

How long did you stay in England, do you recall?

MV:

I was four months in England and nine in France. I had thirteen months overseas.

HT:

I imagine that was quite interesting. Did you get a chance to do any sightseeing while you were overseas?

MV:

Oh, yes. We went, and I went down to—on VE Day in England—I think I was in England—they had a parade at Buckingham Palace and all of this.

HT:

Where in England were you stationed?

MV:

We were stationed in Birmingham, Birmingham, England.

HT:

And what about France?

MV:

Rouen, France. [laughs] Funny thing about that, when we got off the train and everything in Scotland, they had never seen any black persons, I don't guess, because they thought that we were women in technicolor. [laughs] They said, “Oh, look at the women in technicolor.” Oh, dear, dear, dear. Those people at that time.

Then when we got to Birmingham, that night, late at night—they had those fellows who had fixed the beds and everything, for they short-sheeted the beds. When you get in there, you know how they shorten it. [laughs]

HT:

A little trick on you there.

MV:

Yes.

HT:

That was cute.

MV:

Yes.

HT:

Let's see. Do you recall what the hardest thing you ever had to do emotionally while you were in the service? I know I've talked to a few nurses, and they said it was dealing with boys who were shot up badly. It was such an emotional shock. Did you ever have any kind of emotional shock while you were in?

MV:

My emotional kind of thing, there was a Lynette. I think that girl's last name was Moore, too. She had developed TB [tuberculosis] from in England, because, see, our bath, the things we had were outside. Of course, it was always very damp and everything else, and Lynette was a frail person anyway. She was sent back to the States. I never shall forget that. That was about the only kind of thing that really kind of gets you.

HT:

Did she survive the sickness and everything?

MV:

I don't know. I really don't know. I've thought about Lynette a whole lot, but no, I have not—I don't know.

HT:

Do you ever recall being afraid while you were in the military, thinking you might be in some sort of danger or something like that?

MV:

You want to be afraid, because we were in Rouen during the buzz bombing and that kind of thing. You could hear it from afar, but we were close enough that they would ask us, that we had to go into the bomb shelter. I remember that, and leery experiences in riding the trolleys. Sometimes it's so dark or whatever, you might touch somebody, that kind of a thing. I visited a family who invited me to tea and everything. They were the Addams family. I wrote to them after I came back to the states for some time.

HT:

I guess it was England where they had some of the buzz bombs, right?

MV:

Yes. It was England.

HT:

What was that like, when the buzz bombs came down?

MV:

Very frightening. Very frightening.

HT:

You could hear them, I think, right?

MV:

You could hear them, yes.

HT:

If I recall, the buzz bombs were actually unmanned.

MV:

Yes, that's right, a rocket-type thing, because you didn't know where they would come. You could see them, and then you didn't know where they were going to land. You really didn't know.

HT:

So you had to run for the shelters fast as you could.

MV:

You had to go to get into a shelter.

HT:

Just drop everything, and just run.

MV:

Just drop everything, right. Run. That's the only unnerving kind of a thing that you would have. But the army guard—as I said, the army looked after its women. We were very well protected, very well protected.

HT:

Do you recall any embarrassing moments while you were stationed either in the United States or overseas in England or France?

MV:

You know, they would tell you, actually, that you're wearing the uniform of the United States and that if you go out—I know that this lady, this captain who had called me that first time, she said, “Millie, you must not get too attached to people, because in the army, you might see people today, and they might be gone. You don't become too attached to people, because after all, some of them you might want to see again, and some you might not ever see.”

They would also say to you, “Now, if your tolerance of alcoholic beverages is one bottle of beer, when you get outside of these walls, you drink one half a beer because you must always be on your feet. If something gets wrong or you see a person, that kind of thing, then that person must be able to take care of you and take you, and you'll be responsible for seeing that they are protected and they get by.” You know, you just—

HT:

Sounds like you sort of looked after one another.

MV:

Yes, that's right. They told you that. They told you that. As I said to them, as you listen, what's happening in the military now, I don't believe they have that kind of thing. They don't have that.

I know that my niece, now, she stayed in the reserve. I think she came out of the reserves as a captain, but she was in the ROTC [Reserve Officers' Training Corps], as I told you. These women, they train along in the bleachers and in the tracks with the men and all of that. Of course, at that time, in the early years of that, the women were not allowed to and this kind of thing. Only the nurses did that kind of service. As I said to a group of people not too long ago, I don't think I would be able to stay in the ruffles and riffles of the army today.

I've been associated now with the American Legion. I was in the American Legion a long time before I became active with the post. I didn't become active with the post until after I was retired. I think that the men, black and white, have a different kind of—and I just come back last week from the convention, American Legion here in North Carolina, from the convention here in Greenville. There's a different kind of a thing that I think that they have toward the women. I really do believe that's a different kind. Our post is mostly made up of World War II men, but we do have, or we're getting a splintering of the career veterans and some of these later kinds of things, but there's different kinds of things. Of course, the world changes.

HT:

Sure. You think there's a different kind of attitude toward women?

MV:

I think it's a different kind of attitude totally, yes.

HT:

More respect perhaps?

MV:

Less respect, I think.

HT:

Today?

MV:

Today.

HT:

Than prior times?

MV:

Than prior times, yes.

HT:

That's interesting, because I've never heard that before, but I think you may be right.

MV:

I think it is. I don't know. I tell you, because some of these horror things that you hear that go on, I don't know. I guess the men and women have been many women all over, but I guess—you know, and that kind of a thing. Everything has happened before, but I think whatever was done, it was done in a different manner, I believe. I think it was done in a different manner. I don't think that—really, some of them I don't know.

As I said, I can't say that because I never have had the experience of living on a camp that there was an open kind of a thing so far as, you know, black and white, really. I think that maybe, as you go along, I guess it's the attitude of the people that you're going to meet, really. I'm not sure. I really don't know. I really don't know.

HT:

In another vein, can you tell me a little bit about your social life while you were in the military, both here in the United States and overseas? What did you and your friends do for fun, and what would you do in your off-duty hours?

MV:

You went to the movies, because there was a movie on the camp. Of course, we were in a segregated unit. I mean, there was not a white unit on that post, of white women. I mean we were in the unit so far as our officers and all of this kind of thing. We had a lieutenant and a captain who was in charge of this thing, who went overseas with us.

Overseas, I think that what had happened—no, even at Fort Clark, my first camp, we could go—the largest city that was at Fort Clark, Texas—I can't remember the largest city. Mary Austin, who was here, I ran into her at another camp, but we were down there. This Betty Ellison, who is now in Washington, D.C., she came from South Carolina, I came from Raleigh.

The lieutenant would call us over, you know, when the girls would be able to go out or go somewhere. They said, “No, you cannot go because you don't have enough experience to be over there.” [laughs] So they were called back. We would be over helping the captain and her in her quarters, and I remember they were supposed to be going somewhere, had a circus or something somewhere, but I didn't go. We didn't go.

I do remember that there was a cousin at Fort Clark when we first—the first camp, right after. Johnny, who is up Philadelphia now—they were my mother's brother's children—Johnny was over there. He found out that I was there. His unit was being transferred out, and he got permission to come over there. He was not going because he had developed nosebleeds or something of that sort. So they would send him back to somewhere. He didn't go with his unit overseas.

He said to me that day—now, that was before we were ever—we had just got into the camp. I guess we'd been there two or three months, and they were shipping these men out. He came over, and he said, “Well, sister, I've heard that you were over here.” He said, “Well, now, I know that you don't know anything and everything,” he said, “but in all these men are here,” and all these kind of things, but he knew that they'd been having to get permission to come over where the camp was set. “Before you go out with anybody, you be sure that—but you have the same privilege and buy whatever you want to in the PX and got just the same privilege that these men will have, and don't you necessarily go out with everybody you see.”

I never did. I did finally meet someone who was one of them military MPs on the camp, and he was—last name was Sunday. He's from some parts of Texas, but I did not go. I think that I met a fellow when I was overseas, the young man that we would go to the movies with or whatever. What is his last name? I can't remember now. Anyway, I did get back in touch with him one year when I was down in—not in Houston, but we were in—he's from Dallas. He was from Dallas.

We played cards. You had a whole lot of recreation things in your place. You could play pool, and you had all of these kinds of things. I didn't do too much socializing, really.

HT:

Do you recall what your favorite songs and movies were in those days? I imagine you went to the movies quite a bit.

MV:

Yes. You went to the movies all the time.

HT:

There was no TV.

MV:

No TV. You went to the movies all the time.

HT:

Listened to the radio, I guess.

MV:

Yes. And then there was—where were we? In Rome. This Julius Haywood, who came from Raleigh, I remember we were going to the movies. Julius died last year. He was a member of the American Legion, past commander, died last year. We was coming from our place going to the movies, and they were in a camp. These fellows were in this camp. I know he was hollering out, “Raleigh, North Carolina,” and, you know, he tells that, would tell that all the time. When he looked, he said, he knew my walk. [laughs]

As I was saying, I don't remember seeing any of those men over to where we were in Rouen. They didn't ever come over to our—they didn't go over there. I think that I got to travel, you know. We did a lot of—you know we had some time off. You would do the cruise or whatever it was, you might remember.

HT:

So you were stationed in Rouen, I guess, in the fall of 1945 then, right after the war had ended, is that correct?

MV:

Yes, right after the war. We left Birmingham three days after VE Day.

HT:

VE Day was in May of '45, is that right?

MV:

May of '45, yes.

HT:

VJ Day was in August of '45.

MV:

Yes. VJ Day was in August.

HT:

Well, how did you like France and the French people? Did you have much dealings with the French?

MV:

I didn't have much dealings. You know, you would be astonished at the fact that the shops or what have you, most of those people spoke three or four languages. They spoke three or four languages when you would go to the shops, but you would go down to the—you know, you would do your traveling or whatever it is. Now, actually, my first—on the thing that was in Europe, riding in the—what is it, trains or trams?

HT:

The trolleys?

MV:

The trolleys, yes.

HT:

Raleigh still had trolleys and trams in those days, I think.

MV:

Raleigh had the trolley way back there, yes, but I'm talking about your underground—

HT:

Subways.

MV:

Subways. Subways. Subways, yes. My first subway ride was in England, in London, because I was in London on VJ [Victory in Japan] Day.

HT:

So you were in England for both VE and VJ Day. Do you recall anything specific about what it was like when it was announced that there was victory in Europe and victory over Japan? Were there lots of celebrations going on? What was it like?

MV:

Celebration. Actually, celebrations, because you could see at Big Ben, they did the come out and then the parades and coming out of Buckingham Palace, just as you see in the movies. They were coming out and doing these kinds of things, the changing of the guard, as they call it.

HT:

I guess that was kind of exciting.

MV:

It was.

HT:

Were you discharged in France, or did you come back to the States and do a little more service time and were discharged?

MV:

No. I decided to come back, and I left in December of '45 [unclear]. In fact, they named these important things after cigarettes. Let's see, Camp something, I think. What's-his-name who just died told me that he was at that camp that I came through? But I was discharged from Fort Bragg.

HT:

And that was in December of '45?

MV:

December of '45.

HT:

And what rank were you at that time, do you recall?

MV:

Staff sergeant.

HT:

Did you have a difficult time making the transition from having been in the military for a couple of years, I guess it was—

MV:

Yes.

HT:

—to civilian life? What kind of transition was it?

MV:

I don't know. What I did, I think, after I came back, I worked for a while, and then, in '48, I enrolled in Saint Augustine's [College]. Then I married in September of '48, I think. Yes, because I was there for '48-'49. Then I married in September of '49. My husband didn't want me to really go on. So I stayed out one year, and then I went back.

HT:

Did you get your degree from Saint Augustine?

MV:

Yes. Then I went back in the fall of '50, and I graduated in '53.

HT:

What impact do you think the military had on your life immediately after you got out and in the long term?

MV:

Immediately after I got out, I think I was kind of lost. I didn't do too much for one whole year. Then after I went back to school, I taught for some time, just about three years, in high school. Then I came back to Saint Augustine's in fall, August of '57, and I was there for about twenty-eight years, almost thirty years.

HT:

So you taught at a local high school?

MV:

No. I taught in Virginia—Mathews, Virginia.

HT:

How did you meet your husband?

MV:

I had known Warren before, and he was an older person. [laughs] Somebody said maybe that was—really, those psychiatrists said, “Millie, you're looking for a father figure.” But anyway, I had met him my last year in high school, but I didn't marry him then. Then when I came back—because Warren had married some—well, anyway, I don't know. Anyway, I had met him the last year I was in high school. Then I came back, and he was an older man, ten years older than me.

HT:

Do you think your life has been different because you were in the military for a couple of years?

MV:

I think what it has done for me, as I think about it—as I said, when I read that thing to you, I had not thought about the army, and then it has come forth now. It's been since '93 when they had this business that the country recognized women in the military. Of course, now, in 1995 was the fiftieth year end of World War II. There has been a roller coaster all the time of people talking and going about, because now, for forty-eight years—actually, there was that Mary Coleman, who, when I first went to St. Augustine's, she was out of—we were talking about her yesterday.

Of course, one of the girls there was talking about that her older sister or somebody had gone in the army with me. She said, “I don't know nobody living—.” She came to Saint Augustine's. She was from out of Virginia, and we were the only two women who had gone—and I think I told that to the new president.

I believe that what it has done for me, it gives you—'cause I'm not structured now, but when I worked all the time. I don't do anything hardly now. Since I've been retired, it looks to me I've gotten off course. But it gives you a structure, I believe. It gives you kind of a structure.

You know, sometimes I think that—now, whether you look at things differently, I don't know. I don't know what it does for me, because certain kinds of things, just sitting down and look at people, they seem to go all to pieces over it. I guess I kind of think about it. You know what I mean?

Now, my next door neighbor here, she lost her mother when I moved in this house, when I moved in this house. Of course, I was a widowed person, and I had my mother and my aunt with me. They're both dead now. When she moved over there, she had her mother. But she's frightened stiff of everything. You know what I mean?

I have a sister that lives—when they first started this area out here, we came out because we lived downtown all the time in what they call East Raleigh. Of course, I was born, I guess, down on South E Street, and that was about, maybe six blocks off [Fayetteville] Street downtown. I'm not afraid out of my life. I don't think that everybody's out to get you, but there's a way to do everything, I think.

HT:

Did you ever think about making the military a career? I've talked to some women who did make it a career and others who, like yourself, chose to leave the military and do the traditional thing and get married and go to school and have children and that sort of thing. Did you ever consider making the army a career?

MV:

No, I didn't, and I thought that these people who come out younger, these younger folks, most of those World War II people, as you say, did that. They came out, and they got on with trying to—they either went on to school or did life and this kind of thing. A goodly number of the folk who come later, these later years, even with the—I talk about my brother's children who were in the army, they stayed in. They stayed in. They were in the reserve, and the benefits of that kind of thing. We were just thinking about when we got out and not worried about trying to stay in the reserve and get this little money, whatever it was. You're ready to get your life together and go on.

HT:

I'm assuming that you went through school under the GI Bill.

MV:

I went to school on the GI Bill. That's right.

HT:

Were there other women or even men at Saint Augustine who—

MV:

Oh, yes. There were more men who were there, and as I was telling you, there was only one other woman who was there, one other girl.

HT:

So you were actually a bit older than most students at that time.

MV:

Oh, yes.

HT:

As were all the veterans. How do you think your outlook towards school and studying was different from the traditional student, who was like eighteen or nineteen?

MV:

Nineteen at that time.

HT:

You were probably in your mid-twenties by that time.

MV:

Yes. Yes. Yes, mid-twenties and going into my late twenties, yes. That would be different. It was, you know, different. But I think our president at that time, who said, when he honored me or something or whatever I did at that time, I don't know, at the school—I know that Dr. Trigg was saying that the unique part of this, that you find even with these kids now as we go with the reunion, they seem to have—you know, I didn't live on the campus. As I told you, the first year that I was there, I married and I went back as a person that was married, but I still had a very good rapport with them and with that group as they're coming up now.

HT:

Just because you were a little bit older didn't make any difference.

MV:

I was older, yes.

HT:

But you still felt like you fit in with the—

MV:

Well, I don't know that I did, but they did accept you, you know. Yes, they did accept you, really.

HT:

You mentioned earlier that the first year you came back, you didn't do much of anything. Did you have a hard time adjusting to civilian life, do you think? You'd been overseas. You'd probably seen quite a bit and experienced quite a bit. So what was that period like, that first year after coming back?

MV:

I don't know whether I felt lost. I don't know what—I really don't. I really don't. I know that I was always—I had an aunt in Washington and one in New Jersey at that time and some friends that I would go to see up in New York. I think for about six months I was just gone, I don't know, to find yourself, really.

HT:

I imagine it's quite an adjustment. Do you consider yourself to be an independent person, and do you think the military made you that way?

MV:

Yes, it did. I do think I'm an independent person.

HT:

Other ladies I've talked to, I've asked the same question, and of course, you get all kinds of answers. Did you consider yourself to be a pioneer or a trailblazer or a trendsetter when you went into the service? Because women had not really done that prior to the Second World War.

MV:

No, I don't think so. I didn't think so, no. I really didn't know. As I said in that little kind of a thing that I read, I didn't think that I actually was. I really felt that if there were white women going into the army and your country had called and you volunteered, that was one of those things—and I don't know where that came from. I really don't know where it came from.

HT:

I think you said you just had the one brother in the army.

MV:

I had two others did not go.

HT:

They did not go?

MV:

No, I had two brothers in the army, Eugene and then my younger brother went into the Korean War, who had these three children, who had two girls who followed him in the military, that they really think they're with me.

HT:

Do you think you had some influence on that? Were they even aware that you had been in the military?

MV:

Oh, they were aware that I had been in the military. I think it really had. I really think that in my younger brother's case, for those two girls who have gone in. One is an enlisted person, and then one was in the army ROTC from up at Winston-Salem State [University]—

[Begin Tape 1, Side B]

HT:

I think your nieces were in the army and what influence you had on them before the tape changed.

MV:

Yes.

HT:

So you think there was—

MV:

Yes. I think that. I think that, because the brother that is their father, who is my brother, younger brother—I think that the next door neighbor would want to call him yesterday—McKeever. He's very close to me, and his children are very close.

HT:

Would you consider yourself a feminist?

MV:

No, I'm not a feminist. I really feel that, you know, a lot of times when people say that you need to go—I really think that I would like to—as I say, as somebody would say, “Well, why don't you do so-and-so-and-so?” I would like to see a good, right, straightforward man do something.

I've had the distinction of one time, when somebody was saying that—I was president of NAACP one time, and they said, “Sometimes these women are so pushy and going over. One thing about Millie, she can sit here and observe and do what she might, believe me, she can get you to do whatever you want to do.” I'm not one of those persons who really feel that one needs to—you need to be able to take care of yourself, but I'd really like to see a good man lead. I really do.

HT:

Talking about leaders and that sort of thing, what did you think of President Franklin D. Roosevelt?

MV:

Well, now, President Roosevelt, as I tell everybody, I guess that I just grew up with him. He seemed to be, in my life, that he was a savior, because as I said, my father got sick during that time and my mother had to raise these six children. It was through those kinds of programs and the kinds of things that he led or did that really has influenced my life.

HT:

And what about Mrs. [Eleanor] Roosevelt? Did you ever have occasion to see either one of them or meet either one of them?

MV:

I didn't have an occasion to meet either one of them, but I did have occasion—the kinds of things—now, I do know that through her—well, she was a great leader, and I do really admire her. Because of her involvement and so forth with black folks, that they got—really, it has—the kinds of things that I have done and have involved myself in as coming through that—of experience has been some of the trailblazers of the kind of thing, earlier with the Democratic Women here in Wake County and NAACP.

Mrs. Roosevelt had this black woman, [Mary McLeod] Bethune, who said that she was one of her persons that she had. What they have now is this unit that Mrs. Bethune got that I am very much involved with that kind of a thing. I think all of these kinds of things one has to. I think what troubles me right now and what I really have tried to develop or tried to devote most of my time is I really would like to see a resurgence of our black young men and women who would get their son, that would get to go about various other kinds of things that would be more productive that they have to take part in. Because if you don't take part in it, if you don't be a part of certain kinds of things, I just don't know what is going to happen to—I am totally disgusted with the younger generation of our people who are being, really, in the military.

It just seems that I don't know what, and even our people who are professional, one has to step back and do something, and do something. For example, with this American Legion business that I'm involved with, it is an all-black post, but it was organized and chartered in 1924. They had the Post Number One here in the state of North Carolina and in Raleigh, and here we are in Raleigh. It was an all-white unit. It was organized by people who were busy people. One was the man who graduated from—who was a pharmacist, and one was Harold Trigg, who later on became the president of St. Augustine's College. All of these men, all the four or eight of them who were charter members of this thing, were busy folk.

Now we have these youngsters who are in business or are in this kind of thing, and they step back to do something for it, you know, but our young people are going to be lost unless we—I guess it saddens you to know these kinds of things. It just saddens one. I don't know.

HT:

Do you recall who some of your heroes and heroines might have been from that time, from the forties and early fifties, who influenced your life?

MV:

As I said, I grew up, actually, with those youth programs that were a part of the New Deal movement, and I guess that led into—one thing I guess it did lead into, led into my career now, as I was telling you about Mary McLeod Bethune and these kinds of folk. Other than that, I don't know. We had some people who were here, a person who was—May Ligon, who was really a high school teacher, who really influenced a lot of me that I have right now.

HT:

You mentioned that your youngest brother's two daughters have been in the military. Were any of your children in the military?

MV:

No, no, no. I have two stepchildren, and I have no children. Both of those children are in California now.

HT:

And were either one of them in the military?

MV:

No, neither one of those were in the military.

HT:

I think you've alluded to this in the past, but anyway, how do you feel about women in combat positions these days? In the Gulf War, I think, women flew combat missions over Iraq, and I think one lady was even shot down and captured.

MV:

Yes. I think if they would like to do that—certainly I think the women who do that are very brave. I don't think I could be in combat. I really don't. And, of course, as you know, during the time that I served, you were not allowed in combat. I guess that is one of the kinds of things that we have lost, maybe, a whole lot of respect that one could have because—I don't believe that you need to be a clinging vine, but I still think that there should be some respect, or more respect, more than what we are reading about that some of these women have. I don't know where the—this is interesting. In your interviewing with the people, I think I would like to know, have some of those women felt that they were really mistreated or did they get terrible treatment from the men?

HT:

No. I don't think I've talked to any of the women who said they were mistreated. I think there might have been a few where they felt like there might have been an incident or two, something like that, where they were kind of shunned a little bit, perhaps, or kind of dismissed. I think most of the women felt quite comfortable in their duties and were protected by the fellows around them.

There was a slander campaign going on in the mid-forties or so about women in the military, and they all heard about this thing, but none were actually involved or the recipients of that sort of thing. I think it was a lot of talk in the civilian sector about women in the military, and perhaps it was just a lot of talk. All the women that I personally interviewed—I think you're about the thirty-first or thirty-second person I've interviewed, and I don't think any of them were involved by the slander directly.

MV:

Right. Yes. But, you know, I think that really and truly, a whole lot, actually, the army tried to really protect women. They really went out of their duty to protect women. Of course, as it is, everybody's—you know, you're supposed to be—you're equal there. But at this point now, we were not in the—as I think now, they go back, and I think as they're talking about—I think that one woman had said, now when you talk about the training of women, that I really think that—I actually would not approve that we'd be training together. I don't think that they need to be trained together, really. But that's the kind of—they just—that's up for debate now, isn't it?

HT:

Right. It sure is. Did being in the military have an influence on you becoming involved in the Civil Rights movement later on? I think Mr. Ward said that you were quite involved in the Civil Rights movement over the years. Did that have some sort of influence, do you think, having been in the military, or was that a completely separate issue?

MV:

Well, what I will say for that is that, for equal rights that may have been. So if you're going to have equal rights, then one has to be involved in all kinds of situations. You don't expect that this is going to handed to them here and you're not involved in the business of how we got there so far as the relationship and so far as whatever is to be done, is to be done, that one needs to be judged and needs to be—whatever needs to be done needs to be done equally. One does not need to be given this. I guess that was my fear.

HT:

How were you involved in the Civil Rights movement over the years? What part have you played?

MV:

I guess I was first involved with the NAACP [National Association for the Advancement of Colored People] with the— How did I get involved with NAACP? I got involved with NAACP through a person who was—I went into one of these—you know, you talk about the sororities and fraternities that I went in. Well, I was a part of one of those from college. When I became involved with this, this was one of the Sigma brothers who was an elderly man, Dr. Greene, who was head of, actually, the black educational kinds of things first. He was involved with NAACP and asked me to come over to work with him and with this group here in Raleigh, North Carolina.

Again, those men who were responsible for the chartering, here in Wake County at least, the chartering of the NAACP, which is the oldest civil rights group, were those men who were involved. They were our doctors and our lawyers and our business, this kind of a thing. So that's how I got involved with them. I was one that worked with the first group of county Democratic women and so forth and so on. I guess that's it. So I've been a part of this. I guess what Ward was talking about, I was a part of this Raleigh group that come downtown where they have the malls and the Raleigh museum and was interviewed and that.

HT:

Can you tell me a little bit about your career at St. Augustine? I think you mentioned earlier that you were there a long time.

MV:

Yes. Twenty-eight or twenty-nine years.

HT:

What capacity were you involved there?

MV:

When I graduated from Saint Augustine's College in 1953, I went to work as a high school teacher. I set up the business department at Thompson High School in Mathews, Virginia, and I was there from '53 through '57. Then I came back to Saint Augustine's College in August of '53 as administrative secretary to the then-president James A. Boyer. I served in that capacity, too. In fact, I think first I was secretary to the president, and the next year I was administrative secretary. Of course, we had several other secretaries in the office. Dr. Boyer was president for ten years. Then when Dr. Robertson came, I stayed on with him in that office of administrative secretary for about a year. I got a grant to complete the masters. Then I came back with Educational Talent Search, and then I retired as director, career planning, placements, and cooperative education.

HT:

Where did you get your master's degree?

MV:

Over at North Carolina Central.

HT:

Master's in education?

MV:

The master's was in, yes, business education. Business administration, really. The undergraduate degree is in business education. The masters is business administration.

HT:

What have you been doing with your life since you retired?

MV:

Since I retired, I have been more involved with these organizations that I'm tied up with. I retired in '88. So it's been ten years now.

HT:

But you're probably as busy as ever, right?

MV:

Too busy. I'm not organized as I was. I did all these things before, but now I don't get up in time and I'm just rushed. Just like this afternoon, we were to have a meeting, but I told the fellow that I could not come, that I had this appointment today. In fact, we canceled the meeting because the president called me this morning, said he couldn't be there. I said, “Is it the fourth today? I'm losing time.” Next week, I'm going to be going up to the general—I'm going up to Philadelphia for a [unclear] of my sorority, so I've been involved.

HT:

I understand from Mr. Ward that you served at one time as the first female president of the Raleigh NAACP.

MV:

That's right.

HT:

How was that? How did that feel to you? Was that agreeable?

MV:

Yes, that was agreeable, really. I think, as a person had said, that I was not an individual who—you know, some people push to get here and push to get there, but they said that, really and truly, that—maybe it's just my style. I know that some people say that, “Millie is doing this, and she can get this done, and she can get this done,” and they always kind of feel that you're a pushy kind of person. Actually, you have to have people who are with you and that kind of thing. You get credit for things, you don't have to head something to get things done. You get to blaze them, but you put somebody else there and let them do it. [laughs]

HT:

We've covered quite a few topics this afternoon. Can you think of anything else that you'd like to add to your interview before we close the interview for this afternoon?

MV:

Well, I thank you for your patience. I apologize again for our mishap on yesterday.

HT:

That's fine. It's been quite interesting to listen to all your stories this afternoon. It's so varied and interesting.

MV:

I don't know [unclear].

HT:

If there's nothing else you'd like to add, we'll end the interview now. Thank you so much for talking to me. It's been very interesting and enjoyable. Like I said earlier, we've covered so many different things. It's been a real treat.

MV:

I think that maybe perhaps it will be, since whoever's going to have to transfer and that sort of thing, if you would send along when you send that tape some other kinds of things, maybe this. I can give you another transcript of what you were trying to think of, what I have done, put it in perspective, maybe.

HT:

I'll do that. All right.

[End of interview]