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The Betty H. Carter Women Veterans Historical Project

Oral history interview with Dorothy Sullivan, 2004

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Object ID: WV0187.5.001

Description: Interview primarily documents Dorothy Collins Sullivan’s service in the WAAC (Women’s Auxiliary Army Corps) and the WAC (Women’s Army Corps).

Summary:

Sullivan details her reasons for joining the WAC, including the slogan “Free a Man to Fight.” She recalls a visit from Franklin D. Roosevelt during her basic training at Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia. Discussion focuses on her time overseas, including: overseas training; traveling on the HMS Queen Elizabeth; uniforms; overseas army food; social activities; soldiers’ responses to WAACs; segregation in the army; V-Mail; trips to Scotland, London, and Paris; and entertainers Jane Froman and Bob Hope. She also discusses receiving emergency furlough to visit her sick mother, the war ending before she could return to Europe, and VE and VJ Day in new York City.

Other topics include her courtship with her husband; adjustment back to civilian life; what she gained from her service; patriotism during WWII; and her brothers’ service.

Creator: Dorothy R. Collins Sullivan

Biographical Info: Dorothy Collins Sullivan (b. 1916) of New York was a mail clerk in the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC) and the Women’s Army Corps (WAC) from 1943 to 1945.

Collection: Dorothy R. Collins Sullivan 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:

HT:

Today is Monday, February 9, 2004, and my name is Hermann Trojanowski. I'm at Walter Clinton Jackson Library on the campus of the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, conducting a telephone interview with Mrs. Dorothy Collins Sullivan, who lives in—Mrs. Sullivan, would you tell me the name of the town that you live in?

DS:

It's Nanuet [New York], N-a-n-u-e-t.

HT:

Okay, thanks. The interview is for the Women Veterans Historical Project at the university.

First of all, Mrs. Sullivan, again, thank you for agreeing to talk with me this afternoon. We appreciate it. If you could, tell me a few biographical facts about yourself. Where were you born?

DS:

I was born in New York, Manhattan.

HT:

And when were you born, please? hat was the date of your birth?

DS:

November 16, 1916.

HT:

Where did you live growing up?

DS:

In the Bronx.

HT:

Can you tell me a little bit about your family, such as your maiden name and a little about your mother and father and any siblings you might have had.

DS:

My mother and father was Peter J. Collins and Rose Hogan was my mother's name.

HT:

How do you spell that?

DS:

Hogan? H-o-g-a-n.

HT:

Okay, good, thanks. What about your brothers and sisters?

DS:

I had two brothers and two sisters.

HT:

What did your parents do when you were growing up?

DS:

What did they do? My mother was a homemaker, and my father was a steelworker. He worked on buildings.

HT:

Where did you go to high school?

DS:

I'm trying to think of things. It's so long ago. It was in the Bronx, and I can't think of the name of it.

HT:

That's fine. What was it like growing up during the Great Depression?

DS:

I didn't realize it, myself, because I was young during the Depression. It didn't really affect me. It affected, you know, the people, people that had families and all.

HT:

After you graduated from high school, did you go to work?

DS:

Yes.

HT:

Where was that?

DS:

That was in the five-and-ten.

HT:

Did you live at home at that time?

DS:

Yes, I did.

HT:

I know you joined the WAAC [Women's Army Auxiliary Corps] in the early days of the war. What made you decide to join this particular branch of the service?

DS:

They had up posters that they needed women, and I joined.

HT:

Do you recall exactly why you joined? Did you have any brothers or other sisters who might have joined the service?

DS:

My brothers were in, my two brothers.

HT:

Was your father in the military?

DS:

No, my father died when I was young, when I was eighteen.

HT:

So he wasn't in World War I or anything like that.

DS:

No.

HT:

Now, did you have to have your mother's signature in order to join the service?

DS:

No.

HT:

Do you recall where you enlisted?

DS:

It was in Manhattan, New York. I can't think of the name of the street, the street there. I can't think of it now. It's too long ago.

HT:

Did you have to take some sort of test?

DS:

No.

HT:

Written or physical or anything like that?

DS:

No, we had the physical, but nothing—you know, to be sure that we were all right to go into the service. They had physicals.

HT:

When we talked earlier, I think in 2000, you mentioned that you joined on March 27, 1943. Is that the best you remember?

DS:

Yes.

HT:

At that time, there were quite a few posters, recruiting posters that mentioned that women who joined could free a man for combat.

DS:

Right.

HT:

So you do remember seeing those posters.

DS:

Oh yes.

HT:

What were your feelings about perhaps freeing a man for combat?

DS:

Well, I think it was something the men wanted. They didn't want to be sitting behind a desk when they could be out there fighting the war. I think the men wanted to be in it. They didn't want to be sitting behind a desk.

HT:

Do you recall what your family and friends and neighbors, co-workers, felt about your joining the WAACs?

DS:

They were all for it.

HT:

What about people in general? Do you recall what people in general thought about women who joined the military?

DS:

I really don't know. I never asked anybody.

HT:

But I guess that sort of made you feel good that your family was in favor that you joined.

DS:

Right, right. Well, I wasn't going into combat, I was just going to be at a desk, you know. I wouldn't be hurt, and I wouldn't be in the war. So I'd just be part of it, but not in it, so to speak.

HT:

When you first joined up, did you, by any chance, join with friends, or did you go by yourself?

DS:

Oh, I joined with a friend.

HT:

Do you recall what her name was?

DS:

Yes, Josephine Walz, W-a-l-z.

HT:

Josephine Walz. Did you go into basic training together and that sort of thing?

DS:

No, she was in before I was.

HT:

Speaking of basic training, after you were sworn in, do you recall where you went for basic training?

DS:

Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia.

HT:

Was this the first time that you'd ever been south of the Mason-Dixon Line?

DS:

Yes.

HT:

What did you think of Georgia?

DS:

I liked it. It was very friendly, nice.

HT:

Of course, being March or April, I guess it was much warmer in Georgia than it was in New York at that time.

DS:

Yes, right.

HT:

Can you tell me a little bit about your first days of basic training. Do you have any memories of what that was like?

DS:

No, it was just exercise and marching and things like that. Just a little bit at a time they gave us—made us exercise. Then we went to classes to learn all about the military and what it was all about.

HT:

How long did basic training last?

DS:

About three weeks.

HT:

What were your thoughts about the lack of privacy and food and the uniform?

DS:

I didn't even think about it. It was just—we were all in it together, you know. It was just like having sisters.

HT:

After you left basic training at Fort Oglethorpe, where did you go next?

DS:

I went to Camp Gordon, Georgia.

HT:

What town is that near, do you recall?

DS:

Camp Gordon, Georgia? I don't know really. Augusta. Augusta.

HT:

What kind of work did you do at Camp Gordon?

DS:

I was in the mail room. I was a mail clerk.

HT:

Did you receive special training to be a mail clerk?

DS:

No. No.

HT:

So you didn't have any kind of special training, either in basic or at Camp Gordon. They just placed you in the mail room and, I guess, gave you sort of on-the-job type training.

DS:

Right. Right, everything for the mail, we did everything, outgoing and incoming mail.

HT:

Did you have your choice, or could you choose kind of what you wanted to go into?

DS:

No.

HT:

You were just assigned that.

DS:

Yes. Some people, I guess, they had abilities to do other things, like flying or whatever, and motor pools and all things like that.

HT:

Tell me about the work that you did in the mail room. What was a typical day like for you, do you recall?

DS:

Oh, it was just sorting out the mails into the different areas with the people, all the different—what would you call it? I can't think of the name of it. But to each unit, we would sort the mail out and send that to them, and they would send a mailman, a mail orderly to come and pick up their mail for each unit out in the field.

HT:

Did you work night shift, day shift?

DS:

It was around the clock.

HT:

Around the clock. But you didn't put in more than eight hours a day, did you?

DS:

No. No.

HT:

Do you recall how long you were at Camp Gordon, Georgia?

DS:

About a year.

HT:

You were in the post office the entire time?

DS:

Yes.

HT:

After a year, where did you go?

DS:

I went overseas to England.

HT:

Did you receive any kind of special training?

DS:

Yes, they have a training camp for overseas in Fort Oglethorpe. We went back to Fort Oglethorpe, and then went for the training there.

HT:

Did that last several weeks?

DS:

Not too long, no.

HT:

What was the special training like?

DS:

Well, it's hard to remember back that far. It was how to get along with people from other countries, you know. How to—about the money and their different ways and everything and how to approach them. That was about it.

HT:

Then you said you went to England. Do you, by any chance, recall when that was?

DS:

When? No, I can't really.

HT:

I think you mentioned before that in England you were stationed at Sutton Coldfield, is that correct?

DS:

Sutton Coldfield, yes.

HT:

How long were you there?

DS:

I was there for about a year, and then I went to France.

HT:

What did you think of England?

DS:

Oh, I liked England. Very nice. The people were very friendly. It was very damp and all that, because they have a lot of rainy seasons over there, but it was good. I didn't mind.

HT:

What type of work did you do in England?

DS:

I was a mail clerk.

HT:

I assume you did similar type duties that you had done in the States, except it was overseas.

DS:

Yes. Incoming and outgoing mail, and for people who were missing in action or killed in action, we could separate them from those who are out in the field.

HT:

When you were in England, what was a typical day like? You say you worked, I'm assuming, all day in the mail room. Then after that, what—

DS:

We went back to camp and did whatever we had to do, you know; laundry or just write letters, things like that.

HT:

Did you have any kind of social life when you were overseas?

DS:

Well, we could go into town, and there were USOs [United Service Organizations clubs] over there. We'd go there, and you could write letters, and they had something to eat. You meet other friends, and they had dancing. It was very nice.

HT:

Well, it sounds like you really enjoyed the work and being overseas.

DS:

Oh yes, yes. I have only good memories.

HT:

How were you and the other women treated by the men who did similar type work in the army?

DS:

The men were very nice. At first they didn't like the idea, but then they got used to us, and saw that we were there to work and not play, but we were there to do the job. They worked with us, and they were very nice.

HT:

So you never encountered any kind of discrimination because you were a woman?

DS:

No. No.

HT:

I know there were some black WAC [Women's Army Corps] units who worked in the mail area.

DS:

I never saw them. I think they were separated from the white WACs and the others. They had their own area where they were all together.

HT:

I think you mentioned in our previous conversation that you had a friend who was a Navajo Indian.

DS:

Yes.

HT:

Now, was she with you overseas or was she—

DS:

Well, yes. She went overseas when I did. We were in Camp Gordon together.

HT:

And she was with you in England as well?

DS:

Right. I think I gave you a picture.

HT:

Yes.

DS:

And you can return it to me, I hope.

HT:

Right. I'm getting a copy made as we speak.

DS:

Good. Okay.

HT:

That should be ready, hopefully, sometime next week.

DS:

Well, thank you. I appreciate that.

HT:

I think you said that she had died.

DS:

Yes, she did. She was in a car accident. She went through all the war, and she goes home, and she was coming home from work, and her car went out of control. They didn't find her till a couple of days later, and it was freezing weather, so she just died in the cold.

HT:

So black women were separated from the general WAC population, but Native Americans were not.

DS:

I didn't hear.

HT:

Navajo Indians were not separated like the black women.

DS:

No, no. No.

HT:

Do you recall, were there any Chinese American or Japanese American women in any of the—

DS:

No, I don't recall any of them.

HT:

Well, they were so few and far between.

DS:

Yes, I don't even know if they were ever in there, to tell you the truth. I never did see one, now that you mention it. But then, we were in one spot, more or less. We weren't going around, no. I went to the camp for training, and then I went to Camp Gordon for the mail room. Other than that, I didn't see anything.

HT:

Now, when you were overseas did you write letters home to your family?

DS:

Oh yes. Well, they had E-mail then—E-mail? Not E-mail, V-Mail. E-mail [laughs].

HT:

V-Mail, right.

DS:

We could write them. Every day I used to write to my mother.

HT:

What was it like to be separated from your family for such a long period of time?

DS:

It was hard. It was hard. But when you can write, and they write to you, and they send you packages, it's just like you're together, you know. They accepted it, and we just got along with it fine.

HT:

After you left England, you said you went to France for a little while.

DS:

Right, yes.

HT:

Do you recall how long you were in France?

DS:

About six months, because I had to go home on an emergency furlough. My mother was sick, and they sent me home, so I went home before the war was over.

HT:

What type of work did you do in France?

DS:

The same thing; the mail.

HT:

I think you said you were in [unclear].

DS:

What?

HT:

What was the name of the place in France where you were?

DS:

Where I was stationed? It was called Vitry-sur-Seine. Capital V-i-t-r-y, capital S-u-r, capital S-e-i-n-e. Vitry-sur-Seine.

HT:

Is that near Paris, France?

DS:

Yes. It's about six, seven miles from France—from Paris.

HT:

Did you ever get the opportunity to go into Paris?

DS:

Yes, they had a bus that took us in every day.

HT:

Did you see the sights and—

DS:

Oh yes, visited the Eiffel Tower and the Arc de Triomphe and all that.

HT:

I guess you went in with girlfriends to different things—

DS:

Yes.

HT:

—to parties and that sort of thing.

DS:

No parties. [laughs]

HT:

No parties?

DS:

No. I went dancing. You know, they had the USO, and then Paris, and that's where we went, dancing. But parties, I don't remember parties, to tell you the truth. I was just glad after getting out of the post office to go dancing, and that's what we did.

HT:

You mentioned that you went to USO shows and that sort of thing. Do you recall any important people like, say, Bob Hope or somebody like that who might have come by for entertainment?

DS:

Bob Hope was there, but there was another woman there, and I can't remember her name, but she was flying over to go to the USO and to the troops and that. She was in a plane crash, and she got well, and then she came by to the USO on crutches to sing for us. I can't think of her name. It just went out of my head.

HT:

Right. Oh, I think you mentioned in our previous conversation, it was Jane Froman.

DS:

That's who it was. Jane Froman. Gosh. [laughs] Right.

HT:

I'd never heard of her, so she was just a—

DS:

I know. That's going back. [laughs]

HT:

I'm assuming she was not a movie star; she was just a USO singer.

DS:

No, she was a singer, but she went with the USO to entertain the troops. But she was a singer, Jane Froman. If you go back, you'll find her. I think she was even in the movies.

HT:

You said you had to go home on sort of emergency leave, because your mother was sick. How did you get back to the United States?

DS:

They flew me back.

HT:

Did you leave the service at that time?

DS:

No, it was just before I was ready to go back that there was VE [Victory in Europe] Day and VJ [Victory in Japan] Day. Both wars were over at the same time, around the same time, so I didn't have to go back. I could leave the service then and [unclear].

HT:

I see. If we can backtrack for just a minute, how did you get to England? Did you fly over, or did you—

DS:

No, we went by—in fact, we went on the [HMS] Queen Elizabeth.

HT:

That's the ocean liner.

DS:

Right.

HT:

Was it the Queen Elizabeth or the [HMS] Queen Mary?

DS:

Queen Elizabeth.

HT:

What was it like being on an ocean liner?

DS:

Well, once in a while we got up to the deck for—what do you call it—breathing space or whatever, just relaxation, and then we'd go back down. We were down in the keel of the boat. It went all the way down, and that's where we had a cabin. You know, most of us had cabins, and there were three or four of us in one cabin.

HT:

Were they spacious cabins or rather cramped?

DS:

No, they weren't cramped, no.

HT:

What did you think of being on the ocean? Did you get seasick or—

DS:

Well, I wasn't, but I stayed in my cabin. Then I bought candy, and I just stayed there, because I was afraid of getting seasick, you know. That's how I went over there then, just in the cabin. I didn't leave the cabin. I just bought candy and stayed there, and people brought me food.

HT:

So you say you hardly ever left the cabin at all then.

DS:

Right.

HT:

Were there any personalities aboard ship, or was it just a troop ship?

DS:

I'm trying—what's his name, the fighter, boxer. What's his name?

HT:

I think you meant Joe Louis.

DS:

Joe Louis, yes, he was on.

HT:

So were there other civilians aboard or—

DS:

Not that I know of. I really don't know.

HT:

Then once you got to England, I guess you took the train to—

DS:

No, they took us by transport. They took trucks and brought us to—well, now I forget the name of the place. It's such a long time ago. But they brought us into town and put us in the post office.

HT:

Now, how did you get from England to France? There again, I guess it was by some sort of a ship or boat, is that correct?

DS:

We went by plane.

HT:

What was the hardest thing you ever had to do, physically, while you were in the military?

DS:

Nothing, really. Nothing that I can think of that would stand out in my mind, you know.

HT:

There was nothing difficult about basic training.

DS:

Nothing, no. I enjoyed it. [laughter]

HT:

What about what was the hardest thing you've ever had to do emotionally while you were in the military?

DS:

Nothing that I can think of offhand, really. Everything went smoothly.

HT:

Do you ever recall being afraid?

DS:

No.

HT:

Were you ever in any kind of physical danger?

DS:

None. We were very far from London, and London was getting blitzed by the bombs from France that were coming over there. I forget what they called them, B-bombs or V-bombs or something. Those landed in London.

HT:

But you were far enough out in the country that you didn't—

DS:

I was too far. I was sent too far, a central part, and the bombs were in London. That was, you know, down by the [English] Channel.

HT:

Do you ever recall any embarrassing moments.

DS:

No, no. Thank God, no.

HT:

What about humorous stories? Did anything funny happen to you or your friends that—

DS:

[unclear] that, no, really. We just worked most of the time. That's what we did, worked and went home and slept or wrote letters or went into town and went to the USO. That was about it. There wasn't much you could do. It was wartime, you know.

HT:

What did you think of your uniform that you had?

DS:

Oh, that was good, fine. We had a dress that they gave us so we could wear it to go out and take the uniforms off and socialize. Go out in the dresses and go to USO or wherever, in town, go shopping. Other than that, we did have to wear our uniforms on when we worked or for parades and anything like that.

HT:

So the only time you had to wear a uniform was when you were at work or on parade. So otherwise you could wear civilian clothes.

DS:

No, only what they gave us.

HT:

Oh, and you said that was—

DS:

They gave us a dress that we could wear. It was an army color and all, you know. But that was it. I don't know when they started the—when you could go without uniforms in regular clothes. That I don't remember.

HT:

Do you recall what types of off-duty recreation—you mentioned earlier that you went to USO shows and that sort of thing. What other types of recreation did the military—

DS:

There really wasn't anything, except a movie. That's about it. They had the recreation room on base where you could go and write letters or talk to friends and socialize. Other than that, there wasn't much you could do. It was wartime, and we had to—we mostly stayed around the base.

HT:

What was the food like?

DS:

What? Oh, the food was very good. We had good food, especially overseas, when we had the best.

HT:

I guess in France you got even better food than you did in England.

DS:

No. No, both were very good, what we had over in England and France, because it was sent from the States, you know.

HT:

Oh, so you didn't eat the local food.

DS:

No, no. No, this was all army stuff.

HT:

So the army cooked it and that sort of thing then.

DS:

Yes. And we had the steak. We had the best. [laughter] We had better than what they had at home.

HT:

That's amazing.

DS:

Well, the people sacrificed back home so we could have it.

HT:

Yes, that is so true. Well, I remember you showed me photographs of huge rooms just full of mailbags and that sort of thing.

DS:

Oh yes. Oh yes. [laughs]

HT:

That must have been almost overwhelming at times.

DS:

Oh, it was great. We enjoyed it. We were getting the mail out to our GIs that were out in the field that were not hearing from their families, and all of a sudden they were getting all this mail that they hadn't been receiving because they didn't have enough mail clerks in the post office. This way they put the women in there, and we went to work on it and got the mail out.

HT:

Now, did you work on mail coming from the United States going to the GIs?

DS:

Yes, right.

HT:

But did they have other women who worked on mail coming from the GIs going to the United States, or did—

DS:

Well, that came in to us, too.

HT:

Oh, so it went both ways.

DS:

Yes.

HT:

The mail went both ways. I see. You mentioned earlier in the conversation about V-Mail. Could you describe what that was exactly?

DS:

The V-Mail? t was an envelope, an open envelope. You wrote what you wanted inside, and you sealed it and mailed it out, and it was free. It just went right through.

HT:

So it was on regular paper.

DS:

Yes. You know what an envelope looks like? Well, you just open an envelope. That's what the V-Mail looked like. And you wrote in it, and then you sealed it up, and it was free to mail, so you just mailed it out.

HT:

You had mentioned earlier that you were home with your mother during VE Day and VJ Day. Do you recall what that was like? What was the mood of the country when—

DS:

Oh. Oh, it was—oh. We went down to Manhattan, 42nd Street. It was wild. It was just great.

HT:

Which was the better, VJ or VE Day?

DS:

Well, they were both close together. Right after VE Day, then was VJ Day. They were close together, so we celebrated them both, and it was great. I think they have pictures of that day in the news files back then of what it looked like.

HT:

You said that since the war had ended, you decided not to go back—

DS:

No. Well, they didn't want us to go back. It was over over there. There was certainly no point in us going back. If anybody wanted to stay there, they could, to finish up whatever needed to be done over there, but we didn't need to go back at all. So I went to Fort Dix [New Jersey] and was discharged from Fort Dix.

HT:

How long were you at Fort Dix?

DS:

Oh, not very long. About ten days.

HT:

So it was just enough time to process through the various paperworks and that sort of thing.

DS:

Right, exactly. Yes.

HT:

What was your rank when you were discharged?

DS:

Oh, it felt odd.

HT:

I beg your pardon?

DS:

It felt odd to be a civilian again. You're free, and you can go anywhere and do anything you want. No rules.

HT:

What was your rank when you—

DS:

PFC.

HT:

Private first class. That was the highest rank that you obtained.

DS:

Yes.

HT:

What impact did the military have on your life immediately after you got out of the service?

DS:

Well, I can't really recall that—I went back to work. The job that I had, I was able to go back to that work, and just filled it; you know, fitted in again with everybody.

HT:

Where did you go back to work?

DS:

It was called the American Bank Note [Company]. They made money over there for foreign countries. I was what they called a counter. I counted the sheets and then the money that was processed and printed.

HT:

Did they hold your job while you were gone?

DS:

Yes.

HT:

I assume that somebody else did the work while you were gone.

DS:

Oh yes.

HT:

Then when you came back—

DS:

Yes, my job was there.

HT:

It was still there. That was nice. That was really nice. So there really was very little impact, it sounds like, on your life from having been in the military. What about the long term? Did your life change because you had been in the service?

DS:

No, not really. I got right back into civilian life. It was easy.

HT:

I know I've talked to some women who said that it took them about six months to adjust.

DS:

No. Well, I was home before that, you know, so I had time while I was in uniform—

HT:

Yes, right. That's right.

DS:

—to get adjusted. It's true, I didn't have to go through that, and other people did. You're right.

HT:

Plus, I'm assuming you were probably real concerned about your mother, so that took your mind off having been in the military and adjusting and that sort of thing.

DS:

Yes, right. [laughs]

HT:

Well, did you ever think about making the military your career, a career?

DS:

No. No.

HT:

Do you recall, were you encouraged to return to the traditional female role?

DS:

Oh yes. Going back to my dancing. [laughter]

HT:

If you had to do it over again, would you join the military?

DS:

Oh yes.

HT:

It sounds like you had a very nice time.

DS:

I really enjoyed being there, being able to do something, you know, not just home and read about it. I just was able to be there and do something to help. That's why I felt I was a help to get the war over with.

HT:

Can you describe your adjustment to civilian life after you got out of the military?

DS:

Well, it takes a while, you know, but I did it. You know, it just happened. I didn't think about it or anything. I just—as if I never left, you know what I mean?

HT:

Yes. Do you recall what the mood of the country was like during World War II?

DS:

During the war? ell, everybody wanted to do something. They wanted to do something to help end the war, and everybody did their own thing, as they could. Some people couldn't join the service, or they did something that could help the service. They sent—what do they call them, packages—they sent packages to the USO to give to people who didn't have anybody, writing to them, or like that. There were some that just were drafted and nobody wrote to them, or things like that.

HT:

Whom did you admire and respect a great deal, other than your family members? Who were your heroes and heroines at that time?

DS:

Well, I think—what's her name, that woman that came to sing. Oh, what's the name again? You said it.

HT:

Jane, Jane Froman?

DS:

Jane Froman and Bob Hope, God bless him. He did a lot for the GIs out there in the field. He went right out there with them, him and Jack Benny and others. They went there out to the—to give them some kind of entertainment and let me them know that people at home weren't forgetting them, you know.

HT:

Yes. And what about the president [Franklin D. Roosevelt] and Mrs. [Eleanor] Roosevelt? What were your thoughts about them?

DS:

Well, they were fine. They did everything they could for the GIs, and Eleanor, I thought, did exceptionally well, doing for the people and the president, too. He was a sick man at the time, and he did the best he could, encouraged our people.

HT:

Do you recall where you were when President Roosevelt died?

DS:

No, I don't.

HT:

What about President Harry Truman?

DS:

I don't really know much about Mr. Truman.

HT:

While you were in the military, did you ever, by any chance, meet any of the top brass from the WACs, like Mrs. Oveta Culp Hobby?

DS:

No, I never did meet her. She was at a parade I was in one time when she was there. And President Roosevelt came to Fort Oglethorpe, where we were training. My unit and another unit was there to escort his car onto the parade ground, and then we all went back to where we were supposed to, and he came around in his car and inspected the troops, the women. Then he left. That was one thing I can be sure of, President Roosevelt, he came to us to view the WAACs. At that time, it was the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps.

HT:

Because you joined the WAAC, and then it became the WAC while you were in the service, is that correct?

DS:

Right, exactly. You had to be sworn in again. If you didn't want to go into the WAC, you could leave and get an honorable discharge. But I stayed, and I was sworn in again, and I stayed until the war was over—until I came home.

HT:

Do you consider yourself to be an independent person?

DS:

Me? Yes, I am. [laughs]

HT:

Did the military make you that way?

DS:

No.

HT:

So you were always that way.

DS:

Right. [laughter]

HT:

I think most of the ladies I've spoken with—

DS:

Well, we lost my father at a very young age. I was eighteen, and I had to help my mother, because she had three young children, and I had another brother. I would sort of help out. I worked and helped out. So when you're young and it's Depression time, everything helps.

HT:

Yes, I'm sure of that. Now, you said you had a younger brother [who] was in the military?

DS:

My older brother was in the military.

HT:

Your older brother, I see.

DS:

He was in the air force, and my younger brother was in the submarines.

HT:

Do you recall how long they were in the service?

DS:

Well, my elder brother, I guess two and a half years. My younger brother was less than that; about a year and a half.

HT:

You said you were quite independent even before you went into the service. Would you consider, since you were one of the first women to join the military during war, do you consider yourself to be a pioneer or a trailblazer?

DS:

No, no. [laughs]

HT:

Because many women did not join at that time.

DS:

Well, some of the parents wouldn't let them or whatever, you know. There were reasons why some of them couldn't go in. Not that they didn't want to, but, you know.

HT:

Do you consider yourself to be a feminist?

DS:

Yes.

HT:

Have any of your children been in the military?

DS:

No. My two sons were. My oldest son was in the army, and my second eldest son was in the navy.

HT:

Do you think you having been in the military had any bearing on them joining?

DS:

No, no.

HT:

What about your husband? Was he in—

DS:

In the army, yes.

HT:

In the army, as well, then. What did he do while in the army?

DS:

I can't think of it now, but he was up in Alaska. What they did up there, he did—he went to Hawaii from Alaska. I can't remember the kind of work he did, but it was in the motor pool.

HT:

So you got out in, I think you said, September of 1945.

DS:

Yes.

HT:

When did he leave the service?

DS:

When did he? We come out at the same time.

HT:

I see. Then you got married sometime in the next year or so?

DS:

Yes, a few months later.

HT:

Was he someone you knew from—

DS:

I knew him before the war, yes. Well, we corresponded all during the war.

HT:

I see. That, I'm sure, made it easier on both of you. That probably made it easier on both of you to receive letters and that sort of thing.

DS:

Right, right.

HT:

After you got out, you went back to live at home or did you—

DS:

Yes, I went back home, and I went back to the job I left, and worked until I got married.

HT:

Then where did you live?

DS:

Well, we moved up to the North Bronx, where I lived; Randall Avenue.

HT:

Randall Avenue?

DS:

Yes.

HT:

That's spelled R-a-n-d—

DS:

—a-l-l.

HT:

Randall Avenue, okay. The last time I interviewed you, of course, you lived in Florida. When did you move to Florida?

DS:

Oh, gosh, I'm trying to think now. I can't remember. It was around late seventies, '77, '78, something like that.

HT:

I assume you and your husband retired there.

DS:

Yes.

HT:

When you were overseas in England and in France, did you take any trips, sightseeing and that sort of thing?

DS:

I went to Scotland.

HT:

What was that like?

DS:

Oh, it was lovely. People were very nice up there. We took pictures. It was wonderful. People were very friendly, and it was something different. I went to the Edinburgh Castle, one of the big halls, the kind of castle, and we visited that. We had luncheon there, and it was very nice. We got to see different things.

HT:

Did you do any day trips into London or—

DS:

We went to London once. After the bombing stopped, we were able—we were given passes to go to see London. London was like New York, Fifth Avenue. It was really something to see. But there was a lot of bombings there, so there was a lot of buildings that were down from the bombs. But at least we got to see it.

HT:

What about when you were in France? You mentioned earlier that you did go into Paris.

DS:

Yes.

HT:

But did you get a chance to go anywhere else other than Paris while you were there?

DS:

No. Well, I had to come home on the furlough, on emergency.

HT:

Right. Now, you mentioned your friend. I think her name was Catherine Dickson.

DS:

Who? Oh yes, Catherine.

HT:

How long did you know her?

DS:

Oh, we were in basic training.

HT:

Then she went overseas with you.

DS:

Yes. That was voluntary. They asked for volunteers.

HT:

Well, Mrs. Sullivan, I don't have any more formal questions to ask. Do you have anything else you want to add to the interview?

DS:

Nothing I can think of, honestly. It was so long ago.

HT:

It has been a long time, hasn't it.

DS:

Yes.

HT:

Well, I really appreciate your talking with today, and as I mentioned earlier, I'll get the photographs up to you as soon as I get them from the photographer.

DS:

Oh, thank you very much. I appreciate that.

HT:

Well, again, thank you so much.

DS:

You're welcome.

HT:

Good talking to you again.

DS:

You, too.

HT:

Okay, bye-bye.

DS:

Bye-bye.

[End of interview]