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The Betty H. Carter Women Veterans Historical Project

Oral history interview with Dorothy May Miller, 2001

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Object ID: WV0198.5.001

Description: Documents Dorothy May Miller’s childhood in Florida; her military service during World War II; and her personal life after the war.

Summary:

Miller discusses her family history and her early life in Florida, growing up poor and in a segregated community with a single mother. She also remembers her decision to join the WAAC and her family’s reaction to her enlistment.

Miller describes arriving in the North for basic training; the cold weather; rules for dating and socializing; the change from the WAAC to WAC; and having to do advanced basic training. She provides a detailed description of Camp Forrest, including the barracks; her work as a medical technician in the operating room and the types of surgeries performed; German prisoners of war cleaning the hospital; and her uniforms. She describes her transfer to Fort Benning; working as a mail clerk; and escorting a female soldier to her court-martial. Other topics include her social life; going to church; and having meals with local families.

Miller also comments at length on segregation: serving in segregated units in the military and with black female officers; several incidents of racial discrimination; and respect for the military.

Personal topics include her adjustment to civilian life; her first husband; going to school; meeting her second husband; making African American dolls and sewing clothing for children; and her involvement in veterans’ organizations

Creator: Dorothy Thelma May Miller

Biographical Info: Dorothy May Miller (1922-2005) of Lakeland, Florida, was a medical technician and mail clerk in African American units of the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps and the Women’s Army Corps during World War II.

Collection: Dorothy M. Miller 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:

Today is Thursday, February 8th, 2001. My name is Hermann Trojanowski. I'm at the home of Mrs. Dorothy Miller in Tampa, Florida. We're here to conduct an interview for the Women Veterans Historical Collection at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.

Mrs. Miller, if you would tell me your full name including your maiden name, we'll use it as a test.

DOROTHY MILLER:

Dorothy Thelma May Miller.

[Tape recorder paused]

HT:

Mrs. Miller, could you tell me where you were born.

DM:

I was born in Sandersville, Georgia.

HT:

When was that?

DM:

February 11th, 1922.

HT:

Where did you live before you enlisted in the WAAC?

DM:

Well, let's see. I think they told me at the age of twenty-one months, my family moved to Lakeland, Florida. That's where I was when I enlisted into the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps [WAAC].

HT:

Could you tell me a little about your family, about where you lived and what your parents did, about your brothers and sisters, and that sort of thing?

DM:

My mother was a one-parent family. My brother, he was seven or eight years older than me, and my sister, I'm a year and four months older than she is. I don't remember too much because my brother was so much older than us. When he finished school, I think it was about ninth grade. We didn't have a high school in Lakeland, not for the blacks.

We had an aunt who was a nurse at Tuskegee, Alabama, and she would come every summer and visit. Plus that's when she would come, and we'd see her coming, and everyone wanted to leave because we knew she had some needles. She just inoculated everybody in the neighborhood.

My brother went back to Tuskegee with her so he could finish high school and go to college. I think he went to CCC [Civilian Conservation Corps] Camp and whatnot. My sister and I, we were just home with my mother. It was hard times.

My mother had been a schoolteacher when she was in Georgia because she completed eighth grade. At the eighth grade, they said that you could teach school. So we moved to Florida, for what reason I don't know, but anyway, you know, the education system had changed. So she had to do housework, maid, whatnot.

HT:

I guess growing up in the Depression was hard for everybody.

DM:

You know, they say the Depression. I always tell them, “Is it over?” because I can't remember. I don't know like what years the Depression was. I know that we did have some hard times. I can remember that. I can remember that, because Mother worked hard. Like people will say, now someone will say “soul food.” That's the first thing they know about black people, is soul food.

I said, “Well, we were too poor to have soul food.”

They say, “How can you be too poor to eat soul food?”

I said, “Because my mother brought home the food, the leftovers from where she worked, and that was our dinner.”

Because I remember sitting on the porch—My sister and I, we didn't have no bathroom inside the house. We would take tubs of water and sit in the sun, warm the water, bring it in the house, take a bath, put on our gowns, and be sitting on the front porch with our legs dangling over the porch waiting for Mother to come home.

Of course, they went to work in a taxi, some taxi, because there was no bus, not for black people, and it didn't come as far as where we lived. This man, I remember his name, Mr. Fisher. He had a taxi. It was an old car, and you could hear it when it come down the corner, the noise that it made, and we knew that Mother was coming in.

She would bring the food that was left over, because in those days, I don't think people refrigerated the leftovers. All the food went home with the maids, all the leftover food. So that's where we learned to eat a lot of different things.

HT:

Did you attend high school?

DM:

Yes, I did. I went to high school in Rochelle. It was Washington Park High School, but I was dropped out because I became a teenage mom for a period of time. I finally went back to school, and when I went back to school, that's when I joined the service.

HT:

Did you ever work before you went into the army?

DM:

No, I didn't. No.

HT:

Do you recall when you joined the WAAC?

DM:

Yes. I joined the WAAC in—here it is, here—in 1943. I don't know exactly when it was, but this is when they sent me the letter, February 1943, that I had been accepted.

HT:

Do you recall why you joined?

DM:

Mainly, I had never been anyplace. I don't know. Then you see the movies. This movie I saw was Sergeant York and how they were fighting during the war. And this big poster. They had this huge poster down at the post office. Mother always had a post office box, and we'd walk to the post office to get the mail in the post office box. It would say “Uncle Sam Wants You.”

They would tell you—and come on the radio, but we didn't have TV—about releasing a man to go overseas. See, you could take their job and release them to go overseas, and we think this would make this war end soon. What we didn't know was the men didn't want you to come in there to release them to go overseas. [laughs] This was supposed to help end the war.

Plus they offered you opportunities to see the world and offered you opportunities to go to school when you come out. This is it. It was a patriotic feeling, too, because although it was a segregated—World War II was a segregated war. This is for sure, because we were known as, black WAACs were known as, WAAC Detachment Section Two, and the whites were known as WAAC Detachment Section One.

No matter where you were stationed, mostly black WAACs, mostly they were—where I was stationed was at Camp Forrest, Tennessee. We were at the hospital, worked at the hospital. Black WAACs and the white soldiers worked at the hospital, and white WAACs and the black soldiers, they were over at headquarters.

So we weren't housed with them, and all my officers have always been black. I've never been in with any white officers. It's always been black officers.

HT:

Did your mother have to sign papers for you to join?

DM:

No, because we were supposed to be twenty-one. During World War II, you were supposed to be twenty-one years of age to go in. So I put my age up when I went. [laughs] I did.

When I went to enlist, I wasn't twenty-one. So that had to be before February, because I would have been twenty-one by February. I didn't know. I just said I was born in 1921.

It didn't take much. You just signed a few papers. They sent you something to sign, and you'd get someone to sign it and say that you was born that year. It wasn't hard to, because I didn't have a birth certificate. They said where we lived, in Sandersville, Georgia, that the courthouse had burned down, so there was no way to get a birth certificate. So I just said I was born in 1921. I did not believe that I was going to be accepted.

HT:

Why was that?

DM:

I don't know. Of course, some people, some of them was turned down because they had flat feet. So I said, “Well, I have flat feet. I'm not going to be accepted.” [laughter] But when I got to Tampa, Florida, I found out differently.

There was another girl in there, Nellie Cannon. We said, “Well, we're going. We're going into the service,” because all the guys from school was leaving, going into the service. She made her a right face and turned around and didn't even sign up, and I did. I was the first black female to enlist from Lakeland, Florida. I was known as the first black female enlisted in Lakeland, Florida.

HT:

How did your mother feel about your joining?

DM:

Well, Mother was very proud, because my mother was an educated woman, and she didn't feel that—a lot of people were saying—there were a lot of rumors about women going into the service.

My mother, I remember her saying this. She told my grandmother—oh, my grandmother. Oh, she had to talk to her. She said, “Well, Uncle Sam is not going to pay women to go in the service to be with men when there are so many prostitutes and things that follow different camps. They don't have to pay them to go in the service and take care of them just to be with men when there are so many women out there that they don't have to pay nothing for.”

Mother saw it as an opportunity for me to grow up, I guess, and I did. That's when I grew up, in the service. I took on responsibilities and whatnot and stopped being silly. [laughs] I just say that's where I grew up, in the service, because of the fact that someone's telling you—it was rough in the beginning because we went to basic training.

Basic training was at—I was sent to Fort Devens, Massachusetts. I thought I had that paper, but I don't have that one where they sent me the orders to report to Fort Devens, Massachusetts, and the ticket, train ticket, and everything. It was in April, and there was ice on the ground.

It was four o'clock in the morning when we arrived. They picked us up in a big old what they call a four-by-four. Here I am from Florida with this little suit on with this little artificial fur on it. I almost froze to death in Fort Devens, Massachusetts.

HT:

And this was in April of '43.

DM:

This was in April of '43. It was cold. Ice was on the ground. I had never seen ice on the ground.

We went to basic training, and our basic training was supposed to have been, I think, for about six weeks. Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays, it was three nights that we could not go out. You couldn't go out Monday night because you had had Sunday off, and you could go out Tuesday night. You couldn't go out Wednesday night. I forgot for what reason. You couldn't go out Friday night because you had to prepare for inspection for the next day.

This is where the Colonel Queen of infantry was there. I can't recall what infantry that was at Fort Devens. These were all black soldiers that were there.

If you went out, you would have to sign out the soldier if he come and take you out. You couldn't go off the post. You could just go to the service club. He had to go to the orderly room and sign his name, his rank, and his serial number to take you out, plus another girl would have to go with you. One was not allowed to go out alone with a soldier. It had to be someone else to go with you.

This was during the time we were taking basic. Basic, what it consisted of I can't even recall, but I mean, it's teaching you how to drill and you took physical exercises and how to dress and how to keep your area clean. Your sergeant would tell you how to arrange your clothing, because, see, these sergeants, they had already been in and they had already been trained. But the thing that happened, if this sergeant was transferred out and another one came in and she was trained another place, then you had to do everything different the way that she wanted it done.

But at that particular time, we were waiting to see what was going to happen, because then it was the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps and they were having some things up in Washington or somewhere. Someone has the complete story. Anyway, as we said, Uncle Sam didn't know what to do with us, so then we had—they called it advanced basic training. We had to train again. We had basic training twice, and they called it advanced basic training, while they were waiting to get things—

HT:

Why did you have it twice?

DM:

Because they hadn't sent any of them out on the field. Everybody was in basic training, and it was something that they were trying to decide whether the army was going to accept us as army personnel or we'd be auxiliaries. I don't know what the issue was. I can't recall now what the issue was.

HT:

This was the changeover from the WAAC to the WAC [Women's Army Corps].

DM:

The WAAC to WAC. So then they decided that this was happening, that we would be accepted into the WAC, and we were all shipped to Fort Des Moines, Iowa.

Fort Des Moines, Iowa, oh, that was the coldest place I've ever been in my whole life. I lived in Florida all these years, and now Fort Des Moines, Iowa. Someone said, “Ooh, it's snowing. All right, all you Florida people, come out and see the snow.” I went out the warm barracks to see the snow, and the first thing that hit me in the face, I turned around and went back inside. [laughs] No snow for me, no.

HT:

You had never seen snow before?

DM:

I had never seen snow before. I had never been on a train before. At Fort Des Moines, while we waiting for them to get things together, that was the—up ahead, the people in Washington or wherever, when Colonel [Oveta] Hobby—was her name, Hobby?

HT:

Hobby.

DM:

Yes, she came to Fort Des Moines. All these women, we were ordered out to the parade ground. It was cold because some of the girls were just passing out it was so cold. That's when we were sworn into the W-A-C.

Yes, her name, she said, “I, Oveta Culp Hobby.” She said, “Repeat after me.” So a lot of us said, “I, Oveta Culp Hobby.” That doesn't keep you out. You was still in. [laughs] And we stayed there.

What did I do? I went to librarian school. I finished as a librarian or I guess it would be assistant. I don't know what happened to my diploma. I had a little diploma and everything from the librarian school.

From there, I was sent to Camp Forest, Tennessee. That's where I know I spent the most time, was at Camp Forest. At Camp Forest, Tennessee, when we went there, it was a little crowded, but it was where soldiers had lived, and they converted the barracks for the women. Only thing they did, they just changed the urinal, and they closed the latrine, is what it was called.

One day, we were there, and someone said—the empty barracks is next door to us. Here we're all crowded in this one barracks. I don't know who it was, but someone got the idea to ask—of course, we couldn't ask the commanding officer. You asked your sergeant, your platoon sergeant, said, “Well, can we move in one of those barracks over there?”

She said, “Well, let me take it to the master sergeant.” She took it to her, and then she took it to the officer. Then the officer said, “They can move there, but they must keep that barracks—” it was about eight of us. She said, “They must keep the whole barrack clean for inspection up and down, upstairs and down, all the empty beds.”

That's okay. We had to keep those clean. Everything had to pass inspection, what they call a white glove inspection, which they come along with—the gloves were yellow. I don't know why they called them white—because the officers would come by, and they'd wipe, you know, see if there was any dirt, anything. That was on a Saturday.

So we moved in. I think there was eight of us, and they had what they called the long hall. Then they had what they call a cadre room, c-a-d-r-e, cadre room, and that's where your platoon sergeants and the mess sergeant and all stayed inside the room, but the enlisted women were out in the hallway. I think there was about two cadre rooms upstairs and two downstairs, so that was enough room for all of us to be inside a room. But we kept those barracks clean. We scrubbed downstairs, we scrubbed.

They said basically, “Well, we're not going to convert them into the barracks like they do for the women, the women's barracks.” The urinals were still there, but we said we didn't care, and we just made a little joke out of it, “We'll bring some fellows in here,” but that was just a joke.

Anyway, when we passed inspection—let me see, where is this? I'll show you. This is—oh, gosh, look here, I don't have one, one of those pictures. We always won the, yes, honor barracks. This is one of them, right there. We always won the honor barracks, always did.

Of course, we learned how to say a lot of words in the service we couldn't say at home. [laughs] But no one had better not come through that barrack. No, you don't come through our barracks, and don't leave a grain of sand or nothing. We were real proud of them, and that was our barrack.

HT:

There were eight ladies in this barrack?

DM:

Yes. I think it was about eight. And we kept them—is that one of the barracks? Yes, that's it. That's the way the barracks looked. All of this was at Camp Forrest, Tennessee, [showing photo] and here, where we were off duty, and that's the PX [Post Exchange] over there.

HT:

Let me ask you a question about Camp Forrest. What type of base was this? What did the people who were stationed there do?

DM:

Well, the infantry was there, I know. Was it the infantry? No, it wasn't infantry. It was headquarters and headquarters, and it was guys that would go on maneuver. They were there. Oh, who were they? They were training—I'm sure they were training for overseas duty because the fellows, they were, oh, a long distance from us. There was a woodsy area, and they would be out in that wooded area on maneuvers.

One night, I think they just—you weren't supposed to lock your barracks at all. You didn't lock the military barracks. You didn't lock them. One night, you looked up, and here come what looked like a whole platoon of them, just ran through our barracks, and we got very upset. They started throwing shoes and everything else at them. They ran through the barracks. It didn't happen but—they just ran through.

HT:

Was it a joke or something?

DM:

I don't know. They were on maneuvers, and they just ran through the barracks, and the women just started screaming and yelling.

HT:

Was this after lights were out?

DM:

Yes. Yes.

HT:

Oh, my gosh. [laughs]

DM:

But we'd keep the lights on in the latrine. They started screaming and yelling, and we reported it to our officer. So she—I don't know, in contact with their officer or something.

So we said, “We're going on strike.”

She said, “You can't strike against the army.”

We all worked in the hospital, and I had worked on the wards, upper respiratory ward and another ward. So one day, they sent me down to the—they called it the little operating room. It was eye, ear, nose, and throat surgery. They sent me down there, and that's where I stayed. I worked there until we were transferred to Fort Benning, Georgia. All the girls in Camp Forrest worked in the hospital, you know, those who didn't work in the area.

HT:

Did you have any special training?

DM:

Yes, they trained you on the job. That's all.

HT:

On the job. I see.

DM:

Because I was trained in the operating room, what to do—

HT:

So were you a technician or something like that?

DM:

Yes. I was a medical technician, medical technician 409. I remember that.

HT:

Earlier, you said that you had gone to library school, is that right?

DM:

Yes.

HT:

Why didn't you become a librarian?

DM:

That's the army. [laughter] They train you for one thing and send you somewhere—

HT:

Because you mentioned library school, and then you mentioned nursing. I thought, “Well, jeez, how did that happen?”

DM:

Yes. That's it. That's the government. That's the army.

HT:

So you never became a librarian as such.

DM:

No, no, no, no, no. I worked in there as a medical technician, and it was—who was there? The white soldiers were there. They were technicians. And this black girl from Louisiana. Her name was Marguerite Cole. She was there before I was so she had seniority over it. That's where I got my stripes at after I started working down there.

When you work in the—what do you call that, when you didn't work on the ward? When you work in special places like eye, ear, nose, and throat surgery or the big operating room, x-rays, or whatever, well, you were exempt from duties at the post because they say this where the Ts are, the technicians. You're a technician in your field.

So we were exempt from duties at the post because you had to report to your job every day. You couldn't go on KP [kitchen patrol] or charge of quarters or anything like that. So I only did—time I was in the service, I only did KP twice the whole time I was in the service.

HT:

Did you enjoy nursing and being a medical technician?

DM:

Well, I enjoyed it after I became accustomed to it. I really did. I enjoyed it.

The first day I went down there, they were doing this surgery, what they call a mastoidectomy. Colonel Arnold L. Judge, he was the one in charge, and he said, “Bring her in.” So I went in.

They said, “Colonel,”—no, he was a major then—“we got a new WAC just came in.”

“Bring her in. We need her. Come on in.”

I went in there, and he was operating on this guy. After I put on the cap and the gown and stuff, the mask and the gown, I went in there. He had the mallet and the chisel, and that mastody [mastoid] is a bone back here, and he was removing it. He hit, and the man's head shook, and I went down on the floor. [laughs]

HT:

You had never been in an operating room before?

DM:

I had never.

HT:

Oh, my god.

DM:

I'd never seen anything like that. And he clipped, and the bone was out, and I just went out. I passed out, I think, three times that day. He said—I remember him saying, “Bring her back.” They took me out, and, “Bring her back,” three times that day.

HT:

But I assume you got used to it after a while.

DM:

Oh, yes. I couldn't eat. And it was the tonsils. They were the tonsils. The tonsils are the most filthy things you ever saw, smelling things you ever seen or heard. Oh. And I couldn't eat. I washed my hands umpteen times it looked like. Then in about two weeks, I forgot to wash my hands. I'd go to lunch and wouldn't even think about washing my hands.

HT:

What type of work did you do in the operating room?

DM:

They call it a scrub nurse and circulating nurse. Circulating was during the operation, you were available for anything that needed to be done. If like he dropped a tool or something, and we have instruments standing by, you could get one. Or maybe you had to put one in some alcohol and sterilize it, because it was hard to sterilize instruments that goes down into your throat because they did—I've forgotten what type of surgery this was. Most of their instruments had to go into alcohol.

We did tonsillectomies. They didn't put them to sleep. The soldiers were not put to sleep for tonsillectomies.

HT:

You're kidding.

DM:

I'm serious.

HT:

Oh, my god.

DM:

The children of the family, of the soldiers, they were put to sleep. I remember Colonel Judge used to do a “T and A,” tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy, or whatever, with little kids, he would put them to sleep. For the adults, they sat in a chair. They just deadened it, and he would cut around it.

This colonel had a different—he had what looked like a little pliers or something, and he had a little wire on it. Then he would loop it and then pull it, and that would take the—you know, well, he would deaden it inside. Most people come in there would be scared to death, and I can't blame them, because they'd sit there, and they had this little Emerson basin, I think it was. But they didn't feel anything, I don't think, not very much, except for the needle when they were deadening it. The instruments were short, the ones that they used, but it was long because it was on a handle.

If your tray is set up—this is what we do, is set up the tray. Circulating would set up the tray for the doctor because you know which—I think it was three doctors there, but I just remember Colonel Judge, and I remember Major Jeanes[?] because he operated on eye surgery. You would set up your tray.

You know your doctor's instruments. You know what he needed, because we sterilized them after they get through with all the surgery. Surgery would be posted on the board. We'd know what they was. We didn't have a nurse over us. The nurse would come down and bring the schedule, and we would see what was up, and then we would set up for the surgery.

Afterwards, all the surgery was done, well then we would clean all the instruments. They had this big old thing. What was that, what we sterilized in? It looked like a big oven, and we folded the sheets. The sheets would come from the laundry, and we used to fold sheets and put them in there. I can't think of it. What is it? The gloves, we would put powder in the gloves, and we would put them in there.

This was after each surgery. We would set up everything. I don't think the surgery was every day. They had scheduled every other day. I think that's the way the surgery room went.

HT:

Were there surgeries all day long?

DM:

No, they were according to how many people they had, because sometimes we would be finished by noon. I think we would be to work at eight o'clock. We marched in formation to work from where we lived, because we lived close near the hospital. And I remember we marched in formation. We'd go in formation, march down to the hospital, and then we'd go into where we worked.

Oh, autoclave. That's what they called it. It was the autoclave. That where you sterilized all the instruments, and some of those had to use alcohol. We had a lot of responsibility, but it didn't seem like so much until after you got out and started talking about it. For the alcohol, you had to go sign for it. We were authorized to sign for the alcohol and to do the instruments. We'd do the autoclaving on the next day. Like the surgery was one day, then to clean up everything, and the next day was when we sterilized everything.

HT:

How many operating rooms were there, do you recall?

DM:

That was just one for the eye, ear, nose, and throat, and they called that the little operating room. The big operating room, I didn't work in there. That's where they did all the big surgeries.

HT:

When you first found out that here you'd been trained as a librarian, and you found out you were going to be a medical technician, how did you find out about it and how did you feel about this change?

DM:

It didn't matter. It really didn't. It was no—you know.

HT:

You had orders and that was it?

DM:

That was it, because when we got to Camp Forrest, I always believed that they were training us as a medical unit because we were really tops in our field as a medical unit to go overseas, but they did not want blacks overseas.

HT:

I think the only black women who went overseas were the postal unit.

DM:

Yes. I had that book about her, Charity Adams. Oh, we looked up to her. She was in American Legion magazine not long ago, Charity Adams, and some of the girls from Camp Forrest, seemingly, some of them went overseas. So they had to be going with Charity.

The troop train came through, and some of them went overseas, but none of the medical group went. We were at the hospital at that same time they were training us, and we were classified as the best-equipped medical group in the service. That's when we received these grades.

HT:

What was the name of the unit, do you recall?

DM:

Our unit?

HT:

Yes.

DM:

Just WAAC Detachment Section 2, 4th—where this at? Here it is. I don't know what—oh, gosh, what is that? We were just WAAC Detachment Section 2, 4th Army Service Unit. I think that's what it was supposed to be. I'm not sure. I think that's what it was, but I know we were 4th something. I can't recall just what it was. Let's see. Is it on here? What's this INB Headquarters? Oh, that was at Fort Benning.

HT:

What big city was Camp Forrest near?

DM:

Camp Forrest. The big city, I think, was Nashville, but the little city was Tullahoma. [laughs]

HT:

Tullahoma?

DM:

Yes, Tullahoma, Tennessee. We actually saw hillbillies in Tullahoma, people with rifles on their shoulder, overalls, barefeeted. In Tullahoma, Tennessee, we saw these people up there in those mountains.

Another thing about Camp Forrest, one day we were—I don't know, it had to be on a Saturday when we were not working, and these white WACs came over in our area and asked did we know—they wanted some laundry done, some special laundry. We had a laundry. You could send your clothes to the laundry, but they wanted—okay, this is segregated, so they wanted to know was there anyone over there that could do some real fine ironing.

So, “You say what?”

Is there anyone over here who wants—someone to do their laundry?

HT:

The white WACs were asking the black WACs to do their laundry?

DM:

Yes, if there's anyone to do the laundry. Someone said, I don't know whether it was I or someone who said, “No, we do not know of anyone, but if you find someone, let us know, because we need someone to do ours,” and they hauled tail from over there. Come looking for someone to do their laundry. Well, that's the way it was. That part I remember good, you know?

HT:

What did you do for fun and socializing?

DM:

Well, at Camp Forrest, there was a service club, and then we'd go to movies on the post. Did we go to movies? I get all mixed up sometimes. Yes. We went to the service club. As I said, this is when we went to Atlanta.

HT:

Oh, yes. Do tell me the story about Atlanta, because that's real interesting.

DM:

Yes. I don't know. One of the girls was on the train. She had been on leave, and she was on her way back home, and this woman saw her. She just felt so proud to see a black woman in uniform. What happened, they'd throw a little bit more respect to you in that uniform than they do ordinarily. She had a conversation with this black WAC, and she invited her to come to her home anytime that she wanted to. She just let them know and any of her friends, to tell them that they would be glad to have them come to their home and get a home-cooked meal and whatnot.

So we did. We went to visit. There was three of us, those three. You see those three with the pictures? That's with the hat on the side. That's when we went to visit, went to Atlanta. These people were the kindest people that you have ever seen. They fed us. [laughs] They really fed us. I guess they were thinking because we were in the service that we hadn't had a home-cooked meal. They took us out.

This woman, this is the woman's daughter here. Her name was Dorothy, the same as mine. She and her friends took us out that night. We went to the honky-tonks and to the clubs and whatnot.

Because it was three of us, we slept—she had a closed-in porch, and some of us slept out there on the porch, and the next morning—oh, you want me to tell you about the breakfast?

HT:

Yes.

DM:

The next morning at breakfast time, we were sitting around talking. We had bathed and everything, were just sitting there running our mouths. She came out, spread this table, had cereal and toast and orange juice, and we just reared back and were just having a good time talking. She came and she cleaned all the dishes away, and then she came out with this thing of grits and eggs and bacon and coffee, and it was just something. We were full, but you know we were going to eat some because she had prepared it. No, she had the biscuits, because this was her way, I guess, of helping the soldiers in the service.

HT:

Did she do this on quite a few times?

DM:

Well, we had visited her once. I don't know what happened with the others, but I know that's the one visit we went to Atlanta.

HT:

And this was a long weekend, I guess.

DM:

Yes, it was a long weekend. What we did, we would get a weekend pass plus three days, which you weren't supposed to do. [laughs] Ah, but we knew someone in the orderly room. So you'd get this weekend pass. We'd have two passes, a weekend pass and a three-day pass.

We'd get this weekend pass, and that would start, I think, Saturday noon. This was after inspection was over, and it ended Sunday. Okay. The three-day pass would be for the next three days. See, that's like you were going on three-day pass, but you would have both of them.

When the MP [military police] would come through—when you were on the train, the MP's coming through and he's going to check your pass, he want to check your pass and see, so you just show him that weekend pass. Okay. So when you're coming back, the MP come through, you show him the three-day pass and that was it. We got away with it.

HT:

So you were gone for about four and a half days. [laughter]

DM:

Yes. We got away with it. We really did. We got away with it. We did. We really got away with it.

HT:

It sounds like you had some good times.

DM:

We did. We had some good times. As long as you were on that post, it was really nice. Sometimes when you would go off the post, maybe you'd go into town or something, there were some people that were nice, but there were some people who didn't like the idea of women being in the service. There was black and white people, and they sort of snubbed you. They wouldn't say it out loud, but they would call you names, you know, saying that you were there for the convenience of the soldiers and all. We knew we weren't, so it didn't bother you too much.

But it was. My good times was at Camp Forrest, Tennessee. That's where I learned responsibility. Because at this clinic where we worked, it was just Marguerite Cole and I. The guys, they usually worked with the eye department, over there, and we were in the same area.

Sally Smith, I remember her. She was our receptionist. Sally M. Smith. She's on one of those orders, too. She was the receptionist, and she made all the appointments and all of this and that.

HT:

Did your clinic take care of the whole base, both white and black soldiers and children and—

DM:

Yes, nurses and everything. Some of the nurses didn't like the idea that we were there, seeing these two black WACs down there running the clinic. Well, to us, it was just a duty—

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

DM:

My favorite doctor was Arnold F. Judge. He was from somewhere in New York, and that's who I scrubbed with most of the time. Of course, the scrub like you see in the movies, where they be asking for this—I mean, after you scrub up, I mean, you scrub and you assist the doctor, okay. The patient is there, and then he comes in and everything is ready for him.

In the movies, he'd be asking for this and for that, but when you're scrubbing up, when you'd scrub for a tonsillectomy, the tray was there and you knew what he needed next. He'd just reach his hand out, and you'd just slap it in his hand, and that's the way we'd work. We were not supposed to let the patients see the instruments because they were long, because they go inside your throat, it's a long instrument.

HT:

If the patient was awake, how did you guys prevent him from seeing?

DM:

Oh, well, it was covered. Your tray was covered. Your tray was covered. Like the tray was here, and it was covered. The patient was there, and the doctor pulls his stool up, and then the patient's head is back, and he doesn't see. The patient doesn't see it. You just give him his tools.

But what we did, that was awful. This nurse that didn't want us down there, something was wrong with her throat, and she had lost her voice or something. Her larynx, something about her larynx, surgery, esophagus and the larynx and all those surgeries which they had to perform. Someone went and got her and brought her back to the operating room, and she was sitting in the chair.

We just accidentally left—that's awful—the cover off the tray of instruments. [laughs] Because she had been so mean and tried to get us out of the operating room because we hadn't been to school, we hadn't been trained, we hadn't this or that or whatever. Colonel Judge said, “No. They stay here,” and that was it. We let her see the instruments. [laughs]

HT:

That was a little bit of mean.

DM:

That was real mean. [laughs] Being a nurse—well, she did get a little nervous. She did get a little nervous, though, but—that was mean but just accident. I think it was an accident. I don't know. [laughter]

HT:

Accident on purpose. [laughter] Was that the only time that you felt any kind of discrimination because you were black, or were there other occasions?

DM:

There were. Oh, yes. Oh, yes. My favorite one. Colonel Judge, he would perform—I can't recall that type of surgery where someone was choking and they cut your throat and insert the tube in there. This was on what they called the Section 8 ward. We were getting ready to do surgery, and I was working with him that day, and they called for him to come because—

HT:

Is that what they call a tracheotomy or something like that?

DM:

Yes. Yes. They called for him come, people getting ready to do some tonsillectomies, and they called for him to come. He called me DT. He said, “DT, come on, let's go.” This tall white man and this little short black woman going—we had to go about, oh, three or four wards up to go over there where they were, and he was walking with these long legs, and I was walking behind him, and I had these instruments and things. They were sterile, but they were wrapped up.

We went to that ward and saw this man do this. He just slit it and stuck the tube down there and stopped him from choking. We still had on our gowns and everything. I remember that real good. We took some pictures. Someone came for publicity reasons and took pictures of us working in the operating room, but mine got lost.

Colonel Judge, I'll always remember him. He was a major at that time, but he got promoted to colonel. We were there, I know, more than a year. I can't recall how long we were there, but we were there for a long while.

The Germans, the German soldiers, they would come to the hospital, too, because they were the ones that were doing—the POWs—

HT:

There was a POW [prisoner of war] camp there?

DM:

Yes, there was a POW camp there. They would be the ones who would clean up. They would come to our area.

We had a dog, and we called the dog Bed Check. I don't know who found that dog. The German soldiers came up there cleaning up, and our dog went home with the German soldiers and didn't come back, so they said they had better food than we did and that's why Bed Check didn't come back. [laughs] Bed Check didn't come back.

Whenever the German soldiers would be around the area of the hospital, Bed Check would be with them. Bed Check wouldn't come back with us. We called him Bed Check. Our dog left us and went to live with the German soldiers.

HT:

What did the German soldiers do? You said they cleaned up?

DM:

As I recall, they were like cleaning the area around the hospital, outside areas, not in the hospital.

HT:

Now, they were under guard, I assume.

DM:

They were under guard, yes. They were under guard. They were under guard. They would speak to you. We learned a few words in German, and we found out that the officers, German officers, they spoke English. They said that they had to. One of the guys said he had to to become an officer. He said he had to speak English.

He said, “What are you doing here?” One of them asked me once. He said, “What are you doing here? Why are you here?”

I said, “It's my country, and I come to help.”

HT:

Did you ever help to perform operations on the POWs? Did they come in?

DM:

Yes. Yes, they did. They performed operations on everyone that came. Yes. Camp Forest, Tennessee.

HT:

Sounds like a wonderful place to work.

DM:

Tullahoma. [laughter] And it was—oh, boy. They said it was dry. Tullahoma, yes, it was dry. Oh, well, we did drink, and you had to pay, I think, was it fifteen dollars? Someone would go to the line and buy some whiskey for you, and it cost, I think, about fifteen dollars. You could get whiskey, a fifth, for fifteen dollars. Everybody was chipping in. Was it five dollars? I believe it was more than five dollars. It cost a ridiculous sum.

HT:

Because you weren't making that much money.

DM:

No, we weren't, but everybody would chip in. About four or five of us would have to chip in because to get it—it wasn't in the line, it was in the city, because when you go to the line, it wouldn't cost you as much. Someone, used to go to the—I remember going to a barbed wired fence or something, and they could go to the fence, and they would bring it to the fence. I can't recall. I don't know.

HT:

Speaking of a fence, that sort of reminds me. Were the WACs housed in a separate part of the base, and were they just—

DM:

We all lived on the base.

HT:

Right. But you weren't fenced in or anything like that.

DM:

No. No, no, no, no. Everything was open. You weren't even supposed to lock your doors or anything. Everything was open. We were within walking distance from the hospital post. See, that's the PX, and those are barracks across the street. This is the empty barrack, and we were on that side. One other barrack was on this side of us, but this had men, post for men, for soldiers, because there were a lot of empty barracks in back of us. In back of us they were all empty. So we were close to the hospital.

Then came the time for us to leave. They broke it up, and I was sent to Fort Benning, Georgia.

HT:

Why was the unit broken up?

DM:

We don't know. That's the army. [laughs] That's the army. This is where—no, that's not on there, no. We were broken up, and I went to Fort Benning, Georgia.

I had two real good friends in here. Those were two on that with me. Ruby Faye Jones, Ruby Faye Jones was from Chicago, Illinois, and where is KP. Willie? We called her KP Willie. Clara Williams. Clara Williams, she's from Nutley, New Jersey, by way of South Carolina. That's all we know about where—she went to Jersey from South Carolina, but she was from Nutley—Nutley, New Jersey. That's where she came in the service from, and we were real close friends, Ruby Faye and Clara and I.

HT:

Were you sent to Fort Benning as a unit, as a group?

DM:

No, no, no. Broke us up, and we went to Fort Benning, and some of them—they just broke it up and we just went all over the USA.

HT:

And what about Colonel Judge, did he go with you or was he sent elsewhere?

DM:

No, no, no. Colonel Judge, I don't know what happened to him or what happened to them. It was just the black WACs they sent away. I don't think any of the others went, because this guy that I used to go out with, he was still there. No, he had been sent away before that. But anyway, it was still a post, but we were sent away.

HT:

What type of work did you do at Fort Benning?

DM:

Well, I'll tell you. [laughs] I worked at a hospital. I worked in a ward, and this was the upper respiratory ward. And all I did was change the patients. We had ward boys on there also, and the nurses and all just chipped in and started. We all cleaned the patients, changed their linen and everything. I read a lot of books because this nurse, she gave me a lot of medical books to read.

In the meantime, I don't know what happened. I think they needed someone back at the post to do the mail, and I was called back to the post, I mean to our post, to do the mail. I worked with the mail clerk for a while, and then I was mail clerk at the post.

HT:

Did you miss the nursing?

DM:

Well, they didn't want us in the operating room at Fort Benning, no, because their night—I don't know why. We always moved, looked like, at night, and when you arrived, it was two or three o'clock in the morning, and you were on this big old 4 x 4 when they'd pick you up.

We got there and went upstairs, where we were assigned. You were always assigned in alphabetical order. I always got upstairs. I didn't ever get downstairs because, being M, last name May, I mean why, I was always upstairs. I walked in there, had to turn on the—no, he didn't turn on the light because the latrine was down there and you could see the light from the latrine, and they assigned me, said, “This is your bed.”

“Oh, gosh,” I said. Then I saw a roach, and I said, “Ooh, a roach.”

Boy, one of those girls got up, and she said, “You never seen a roach before in your life?” or something like that.

We didn't want to go there, and they weren't too pleased for us to come, see us coming in here with all this rank and everything, because they didn't have that. They didn't have as many non-com officers or nothing like we had.

HT:

By this time, what rank were you?

DM:

I was still the same thing. I didn't ever get a promotion.

HT:

So you were a private.

DM:

No. No, I was a corporal. Yes. Technician Fifth Grade is what they called them, a T-5. It was a corporal's stripes with a T underneath, and that meant that I was a technician in my field. But they said coming in here, “Who do you think—you're going to work in the operating room?” This girl named Lilie Eades, she was from Atlanta, Georgia. She said, “They took the black caps off of the operating room table, so you know you're not going in there.”

HT:

You said black caps?

DM:

Yes. Black on the operating room table. You know, the legs, the little black things on the table to hold them sturdy. She said, “You know, they took the black caps off of there, so you know they aren't gonna let no black people go in there.”

HT:

So this was really segregation at its worst?

DM:

Yes, that was segregation. It was. But she was just teasing, I'm sure. They had us so afraid. They said, “Because look, you're in Georgia now. This is—”what's the governor's name? “This is his territory.” I've forgotten. She said, “Because in the morning, when you go to the supply room an get your straw hat and your basket, and they're going to come pick you up to go pick cotton.”

I said, “What?” Oh, boy, I cried.

She said, “You got to get your straw hat from the supply room and your basket, and then they come and pick you up in a 4x4, and you go out there and pick cotton for Mr. So-and-so-and-so-and-so.” And they had us believing that. Coming in here with all this rank and stuff and all these positions you're working in and this and that. They said, “You're gonna pick cotton tomorrow, Baby.” And they didn't say it that nice. Then we found out they were just telling us that. They were just joking.

HT:

Giving you a hard time, newcomers.

DM:

Oh, they gave us a hard time. They gave us a hard time. Oh. But in Fort Benning, I just did the mail call, go pick up the mail, and what else I did? I worked charge of quarters in the daytime. That was like a receptionist or something because you worked at the desk then you go pick up the mail. That's where I met this guy right here, because we went to pick up the mail, and they were there, and they were at Fort Benning. Fort Benning, what was that?

That was Lawson Field. It was an air force unit. They were black, all black, an air force unit, and they were picking up their mail. So they said, “Well, you don't have to get no special jeep, no driver to bring you to get your mail.” They said, “We'll come by and pick you up on the way to get the mail.”

So I did. You heard them talk about me so bad. They would come by to pick me up. The lieutenant, she'd say, “Just go on. Just go, go, go, go, go on.” I'd hop on the jeep with the guys, sling my leg over the side like they do, and we'd go pick up the mail, bring the mail back, and I'd distribute the mail. But at Fort Benning, they didn't want none of us—didn't want none of that there.

HT:

This was on the base?

DM:

This was on the base in the hospital. No, no, no, no. No. I didn't get the same type of job. But then, when you think about it, that's the way the service was, because you could be—I don't know. You could be working at headquarters or someplace, and then they'd move you somewhere else and you'd be a cook. That's just the way it was.

HT:

And how long were you at Fort Benning?

DM:

I was in Fort Benning until I—that's where I was discharged from, Fort Benning. But when I went to Fort Benning, I don't remember what date it was when I left Camp Forrest and went to Fort Benning, but I was discharged from Fort Benning and went to Fort Bragg. I was discharged at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. Yes.

Captain White, that was her name. Our commanding officer was Captain White. She called me because we were getting out with something they called points or something, and I was eligible for it because I had been in the service two years and about nine months. She said that, “If you stay,” she said, “I guarantee you, your next promotion, you'll get your other stripe, T-3.” Yes.

HT:

Did you ever think about staying?

DM:

I thought about it, but I wanted to go home. I wanted to go home. I really did. I was homesick. I wanted to go home. Some of the girls had gone home, and they were around there singing, I'll Be Home for Christmas, then they went home. When our time come, it was—we found out we were going to be leaving in January, so we started singing I'll Be Home for Easter. [laughter] The sad part about it is when I went home I wanted to go back.

HT:

But it was too late by that time.

DM:

No, you could go back. You could reenlist, but I was too embarrassed. Some of the girls went back. They did. Some of them went home, and they went back, because the civilian life and the military life was just so different. I couldn't go to a movie because I had seen all the movies, because in the service, they gave us the first-class movies, and I had seen all the movies for a whole year. [noise in the background]

That's a friend of mine. That's all right. That's okay.

[Tape recorder pause]

HT:

You were telling me about being discharged and thinking about going back in but deciding not to. Did you go back to Florida after you got out?

DM:

Yes, I went back to Lakeland. I wanted to go. I really did, because the first movie that I did go to, the people were so loud and talking and laughing. In the service, when we was at Fort Benning, we went up on the post to the movies, and no one said anything. You didn't laugh out. You didn't talk. I don't know. We were taught to respect the uniform. That's what it says, not respecting people but respect the uniform because this is America and this is our country, and you learn to love your country being in the service. We had been shown all types of movies about service, plus we had been shown all those—what did they show us, those films of Hitler and the atrocities and things over there, and I guess maybe that was to fire you up because when you come out of it you wanted to hunt Hitler down and strangle him yourself.

But anyway, we had been taught to love the flag and the country, and that was just something that had grown on you. You didn't even chew gum. That's what they told us. You didn't even chew gum when you went out in your uniform. You didn't chew gum.

HT:

I'm assuming you wore the uniform most of the time.

DM:

Well, this was during the war, and we wore uniforms at all times, at all times.

HT:

So you never dressed in civilian clothes.

DM:

No. No, no, no, no, because we had what they called physical training clothes, PT clothes. We wore those. Those looked like dresses. I see some of the girls in there had them on, the dresses and the bloomers with the elastic in the leg, and we had the coveralls because when we went through the gas mask chamber, they had coveralls that we wore, coveralls and high top boots.

HT:

That was part of your training, I guess.

DM:

Yes. This was in Camp Forrest, because this was something you did while you were on the post, you did this, I guess, to keep you—to keep abreast and not forget in the event of an attack or something like that. We had that. We didn't just go to work and come back because they had classes and different things that would keep you up with your military training.

And we went to Fort Benning. Oh, boy. That was where the recruits were, and we were close to them, because they had a visual aid building over there in Fort Benning, and you could hear the men—you could hear them teaching them to read over there in the building. You could hear because they were across from us.

They had to guard our buildings. Because we were close to them, they would guard our building, and they would curse us at nighttime. They'd say, “You should have been home, bare feet and pregnant.” [laughs]

HT:

Who said this, the MPs?

DM:

No. They weren't MPs. They were soldiers on duty guarding. They were guards, and they had to guard our area all night long. They had to walk our area all night, and boy, whoo, some of them—

HT:

Did they say this in jest, or were they serious?

DM:

I don't know. Some of them were very serious, I think, because they didn't want to be guarding. [laughs] They had to pull guard duty, and this was their part of the duty they had to perform there.

HT:

So here they were guarding women, and they didn't want to be guarding women.

DM:

No. They said, “You should be home, bare feet and pregnant.” Ooooh. What did they say? “Bare feet in the wintertime and pregnant in the summertime.” Oh, boy. Some of them were just outraged at us, having to walk guard duty.

HT:

And what was your reaction to them?

DM:

We didn't say nothing. We were in our barracks. We weren't thinking about them. [laughter] We were not even thinking about them.

What else? I'm trying to think of some of the—well, in the service, it was segregated, but that's the way I grew up, in segregated, because I lived in Lakeland, Florida, and the white kids went to one school and we went to another. The white kids had their books. We didn't get new books. When we got our books, the answers would be written in the books to the questions or the pages would be torn out. These are the books that they had. They got the new ones. We got the old ones. The bus, the city bus, didn't come as far as where we lived. This is the way I grew up, so the service, even though it was segregated, it was much better than the town from whence I came.

HT:

Did any of your brothers or sisters join the military?

DM:

My brother was in the 92nd Infantry, and he would write me a lot from overseas, but that was it.

HT:

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

DM:

To try to do a sit-up. [laughs]

HT:

This was during basic training, I guess.

DM:

No. This is after basic training. This was on the post. This was at Fort Benning. We had to exercise. We still had to exercise every morning, fall out and exercise. You had to fall out. You had to do your exercise.

But what's the hardest thing I ever did? I'm trying to think. Oh, the hardest thing, the worst thing for me that happened in the service was when we was at Fort Benning and I was on charge of quarters, and one of the girls had been court-martialed. It was my time to pull guard duty with her, and that was when she went to her trial, and I was the one on duty with her when she went up on the post for her trial. She was court-martialed because she struck an officer, and they court-martialed her.

HT:

What happened to her?

DM:

She got discharged without honor.

HT:

That was probably tough on you emotionally as well.

DM:

Well, yes, because she became outraged at one time, but we all of us knew each other. She struck this officer, and we wanted to think this officer intimidated her to that point because she didn't like her for some reason. That's what we believed, but we didn't know that. You couldn't prove it.

Oh, this was awesome. We went down there to the court, to the trial, and I think it was in the theater. I had to walk with her to the door, and across there were all these officers and their high-ranking thing was sitting across there, and it was so stern, and they asked me to leave. I had to sit outside. So I didn't know how it went, but I went with her.

HT:

So you escorted her, I guess, basically.

DM:

Yes, to the hearing, and she did—I remember she did not go home because she didn't want people to know that she was out of the service. She went to some other girl's—one of the girls in the service was a friend of hers. She went to her hometown. It seems to me that we used to take up money, a couple of dollars each or something like that, and send it to her. I can't recall exactly how it happened, but I remember this girl. Her name was Christine Dean, and she was court-martialed out of the service. That was at Fort Benning, Georgia. Was that Lieutenant Carver? I've forgotten. That was before Captain White came there.

At Fort Benning—I saved this—this is one of the invitations we had for our entertainment. We used to go to the service club, to the dance. They were good to us there, too.

Oh, yes, I forgot. When we were at Fort Des Moines, in Iowa, we went to a church once because a lot of us had been brought up in church, and we went to a church. In Iowa, there weren't very many black people at all, you know, the residents, the civilians. We went to this church, and the pastor got up, and he said—I think there was about ten or twelve of us, and he said, “I want these young women to go to someone's home.” And he said, “I know you all have all prepared your dinner, and I want you to give them a good dinner.”

There was two or three of us that went to this home in Iowa. This is another place they had prepared all this good home-cooked food, and we just enjoyed the family. I had some of the leaves from the trees or something were growing there, and just some of the leaves, I took some of the leaves off the trees and took them back as souvenirs. I kept them.

Even after I got out the service, I had them, but I don't know what happened to them through the course of the years, because that's been almost sixty years. Those people in Iowa, those civilians in Iowa, they were real nice to us. But we went to this church, and I think the people felt it was their duty to help a soldier.

HT:

Make them feel at home a little bit, I guess.

DM:

Yes. Civilians. Then, especially like the women, because, as they say, they say we fought the war on two fronts. We fought prejudice and we fought segregation by color and by gender. But through it all, it was okay. It was all right. It was—because we didn't get no scars from it. [laughs]

HT:

Were you ever afraid while you were in the military?

DM:

No.

HT:

In any kind of physical danger?

DM:

No. None.

HT:

Even when the infantry came through the barracks that night?

DM:

No. I think that was just a joke. That was all that was, was just a joke. They ran through. They just ran through, zoom, zoom, zoom, zoom, zoom, and they ran through. Some of the other girls who were at different places, they said the same thing, that they ran through. I know Willie will tell you about hers, though. I think she said they threw shoes and everything else at them. Theirs was a little bit [unclear] than ours, though, but didn't nobody bother them. Of course, now—even now, at the VA [Veterans Affairs] Hospital, I go to the VA Hospital now for all my medicine and everything, and they ask you did anyone ever bother you, anyone molested you in any type or way because they offer programs and services for you for that. But no.

HT:

Nothing like that? What about embarrassing moments? Do you recall anything in particular, embarrassing or humorous?

DM:

Embarrassing moments. I can't. No, I can't recall any embarrassing moments.

HT:

You mentioned earlier about, you know, what you did during your off-duty time. Were you allowed to date men who were in the army, or was that prohibited?

DM:

No, we could. You could date, but you did not date an officer. We were called non-coms, non-commissioned officers, but you did not socialize. Non-coms and commissioned officers did not socialize.

They were not supposed to socialize together, because like on the post, they had the non-com club. Only non commissioned officers could attend that—go to that club. Now, see, the privates, they couldn't attend that club, but corporals and sergeants, you know, there were all different kinds of sergeants at that time, that was during the war time. They couldn't attend that club.

Commissioned officers, you were not allowed to socialize with them. And in fact, there were no men, black men officers. Oh, yes, Colonel Queen, that was at Fort Devons, Massachusetts, the infantry. He was there. They had officers, I'm sure, but I don't remember because we couldn't socialize with them anyway because they were commissioned officers.

HT:

Your officers were black women, is that correct?

DM:

Black women, yes.

HT:

And how did you find them? Were they well trained and likeable?

DM:

Well, as I imagine all officers, there's some that you like better than you do others, and there are some who were nice, and there are some—the sergeants, there were some of them, they were just downright nasty, some of them were, but I haven't encountered any of them to—I never had no bad, nothing bad happen about that.

There was one officer, who was she now? Lieutenant Gunther, and she used to call me her command. I had a picture. There she is. “To my command from Lieutenant Gunther”. She broke her arm, and she called me her command, because she was talking about the way I had my hat on and everything. I was always doing something, and she called me her command, “To my command, Lieutenant Gunther.”

I can't remember where that was from, whether that was at Fort Benning or Camp Forest. I don't remember. I don't remember where it was. Maybe it was at Fort Benning, because at Fort Benning I used to do PT. We called it PT, physical training, and I used to, in the morning, be the instructor for the PT and give exercises. I could do all of them, everything, but a sit-up. I couldn't sit up. They'd say, “How can you instruct somebody and you can't sit up?” You know, the sit-up, the pull-up? I could not do it. I could not do it. I don't know why.

HT:

How were you chosen to become the trainer?

DM:

I don't know. I'm trying to think why. I think I was mail clerk, and I was in the area so therefore I think that's the reason why, because I was the mail clerk and I was in the area and I wasn't working in the hospital.

Now, I was still a medical technician, but I was doing another job, because at that time, I think, that's when they were beginning to—I think it was the ending of the World War II. I think that's when we hit another slump in our organization, the ending of World War II, and there were less things to be done or whatever.

I remember when Franklin Delano Roosevelt died. Oh, boy. Oh. He was in Georgia, and we were at Fort Benning, and he was in Georgia, and the news came that the President had died, and everybody just—we received it at mail call, and everybody just broke down and cried. They loved him, Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

HT:

What did you think of Mrs. [Eleanor] Roosevelt?

DM:

Okay. Fine, to us, because she and Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune, the black woman from Bethune-Cookman College, they were on speaking tours together or something, and we regarded her as the first lady.

HT:

Did you ever have a chance to meet any of these people?

DM:

No.

HT:

Do you recall who your heroes or heroines were from this period of time, people you looked up to, respected a great deal?

DM:

During the war? I don't know. Lieutenant Gunther, who was this one that—and there was Captain White. She was the first black captain I'd ever seen, and she was our commander at Fort Benning. Georgia. No, she wasn't the first.

HT:

Do you recall what her first name was, Captain White?

DM:

No, I can't.

HT:

That's fine.

DM:

I can't. But I know we had another officer. She was a first lieutenant, Lieutenant Corbitt, C-o-r-b-i-t-t. She was in Camp Forrest, Tennessee. I admired them. I think Lieutenant Gunther, she was a second lieutenant. Lieutenant Corbitt was a first lieutenant because she was the executive officer. Captain White because she was fantastic.

HT:

Do you recall where you were on VE Day, which was in May of 1945, when victory in Europe was declared?

DM:

I had to be in Fort Benning. I believe I was in Fort Benning. In '45? Yes, I had to be at Fort Benning. Of course, that might have been when we had this party. I don't know. Did we have that party? The date was on there. Yes, I was at Fort Benning, because this was July of '45. Yes, this is July. Yes, I was at Fort Benning, Georgia.

HT:

You were still at Fort Benning when VJ Day was declared, which would have been in August of '45, victory over Japan, and the war ended.

DM:

I thought that was in '46. Was it?

HT:

It was in 1945.

DM:

It was in '45?

HT:

Yes.

DM:

Okay. Well, I was there.

HT:

You were discharged at Fort Bragg. Do you recall when that was?

DM:

It was January 6, 1945.

HT:

Forty-six?

DM:

Forty-six, yes. And we didn't know anything about Fort Bragg, because when we received the orders to go to Fort Bragg, we said, “Oh, we're going to North Carolina.” We thought we were going to go out on the town, you know, while we were waiting. You went in there, you did not come out until you were a civilian.

HT:

How long were you at Fort Bragg?

DM:

Three or four days at the most, something like three or four days.

HT:

Was this typical? Looks like they would have discharged you at Fort Benning instead of going all the way to North Carolina to discharge you.

DM:

I don't know why. That's the army. [laughter]

HT:

That's right. That covers it all, doesn't it?

DM:

What do they say, “This is the army, Mrs. Jones. No private room or telephone.”

HT:

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

DM:

What I said, I grew up. I learned respect, because that's one thing. They do teach you to respect other people and their feelings. I don't know. I'd always been neat and clean. I'd never been a slob as I can remember, but I wanted—how can I say this? A place for everything and everything in its place. That stuck with me even until-now I'm a little worse than I used to be, because I used to be something else. Anyway, that's one thing that stuck with me.

Anyway, love of fellow man. I learned that although it was segregated, that people were not what you were taught to believe that they were, that they were human beings, they were just like you. They had different traditions and different things, but in life, they was, as we said, all God's children. I learned that somewhere down the road. I came out better by it because I'd never had no responsibility—

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

HT:

Mrs. Miller, we were talking about your discharge at Fort Bragg when we changed tapes. Can you describe your adjustment to civilian life after you got out of the service?

DM:

It was rough. It was hard because, as I said, in the military, you did everything according to what? Couldn't say plan. According to what? In order. Everything was done in order in the military. It was orderly and by command. There was a command to do this and a command to do that, and you were taught respect, as I said, respect for the uniform and for the flag. They would tell you that you were doing this in respect for your country.

When I came home, people were loud and—well, they weren't no louder than they had been before I left, I'm sure, but it was just different. I can't describe it. It was just different, and it just took a long time to get accustomed to what was going on, because, as I said, it was a year before I could even go to a movie because we had seen the better movies. The military got them first.

Then when I did go, I couldn't even stay in there. I had to come out because they were whooping and hollering and making all this noise. In the military, when we went to the movies—well, that's the way they did in Fort Benning, where they trained the troops. If you wanted to go in the movies down there in the post where the recruits are, they whoop and holler and carry on, but if you want to go to a movie, which we were eligible to go to up on the base, you went to a movie and you sat there, and you enjoyed the movie.

At home, it was—it was. Even the people on the street. You'd see someone walking on the street and eating an ice cream cone. What would it be if we did that before, but after being in the service, it was just sort of a no-no. It was just a no-no.

HT:

Did you go back to live with your mother?

DM:

I lived with my mother, and then I got married and moved up on the same street. My husband, oh, well, he died in '48 because he had cancer. He died in 1948.

Then I went to school. Some of the guys from Lakeland said they were coming over to Tampa to school. Don Thompson Vocational School had a program for veterans. They said, “Well, why not go?” They said, “You can learn a trade and get paid.” I think we got paid like sixty-some dollars a month, and I ended up coming over and made an application for tailoring because I like to sew, but the classes were filled. So I took business.

As soon as a vacancy became available in the tailoring class, then I went to the tailoring class. I stayed in the tailoring class a long time. That's where I met my husband, second husband. I met him in the tailoring class, but it was a while before we got married. What did I do? Oh, one day the president of Bethune-Cookman College came to Don Thompson, and the principal introduced me to the president, and they talked me into why didn't I go to school, go to college. I said, well, I wanted to go, but I didn't know. I finally made up my mind to see how much time I had because they would pay for it.

HT:

This is under the GI Bill.

DM:

Under the GI Bill, yes. But what I was going for was going to business school. And I lacked about a couple of months because I had used up all my time. He said, “Well, we'll give you a job.” He promised me a job so that I could complete my course. He had to do that in order for the VA to take it up.

So I was signing papers and everything—this is terrible—and ready to go to this school, and my daughter, my neighbors across the street were going to keep her, and this man and his wife in Lakeland, he was going to Bethune-Cookman, and I was going to ride with him and come home every two weeks. I had everything all planned, but one signature I needed to finish this.

In the meantime, I had met William Daniel Miller, Jr., and I forgot all about this. [laughs] Don't you dare. [laughs] I forgot all about going to school and everything. This was the most fantastic man I had ever met in my whole life. Oh, he was something else.

The principal of the school sent for me and said, “Miss May, when are you going to sign your papers so you can go to school?”

I said, “What paper?”

He said, “Just get out of my office.” [laughs] Oh, I had seriously—

HT:

Mr. Miller became your second husband?

DM:

Yes, he did. [laughs] And then two children, later on.

HT:

So there went your education plans.

DM:

There they went. They went out the window. When I knew anything, I had two children, one right—my children are twenty-one months apart, and I was like thirty-something years old, having babies. My mother almost had a fit.

She said, “You're too old to have these children.” I had two children. Now my two, Wanda and Danny. Wanda is the baby. She was born in '56. Danny was born in '54. Mother said, “You're too old to have these children.”

My oldest daughter, she was born when I was a teenager, so she was born in '37. So here I am, thinking no more children, and I met this man, forgot about school and everything. I'm serious. I truly did. Oh, he wined and dined me and everything, and I was just floating on air.

HT:

He was the love of your life, it sounds like.

DM:

[laughs] He was. He was.

HT:

That's wonderful. Did you and your husband continue living in Lakeland?

DM:

No. I had moved from Lakeland before we got married. I moved to Tampa because I was going to school over here, and life over here was great. I had friends over here and everything. I just left Lakeland and just came to Tampa. Then, later on, we got married.

He died in—He's been dead four years, because we moved in this house in 1966. He died in 1996. My husband died. He had—what did he have? He had high blood pressure, then he had a stroke, and he was sick for seven years and five months. For seven years, he was here, and I was the caretaker for seven years. The last five months of his life he spent in the nursing home, and that's because they came and took—I mean, actually, the woman said, “You've had enough.” She said, “It's time to let him go to the nursing home.” So that's the way it went.

HT:

After you got married, did you work outside the home at all?

DM:

Yes, I did, after we moved here in this house, because we lived in the housing project. When we moved in this house, just before we moved in this house, I worked as a teacher's aide at the elementary school for a while. Then my next job, I started working for the city, for Tampa. Oh, I forgot about—I worked for the city for thirteen years, for Tampa, after we moved here. Things were different because, you know, we had more bills and things to pay.

When we lived in the project, College Hills Project, it was real nice. It was during the fifties, and it was just like your own home because it was just a nice place and it had all the convenience. That's where my children grew up. Well, not exactly, because they were born there, the baby was, the oldest one, my son, he's the middle child, but he was born when we had an apartment, which was very nice.

From the apartment, we moved into College Hills Project, which at that time, in the early fifties, they were real nice. They had beautiful yards and everything. We even had the Orkin man to come, and he sprayed the whole unit. He said, “This won't do no good for one person. You have to have them all.” All the people in our unit agreed to have it.

Then something happened. These new people moved in, this new group of people came in, and they were just so different from the people that we were and had been. We started looking for a house, and this is the house we found. My husband found it.

I didn't like it. I hated it. I didn't want to move here. I wanted to move some other place I had in mind, but he said we could afford this. The other one, you'd be there eighteen years before you could even pay off, and like this house here, we got it for like $5,500.

HT:

Wow.

DM:

[laughs] That was in 1966.

HT:

It's worth considerably more today, I'm sure.

DM:

Yes. He did a lot to it since. The only thing I haven't changed here is the colors in these two rooms. A lot of things have been changed. It was once burned out by fire, and all of this was burned out, all of this, and they put it back. It wasn't exactly the same, but they put it back.

Anyway, then I worked for the city of Tampa for thirteen years. First I worked at the Crippled Children's Clinic for almost a year. I was on the program, this was this program, for almost a year. Then I went to work for the community service center, which was a part of the city, became a part of the city, as a switchboard operator. I was there a couple or three years.

Then I went downtown, where I worked the longest. I was at the Department of Sanitary Sewers. I was the receptionist, and then later on, I became a customer service clerk. That's where I retired from the city of Tampa in 1983.

HT:

You've done a variety of things in your life. [laughs]

DM:

Yes. Yes, I did, [unclear] retirement. That's the longest I'd ever worked, because it was thirteen years. I was in the city thirteen years, and I retired in 1983 because my husband had retired, and he just kept on asking me, “Come on home. Come on home. Come on home.” So I came home, but I found out life wasn't like it—every time I make a change, it's something different. But I enjoyed being home. I enjoy my home. I enjoy working around in the yard and in the house.

My dolls came about after I retired. The year before I retired, someone brought a doll into the office, a pattern into the office, a pattern which you cut out and sew and make a doll. In the mall, downtown, the mall, they were selling things on Fridays, and these women had this stand.

Oh, here comes this segregation stuff again. Oh, boy. Anyway, these women were making dolls. They were making crafts. They had black dolls, and the black dolls were like that. They made the dolls. They were black, but they were black-black, as in black. So when this girl brought the pattern in, I said, “I think I can—let me try and see can I make a doll,” because I could make clothing.

I went to this fabric store, and they had all these different colors of fabric, beige and browns, dark browns and light browns, so this is what I bought. I bought this fabric, and I made these dolls in all these different colors. I said, “Now, this is the way we come, our colors are, you know, light brown, dark brown.” I think, I'm almost certain, that I stopped them from making those black dolls. They had those black dolls—

HT:

Jet black.

DM:

—jet black dolls in the mall, selling them.

HT:

And were these a Raggedy Ann Doll like this one behind you, made of cloth?

DM:

Yes, made of fabric. These, I made these. I made these myself. I made these for my husband. It was sitting in his room, and I didn't get rid of them. I just changed their clothes. They just got their clothes changed. That was about '82. I retired in '83. So I went to the—who was that? Better Business Bureau? We had to go before them. They said, “Why don't you sell dolls?” So I sold dolls for a year, and that was a pretty good business, selling dolls, going out every Friday.

HT:

So you'd make them and sell them.

DM:

Make them and sell them.

HT:

At a craft show, something like that?

DM:

No. In the mall.

HT:

In the mall.

DM:

In the mall, selling dolls in the mall. Cabbage Patch [Kids] came out that year.

HT:

I remember the Cabbage Patch.

DM:

Cabbage Patch was very expensive, and then someone bought the Cabbage Patch, and they could make them real cheap. That put an end to my dolls, because I wasn't selling any dolls because everybody wanted a Cabbage Patch, and the Cabbage Patch was cheaper than the dolls that I was selling because I made my dolls by hand.

I had some for twenty, twenty-five dollars, but they were like thirty-five, forty, fifty dollars. I even had one that sold for seventy-five. I have pictures of them somewhere. I'll show it to you when you get through with the tape if you'd care to look. But anyway, that's the way I started with the dolls.

HT:

So you would buy the—

DM:

Fabric.

HT:

—the fabric, and then you would make the clothing and buy the basic doll elsewhere, or did you make that as well?

DM:

I made everything. I made the doll. See, I could sew, and sewing, you would use a pattern to sew. Well, they had patterns to make dolls by. Just like you have patterns to make clothing, they had patterns for dolls. So I bought the pattern, and I made her. The dress, the outfits would come with the dolls to fit them.

I looked at her, and I said, “She's too big. I don't want her. I'll put her in the room with my husband.” Then I said, “Well, I'll make him.” So I made Andy. I've had them, because Danny's been dead for four years now. I've probably had them around seven or eight years maybe.

Oh, I had a thing in the paper. Where's that other book? I had a write—up about them also.

HT:

About the dolls?

DM:

Yes. Yes. Dolls that even my daughter, who's in Texas—my children moved to Austin, Texas, and sent some of the dolls that I gave her, she took them—they had a black history thing, and she took her dolls, and she put them on display, and they sent me a letter thanking me for that—but with the other dolls, the ones that are not made, the ones that are bought, these dolls here, these are—most of them are—what do you call them, Barbie Dolls. They're eleven-and-a-half-inch dolls, and they come dressed expensively and whatnot.

I buy the ones that are dressed in the bathing suits that cost $4.95 or something like that, and then I dress them the way I want them to dress. I don't buy the forty and fifty dollar dolls, because I dress mine with the decor from my house and whatnot. But I started, first started with the dolls downtown at the store department, and when those white women made those black dolls, I said, “Huh-uh, no, we don't look like this.” It brought back to my mind when I was a child, and the only little dolls they had were little black dolls with little red bows tied on their head.

Oh, I dress dolls for the Salvation Army. That's my hobby, for Christmastime. Oh, yes, yes. I have awards, oh, numerous awards.

HT:

So these dolls are given away to children?

DM:

Given to children. They are bought by the Salvation Army, and you dress them, and you take them back to the Salvation Army, and they give them to the parents to give to the kids at Christmas. I'm still doing that. I started doing that in 1984, and I'm still doing it. Now, I've dressed as many as forty-two, but now I've gotten down to where I only dress a few.

HT:

Do you work on this all year around?

DM:

No. I start in the month of October. I can't. I'm a person, I cannot just do this this month and do this another week and do this—I want yesterday. It has to have been done yesterday. Like I started the month of October. I give the whole month of October to my dolls. That's when I work on them, that whole month of October.

We turn them in in November, and I keep them around the house for a whole month. But now my eyes isn't as good as they once were nor my hands. My wrists, the doctor says I've just worn them out. I don't do as many as I once did, because this year—how many did I do? Eleven. I don't think I did but eleven this year, but I always receive awards for my—quite a few awards and trophies for them.

But the other dolls, what was that? On the job, someone had a doll. They went to Salvation Army and got dolls, and we were dressing them and she, I remember Maggie, we used to do a doll a month and dress them. So I said, “Well, if she can do that one, I'll go get a bunch of dolls.” I found all the black dolls and the white dolls. I got all of them, and I would dress them and give them to one of the guys on the job. He was taking things for the children's home, and I used to give them to him to take to the children's home.

One year, he said, “Dorothy, I hate to tell you this, but I don't need no dolls this year.” He said, “The people in my neighborhood,” he said, “you made them feel bad so they went out and bought dolls. They said, 'If this one woman can do all these dolls, the least we can do is buy dolls.' So they bought dolls for the children.” He said, “But what I really need is children's clothes.” He said for the smaller kids, the six-year-olds.

I made clothes in sizes five, six, and seven, because some six-year-olds are small and some are large. And the people on my job found out what I was doing, and they gave me money to buy fabrics and materials and stuff, and I made about eighteen or twenty outfits and sent them to the children's home for the children. I did that for about a couple of years.

HT:

So have you been sewing all your life or just since you—

DM:

I started sewing when I was eighteen years of age. One of those things tell—my grandmother, who was a town seamstress in Lakeland, and she would not teach me how to sew. I wanted to sew, and she would not teach me how. She said, “Whatever you do, do not sew,” she said, “Because people will not come and pick up the things. They just have to have it,” she says, “They must have this.”

My grandmother's name was Lucy Hadden, and they'd say, “Miss Lucy, I've got to have this.” They'd see something in the Sears Roebuck catalog or something, and they'd take it to her, the picture, and she would sit—my grandmother would sit by her bed, which in those days beds was high, and she would take a brown paper, that, you know, cleaning—they used to do the cleaning, and they'd come from the cleaners, and they'd have paper over the clothing instead of plastic. They have plastic over clothing now. They had brown paper over the clothing, a brown paper bag over the clothing from the cleaners. She would take that bag and rip it apart, press it out, and sit there and cut a pattern, and she would cut her own pattern and make clothes. She made me suits. So I know that must have been the Depression, because of the WPA [Works Progress Administration]. Was that the WPA?

HT:

Yes.

DM:

My grandmother, she sewed for the city, because in the hospital, a bunch of women would go there and make clothing, and I don't know for what reason. I guess they must have gave them to the people? I don't know, but I know my grandmother was one of them, because I could see her coming. She and a lot of women would be walking toward the hospital. It was below us.

Some mornings I would go—yes, that had to be the Depression. I'd go out there. I'd see my grandmama coming, and I'd go and ask her for a quarter or something. She'd give me a quarter, and I could buy a loaf of bread and some hot dogs or something, and she gave me a quarter or a dime or whatever, and I would get it from my grandma.

She sewed for the city. My grandmother, though, was professional. She said, “Do not,” she said, “because they will not pay you. They just got to have this, and you sit there and you make that, and then they go downtown and buy something that costs $1.95.” Because my grandmama, she didn't play. She'd charge it. You had to pay Miss Lucy. Miss Lucy would make it, but you had to pay her her money.

When she died, she hadn't sewn in ten years, and there was a trunk in her bedroom that had clothes in there that people had left, hadn't even come and picked up. I remember she made this suit for the principal, made his suit at the school. She borrowed some—we used to call them Kroger sacks. Didn't you ever heard of Kroger sacks? I think that's what produce or something comes in. My grandmama washed them out, and when you finished, it was like linen like, and she made men's suits.

HT:

That is amazing.

DM:

My grandmama. And that's her mother's picture there in the living room, my great grandmother. That's her. I don't know much about her. All I know is that her name was Cilla. I don't know whether it was Priscilla, Lucilla, or Cilla, but my grandmama always referred to her mama as Cilla. That picture was in her bedroom, and when she died, it was in my mother's room. When my mother died, my sister let me have the picture.

That's not the original. The original got wet when the house caught fire, and this man reproduced it. He said that it was pencil. He said it's not photographed like you took with a camera. He said it was chalk, a drawing. It was not a picture from a camera. It's from a drawing. He said she was about eighteen or nineteen years old. He could tell all of that.

But the original, my grandson, he's a teacher out at Blake, he wanted it. He and his wife like black and white pictures. So he has that picture.

Okay. Let me stop talking. I didn't know I was going to talk this much. [laughter]

HT:

I just have a few more. I don't want to tire you out now.

Do you consider yourself to be an independent person?

DM:

Yes.

HT:

Do you think you've always been that way, or did the military make you that way?

DM:

I thought the military caused me to do that, depend on myself. Yes.

HT:

Would you consider yourself to be a pioneer or a trailblazer or a trendsetter because you were one of the few people who joined the service back in those days?

DM:

We were told that at the fiftieth anniversary of the WAAC in Fort McClellan, Alabama. One of the young women who was a pilot, a helicopter pilot, she walked up to me when they had the women from the W-A-A-C stand, and this was at the banquet. After the banquet, she walked up to me, she shook my hand, and she said, “Thanks for blazing the way for us.” This was a white girl. Yes, she did. She said thanks.

HT:

It made you feel good, I'm sure.

DM:

Yes, it did. So all we went through wasn't lost. It was—it was history.

HT:

It was. Yes.

DM:

And there were a lot of people who went through terrible things in the service, I mean hardships in the service, but mine, it didn't seem—I don't know, it wasn't hard. I guess it would be to someone else, but to me it wasn't. After you look back at it, it wasn't. As I continue to say, that's where I grew up.

HT:

After you got out in early 1946 until recently, did you think about being in the military or did it come up in conversation during all those fifty-some years? I've talked to some women who said that it hardly ever came up until something like this comes up, you know, an interview or something like that.

DM:

Well, in the beginning, when I first got home, I didn't participate in anything military until after my first husband died, after Pat died, because he wouldn't have let me, I'm sure. [laughs] But I did. I joined the American Legion, Alex Brown Post in Lakeland. I was the adjutant. I've forgotten the number of that post. I worked in the American Legion there.

Then well, coming to school over here. Then for a while, I wasn't involved in any military things until '89, I think it was, when I joined this organization, this Women's Army Corps Veteran Association, and that was because I saw it advertised in the paper. They needed members, and it was a membership drive, I think. I called this woman who you will talk to. Oh, boy, she is something else, Willie.

HT:

Oh, Mrs. Williams.

DM:

Oh, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes. Miss Willie. She was heading up the organization, and I joined through her. That's when I became involved with more veteran things than I did, since I have been in this Women's Army Corps Veterans Association. I've been here since '89, I think it was.

Of course, I've been president a couple of years. I've been secretary for years and years. I've gone to conventions. I went out to—what's the mile high? Denver, Colorado. I went to Denver to a convention. They had a national convention. And here at Innisbrook they had a national convention.

I've been to a lot of the state—they don't call them conventions. They call them flings, like Spring Fling, Fall Fling. That's when the chapters of the state meet and have a good time. It's not much business. We just tell each other what we've been doing and how to try to keep this together.

What we're doing now, we're losing—a lot of us are leaving, the World War II veterans, and we're trying to keep it together, those like Susie, like Willie calls them “young things,” the young things involved in it. It's nice. I belong to the American Legion here.

HT:

In this unit, do you do some sort of civic activities, sponsor ROTC [Reserve Officer Training Corps] people or something like that?

DM:

Well, they are going to promote a program. We have it up for discussion, but it hasn't been finalized yet. It's in our meeting. It hasn't been finalized. It's on the agenda. Susie's working with that. She knows more about it than I do. We're going to the VA hospital, the volunteers. I'm not a volunteer, though, because I can't walk very far without my stick.

My only volunteer work I do, my big thing, is my dolls for the Salvation Army. I do church work. I help with a group of young people, but now they're all adults. They were ushers in the church, and I was with them from the organizing of them up until now. They're all adults, and they call them Miss Miller's church children. [laughs] And they are so nice to me, because they come and see about me all the time.

HT:

They look after you.

DM:

They really do. They really do. They want to know if I want to go to the store, because after my husband died, I couldn't drive no more. My children said, “No, no, no, no, no. We don't want Mama on the road.”

HT:

Speaking of your children, you have three children, right?

DM:

Three.

HT:

Have any of them ever been in the military?

DM:

My son was in the military, and that's it.

HT:

But the daughters?

DM:

No.

HT:

Did you try to persuade them to join?

DM:

No, no. They haven't even thought about it. The military is something that you—I mean, they know I was in, but it was something I—I mean, actually, I almost forgot it once in a while, but since I've been in this organization—I've been active since I've been in this organization, but other than that, I didn't do anything other than in Lakeland, I belonged to that post over there, the American Legion. I was the only woman in the post.

HT:

Well, how do you feel about women in combat? You know, in the Gulf War, several women were in combat. One was even shot down and captured by the Iraqis.

DM:

Yes. How do I feel? Well, if that's what it takes, that's—I don't know. Of course, if it had been when I was in, I'm sure we would have did the same thing. Of course, we were non-combat. We were non-combat, so when it comes to combat, if they join the service, that's what they're supposed to do.

HT:

Well, Mrs. Miller, we've talked about a number of things this afternoon. If there's anything else you'd like to add—

DM:

No, no, no. I have talked too much. [laughs]

HT:

No, no, no. Well, thank you so much. It's just been a—

DM:

Gosh. I didn't realize I was going to do that much talking.

HT:

It's just been a real pleasure hearing your story.

DM:

Yes, because everything here—I mean, when it stopped—like there's some women in the service, today, in the military, they have never heard of the WAAC. They have never heard of the WAAC.

HT:

And many people not only do not know there were WAACs, they didn't know there were black women in the service during that time. So it's your job to make sure they know this. That's one of the reasons for doing this. We want to make sure that in the future people in general know that not only women served but black women served. So it's real important for us to make that known.

DM:

Yes. We were there.

HT:

Again, thank you so much.

DM:

Okay. [laughs]

[End of interview]