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The Betty H. Carter Women Veterans Historical Project

Oral history interview with Josephine Martin Flynn, 2001

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Object ID: WV0212.5.001

Description: Documents Josephine Martin Flynn’s early life; her four years of service with the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC) and the Women’s Army Corps (WAC) during World War II; and its relation to her opinions and non-military life.

Summary:

Flynn primarily describes her military service, with an emphasis on her place in the second WAAC class in Officer Candidate School at Fort Des Moines, Iowa. Topics include the application process; basic training with male instructors; the olive drab uniforms; being an officer; and the transition from the WAAC to the WAC. She also comments on her friendship with Col. Westray Battle Boyce and how Boyce became the director of the WAC when Col. Oveta Culp Hobby resigned.

Flynn also discusses her supply work; teaching with a black WAC instructor at Fort Des Moines; recruiting in North Carolina; living in Washington, D.C.; the death of President Franklin D. Roosevelt; and her social life and friendships. Flynn remembers tremendous feelings of patriotism and pride in her service and the respect that she received in uniform. She reflects on women being in the military; women in the work force; and how the service affected her life. She also describes Chapel Hill after the war and the affects of the GI Bill on the town and university.

Creator: Josephine Martin Flynn

Biographical Info: Josephine Martin Flynn (1919-2006) of Henderson, North Carolina, was one of the first officers in the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps, serving in the army from September 1942 to August 1946.

Collection: Josephine Martin Flynn Papers

Rights: It is responsibility of the user to follow the copyright law of the United States (Title 17, U.S. Code). Materials are not to be reproduced in published works without written consent, and any use should credit Jackson Library, The University of North Carolina at Greensboro.

Full Text:

HT:

This is Hermann Trojanowski, and I'm at the home of Mrs. Jo Flynn in Greensboro, North Carolina, and I'm here to conduct an oral history interview for the Women Veterans Historical Collection at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro[UNCG]. Mrs. Flynn, if you would give me your full name, we'll use it as a test to see how your voice sounds on this tape recorder.

JF:

My name is Josephine Martin Flynn.

HT:

Thank you. Mrs. Flynn, could you tell me a little about yourself, some biographical information? Where were you born and when?

JF:

I was born February 18th, 1919, in Henderson, North Carolina. I was the daughter of Eva Waite, W-a-i-t-e, Martin, and Joseph Buie, B-u-i-e, Martin. My father died when I was two days old, and so my mother supported me and my brother, who was three years older than I was. She was from Pennsylvania, and so we moved back to Pennsylvania for a while and lived with her mother. My mother was a music teacher and organist. After my grandmother's death, she decided it would be easier to raise two children in North Carolina, so we returned to Henderson, where she became a piano instructor and also an organist in the Methodist Church and later the First Presbyterian Church in Henderson.

I graduated from Henderson High School, and then attended Peace College, graduating at Peace College, where I was president of the student body. From there, after two years at Peace, went to the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill. I was president of my sorority and active in many things. I graduated in 1940 and taught school for two years. The last year was at Leaksville, North Carolina.

In the summer of 1942 is when the publicity regarding the W-A-A-C [Women's Army Auxiliary Corps] came out in the all the newspapers and on the radio. So I decided to apply for the first Officer Candidate School. I applied. In the meantime, I was up in Maryland, trying to get work at one of the factories up there. Some friends and I went up. I had to send information in to the authorities with my application for Officer Candidate School. While I was up there, they asked me to be interviewed in Baltimore. So I went to Baltimore, a group of perfectly strange northern people, and was interviewed, and lo and behold, I was accepted. I received notice a little bit later that I was one of the first 125 women from the entire country selected for the Officer Candidate School.

So that is the way it all began. In September of 1942, I went to Des Moines, Iowa, and attended the first Officer Candidate School. The first class was two weeks ahead of us. So when both classes finished, we had two classes of nothing but officers. We had no enlisted personnel at the time. So that is the way everything got started.

HT:

Who were your instructors in Fort Des Moines? Do you recall if they were they men? Women?

JF:

Oh, yes, they were all men. We had all men.

HT:

Regular army, I assume?

JF:

The officer in charge of our particular company had been an old staff sergeant, so you can imagine. Then he had been made a second lieutenant. Just made one. He hadn't applied or anything. They did that at that time. He didn't want to work with women. He had no interest at all in women. I was the youngest one in our class, so all of the other women were most experienced.

In fact, Westray Battle Boyce, who was originally from Rocky Mount [North Carolina], slept in the bed next to mine, and she was probably one of the older ones, and she was sent to Washington after graduation, and she became the first officer, commander of the WACs [Women's Army Corps] from the ranks. Oveta Culp Hobby was the first, of course. But she was appointed. But Westray, as we called her, “Mama Boyce,” was the first one from the ranks that actually was the first commander of the WAAC/WAC troops.

HT:

What do you remember about Mrs. Boyce?

JF:

She was wonderful. Little gray-haired lady. She and I became very, very good friends. Towards the end of our six weeks' training, she hurt her ankle and had to go to the infirmary, so I would go over every night and review what we had studied that day so she could pass the final exams. And she did.

Then I saw her a number of times, because I was stationed in Washington for a while. So I would see her there. Also, when I went to California, she came to California, so I got to see her. She remained commander for, golly, I don't know, I guess probably the extent of the war. She later remarried and lived up in around the Rye, New York, area.

HT:

Did you keep in touch with her after the war?

JF:

Maybe once or twice or something. That's just about the way it went. But she was a wonderful woman. I don't know whether she went to UNCG or not. I'm not sure. [She did, graduating in 1919]

HT:

I cannot remember.

JF:

She would have been Westray Battle, and Battles are a very well known family in eastern North Carolina. She was a true lady. She really was wonderful.

HT:

Well, tell me a little bit about your days in—I guess you call it boot camp or basic training.

JF:

Basic training.

HT:

What was that like? I personally have been through basic training, so I know what—

JF:

Well, it wasn't easy, because we had calisthenics, we had marching, we had classes, and I can remember when we all had to go get some shots one day at the infirmary. There were a whole line of us lined up to get shots, and before you knew it, two or three had already passed out, after they got their shots, just fell flat. But it wasn't bad. I mean, I had no problem with it. The discipline probably was the hardest thing for all the girls in the camp. But, see, most of them were older women and had established careers.

HT:

When you said “older,” what age range were they? Do you have any idea?

JF:

I have no idea. I know that there were two of us in my class that were in the early twenties, myself and another girl. Most of them were in their thirties and forties.

HT:

Were they?

JF:

Yes, they were. And all with a lot of supervision experience and so on. It was an interesting group. I had my photograph album, and thank goodness, I wrote the names down just as I put them all in there, or I wouldn't remember.

HT:

You say basic training lasted about six weeks?

JF:

Six weeks.

HT:

What were some of the things you learned during those six weeks?

JF:

Well, you had to learn, of course, military procedures. Of course, also, one of the things, we studied different segments of the army. In fact, then, after I graduated, I taught there in the Officer Candidate School.

I taught what we call “supply,” which would be quartermaster work. There were two or three of us that did that. We were sent to Fort Lee, Virginia, for a refresher course on supply, and then went back and taught. I taught for, I think, about—over the winter, I know, and probably almost a year in that. Then they were looking for people to do recruiting around the areas, because of course, see, the Marines by that time were getting ladies in, and so were the WAVES [Women Accepted for Voluntary Emergency Service—U.S. Navy], and so on.

They came around and wanted to know if I would come back to North Carolina since I had been active in North Carolina and knew a lot of people, would I come back to North Carolina and do recruiting? So I said, “Oh, yeah, I'll come back.” By the time of that, I didn't want to face another Des Moines winter, because they were terrible, cold. I can remember walking across the parade field and icicles dropping off my nose and my ears, it was so cold.

So I came back and was stationed in Charlotte, lived in the Hotel Charlotte. There were two of us, a young lady, I believe she was from South Carolina. We did recruiting, went all over the state recruiting. I went to Chapel Hill several times. We had offices set up to go to.

Then I decided that I had had enough recruiting and asked for reassignment and went to Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia, and taught there just for a short time, and then went on orders to go to the Pentagon in Washington. There were three officers. I was a junior officer. There was a major and another captain, and I was a lieutenant. We conducted all the training for WAC in the field. By that time they had enlisted WAC in many, many camps, who were doing office work and so forth, and drivers, and things like that. They were kept in their own quarters, and also they were in units, and they had to maintain a certain amount of training that had to be conducted for them. So I was one of the three that supervised all of the training. So I made a lot of trips to Georgia, to North Carolina, to Missouri, and different places, inspecting the different units.

Then after I'd been there for a couple of years—maybe not that long—they asked me, didn't I want to go to England to attend the equivalent of our Command and General Staff School. Of course, I jumped at the chance, and my mother was quite upset, because she didn't want her daughter going to England where the fighting was really at the top of the war. London was being heavily bombed.

HT:

Do you recall what time this was, which year?

JF:

That would have been in about 1944. At the last minute, my office decided that I couldn't go, that I was needed there. So I stayed. About six months later, I was reassigned into Camp Beale, California, where I ended my career in 1946. At Camp Beale I was in charge of all civilian personnel.

I came out of the army in 1946, summer of '46, and went back to graduate school at Carolina [The University of North Carolina] in September of '46, and finished all of my work, received my master's degree in personnel, and then continued on my Ph.D., completed all the work, except I did not write my dissertation.

In Chapel Hill I met my husband who was in law school in 1950. We were married and moved to Greensboro in 1951. So that's the story of my life, in a capsule.

HT:

What made you decide to join the WAACs in the first place?

JF:

It was just [that] I was patriotic. That's what I wanted to do. I wanted to do something for my country. When my friends and I went to Maryland, we were applying at one of the factories that was making military supplies. So we were trying to get a job there, anything to help the military cause. My mother was right behind me.

HT:

I was just going to ask, how did your family feel about it?

JF:

Well, all I had was my mother. My brother, by that time, he had finished State [North Carolina State University], and he was a textile manufacturer, and he was working in Alabama with Goodyear. He was making tires. So he did not get into the service directly. They would not release him to join. So I just thought it was my patriotic duty to do it. I had several of my sorority friends that did it. I had one very good friend, she joined the Marines. She and I stayed friends until she died a few years ago.

But there was a tremendous feeling of patriotism at that time, especially in the young people. And the young women, when this was made available to young women, I don't know how many thousands applied for Officer Candidate School, but I felt very fortunate, and I could not believe that I would have been accepted, because when I looked around at the group of women that were in the room with me there in Maryland, I could tell they were all well experienced, and here I was, a mere twenty-one-year-old.

HT:

Do you, by any chance, know who made the decision of who was accepted?

JF:

No, I do not. It was a panel. I was interviewed, and there was a panel of people. I can still see this table, and I was sitting at the end of it. There was one woman. She was the president of one of the women's colleges in the Baltimore area, and she was cockeyed. I didn't know whether she was looking at me or whether she was looking at somebody behind me, when she would interview me. I don't know why that remains in my mind, but I can still laugh about it. I can still see that woman looking at me with one eye going that way.

HT:

So there were three people on the panel?

JF:

Oh, no. There were five or six, at least.

HT:

Do you recall how long the interview was?

JF:

Oh, it was a good thirty-minute interview. I have no idea what the questions were. I couldn't tell you. Probably they went into my background and so forth, to my ability of doing the kind of work and so forth. I don't know how. But it was a fairly long interview. It wasn't just three questions and you fill them out and hand them in. No. It was a one-on-one interview. Each person there asked questions.

HT:

When you were finally inducted, what types of uniforms were you issued? Do you recall?

JF:

We weren't issued anything until we got to Fort Des Moines, and then we were issued regular issue. Everything was drab. Underclothes, hose—stockings were cotton, of course, because nylons were few and far between then. So we had cotton stockings. We had laced-up shoes. Olive drab underwear is not very attractive.

HT:

But they were women's clothing?

JF:

Oh, yes. They were women's clothing. Oh, yes. They were women's clothing. See, I didn't get jeans, and we didn't have—if we had been in motor corps, you would have been issued the other, the heavier things. After we finished, see—we were there for a couple of weeks being assigned, because there were no privates anywhere, but it didn't take long before there were units formed. They were sent out, and had officers to go with them and so forth. So it all worked out.

HT:

Did Mrs. Hobby come?

JF:

She came several times. Mrs. Hobby came several times. In fact, I was just looking. I have a book in there. I have a photograph, and it says, “Mrs. Hobby's back.” I have a little Kodak picture that I took, and that's what I got, her back as she turned around.

But we had all men instructors. There were no women instructors, all men instructors.

HT:

The instruction lasts from about eight to about five, or was it longer than that?

JF:

Well, in between, you know, certain days you would have marching and drill and so forth and so on, and phys ed and so on.

HT:

What about firearm training?

JF:

I never received any firearm training.

HT:

You didn't have to go to the rifle range or anything like that?

JF:

No, no. I would love that, because I was a good marksman. My brother had taught me. Yes, I was pretty good at that. But no, we never had any.

HT:

What about overnight camping?

JF:

No, we never did any of that, not in officer training.

HT:

What about the accommodations? What were they like? Fort Des Moines, was that a cavalry base?

JF:

It had been a cavalry base, I think. It was nothing. The big room that we were in was just a big barrack, just a big room. I've forgotten how many cots were in it. That was all that we had. They were just line-up cots. Of course, we ate in mess halls, and that food was pretty good. You know, it was strictly—I mean, there was no luxury at all. That's about all. If I went through my pictures, I might remember a lot of other things.

HT:

You were over twenty-one when you entered, right? Your mother did not have to sign?

JF:

No, she did not have to sign.

HT:

I've heard other women say that they were under twenty-one, and their parents had to sign.

JF:

No, see, I was twenty-one. So she did not have to sign, and she was very, very proud of me to have done this. My brother was too, because he couldn't go.

HT:

What about your sister?

JF:

I didn't have one. There were just the two of us.

HT:

Well, do you recall what the general feelings of people were? How did they feel about women joining the military and that sort of thing? Do you recall?

JF:

I have several articles from the newspaper about me, because everybody at Chapel Hill that I knew was just really, I mean, really pleased. So there were quite a few things written. I have some of the old—Life magazine did a tremendous article.

HT:

On you?

JF:

No, not on me, but on the WAC. Then I have a whole section that Charlotte did, in their newspaper down there, on the W-A-A-C. So North Carolina was proud of everyone. There was a sense of being proud and that it was the thing to do. My mother was particularly proud, and all of my friends at home were equally proud. Every time I'd come home, it was a great to-do. So that's the way it went. Then I had my first cousin in Pennsylvania, whom I was very close to. He was a German prisoner for three years. So the family up there supported me so much, because he and I were so close. He was released. It was pretty rough. He was an aviator, who continued flying, but as close as we were together, he never mentioned one word about being a prisoner. That was one thing he would not talk about. He was just closed. And he was a talker, too. He never talked about that.

But I had a great deal of encouragement from everybody. I don't think I ever had anyone that said to me, “Why did you join? I wouldn't think of joining,” or anything like that, no. Because the feeling, you know, we were in war. People were getting ration books. I have an old ration book, which Betty [Carter] will get. So it was an upbeat feeling. I don't know, anymore.

HT:

About basic training, did you have to do KP [kitchen patrol], in addition to class instruction and physical training? When I was in the service, I had to do KP.

JF:

Oh, you had to do KP. You know, I don't remember ever having to do KP.

HT:

I think I asked you earlier about the instructors. What do you think of the quality of the instructors and instruction that you had?

JF:

We liked some of them, and others were purely military men that were assigned there and didn't want to be there. They were strictly old-time sergeants, as I said, the one that was our commander. The captain that was in charge of our group, why, he really, he cared less about women than anybody I know of. But some of the instructors, I found that the younger the instructors were, the more adjusted they were to us, or became more adjusted than the older, dyed-in-the-wool military man.

HT:

I guess they had been so used to dealing with men, they didn't know how to deal with women.

JF:

That's exactly what our captain said. He said, “I don't know. I've never worked with women.” There was that feeling that, you know, here they were. You can imagine what they were feeling. Here we were on the other side. It was the first time we had done anything regimented like that. There he was. Oh, he was a pistol.

HT:

You guys were the real guinea pigs?

JF:

We were the guinea pigs. We were the guinea pigs.

HT:

After basic training, could you choose where you were assigned?

JF:

You know, I don't remember a whole lot, but it seemed that we did have maybe some choices of certain fields that we would like to be in, but there wasn't too much choice.

HT:

I think you said you went to Fort Lee? Is that right after basic?

JF:

After I finished basic, well, I taught for a while, and then we were sent to Fort Lee to get further training.

HT:

You taught at Fort Des Moines?

JF:

At Fort Des Moines, and then after Fort Lee went back to Fort Des Moines and taught. Then came to North Carolina on recruiting, and then ended up in the Pentagon, still in training.

HT:

You were always working for personnel training, in that particular field?

JF:

In that field, yes. Then when I got to Camp Beale, I went into nonacademic, well, what I consider nonacademic, but it was the nonmilitary, the civilian personnel there at Camp Beale that I was in charge of.

HT:

Of all the various types of work that you did, which did you enjoy the most?

JF:

I enjoyed the Pentagon, because I loved living in Washington. I lived on Connecticut Avenue and New Hampshire in the old Irish Embassy, it had been. Another WAC and I had a room with a fireplace in it, a small kitchen, a bath, and beds that opened up.

HT:

Those Murphy beds?

JF:

Those Murphy beds that opened up. We loved it there. We could walk out our building, catch the bus, went right down to the Pentagon. We had a butcher that had a little shop about a quarter of a block away from us, and he knew we loved good meat, so he'd save us good meat.

HT:

And that was important in those days.

JF:

That was important. That was really important. But I think my most memorable day in Washington was the night that [Franklin Delano] Roosevelt died. We walked the streets of Connecticut Avenue, and the only sound that you could hear in that whole city were sirens. Those sirens still ring in my ears. It was such a shock, and I don't know how else to describe it, but it was just an eerie, eerie feeling. Then of course, things got back to normal within a few days. But that night it was a particularly eerie feeling.

HT:

Speaking of Roosevelt, what were your feelings about President Roosevelt?

JF:

I don't know that I really had too many feelings at that time. We all thought he was a wonderful president, of course. Then when he passed away, well, it was a shock. After all, he was our commander in chief. But things went along all right. But I enjoyed living in Washington.

HT:

Of course, you were in when the W-A-A-C became the W-A-C.

JF:

Oh, yes.

HT:

What was that like? What was the transition period like?

JF:

There was no difference. We just changed emblems. We changed from the big buzzard emblem on the hat to the eagle, and that's about all. As far as uniform changes, there were none.

HT:

Did you have to resign from one and join the other?

JF:

The W-A-A-C was not pure military.

HT:

It was an auxiliary corps. We became then part of the military itself. We were army then. Before that, we had been auxiliary.

JF:

I can't remember. Probably we did have to. We probably had to sign some papers. I don't remember.

HT:

To your knowledge, did most of your friends move over from one unit to the other?

JF:

Oh, yes. Everything was just automatic. Nobody paid any attention to the difference. We were just glad to be part of the military. But our service counted. All of that service counted, the W-A-A-C service counted.

HT:

Do you recall what your pay was at that time?

JF:

I remember my final pay. I saved money in the military, when I was in California. I believe it was right around—a captain's pay was right around three-hundred dollars a month, something like that. And I saved, the years I was in. I saved over five-thousand dollars, enough to go along with the seventy-five dollars a month that I got from the GI Bill to go back to school.

I bought a little car, even. Well, my brother practically gave me the car. Anyway, I had a new little Ford. I had a 1946 Ford, one of the first in North Carolina. My brother had gotten it in Alabama, and he decided I should have it. So he let me have it. I paid $1,200 for it.

HT:

What were some of the positive aspects of being a WAC officer?

JF:

Well, I never had anybody in the four years that I was in—and I was in a total of four years. I never had anybody that said one disrespectful word to my uniform. I was very proud to be a WAC, and I was proud that at that time—I don't know what people would say now or what they do say about women in uniform, but I never heard, to my face, anything that was said about women. At that time, I imagine, a great many things were said about women being in uniform. There were bound to have been plenty of people that said, “Women aren't supposed to be doing this. The woman's place is in the home.”

Of course, women were, at that time, during the war, were working everything, in factories and so on. They had to, to keep things going. But no, I never felt that anybody felt that it was disrespectful.

HT:

I think I heard that there were some rumors that went around. There was a scandal that started in, I think it was 1943. Were you aware of that, that people were saying some very negative things about women in the service, and that sort of thing?

JF:

There may have been a lot of it, but I didn't pay any attention to those, and they are still saying it, about women in uniform, women in the service. My feeling is that if a woman goes into the service, she is giving up a tremendous amount. Her heart has to be in it, even now, to go into the service. There has to be a certain feeling of patriotism or wanting to do good for our country, rather than just, “It's another job.” Like a lot of people take a job just to have a job. I really couldn't see why anybody would want to go into the service unless they had that little added dedication that you would almost have to have.

HT:

I've talked to several women who gave as their reason for joining—these were enlisted—was economic. There were so few opportunities for women. I've interviewed several black women who were saying that, and they always said that one of the reasons they went in is because of education, economic opportunities that they would never have in civilian life.

JF:

Well, you see, when I went in, the black were segregated from the white. Now, when we went to teaching, when I taught there at Des Moines, we did have a black instructor in our group.

HT:

Female?

JF:

Female. Yes. Very, very lovely girl. A lovely girl.

HT:

What kinds of courses did she teach?

JF:

She was teaching the same thing I was. There was a group of us that taught.

HT:

So she taught not only black women, but also white women?

JF:

Yes, she was.

HT:

Were there black women?

JF:

There were no black women. See, we were segregated for that.

HT:

Where were they taught and trained?

JF:

Frankly, I'm a blank at that. I was trying to remember that. They were all at Des Moines, but they were in a different area. See, all the black troops were brought in. They were instructed as a black unit. When they were sent out, they were sent to black units. They were not sent to white units, which has changed, of course, a great deal, and it wasn't too long before it was changed. But at that time, they all went to black camps. They went to nothing but black units.

HT:

But do you recall any negative aspects to being an officer?

JF:

No. I really, I was never approached for anything other than the highest. Anywhere I went, I was highly regarded. I was treated with great respect. I felt perfectly capable and perfectly accepted at any place I would go. In Washington, well, that was the one big city. You know, I did a lot of eating out, and places like that. Oh, boy, I mean, you got the finest service. There was never anything else other than the greatest.

HT:

So you had never encountered any kind of discrimination or negative treatment because you were a woman?

JF:

No, no. I never had any. I don't remember anything at all. I think we were highly, very highly regarded, wherever I was. It was easy to go anywhere. I never felt that I couldn't go somewhere because I was a woman and I was in uniform.

HT:

So you always wore your uniform, I assume, when you were in public?

JF:

Oh, yes, when I was in public, yes. Now, later, we were allowed to wear anything, if we wanted to, but I always wore a uniform those first few years.

HT:

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

JF:

No, I don't think I really had anything that was hard. I was a phys ed minor in school, see, so almost anything like that was fairly easy for me that I had to do. We'd get a lot of close-order drills and things like that, in Des Moines, but after that, my living was—I lived in the Hotel Charlotte, and I lived, you know, in different places. I was in the barracks when I got out to Camp Beale, but I had a private room. We lived next to the officers' club. Really, my four years in service were as enjoyable as any that you could expect. I had nothing that I can remember that was very distasteful or disrespectful at all.

HT:

What about emotionally? Did you ever encounter anything that upset you?

JF:

Well, “Mama Boyce” did come to Camp Beale one time. The first thing she said to me, “Jo, you need to cut your hair. It's too long.”

HT:

So there were regulations?

JF:

Oh, yes. Yes. I had let mine grow a little longer. The officer that I was dating liked long hair, so I let mine grow. I will never forget. She gave me a big hug and a kiss and then pushed me back like that, and she was a little lady and much, much shorter than I was.

“Jo, you've sort of let your hair grow out a little bit. You'd better cut it off.”

HT:

Was she the commander by this time?

JF:

Oh, yes. She had been commander for several years. See, I had been in Washington and seen a lot of her there at lunches and so forth. “You'd better cut your hair.” I laughed about that, and she did, too.

HT:

Do you recall any embarassing moments?

JF:

No. No. It was kind of interesting when we were first officers, because every place we'd go people would open their eyes, because we would sometimes be the first women officers in uniform that they'd ever seen. So we were always treated with great respect. I don't know about the ones that came along later, but I know, being of the first and why, every place we went, the red carpet was laid down for us.

HT:

Do you recall any humorous or unusual incidents during your four years in service?

JF:

Well, “Mama Boyce” telling me to cut my hair is one I haven't forgotten. Every time I get a haircut, I think about that. There were probably plenty of them, but at the moment I can't. I made some really close friends. One of my good friends, her father was a professor at the University of Georgia, and we have remained friends for all these years. She returned to Athens and married a professor and lawyer there, so she had stayed in Georgia.

I've a number of good friends, too, that I was in service with. But I had a card at Christmastime from a friend that I didn't meet until later. I didn't know her in Des Moines, but I knew her later. She's in Cincinnati, and she says, “I'm eighty-five, and I'm still going strong. I'm doing volunteer work four days a week here and two days a week there.” She's been quite active, too.

My secretary in Washington, I keep up with. We're on telephone terms. She was, of course, younger than I was. She has a son in Winston-Salem [North Carolina]. When she comes, she calls. We're hoping to get together this summer. She's a great gal. Her name was Florine Troxel, and we all called her “Troxie.” She was the civilian secretary for the three of us there at the Pentagon. I'm the only one she's kept up with. She's lost the other two. They were much older than I, so they may be gone by now. But she was younger. She's a grandma now and all that.

HT:

What did you do during your off-duty hours for fun and relaxation?

JF:

Oh. You ask that? You should know. Well, in Camp Beale, you know there are always a lot of men around. We had a lot of fun at Camp Beale. We had nightly dances at the officers' club and stuff like that, because Camp Beale was kind of an isolated place. It was not near any large town. There was a small town nearby. Then on weekends, a bunch of us would always go into San Francisco or to Sacramento, which was wonderful, and do a little sightseeing. Of course, in Washington, there was plenty of things to do. On Sundays, my favorite place to go was to go to the zoo, to get on the streetcar and go to the zoo. That was great fun.

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

HT:

We were talking about things you did for fun at Camp Beale, and you said Camp Beale was in northern California, in San Francisco?

JF:

It was out from San Francisco. We could go from there to Tahoe. One of the girls had a car, and we would go up to Tahoe. And then in winter, why, a couple of the officers, the male officers there that I was good friends with, we'd go skiing up at Tahoe. We'd have a wonderful time up there. We went to Reno once. We did the tourist bit.

HT:

Sounds like it.

JF:

Yes. But we had fun.

HT:

Do you recall what your favorite movies and dances and songs in those days were?

JF:

Oh, golly. Don't ask me. I have no idea. Movies now, I couldn't spot movies. You know, the ones that you did, jitterbug dances, the songs that you did that—oh, I was a good jitterbug dancer. I had a boyfriend who was really good, so he and I had a great time.

HT:

Do you recall where you were when VE [Victory in Europe] Day and VJ [Victory in Japan] Day were announced?

JF:

We were at Beale at that time. We knew what was happening in San Francisco. San Francisco went crazy, of course. We did not go in. We said something about going in, but we didn't. We went in later. But frankly, other than—I think we had a party at the officers' club. That was just about it. I don't remember anything unusual happening. Not like in New York at Times Square and all that, that you still see in the pictures.

HT:

You were stationed in Washington when you were discharged. Is that correct?

JF:

No, I was at Camp Beale.

HT:

What made you decide to get out?

JF:

Well, the war was over, and I knew I wanted to go to graduate school. That was the reason I got out that summer, so that I could get back home and get enrolled at Chapel Hill.

HT:

Did you ever think about making the military a career?

JF:

No, I did not. Well, my mother lived alone, and she was getting up in age. She died fifteen years ago at 102. She lived with us the last ten years of her life here, and she died within three weeks of my husband. So I lost both of them at approximately the same time. But no, I felt that I needed to get home, not only to her, but also, I did want to go back to school. So that's the reason I got out. No, I did not want to make it a career.

HT:

But you did have that option? You could have if you had wanted to?

JF:

Yes, I could have. I could have stayed in.

HT:

I think other women did stay in.

JF:

If I had stayed in another month, I would have made major, but I said, “That doesn't interest me, because it doesn't mean anything.” So I retired as a captain. I got back, I think, in June and went over to Chapel Hill to apply for graduate school.

Of course, there were a tremendous number of people applying. They were required to take entrance tests. When I applied, they said, “You're already in.” Then I remembered that after I had finished my undergraduate degree, I had taken a couple of courses in graduate school that I had forgotten about, hadn't realized that I had taken them, and by taking them, it had automatically enrolled me in graduate school. But a good friend of mine had to take the test, and she took a pill to keep her awake. Instead, it put her to sleep, and she went to sleep in the middle of the exam, and she had to retake it.

HT:

This was in the summer of '46? Is that correct?

JF:

Summer of '46, yes.

HT:

There must have been a huge amount. Everybody was coming out of the service at that time.

JF:

Oh, listen, Chapel Hill was crowded, crowded, crowded. My husband had—I did not know him at the time. In fact, I didn't know him until I was almost out of graduate school. But he had come back to finish his degree, and he had no place to live. Places to live were just terrible in Chapel Hill. But he was very lucky. At admissions, they asked him, “Do you have a place to live?”

He said, “No.”

Well, luckily, Al, before he went into the Marines, he had taken a business course, so he knew how to type and everything. Roy Armstrong, director of admissions at Chapel Hill, gave Al a job in the admissions office, and gave him a room in his house to live in. So Al lived in that for four years until we met and were married.

HT:

Where did you live?

JF:

I lived on Franklin Street with Mrs. George Bason. I had a room there, nice big room. It is now the Chi O house, the Chi Omega sorority house. They joined it with the next house. You know how they do things down there. Right across from the Spencer Dormitory on East Franklin. Mrs. Bason ran an antique shop in the back of her house. That little house in the back was full of antiques. But I had a room in the main house.

HT:

Sounds like you were very fortunate to have gotten it.

JF:

I can't remember how I got that, but I was very fortunate. It was through somebody or maybe a connection from school that got me that position. I think that's how it was. It was somebody that I had known who said, “I bet you this place would give you a room.” So she did.

HT:

How do you spell her name?

JF:

B-a-s-o-n.

HT:

And you said George?

JF:

George Bason.

HT:

What impact do you think having been in the military had on you after you got out and went to graduate school?

JF:

It taught me discipline. It also taught me—and I would really never have thought, but it taught me to think before acting a lot of times, just to think back and to justify what you do. I had to do that in the service. I just couldn't go willy-nilly into something. You'd have to stand back and think, “Well, is this the right thing? What deductions are we going to make about this? Where is it going to bring us out at the end?” But things like that, that does make you stop and think.

HT:

I would imagine that probably not only was an asset just after you got out, but in the long term, your entire life.

JF:

Oh, yes. Oh, yes.

HT:

Do you think your life has been different because you spent four years as a WAC officer?

JF:

Of course, I do. Of course, I do. I think it was for the better, much better. I think those four years—you know when you get out of school, sometimes you aren't real sure. I think maybe now, academics are more concentrated, but at that time academics were kind of spread out. There was really no focal point. Now the young people take courses in a specific thing; whereas, my degree was in history and physical education. But now, with all the advanced sciences, the kids now have so much more that they can key in on; whereas, ours was more or less general.

The same thing in high school, I think, too. I went to a small high school, and I feel it was just really a general education. But I find that on Who Wants to Marry a Millionaire, a lot of those things I learned. Like plain old geography and things like that have certainly come in handy. We were talking about that this morning at breakfast that so many of the geography books are wrong. They had the equator going through Missouri, or something like that.

HT:

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

JF:

I wouldn't hesitate, yes. I would do it again. I would do it again, because of what I know about my experience. If I was brand new and just out of college, I might hesitate a little bit, because there are so many things going on. I didn't join just because I didn't want to do what I was doing. I did it because I wanted to, and I felt like I was doing something for my country. I really feel then, because from '46, that's been a long time ago, '42. Almost sixty years ago. A lot of things have changed. The world has changed a lot. But basically people haven't. I think, basically, people are the same.

HT:

Can you describe your adjustment to civilian life?

JF:

Well, I didn't have much trouble at all. When your old, sweet brother, who is three years older than you, comes and says, “Wouldn't you like to buy my car?” and so on, why, you know, I didn't have a bit of trouble. At that time, I had a boyfriend who got out of the service at the same time, which was nice. So, you know, that makes a lot of difference. It wasn't that I was coming back to just a strange environment entirely.

HT:

I would imagine graduate school probably kept you quite busy.

JF:

Quite. And, still, there were still a lot of people there that I knew. There were a lot of the professors that I knew and had known as undergraduates, several of them quite well. Graduate school did keep me busy, because I was taking subjects—I had to take German, and I had to take a number of other things that were a little foreign to me, and they were challenges. But I had plenty of time to do a lot of nice things, too.

HT:

How had the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill changed from the time you were an undergraduate and went to graduate school? Was it about four years later?

JF:

Four years later, yes. Well, I think it entirely changed. I hadn't thought about this, really, but sitting here thinking, Chapel Hill had changed entirely. The university proper probably had not, other than to try to accommodate the multitude of students that were pouring in. The town itself had to expand and make preparations and provide for that influx of all those people coming in. You didn't see too much of it right away, but gradually, you began to see the different things and the outcrop of buildings and more stores. For the first year that I was there, the second year, basically, the town part was the same, and then it began to expand. But the influx of all those people and finding places, Victory Village and all of that that grew up there, the trailers that were put in, and so forth, to accommodate all the students.

HT:

Victory Village, that's where the married students lived?

JF:

Where the married students lived, yes.

HT:

Who were former GIs?

JF:

Former GIs. Yes. That's right. Near the old medical school, down in that area.

HT:

Let me backtrack just a minute to the time you were in the service. Do you recall what the mood of the people or the country was during the war years? What was it like at that time?

JF:

Well, you know, I didn't see a whole of that. I went home as often as I could to see my mother, which wasn't too often. When I went, I stayed with her. But she and her friends—and this was a small town, Henderson. They were very, very conscious of conserving and the war effort. They were well aware there was a war going on. I had a coupon book. I told her, didn't she want it, because I wasn't using it. “No.” She said, “I'm not entitled to it. I have enough on my own. I'll take care of myself.” But everybody that I knew, there was nobody that flaunted anything in my surroundings at all. It was strictly—the country knew we were at war.

My mother had a gas stove. I'll never forget. She cooked on gas. The city removed gas from all users. They took out the gas. She could not buy—there was no stove available and you know, she had to cook. She ended up with an oil stove. Now, it was a great oil stove, a fine oil stove. But there were no electric stoves, or anything that she could buy. So the scarcity of products, that was kind of bad for the general public.

HT:

What happened to the gas?

JF:

I don't know why they cut it off in the town.

HT:

It was natural gas?

JF:

It was natural gas. They just decided to take it out or something, in the whole town. I don't know. But she ended up with a kerosene stove. Oh, it had everything on it, but still, you realized that things like that were just not available for the general public. I didn't realize it until I got home and would see those things. I heard of a number of people that were inconvenienced, but it was a war. There was a war going on.

HT:

So everybody, I assume, was willing to make sacrifices.

JF:

Sure. Everybody was perfectly willing. As my mother said, “That's the least we can do.” My mother was a very practical person, who it didn't take much to make her happy, and it didn't take much for her to live on.

HT:

When you came home to visit your mother, what mode of transportation were you able to use?

JF:

The train, train or bus.

HT:

What was that like during the war?

JF:

Well, the buses ran pretty well, and I went across country by train. I loved every bit of it, because I love to ride the train. When I lost my mother's sister, who I was very close to, in 1945, my mother and brother went to Pennsylvania for the funeral. While there, my brother's wife died very unexpectedly, at my mother's. She had a cerebral hemorrhage and died, and I could not get home. Even though I was military, there was no way that I could get passage. Even the general at Camp Beale tried to get me on a plane, but because all the troops were coming back from the Japan area and all in that area, coming in, and they had first priority. I had no priority. There was no way I could get home.

HT:

When you were at Camp Beale and coming back to North Carolina, how long did it take you to get home?

JF:

Golly, I can't remember. I think five days.

HT:

It must have taken several days.

JF:

Oh, it did. Oh, yes, several days, I think five. But, oh, we had a wonderful time, because everybody on the train was having fun. So we just had a great time.

Talking about planes, when I was assigned to go over to London, to the school there, and then they revoked it, a friend of mine went. We told her that she was going to have to be dressed warmly, because she'd be sent in a cargo plane. You know, that's about the way that people like that got to England. She would need to be dressed really warm. So she got herself all dressed in heavy layers of this, and layers of that. Then it turned out that she got a flight on either the Royal Norwegian plane or the Royal Swedish plane, which was luxury itself, and here she was, all bundled up.

She came back and said, “Would you believe it? I have never had to shed so many clothes.” She had a great trip over.

I said, “I'm sorry I didn't get to go that way.”

HT:

So you regret not having been able to go overseas?

JF:

I would love to have gone to England. But my mother, of course, was delighted that I didn't go. It was at the time that they were bombing London, in that area. It was almost nightly bombings. That's the only time my mother ever said anything about my being in service.

HT:

She wanted to keep you safe?

JF:

She wanted to keep me safe, because I was the only daughter.

HT:

Do you recall who your heroes or heroines were in those days? Whom did you admire and respect?

JF:

Golly, Hermann, I have to stop and think. Of course, I admired Colonel Boyce, Westray Battle, “Mama Boyce.” I really admired her, because she was one of the dearest, dearest people and yet very, very capable. She would have had to be to have that job. I had great admiration for her. As for anybody else in the service, I had a number of friends that I admired for the work that they did, but offhand, I can't think of any specific person.

HT:

Did you ever have a chance to meet any of the more famous personalities of World War II, like Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt?

JF:

I met Mrs. Roosevelt one time, and—oh, dear, what was his name?

HT:

Any of the generals?

JF:

I was trying to think. I met Colonel Hobby, of course. Off hand, I don't know.

HT:

The thing with Colonel Hobby, do you recall why she resigned as director of the WAC? Was she just worn out and tired?

JF:

I don't know. There were kind of conflicting stories. It could have been, Hermann, that that was planned. She may have said—because, you know, she left a responsible position to take that job. She may have said, “I will take it until you can get it filled,” or something like that. I felt certain, and all of my friends did, that when “Mama Boyce” finished Des Moines and went directly back to Washington, we felt that she had been—they had sent her for the purpose.

HT:

Grooming her for that position?

JF:

Grooming her to be the commander, yes. Now, I may have been wrong, and I don't know what position she went to when she went to Washington, but probably on the staff, Hobby's staff. I don't know.

HT:

Because that must have been a terrible responsibility for Mrs. Hobby, all of the responsibility. I heard she worked night and day.

JF:

Well, she would have had to. She went from a civilian and probably very little indoctrination into military tactics or anything. You know, just to learn the lingo.

HT:

Right, and plus opposition, with so many different fronts.

JF:

There could have been, I don't know, but there was bound to have been opposition to the idea of women. There are some men that still feel that way about women. So sixty years ago, you know there were a lot of them. A woman's place is not in the home anymore.

HT:

Would you consider yourself to be an independent person?

JF:

Myself?

HT:

Yes.

JF:

Oh, definitely. My husband always said that.

HT:

Had you always been independent, or did you become more independent because of the military?

JF:

I think the military did have something to do with it, but I also think my mother, being a young—well, she was not that young when I was born, but she was very independent, and she had to be, because she had two children to raise, with my father dying when I was born. She was very independent. She never asked for any help from anybody. Even when the banks crashed and she lost everything in the banks, that red head of hers stood right straight up. I think I learned a tremendous amount of independence from her, because that's the way she always was. She never depended on anyone for anything. She felt she was responsible.

HT:

You grew up in the Depression. What was that like? That must have been tough, your mother raising two small children with no one to help support the family.

JF:

You know, I didn't think anything of it. I thought everybody else was in the same boat. Now, there were some families that had more children, and there was a husband in the family, and maybe they ate a little bit better than we did. So as a small child, I never saw any difference. As I grew older and went away to school, thank goodness, I had the intelligence enough to get scholarships, which helped a lot. So my schooling cost me very, very little. Of course, after the service, the GI Bill took care of all of that.

I've been very fortunate in my lifetime, and I think probably it is because I was independent. I always have been. Still am. Still am, as you can see.

HT:

Do you consider yourself to be a pioneer, or a trailblazer, or a trendsetter?

JF:

No, I don't.

HT:

You don't?

JF:

Oh, no. I mean, a lot of people have said to me, “Oh, gracious, what do you think?” And I say, “It's just something I had to do.” I realized that there wasn't anybody else doing it at the time, and I realized that probably I was trailblazing somewhat, but to me, that was the natural thing to do. It was just what you should do, in your own heart.

HT:

But if you and the women of your generation had not done that, how do you think that women of today would have been different?

JF:

I had never thought about that, but that would be an interesting thing to think about, because—I don't know. I really don't know, Hermann.

HT:

World War II was such a turning point.

JF:

It was a tremendous turning point for the women—and we won't call it the women's movement, because now they have movements for everything, but it was a turning point for women. Now, I've thought about that a number of times, that suppose we hadn't had a war, would women be in the military now?

HT:

Or would they be in the workforce like they are?

JF:

Well, the number, like you say, that there'd be in the workforce. Now they say the etiquette for people in the workforce, that when you meet a woman executive and she's seated, you don't shake hands with her and let her remain seated. She stands up. That was on TV the other day. But it's come to that point now. Even going through a door, a woman executive should not even consider herself a woman. She's an executive. Now, I think the men might have a little bit to say about that.

HT:

Would you consider yourself to be a feminist?

JF:

I guess I am. I never thought about that. It hasn't been that important to me. I tried to lead the life that I wanted to lead and tried to do the right things. I don't believe that I would say what the term "feminist extreme" would be. There are a lot of women crying out for women's rights, and so on and so forth. I have always thought that women should be treated on their own merits. If a woman has the merit and the capabilities of doing something, then bless her, and let her do it. Don't hold her back because she's a woman. I could get on my soapbox, probably, at times about that, but I haven't. A few times, I've been.

I'm getting hoarse, though, Hermann.

HT:

Do you want to take a little break and get a glass of water?

JF:

No, not particularly. How much more?

HT:

I just have a few more questions.

JF:

We'll go on. This is picking up all right?

HT:

Oh, yes. This is fine.

Have any of your children ever been in the military?

JF:

I don't have children. We did not have any children.

HT:

How do you feel about women in a combat position? In the Gulf War several women served up at the front.

JF:

And there have been some casualties. I felt that as we ended the war, women were getting closer to the front and taking more risk, because when I went in originally, they were really strictly support. They were the support for the men. Then they filtered through. I think if a woman is capable of holding down a position in a plane or in the forward position, more power to them. I've seen pictures and heard conversations from a number of women who were in high positions. They all sound completely capable of holding down their positions. They're not there just because they're women. They're there just because they're capable.

HT:

I don't have any more formal questions for you. We've covered a variety of topics this afternoon.

JF:

Yes, okay.

HT:

Is there anything that you'd like to add to the interview that I haven't asked?

JF:

No, I can't think of a thing except it was a great time, those four years. I wouldn't have given it up for anything. It made a mark on my life. I have, as I said, made a number of good friends and have maintained those friendships. It also has made me want to travel, I mean the idea of being out. I could have finished school, and gotten married, and stayed in the same spot forever, but even getting as far as California and being able to travel has made me really want to travel around different parts of the world, which around the last few years I've done.

The last two years, I've visited almost every section of the world, which has been great. Everyplace from China—the last trip was to Turkey, which was wonderful. Egypt is a wonderful place also. I also visited England, Scotland, Ireland, all of Europe, spending time in Portugal, Spain, Greece and the island of Malta. Turkey, if you ever want a good trip, go to Turkey. There are more amphitheaters and Roman places that you could imagine in Turkey itself. You don't think of them being there, but see, the Romans were all in that area. So being in service did make me aware of the rest of the world. It probably has made most of the women that joined—and many of them, I feel, joined because of that. I think probably a number of young women joining now, that's one of the reasons they're doing it, so they can travel and take advantage of that, which is good. That's great. I have nothing against that.

HT:

One thing I failed to ask earlier, what were some of the things you did after you left graduate school and got married? What line of work did you go into?

JF:

Well, I came over here and worked with non-academic personnel. I helped set up an office at UNCG, and that was just on a part-time basis. So it really just got underway, because the state was getting ready to move in. I didn't have a phone for six months in my little office. Then I left that and went with the Cancer Society as executive director. Then I quit for a while, and then went back to the health department in the Child Health Program.

HT:

You have done a variety of things.

JF:

Yes. I've done a little bit of everything.

HT:

And enjoyed those, right?

JF:

Oh, yes. All dealing with people. I enjoy personnel.

HT:

Well, if there's nothing else to be added, I thank you so much for talking with us this afternoon.

JF:

It's been great.

HT:

It's been a pleasure.

JF:

Oh, dear. You mean it's twenty after three? How long did we talk?

HT:

Oh, about an hour and a half. Of course, you did most of the talking, which is the way it's supposed to be. Again, thank you so much.

[End of interview.]